Imagine you woke up tomorrow and discovered that all incoming service from the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx had stopped. Without warning. And leaving you no way to retrieve any incoming mail or packages.
Well, that’s what can happen if you rent a mail box from a commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) such as Parcel Plus. I know. It happened to me. And it can happen to you if you rent an mail box through a similar service.
I had my business mailing address at a Parcel Plus location–Parcel Plus Center 66 in Fairfax Station, Virginia–in a strip shopping center. I’d had the box for several years. That was the address on my business cards and on my other papers. It was the return address on the direct mail I sent out. It was my business address.
Then, one day (October 24), I took my son for a haircut at a barber shop next door to the Parcel Plus . . . and the store was closed. Locked up. Kraft paper on the windows. And a “For Lease” sign in the window. No warning. No advance notice. Here yesterday, gone today.
I contacted the U.S. Postal Service to attempt to have my mail forwarded. It’s easy enough; you can do it online. But you can’t do it if your mail was going to a commercial mail receiving agency. The Postal Service says, “Mail addressed to an addressee at commercial mail receiving agency (CMRA) is not forwarded through the USPS. The CMRA customer may make special arrangements for the CMRA operator to re-mail the mail with payment of new postage. A CMRA must accept and re-mail to former customers for at least 6 months after termination of the agency relationship.”
Okay. Try making arrangements with an operator who’s stolen away in the night. The phone was disconnected. The e-mail address doesn’t work.
But at least the CMRA is a franchise, right? And in this case Parcel Plus–or Parcel Plus’ parent company ICED Franchise Development–might be able to help? At least to contact the franchise owner to make arrangements for mail forwarding. Well, they might be able. But they might choose not to.
First, I tried filling out a form on Parcel Plus’ web site. Did that about 9 times over the course of 30 days through October and November. No response.
Then I tried calling. You can’t find a phone number on the Parcel Plus web site. But you can see that Parcel Plus is owned by ICED. Go to ICED’s web site, and if you search you can find a phone number. It’s for Kris Sabo, ICED Franchise Development Support Manager. I called it (December 16, 5:30 pm–I keep track of these things) and explained my situation. I was promised a phone call back. And later I received a voice mail from Jay Groot. Groot is president of Kwik Kopy Business Centers, and in November had been named president of all print brands under the ICED umbrella, as well as Eagle Franchise Systems, Inc., franchisor of Parcel Plus.
Groot referred me to Rick Hatfield, who serves in some position (I don’t know what) with Parcel Plus. I called Rick on December 17 and got his voice mail. I left a message and he called back, leaving me a message that he could provide me a contact number for Sam, the owner of the Fairfax Station franchise. But he wanted to make sure that’s what I needed. I called back, left him a voice mail saying that would be OK.
Never heard back from Rick. I called him again today (January 5, 4:55 pm). I was transferred to his voice mail, where I left another message.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Well, as tacky as a “P.O. Box” may look on stationery or business cards, it’s a heck of a lot safer than dealing with a company that can close down in the middle of the night. And understand that if your “commercial mail receiving agency” does close down, you’ll need its cooperation to have any mail forwarded to you. And if they won’t cooperate, don’t depend on any parent company to help.
This isn’t intended as a commentary on any one company out there. No criticism is meant or implied. It’s just a cautionary tale on what can (and in one case did) happen to a business that happened to use a commercial mail receiving agency. (And I was mailbox 150. I wonder what happened to the other 149 or so customers who discovered without notice that their mail had been cut off.)