Problem Solver: Simple mistake leads to mail mix-up

McHenry resident's mom checked wrong box in online forwarding form before move

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The mistake was caused by just a click of the computer mouse, but its impact has been long-lasting.

It was mid-November and Patrick Barnes' parents were preparing to move from his McHenry house to their new place in Florida.

"One of the last things my mom had to do was forward the mail," Barnes said. "My wife suggested to do it online so my mom wouldn't have to be bothered with going to the post office."

So his mother went to the U.S. Postal Service website and filled in the appropriate information. By accident, she clicked the box for "family" instead of "individual."

For days after his parents left, Barnes received no mail. His wife called the post office, discovered the problem, and the mail was halted. Barnes then re-submitted the forwarding request, correctly clicking the box for an "individual" switch.

By then, the damage was already done.

Many companies Barnes does regular business with, including utilities such as Nicor, ComEd, his bank and credit card companies, automatically changed his address to his parents' new address in Florida.

In December, his parents collected the mail and sent it back to McHenry in a box of Christmas gifts.

During the holiday break, Barnes' wife made a list of the bills that had been accidentally converted to the Florida address and contacted each company individually.

"We thought that was the end," Barnes said.

But bills, magazines and letters continued to be routed to Florida. When using his credit card at gas pumps, he had to enter his parents' ZIP code in Florida or the pump wouldn't work.

"We have called the post office many times," Barnes said. "We have been told that the post office has the proper arrangements on file, us living in McHenry and my parents living in Lake Mary, Fla."

His mother even put in a forwarding request for Barnes in Florida, hoping it would result in his mail getting routed back to Illinois.

"But now we're getting my wife's and my mother's People magazine subscription every week," he said. "We just don't know who is responsible."

Unable to fix the original mistake, Barnes emailed What's Your Problem?

He said he has missed doctor's bills and other important documents. Barnes, a plumber, said his Illinois license renewal went to Florida, not McHenry.

"I don't know what else to do," he said. "My wife is going insane."

The Problem Solver called U.S. Postal Service spokesman Sean Hargadon with Barnes' information.

Hargadon called back a few hours later to say the situation had been resolved.

"This is not completely uncommon," he said.

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