Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Certified Mail - A Legal Prank?

Want to annoy your friends?  Send them a certified letter!

I received a certified letter the other day.  I got back from a bike ride and there was a notice on my mailbox that I needed to sign for a certified letter from Virginia.  Needless to say, my curiosity was piqued.  What was it?  A draft notice?  A summons to serve on a jury (I guess I am still technically registered to vote in Virginia)?  A subpoena to testify in a Patent case involving a Patent I wrote? Someone suing me?  What?

The next day, I saw our postal lady.  The slip said it would be available at the local Post Office "After November 2nd" so I assumed they would try to re-deliver the next day.  But it was at the local Post Office, waiting for me to pick it up.  And they were closed as of 1 PM.  So the postal carrier told me she would bring it the next day.

So here we are, three days of waiting for this mystery letter!  Maybe it was a check!   Maybe an inheritance from a long-lost relative!  Good news or bad?  Or nothing at all?

The latter.  It was a notice from the county that the condo we own is being rezoned to allow for medium-rise development.  I was already aware of this, as we have been working on this project for the last decade or so.  There are 300 units there, and they sent this notice to every owner, certified mail, signature required, return receipt requested.  Imagine how much that cost the County in postage plus the labor involved!  What a waste of resources!  I was already aware of the rezoning proposal as I voted for it at the last condo meeting!

It wasn't my first experience with certified mail.  Back when I had a "job" and commuted to "work" I got such a notice.   I had to go to the post office near where I lived and that was a 30-minute drive from work.  And of course, the Post Office was closed when I got home from work.  So either I had to ruin my lunch hour getting this letter, or go in on a Saturday when the lines are the longest (no doubt, full of people also retrieving certified letters!)  What a freaking pain in the ass!

And that's the beauty of it - you can inflict this pain on your friends or enemies - or frenemies - by sending them a certified letter.  Just put a post card saying "thinking of you!" in an envelope and send it by certified mail, signature required, return receipt requested, and they will have to jump through hoops to retrieve it.  It beats a glitter bomb by a hassle factor of 100.  And as far as I know, it is perfectly legal, too!

Well, I guess you could be charged with harassment if you did it too often.

It reminds me of an experience I had with eBay many, many years ago.  A buyer decided to purchase a car I sold, and send three payments by PayPal, which triggered an alert on PayPal and locked my account.  I thought it was interesting that a third party could commit an act that would lock up my account and not theirs.  It was an interesting thought - you could annoy the snot out of someone by paying this way and triggering the PayPal internal "safety" standards.

I spent hours on the phone, talking to some smart-ass guy named "Musk" - pleading to unlock my account.  He laughed and said he was keeping the money which was $4500 as I recall.  They finally relented and unlocked my account.  I haven't trusted PayPal since - not for any purchase over $100 or so.  It just isn't worth it.

But there is a beauty to this sort of thing - where you can inflict distress on others, legally, just by doing something annoying like actually sending them money three times, or sending them a certified letter!

What a neat way to annoy the snot out of someone!