Before you read too far, let me confess to you that I was in a very irritated frame of mind when I wrote this. After waiting two weeks for a word on the Nexus 7 I ordered from Google Wallet, I was notified yesterday that they cancelled my order because the address I gave them was a PO Box. Please note, I said cancelled. For those interested, here’s the link to the full story. Unlike the credit card issue I had with them, rather than give me an option to give them a physical address, they simply cancelled my order. They did tell me that I could reorder, putting me at the end of the queue, and please give them a physical address when I did.
This is not the first time I’ve had issues because of my PO box. There are a number of items that Amazon won’t ship to a PO box. Of course, they do tell me up front that I need to provide them with a physical address. I never did understand why, after telling me that they could not deliver to a PO Box, I would have to go down to the Post Office to retrieve my package because they shipped it parcel post.
Why all the hate for PO Boxes? I live in a very rural area. My mailbox, when it hasn’t been run over by a careless driver, is in a shared area about 0.15 miles from my house. The shared area means that my mailbox is open season for any of my neighbors or anyone walking along the road. I have good neighbors and this usually is not an issue but I have had problems in the past. At least once a month I come home to find my mailbox wide open and my mail scattered down the road.
I understand why companies want a physical address for me. I understand why FedEx and UPS can’t deliver to a PO Box. I even understand the advantages of using a single shipper for all deliveries. I also understand the risks I take every time a credit card offer goes missing from my mailbox. Thanks to the Statistics course I’m taking at Udacity, I can see a direct correlation between having something delivered to my physical address and subsequently getting credit card offers at that address (actually I knew that before the course but had to throw the plug for Udacity in anyway).
With the PO box I know where my mail will be. I know it will be dry and I don’t have wonder what might be missing. The only reason I have a mailbox at my location is because most rebate providers don’t accept PO Boxes either. Although given the ratio of rebates I actually receive versus the cost of a new mailbox every year it might be a wash.
Whenever I start dealing with someone new, they want my physical address. I give it to them, explain the situation to them and then give them my PO Box as the mailing location. Invariably mail starts arriving in my mailbox. If I’m lucky it only takes me a couple of months to get the mail routed to the PO Box. There’s been a few companies that I just cancelled my relationship with them because they don’t get it. I still get mail from T-Mobile.
Recently the Post Office started a service where they give me a physical address based on the location of the Post Office and deliver the mail to my PO Box. It makes sense, all the little parcel express places have been doing this for years. I’m not sure why this is more palatable to all the people that don’t want to send a rebate check to a PO Box but I’m really considering this service.
Update 6/9/2014: I revisited this topic with Why All the Hate For PO Boxes, Part Two© Copyright 2012 Byron Seastrunk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Opinion by pen
I have the same problem, it’s a constant headache to deal with.
I have the same problem, but it is compounded with the USPS Street Addressing for PO BOX customers.
I provide my Street Addressing for the PO BOX, and everything is fine until a unknown shipper called LaserShip refuses to deliver the package to the Post Office even though that is the address on the package.
Its even worse than you think! I have had insurance companies (including medical) refuse to provide me with service because the mailing address is a PO Box (even though it is much more secure), and my voter registration has been repeatedly cancelled because I use a PO box mailing address
Mostly it’s pure stupidity. Kinda like circumcision: everyone does it because, well, can’t you see that everyone does it? There is no valid reason to have a policy of not shipping to a PO box.
I really like the commenter who “runs a good size-ish online retailer” who refuses to ship to a PO box. It’s exactly such companies who will end up shipping via USPS to a physical address since priority mail is often cheaper than FedEx or UPS, whereupon the shipment is refused because we’re in a rural area and there are no mailboxes in fromt of houses here. Such companies — to be clear, their managers — are collectively dumber’n’a box of rocks.
I run two businesses that ship all over the country and we have no problem with PO boxes or addresses. We’ll ship wherever you want, by whatever method you want. Other large distributors do the same thing; for example, Mouser and DigiKey.
As for the companies swimming in the shallow end of the corporate gene pool, I vote with my wallet. If a firm won’t ship to my PO box, I have no need of their products or services.
Ok, so a vendor denies shipment to a P.O. Box, so I use my physical address assuming the vendor ships UPS or FedEX. Then the vendor (or carrier) ships UPS Surepost or FedEx Smartpost which utilizes USPS as the final delivery mechanism. Sure enough… USPS cannot deliver to the physical address in a P. O. Box area and the shipment is returned. Very frustrating…
Well said, Admin. Customers refuse to ship to PO boxes because it is easier for them. I will not do business with them.
I found your post by chance today when searching on google for, “I hate Po Boxes.” I read through your posta and wanted to give the opposite view and maybe a little more insight on the mind of a retailer. First, I run a good-size-ish online retailer. We deal with ebay.com Amazon.com, Buy.com and so on and we only ship to physical addresses and we make no exceptions. The answer to your question, “why all the hate,” is simple. It is because all of the online marketplaces require tracking numbers and proof of delivery for every single package. The trend in Payment providers like Google, Amazon, Paypal is also to require proof that the item was delivered. This is marketed to consumers as Buyer Protection and is rather unforgiving to sellers. Tracking is required, monitored and logged and in some cases you cannot get paid without it. This online tracking is a service that is not available through standard parcel usps and therefore is not available to po boxes. The product offered by USPS is entirely inferior to Parcel giants UPS and FedEx and depending on the size and weight of a parcel it is just too tedious to ship something through USPS, get tracking and proof of delivery and keep it all straight. UPS on the other hand can do it all with one simple tracking number and I am done.
I have no hate for PO boxes but I get very agitated when my customers ignore our requests and warnings. We state that we will cancel PO box orders too and communicate very thoroughly before during and after the order with stern and ominous warnings. But every so often we get a PO box crusader come through and raise hell about the policy. I understand some situations are special but it comes down this: In order to protect consumers and retailers from fraud we are required to see exactly where an order is at all times and to prove it was sent exactly where is was supposed to go.
Thanks for your comment, I appreciate you sharing the other side’s view. I’m sure that you already know there are entire communities with no options except for PO boxes. I can also point out that I probably could not buy from you because my credit card is tied to my PO box, for my own security issues. I will say that in the 10 years I’ve had both a PO Box and a physical address, I’ve had to put in non-delivery claims for about eight items supposedly delivered to my physical address, zero claims for deliveries to my PO box. I applaud your right to make decisions based on ease to you, especially when you tell me in advance, but doubt I’ll ever be doing business with you.
To meanie who does not ship to PO Boxes,
It’s all about you, isn’t it? Where did customer focus go?
In the world where few ship to PO Boxes, follow like a lemming or choose to be different to retain delighted lifelong customers. I guess you insist on the former.
UPS and Fedex are data mining companies. They sell their data to data firms. Examples of data firms include Acxiom, Intelius, etc. Then that information shows up online, where anybody can buy that data, including sex offenders, identity thieves, etc. USPS PO Boxes, besides offering guarantee of service and being convenient for some, also help prevent such problems.
USPS priority mail ships for flat rates up to 70 pounds. Most businesses don’t need to ship more than that to individual customers.
USPS also provides package tracking. They call it Delivery Confirmation, but it tracks each hand-off along the way. In the last month, USPS has increased tracking of each package such that from Los Angeles to San Francisco, the package is now tracked about a dozen times.
As far as signature on delivery goes, USPS requires that PO Boxes be acquired by showing a government issued ID along with a second ID showing proof of address. It also requires that if we use their street address, we sign a form which allows them to sign on our behalf. To pick up a package from my PO Boxes, I have to show ID if it required their signature.
Finally, UPS and Fedex, both ship to PO Boxes in multiple ways.
1. UPS has ground basic service in which they ship to the post office and then set a USPS tracking number to get signature on delivery. Fedex uses SmartPost, which does the same.
2. UPS and Fedex both ship to the street address of the PO Box for which USPS signs on behalf of the customer.
It is not USPS’s fault, or UPS or Fedex. It is YOU, the retailer’s fault.
You call up UPS and Fedex to make deals with them. You don’t approach USPS, who also offer free pickup of priority mail from your office and free pickup of ground mail from your outgoing mail boxes, every day.
Don’t pass on the blame to someone else. Some of us prefer USPS PO Boxes and will not be shopping with retailers who don’t ship to them.
You are shooting yourself in the foot. It is only costing you business,and you will have no metric to show it, so you won’t even know how much business it cost you.
Tracking through the U.S.P.S. is no more reliable to a physical address than a PO Box.
I understand wanting a physical address if some other service like UPS or FedEx are delivering, but for the U.S. Postal service, there is no excuse.
As a rule, I use my physical address for family and friends ONLY. For any companies or government, they will use my PO Box, or I will not accept their packages. If a PO Box is good enough for them to use, then it’s good enough for me to use.