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POST OFFICE STATION 17 Frequently Asked
Questions

1. Why do some buildings receive U.S. mail delivery from the USPS and some from Station 17? 2. Why do I get mail for people who are no longer here?
3. What can I do if I get too much junk mail? 4. Why does my mail often get misdelivered?
5. Why do things from Disbursements or Payroll go to unexpected addresses? 6. Why does my boss receive my campus-wide flyers and mailings?
7. Why didn't the mail come the day after we moved? 8. How can I forward my mail when I am leaving my department?
9. What if I lose my post office box key? 10. Why can't I use the word "box" in my address?
11. How can I get information on Medical Center campus zip codes? 12. Can we get extra cafeteria menus?
13. Why do the window clerks require my driver's license to take my check? 14. Why do the window clerks not give change without a purchase?
15. Why are money orders not sold at the window after 3:00 p.m.? 16. Why did I get my outgoing meter mail back with one of those red slips?
17. Why did my invitation or postcard come straight back to me? 18. How do I change my home address?
19. Why do you want old rubber bands? 20. Are chain letters illegal?
21. How can I purchase zip code directories? 22. How can I find information on foreign zip codes?
23. What is the Adobe Acrobat Reader link on your main page for? 24. How long will my letter take to get there?
25. What can I do if doctors who refer us patients have trouble sending us mail? 26. Does the USPS have a list of Frequently Asked Questions too?
27. What is this strange letter I received from Nigeria? And what should I do with it? 28. Why didn't my Wall Street Journal come?
29. Can I send a flyer to all the Medical Center departments? 30. Why are Vanderbilt's Post Offices called Station B and Station 17?
31. Why are they called zip codes? 32. Why shouldn't I rubber band my envelopes together immediately after they are sealed?
33. Why is it important that my campus mailing be in zip code order? 34. Why do the meter mail tokens come 120 per sheet? Wouldn't 100 be easier to charge for?
35. Where can I get stamps and postal services outside business hours? 36. What is the DDD list and how can I get a copy?
37. Can I send campus mail to the outlying clinics in Green Hills, Franklin, etc.? 38. What is Flat Rate for Priority and Express Mail?
39. Why do the route persons not pick up International Mail or items over 13 oz.? 40. How can I update my listing in the PeopleFinder database?
41. Why did I get my meter mail parcel back with a slip asking me to remove tape from it? 42. What are the arrangements for mail service in Children's Hospital?
 

 

 

 

Why do some buildings receive U.S. mail delivery from the USPS and some from Station 17?
Service patterns reflect agreements made between Vanderbilt and the Postal Service, in some cases going back many years.

In general, the large buildings on the campus itself, which contain the bulk of the Medical Center's activities, are serviced by Station 17. Smaller buildings on the periphery of the campus, which often represent leased space and may contain non-VUMC activities, are usually served by their local Post Office.

In either case, however, Station 17 processes campus mail for all medical areas.

For our page showing which is which, click here.

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Why do I get mail for people who are no longer here?
The simplest answer to this is that the correspondent on the other end has not updated their address database. The remedy, then, is to contact him/her and request that the information be deleted or changed.

However, it is sometimes further asked why Station 17 does not forward this type of mail, and we do have a reason. Most mail received at Vanderbilt is really for the position and not for the employee, so the mail piece may be important to the person currently in the job that used to be held by the addressee. Consequently, our policy is to deliver such mail as addressed.

To see or return to a related question about individuals moving, click here.

If you want to learn more about dealing with unwanted mail, click here.

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What can I do if I get too much junk mail?
We are happy to advise on this situation--we don't want to deliver mail you don't want. However, we caution that one person's junk is sometimes another person's essential information, so be sure no one in your department really wants the mail in question.

In order to get rid of genuinely unwanted items, you will need to contact the sender to ask to be removed from the mailing list--there isn't any easier way. Fortunately, though, we have postcards available and a suggested procedure available to help. To learn more, click here.

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The above pertains to Vanderbilt mail. If you need help with personal junk mail, check this helpful page from the website of the Direct Marketing Associaton: Go to the Direct Marketing Association website.

Why does my mail often get misdelivered, or get sent to more than one address?
Plain old mistakes can happen!  Yes, even at Vanderbilt. And even (brace yourself) at Station 17!

However, the important word here is "often;" a random error will likely only happen once.

In the vast majority of cases, when we investigate a repeated problem, we discover that there is something wrong with the address. It is important to look, really look, at the addresses on your incoming mail. If this information is not complete and correct, there is a greatly increased chance of some kind of problem cropping up eventually.

It is very important that you furnish your correspondents with good address information, and keep them updated as needed if it changes.

If you want to learn more about address correction procedures, click here.

To download our one-page flyer on dealing with misdirected mail, click here.

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Why do my invoice copies from Disbursement or reports from Payroll go to unexpected addresses?
All disbursement information is now available online, so this is no longer an issue.  Access their web page here.

Payroll mail is generated off the PeopleSoft system. You may need to update your departmental address in the PeopleSoft database. Click here to see how.

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Why, when I receive campus-wide mailings about cultural or sporting events, are they often addressed to my boss' office or some other part of our organizational unit?
There is unfortunately a good reason for this, but no good solution.

Labels for these mailings, which go to all Vanderbilt staff, are printed by Management Information Systems on the campus side. (These folks, by the way, used to be known as Administrative Systems, and should not be confused with the Medical Center department of Information Management.)

Their information comes from the PeopleSoft database off which the personnel/payroll system runs. The address which this system maintains for each employee is not his/her physical address, but rather the address of the person who signs the employee's Payroll Action Form.

You can begin to see now why this is such an intractable problem. If the address were changed so that you receive mailings at your office, you would also receive your own PAF (not considered good).

This situation creates problems for us as well, and we have discussed the issue with Human Resources in detail. It appears that only a major restructuring of the PeopleSoft files could help, and such a thing is not planned for the foreseeable future.

So unfortunately, we all just have to live with this situation. However, we hope knowing the whys and wherefores will at least help you feel better about it!

If you would like to see an example of how PeopleSoft information flows into the mail stream, click here.

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Why didn't the mail come the day after we moved?

In order to move a department, advance planning and coordination are needed, and planning for the mail transition should absolutely be part of that process. 

Fortunately, we have well worked-out guidelines and procedures to help you through this process--to learn more about them, click here.

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How can I forward my mail when I am leaving my department?
How to handle this situation is one of the most frequent questions the Post Office receives.

Most mail received at VUMC is really for the position, not the person. A mailpiece addressed to a former staff member should normally be routed to his or her replacement. For this reason, the Post Office policy is not to forward mail when individuals move. Your should begin notifying your correspondents as soon as you know your new address. Your former department may, at its discretion, forward your mail if it is determined that this is appropriate. In such a case, the mail should be re-addressed and placed back in the U.S. or campus mail stream. (It is helpful if you leave a supply of forwarding labels with the new address.)

The department may also wish to contact the senders of this mail using the procedures described in the "Helpful Hints" section here. Although it is an extra step, in the long run it will help to reduce the volume of unwanted mail. The above holds true in general whether you are transferring or leaving Vanderbilt. In case of a transfer, however, the new department may also wish to take the initiative in contacting those areas within Vanderbilt which may need to know of the change. This is also appropriate in case of a new hire. To learn more about this, click here.

To see or return to a related question about mail for people who have moved, click here.

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What if I lose my post office box key?
Well, this one can happen to the best of us. Two buildings have keyed boxes serviced by the on-campus mail system--The Vanderbilt Clinic and Oxford House. (VCH boxes use combinations instead.)

If your department is in one of these buildings and you lose your key, let us know at the phone number or the "for more information" e-mail address on the home page of this site. We will lend you a key until you can order another one from the key shop.

We suggest keeping an extra key on hand so that there will not be a crisis if this happens. Click to download a flyer you can use to educate your staff about this: BOXKEY.PDF.

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Why can't I use the word "box" in my address?
The word "box" is a kind of reserved word in the USPS address scanning system. It denotes ONLY a post office box rented at a USPS facility; this is a nationwide policy.

There are no boxes of this type at VUMC, so if this word is encountered in a 37232 address, the system will try to match it to a P.O. Box number at Acklen Station or some other nearby USPS station. Such mail may be misdelivered, sent to the dead letter office, or returned.

This rule has been true for a number of years, but its application has become stricter and more uniform as mail handling has become increasingly computerized and automated. There is now no wiggle room; "box" simply must not appear with zip code 37232.

(As a point of interest, this same rule is why the University's Station B has been altering their address format from "Box ####, Station B" to "VU Station B 35#### or PMB ####.)

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How can I get information on Medical Center campus zip codes?
We have a search and download facility available to help you access this information. To go there, click here.

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Why hasn't our cafeteria menu come?
Nutrition Services no longer has us distribute paper copies of these..

You can access menu information via the Courtyard Cafe website.

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Why do the window clerks require my driver's license to take my check, even though I'm a regular customer and they know me?
This is a function of the Postal Service's financial regulations. Funds collected for USPS products and services are required to be handled in the same way as would happen at a USPS facility. This includes verifying identity and writing an ID number on each check. Acceptable ID's are:
  • Driver's license;
  • State-issued nondriver identification;
  • Passport (foreign or domestic);
  • Military identification card.

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Why do the window clerks not give change without a purchase?
Because much of our business is conducted by check, meter slip, or 1180, we keep only a limited amount of cash and change on hand. Giving change on request would often mean we lacked sufficient funds to transact normal business. This is also the reason that no bill larger than a $20 can be accepted.

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Why are money orders not sold at the window after 3:00 p.m.?
These items are under especially tight security controls by the U.S. Postal Service, and there is a good bit of financial and tracking paperwork that must be done to account for the day's sales. If sales were made after 3:00, the clerks would not have time to complete the necessary forms before our regular pickup by the U.S. Postal Service about 4:30.

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Why did I get my outgoing meter mail back with one of those red slips?
Meter mail may be returned when there is a problem with the mailing that prevents us from processing the order. 

For the full lowdown on meter mail, click here.

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Why did the invitation or postcard that I sent out by U.S. mail come straight back to me?
This is one of the subtle gotchas inherent in the modern, computerized mail-handling system.

It's likely that your postcard had your return address on the back side ("Please send me a reprint of your article to....") or your invitation envelope bore the return address on the back flap. Your piece happened to fall backwards into the USPS sorting equipment, and your own address got scanned, barcoded and routed right back to you. Although automated sorting is very smart, it still cannot reliably tell back from front! The design of your mailpiece should take account of this.

The solution is to use foldover postcards like the change-of-address cards Station 17 furnishes (for an illustration, click here) (although these do cost more to mail), and to print your return address on the FRONT of invitation envelopes.

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How do I change my home address?
Complete the U.S. Postal Service change-of-address card, form number 3575. This card is available from Station 17 or any other postal facility. It is also now available online.  To go to our links to USPS services, click here.

 (Please note that this item should NOT be sent to Station 17.)

During the six-month forwarding period, you should contact your correspondents to give them your new address. The procedures described in our "Helpful Hints When Moving" section are generally applicable for personal mail too. To go there, click here.

You may find this a good time to clean up some of your personal junk mail. To go to the question about this, which has a handy link to further information, click here.

You will also need to advise Human Resources of your new address.  This is is important for mailing your W-2 form, annual benefits packet, etc. You can do this by submitting an updated Employee Information form, MC 2606, to Human Resources Records‚ 2525 West End Avenue, or by mail to VU Station B 357700. This form can be ordered from Printing Services.

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Why do you want my old rubber bands?
It's not to take them on Antiques Roadshow, we promise.

We use about 10,000 rubber bands weekly to bundle incoming and outgoing mail. Any spares you can send us help hold down costs. Put them in a campus envelope and send them to us at B-0106 MCN (2635).

Click to download a flyer that you can use to inform your staff about this: RUBBERBAND.PDF.

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Are chain letters illegal?
There are actually two parts to this question.

U.S. MAIL

There certainly are some circumstances under which chain letters that involve money might be illegal. Those that do not involve a request for funds probably should be considered as merely nuisances. This is addressed on the USPS website here.

To access mail fraud information from our USPS Services list, click here.

(Nigerian fraud letters, although not technically chain letters, generate many legal questions. To get the lowdown on them, click here.)

CAMPUS MAIL

With regard to campus mail, we can give an unequivocal answer.  YES! Chain letters are absolutely prohibited from the VUMC internal mail system. To see the Vice-Chancellor's Office's statement on this issue, click here. (This is a scanned file and may take a few moments to load.)

If you should receive a chain letter via campus mail, notify your supervisor and Post Office Station 17.

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How can I purchase zip code directories?
These are no longer available on paper. Look up zips online here.

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How can I find information on foreign zip codes?
Many foreign postal services have a presence on the Web. For links to them, visit our Foreign Zips page here.

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How long will my letter take to get there?
U.S. MAIL

Three to five days is the USPS standard for ordinary first-class mail, and the standard for Priority Mail is 2-3 days.  Express Mail is the only service with a guaranteed delivery time, which is 1 or 2 days, depending on the zip code where it is going. Other items, such as parcel post, are slower and make take 10 days or so. For most types of foreign mail, we advise allowing at least double the domestic standard time.

CAMPUS MAIL

We strive for delivery within 24 hours, and in the major medical center buildings this goal is very often attained. It can possibly take two days, though, depending on when we receive the item vs. when the next delivery to the addressee occurs. Items going to the outer buildings (Village at Vanderbilt, Bill Wilkerson Center, etc.) require extra delivery procedures and should arrive in two to three days.

When sending mail from the Medical Center to the University side or vice-versa, keep in mind that the piece must be handled by both Post Offices, Station 17 and Station B. Three days is a reasonable expectation, but occasionally it may take four.

(In all cases, estimates on campus mail refer to working days. The intervention of a weekend or holiday may result in additional transit time.)

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What can I do if doctors who refer us patients have trouble sending us mail?
It is often difficult for outside offices to know how to contact Vanderbilt physicians. The Vanderbilt Physician's Referral Directory exists to help with this, along with other referral issues. Make all your referrors aware of this valuable resource.

The Referral Directory is now online at the following link:

http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/refdir/

You can also make sure that your referrors are aware of the Vanderbilt PeopleFinder utility:

http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/root/peoplefinder.html

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Does the USPS have a list of Frequently Asked Questions too?
Yes--so many, in fact, that it's hard to keep up with them.  We recommend visiting usps.com and using their search facility to look up "Frequently Asked Questions.".

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What is this strange letter I received from Nigeria? And what should I do with it?
This is a very common phenomenon.  It's known as the Nigerian scam, or a 419 scam. (419 is the Nigerian law that would, supposedly, prevent this kind of thing.) It has been going on for years.

These letters vary from extremely crude to quite professional. They always solicit the recipient's help in transferring funds, usually from a petroleum sale or similar transaction, to an account outside of Nigeria. Some kind of fee or percentage is promised, often quite a large sum.

Eventually, if the gullible person replies, a demand for money is made to facilitate the transaction in some way, to be wired or mailed to Nigeria. There have even been cases where foreign citizens were lured to Nigeria in order to be shaken down in person.

Authorities in the U.S. and other countries are well aware of these letters.  In fact, they are now reportedly being mailed from other countries because the Nigerian connection is so well known to foreign post offices.

Much information exists on the web about this problem.  Simply google "Nigerian scam."

Regrettably, this phenomenon is also spreading via e-mail.   There's also a page that celebrates people who have tried to scam, or at least spoof, the scammers here.

We realize that these letters do occasionally come to VUMC addresses, but we have no way of distinguishing them from legitimate foreign mail. If one is received, there are instructions on the above website on how this may be reported to the appropriate authorities, but most people will prefer simply to throw it away.

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Why was my Wall Street Journal late, or didn't come at all?
This publication comes through the U.S. Postal Service.   We understand that it is printed regionally and dispatched overnight through the mail.

Generally, this works well, but sometimes there is a slipup.  If the papers do not arrive by our first delivery, they generally come in a later one.  When this happens, it unavoidably means that some departments receive it a day late.

However, if a paper goes missing altogether, we suggest calling the customer service number to verify the subscription and address information.  Correcting any bad information you find can go a long way toward solving the problem.

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Can I send a flyer to all the Medical Center departments?
Yes.  Iin fact, it's quick and easy. 550 copies are needed to sort one to each campus zip code and allow a few extras to be sent to really large departments. Since these items do not need to be labeled or otherwise processed, we do not make any charge for distributing them.

We sometimes call this the OI distribution method, because it was developed to quickly disseminate information about the Operations Inprovement project several years ago. Other people sometimes call it Please Post distribution, because users often like to write "Please Post" on their flyers. Just bring us your copies to the Post Office and we'll understand either term. Depending on what time of day we get them, departments will receive your flyer that day or the next working day.

If you prefer, you can send your original and 1180 to Printing Services which will make the copies at its standard (low!) rates and send them to the Post Office for sorting.

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Why are Vanderbilt's Post Offices called Station B and Station 17?
There has never been a Station A post office on campus. The U.S.P.S. formerly used an alphabetical system to keep track of its contracted post offices, like Station B in Rand Hall. Station A was reportedly assigned to a branch of the Tennessee prison system. The U.S.P.S. later implemented a numerical system, which was in place when the Medical Center was designated Station 17.

(We thank the old Vanderbilt Register newspaper for permission to reprint this information.)

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Why are they called Zip Codes?

(Yes, at one time Mr. Zip was even popular enough to be a toy!)

This was a marketing phrase chosen by the USPS to introduce the system in the early 60's. Supposedly ZIP stood for "Zone Improvement Plan." Most other countries call them postal codes.

Some of you may remember the little cartoon man called Mr. Zip who appeared in ads from this period:

Hi, I'm Mr. Zip!  Click to see what happened to me!

(By the way, Ethel Merman sang the introductory Zip Code jingle, an adaptation of the song "Zippity Do Da."  To hear the Merm belt out a line, click here.)

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Why shouldn't I rubber band my envelopes together immediately after they are sealed?
Because they may stick together. If any adhesive is outside the flap and still wet, which is possible whether the letters are hand-sealed or done by machine, the pressure of the rubber band will cause it to stick to the next envelope.

It is better to allow a few minutes of drying time before placing the rubber band around the stack.

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Why is it important that my campus mailing be in zip code order?
It can be sorted much more quickly that way!

Compare two mailings of 1000 letters that go to all Medical Center departments. There are roughly 400 campus zip codes, so the mailing in zip code order can be placed in the departmental mail bins in 400 operations (one per zip code). The mailing in random order, by contrast, will take 1000 sorting operations (one per letter).

The gain in efficiency becomes larger with the size of the mailing. If there are 5000 letters in the above example, the ordered mailing can still be done with 400 sorts. The number of sorting operations required for the random mailing, however, rises to 5000!

If you print labels or envelopes from your own computer, or have them printed by another source, please keep this important point in mind.

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Why do the meter mail tokens come 120 per sheet? Wouldn't 100 be easier to charge for?
These are no longer in use. However, when they were, it was because 120 was the standard number of labels per page that we could easily buy.

If you need to know more about meter mail, click here.

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Where can I get stamps and postal services outside business hours?
Nashville's main Post Office at 525 Royal Parkway is open for service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What is the DDD list and how can I get a copy?
This stands for Deans, Directors, and Department heads and was a paper distribution list for the University something like the old A,B,C, etc. lists that the Medical Center used to use.

Nowadays, most University news is distributed via myVU, the e-mail news letter.  Contact them at myvu@vanderbilt.edu.

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Can I send campus mail to the outlying clinics?

In many cases, yes, but not all.  Arrangements have been made with VMG to support service to operations in the Green Hills Office Building and those under the VMG Williamson County umbrella.  Northcrest operations are not served, however.

It is fairly easy to tell the difference--if the operation shows a campus zip in the form (####), it is served.  Also, if you can find it in our online campus directory, you can use the address there. 

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What is Flat Rate for Priority and Express Mail?
The Flat Rate allows you to use these services to send items of any weight for the minimum charge, subject to certain restrictions. According to what we have been told by the USPS, these are:
  • You must use the USPS official Flat Rate envelope;
  • The envelope may be reinforced by tape on the bottom and sides;
  • BUT--the envelope must close and stay closed with its own adhesive--no other fastening is allowed.

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Why do the route persons not pick up International Mail?
Requirements on the acceptance and processing of all mail have become more stringent since Sept. 11.

International and heavier items items must be brought to the Post Office window so that our window service clerks can physically see the person dispatching the piece.  For international items, they can also verify immediately that all customs forms are correctly completed.

To see our advisory memo on items heavier than 13 oz. in PDF format, click here.

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How can I update my listing in the PeopleFinder database?
Communicate with your department coordinator. Each department has a person assigned to make PeopleFinder changes. If you do not know who yours is, see how to find out here.

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Why did I get my meter mail parcel back with a slip asking me to remove tape from it?
Slick surfaces on the parcel, such as some tapes, may cause the paper label from a meter machine to adhere poorly to the parcel. If the postage impression falls off in handling, the piece will be delayed or returned.

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