Hacking General Delivery, or Why I Live at the P.O. (virtually)

My all time favorite Eudora Welty story, “Why I Live at the P.O.“, tells how the postmistress of China Grove, Mississippi gets so fed up with her dysfunctional family that she moves in to the post office. In the most recent issue of 2600, the Hacker Quarterly, Barret Brown explains how he used that venerable but little known postal institution, General Delivery, to virtually move in to the San Francisco Post Office.

Brown had come across General Delivery when he was homeless. The service is designed mainly for transient individuals- for example, someone traveling across the country who needs to be able to receive mail along the way. Mail is addressed in the recipient’s name, in care of “General Delivery” at the appropriate post office. All you need to receive the mail is a valid ID in the recipient’s name.

After using General Delivery for sometime, Brown discovered that he could also receive mail addressed in his name to the physical street address of the post office, without specifying “General Delivery”. This feature allowed him to open a bank account (and have checks printed) using the post office’s address, as well as getting a driver’s license issued.

Ironically, when Brown finally got an apartment of his own, he ran into problems getting his mail forwarded. A change of address order he filed was returned, not because he had given the post office as his old address, but because it was in the database as a business address. So Brown went to usps.com, paid a dollar, identified himself as a business, and entered the change of address online with no problems.

Read Brown’s article: 2600 NEWS: WINTER ISSUE OF 2600 RELEASED.

  • BS

    umm yeah right