Many of us remember when 90210 was more than just the ZIP Code for ritzy Beverly Hills. It was the name of a popular TV show, etching itself forever in the annals of American pop culture.

Perhaps, that little piece of Americana helps explain the power of the ZIP Code. It’s more than just five numbers (or nine if you use the plus-four) at the end of the address block.

The U.S. Postal Service created the Zone Improvement Plan in the early 1960s to organize mail operations and delivery throughout our vast nation. ZIP Codes are associated with mail volume, delivery-area size, and geographic location, not necessarily municipal or community boundaries. But Aunt Minnie might not see it that way. For many Americans, their ZIP Code provides not just a community boundary of some kind, but – along with their physical mailing address – an attribute of their identity.

ZIP Codes may mark a place as home or reflect the perceived identity of a town or neighborhood. In some areas, your ZIP Code can be used to determine everything from the value of your property to the school your children attend.

A few years ago, we calculated the socio-economic benefits of the ZIP Code as an organizing and enabling system. Our report determined the ZIP Code is a support structure used by a variety of industries, including utilities and the insurance industry.

All of this might explain why changes to ZIP Codes cause so much community consternation. In our recent Management Advisory, we assessed the Postal Service’s process for managing and evaluating ZIP Code requests. We found that while the Postal Service consistently documented, evaluated, and managed all 56 ZIP Code change requests in the years we reviewed, the survey evaluation methodology it used for one location was different from the others.

In its response to our advisory, the Postal Service said it plans to update its policy on ZIP Code change surveys to require at least 50 percent of affected addresses to respond favorably in order for a ZIP Code change to be considered. This change is intended to help ensure that ZIP Code changes are in the best interests of the entire affected communities and not merely a small segment of the population that responded to the survey.

How important to you is your ZIP Code? How would you react if the Postal Service asked to change your ZIP Code for its internal operational purposes? 

Comments (8)

  • anon

    How do we sign up to receive e-mail alerts when Zip Codes Change?

    Sep 26, 2016
  • anon

    I live in Fountain Valley, California and I don't have an email address for the local USPS Supervisor. I tried the local telephone number and there was no answer. I'm hoping whomever gets this email, please forward it to the Postmaster or person in charge in Fountain Valley. Here is the reason for this email; we were to receive a small box today at home containing an item we had ordered. We were gone a good portion of the day and when we returned home I observed our box on top of the mail box. The label clearly indicates that it was delivered by a USPS person and I double checked on this through Amazon tracking. My concern and complaint is that the mailboxes on our street are located in front of each residence at the curb. This makes it very convenient for the mail person to put all of our mail in our boxes without getting out of their vehicle. We frequently get packages and whether it's USPS, UPS or On Trac, each delivery person takes the care and time to get out of their vehicle and walk the twenty or so feet to our gate. Some leave it by the front door ten feet past the gate, others leave it just inside the gate. On two occasions within the past two months, including today, the USPS driver did not get out of their vehicle and just left our delivery box on top of the mailbox at the curb. Always on Saturday. My concern is that anything on top of a mailbox, out in the open, unsecured, has the possibility of being stolen if the wrong person drives by. It's incredible to me that a professional delivery person doesn't care or have the common sense, or just lazy, to leave anyone's property out and in the open. I would appreciate if you could pass this to the right person so this does not happen again. In these days of identity theft and mail theft, I would think that USPS personnel would be the first to try and protect their customers.

    Jan 31, 2016
  • anon

    I'm tired of our rural post office dropping the ball on delivering our Amazon packages. Our right lies about delivery attempts as to pass on their operating costs to us. I have my own budget to worry about and I'm tired of delays and ways businesses pass on their costs to us.

    Jan 02, 2016
  • anon

    I live in zip code 19150 I have been getting my mail at 3:30/4 pm. That is unacceptable, I am late getting paperwork notarized, because I can't get my mail in a timely manner. This is a management problem, you need to hire more carriers, or see that the mail is getting out earlier so customers get our mail before 2:00 pm. Your immediate attention to this matters will be greatly appreciated.

    Jan 02, 2016
  • anon

    My ZIP Code did change in 1998, and there was no survey about it, never mind approval by the public. Yes, please consider a 50% threshold of approval before implementing new ZIP Codes.

    Dec 11, 2015
  • anon

    Our mail carrier consistently delivers packages to wrong address. Manages to get the mail right, just not packages. She will deliver our pkgs to 12312 SE 219th and theirs to us at 12312 SE 217th Pl. I have written & spoken with the local post master to no avail, in fact when I spoke to her in person she was indifferent. this has been happening for almost 3 yrs now.

    Dec 08, 2015
  • anon

    Hello Catherine , Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, this issue falls outside of the jurisdiction of our office. As the Office of Inspector General (OIG), our role is to investigate waste, theft, fraud, and abuse within the Postal Service through our audits and investigations. Please call your local Postal Service Consumer Affairs office and they will be able to assist you.

    Dec 16, 2015
  • anon

    The change of my zip code is very important to since that is part of my mailing address. A lot of things, do believe will indeed go wrong if people start changing information in our addresses. So to be on the safe side I vote no on that request. "Leave my zip code the way it is, please!"

    Dec 08, 2015