It seems like every year or so I end up needing to file a change of address with the USPS – whether it be in the same city or across the country, it’s the only part of my contact info that really ever fluctuates. I’ve kept the same email since middle school, and I’ve even had the same cell phone number since my first phone about 10 years ago. Why not establish a permanent address, too?
I started running with this idea and began daydreaming about the perfect mail system – an email like interface to scan, shred, recycle and forward my physical mail to my real current address. Never file a Change of Address Form again. Genius! After sharing this idea with a few friends over breakfast, I was told “…they already have it, and it’s called Earth Mail”. However I would soon discover that this ‘Earth Mail’ might not be the perfect solution after all…
Earth Class Mail Fail
One google search later brought me to Earth Class Mail, an impressive site that almost immediately won me over. The basic plan is $20 per month, with a $1.50 charge for opening and scanning the contents of a piece of mail. Not bad I guess, but what if I want to actually hold that Christmas card from my Grandma? Shipping costs a minimum of $7 + $1 + $0.95 – mega ouch. Sure you could wait and consolidate a few envelopes into one shipment, but seriously… $10 to ship a letter to me? I decided to hit up Google again to investigate some other people’s experiences.
It wasn’t very hard to gauge the reputation behind this company. They have some major PR work ahead of them if they want to continue to grow. It seems a recent price hike has ticked off a lot of would-be loyal customers, among other things. I’m not here to create yet another Earth Class Mail bashing post (they’ve already threatened legal action against a blogger), but I did find some promising alternatives that look just as good, if not better.
Earth Class Mail Alternatives
I was actually surprised at how many services exist out there that can receive, scan, and shred or forward your mail. I’ve listed some popular ones below, but as a web developer I have to admit that I judge a company pretty quickly based on the quality of their website. If it looks like it hasn’t been touched since the 90′s, I stay away. That said, I’ve crossed off the companies that I immediately eliminated.
The remaining two companies were tough contenders. I narrowed it down to a few key items:
- Beautiful application like interface (with fully functioning demo)
- Smart address tags
- Variety of promotion codes to customize your package options
- Competitive pricing with free trial offer
- Real street address (California)
- Limited number of recipients
- No demo, just a small screenshot on homepage
- Better pricing and value overall with free first month
- Includes fax number
- Real street address (Michigan)
- Unlimited recipients
And the winner is…
Searching for company history yielded little results for both contenders. I was able to find a few testimonials in blog comments from respectable sites, which was just enough to put my mind at ease and dive in. In the end I went back and forth between the two for almost an hour, but ended up choosing Virtual Post Mail even though they were not the best value. I decided that their application like interace would be the easiest to use in the long run, and once I determine the volume of mail I receive and how often I need to scan the contents, I can change promotion codes to better suit my needs.
Sign up was a breeze and only cost me $5 to get started. I can start using my new address right away, but they cannot scan or forward the mail until I send in form 1583 with two forms of ID, and fill out a Change of Address form IN PERSON at a local post office. This is a requirement of the USPS, not Virtual Post Mail.
The Experience so far
Since I’m moving across the country very soon, I wasn’t sure whether or not I should fill out a change of address with my new Virtual Post Mail address before sending in form 1583. I filled out their support request and I had a response in a few hours on a Sunday evening!
While this response answered my question quickly and efficiently, I still wasn’t able to find a phone number or actual person listed anywhere on the site. I’m all about email these days, but it would still be nice to see a human somewhere behind the scenes when dealing with my personal mail.
I’m off to the post office to fill out my official Change of Address form, stay tuned for a full fledged review of Virtualpostmail.com in Part 2.
UPDATE: I’ve completed “Getting Rid of Snail Mail Part 2″ after using Virtual Post Mail for several months. Be sure to read the comments below and then check out part 2!