Ruth Burns checks incoming mail at a Postal Service remote encoding center in Salt Lake City.
CHRIS DETRICK FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES MAY 03, 2013 BY RON NIXON
I always thought that local post office clerks looked at envelopes and determined what was written there to deliver it to the right address. So poor handwriting meant that the local clerk had to work a little harder. But according to this article, the Post Office has for years been using optical character recognition to determine addresses from people's handwriting.
Starting with a success rate of 35%, these machines have built up to a 98% success rate for hand-written addresses. That means that the 55 centers that used to do this work have been downsized to one center in Salt Lake City that deciphers all the mail that the computers can't handle.
With 700 people reading an image every 90 seconds 24/7/365, they have replaced the local clerks figuring everything out themselves. Efficiency, but at a cost. Now that the local people aren't doing this work, we get mistakes made by people 200 miles away choosing the most likely address.
Just like when my college cafeteria job switched from knowing the names of those who were permitted to eat to running cards through a scanner, the human element is lost. But it sure beats paying an extra penny per letter right? Or does it?