This originally appeared in the September/October, 2018 issue of Mailing Systems Technology.

Mailers in many industries have specific regulations about certain types of addresses. Various addresses have restrictions as to what can be sent, who will be used to complete delivery, and what mailers need to do to maintain customer contact. If you’re not diligent, you risk undeliverable mail, lost customers, and potential penalties.

We typically find that at least one-third of the Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) volume could have been identified prior to the mailing. Additionally, more than 11% have special characteristics that may require special handling/use.

Identifying these prior to the mailing enables you to obtain an updated/alternate address, alter how you mail, alter what you mail, and/or simply suppress until you get additional information.

The good news is that with the tools and available data you already have in your operation, you have the potential to reduce your UAA pieces (along with the related costs and risks) and identify those with special needs so you can initiate special processes.

The goal of a mailing/shipping operation is pretty straightforward. It’s all about getting it right: the right item, person, location, time, method, and, of course, cost. However, this may mean different addresses and processes for packages vs. bills/invoices and promotions for future business.

There are dozens of different address characteristics with multiple potential values leading to thousands of combinations. The key is to identify those that are applicable to your business and make the necessary process modifications to identify and handle them. Here are a few scenarios:

Non-Physical Mailing Addresses

Several industries have requirements to collect the physical address where a person/business is actually located instead of a non-physical address where they may just receive their mail. These often have restrictions on who can/will deliver to them, what can be sent to them, and even whether Change of Addresses are allowed to/from them and how long they are supported.

The most common examples of non-physical addresses are PO Box addresses and PO Box Street Address (PBSA) equivalents. The use of PBSAs is growing. A PBSA is where a PO Box delivery has a street address representation, such as:


With a PO Box address, the USPS must be used. For a PBSA address, other carriers can be used to get the item to the Post Office, but final delivery is performed by the USPS. As a result, using a carrier other than the USPS can lead to issues. For example, if a signature is required, the initial carrier would not receive an actual signature from the recipient on delivery. It could also be hard to determine responsibility if damage occurred somewhere in transit. So, the way to reduce risk is to use the USPS as the carrier.

PO Box and PBSA addresses commonly make up about five percent of the addresses in a mailer’s file. This may seem high, but remember, there are areas where the USPS does not deliver to the physical addresses while other carriers will. In these areas, it is more cost-effective for the USPS to provide a free PO Box. Indicators available via the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) can identify when a physical address is considered valid but is in an area requiring a PO Box/PBSA address for USPS delivery.

Another type of non-physical address is provided by a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA). These are basically PBSAs offered by non-USPS entities and rented by individuals or companies for mail delivery. CMRAs typically account for 0.3% of a mailer’s file.

The address used is typically the address where the CMRA is located plus a Private Mail Box (PMB) value that indicates the specific box being rented by the addressee. The USPS is only aware of the base address for the business offering CMRA services. Therefore, USPS processes cannot validate PMB information.

Additionally, while the USPS will accept Changes of Address from individuals into CMRA addresses, the USPS will not accept Changes of Address from individuals from the CMRA. The policies of the specific CMRA determines what happens to items received after the person moves out.

To reduce risk, when you see a CMRA identified by CASS, request a second method of contact to ensure that you can maintain an ongoing relationship with the individual.

Additionally, some CMRAs offer additional services, including re-packaging and/or shipping to another location, potentially international. If your product has restrictions as it relates to shipping to a foreign location, identifying CMRAs and inquiring as to the final destination is vital to limiting risks.

Physical Locations vs. Mailing Address

Some mailing addresses do not reflect the physical location of the address. In most cases, the difference is relatively minor, but it can still lead to an incorrect evaluation of the county or city of residence.

For example, the state in a mailing address represents where the post office that handles delivery to the address is located. In addition, ZIP Codes do not always align with state borders. As a result, you end up with the mailing address and the physical address being the same except for the state. The USPS recently indicated that 6,300 addresses are currently impacted by this, which translates to roughly one in every 25,000 addresses.

These can lead to issues if you have location-specific factors where offers/communications are intended/limited to specific areas. To reduce risk and increase the ROI of your mailing, you need to know if your mail is being sent to people to whom the communication does not apply — and if it is not being sent to people for whom it does. These addresses are also important to know in order to ensure that you are charging the correct state/local tax rates and fees.

There are more special cases with a combination of special characteristics like:

  • Limited forwarding time, as little as 30 days.
  • Valid for packages only and delivery only by the USPS.
  • Domestic address for personnel in foreign countries that are subsequently shipped internationally.
  • Change of Address restrictions – not allowed at all, allowed to but not from, allowed from but not to, allowed only for certain names.
  • The USPS has never, does not yet, or does not currently deliver to.
  • The USPS does not handle the final delivery to the recipient.
  • Historical information indicates delivery is either not likely or likely but not to the intended recipient.

To reduce risks and increase ROI, you need to know information about an address. Knowledge about an address gives you the power to ensure that the right address is used, for the right purpose, and in the right way to increase delivery rates, reduces costs/waste, and reduce the risk of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands.

For more information on using address information to reduce risks, reach out to your vendors, various industry associations, and workgroups such as the Mailers’ Technical Advisory Committee (MTAC).

Adam Collinson is Director of Research and Development, GrayHair Software. In this role, he utilizes his roots in research and theoretical processes along with his past software engineering experience and analytical skills to provide a base in the development of new GrayHair offerings. Recently with Pitney Bowes, he held the positions of engagement manager and solution design consultant. Adam is in constantly involved in the leading postal initiatives, associations and workgroups and is a key speaker at such venues as PCC events, National Postal Forum, and MAILCOM.