Dear Margo: Losing It, in More Ways than One

My mother “forgets” to give me the mail that accidentally comes addressed to me at her home. Margo Howard’s advice

Losing It, in More Ways than One

Dear Margo: I don’t know what to do. I’ve updated my address with the vehicle registration and driver’s license office, the Social Security administration and the post office. I haven’t lived at my parents’ house in 10 years and am now three hours away. (My sister lives in their town, however, and she does visit several times a week.) Every now and then, a letter for me goes there, and my mother will not give me my mail. It’s not that she’s deliberately withholding it; she just somehow never gets around to telling me about it. I’ve missed at least three weddings because of this situation, and two high-school reunions.

My mother mentions things years later. “Oh, Cindy and her husband are having a baby,” she’d say. “What? I didn’t even know she’d gotten married.” “Well, yes, you received an invitation a couple of years ago.” Apparently, I’ve been receiving some bills there, too, because my mom finally mentioned one in passing. Now, instead of owing $16.50, I owe more than $400 in late fees. I will call the vendor and try to work it out, but how can I convince my mother to give me my mail? — Frustrated

Dear Frus: It sounds as though your mother has slipped a stitch and somehow cannot process the fact that mail addressed to you needs to go to you. Here are some steps you can take. Deputize your sister to ask whether there’s any mail for you, and then have her send it on to you. Re-file a change of address/forwarding form with the post office in your mother’s town. Think of the vendors (and alumni offices!) that send you bills and announcements, and then be in touch with them to check that they’re up to date about your whereabouts. And good luck with the late fees that are 24 times the original charge. — Margo, hopefully

If You Do Not Send this on to Ten Friends…

Dear Margo: I have a co-worker who regularly sends me those stupid chain-type emails. I always delete them, most of the time without even reading them. These time-wasters usually request that I send the message on to a certain number of people, including her, and if they don’t threaten calamity or bad luck if I don’t forward them, they usually imply that the sender will know who her true friends are, or something like that.

Today I got one in which she indicated in the subject line that she “needed it back” if I wasn’t going to send it on. Am I obligated to send it back to her? And if so, do I include a comment as to how I wish she would stop wasting my time? —  Email etiquette

Dear E: I will give you the advantage of my experience, because I had to think this through some years ago for myself. There is no obligation to do anything that these mass mailings request. In your situation, I would forward back to her the “I need it back” item with your own note saying your workload has increased and you no longer have time for this kind of entertainment. (I would skip the phrase “stop wasting my time.”) If they keep coming, ditch them with a clear conscience.

I can tell you the exact time when I rang off from such emails: It was when I had to go through hoops to see something “amazing” that Barbie would do if I sent it on to five people. Guess what? Barbie never did it. — Margo, restrictively

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

Click here to follow Margo on Twitter

59 Responses so far.

  1. avatar bamabob says:

    I think Margo is being too kind to the the time waster that LW#2 is dealing with. I have a co-worker who fills my inbox with the same trash–forward this or you don’t love Jesus, forward this to win an iPad, forward this to cure cancer–and each with a request to copy her when I do. I also got one of the “return to me if you won’t pass it on” emails. I didn’t ask for this nonsense and felt no obligation to return it or acknowledge it. I deleted it wihtout a second thought. Previous requests to remove me from her distribution list because “I don’t have time for this kind of entertainment” or “receiving email like this is against company policy and I can get in big trouble if you keep sending it” fell on deaf ears. People like this never think they’re being anything but helpful when they send these time wasters and no matter how nicely or firmly you ask them to stop, short of ending the friendship the emails will continue. Just delete them and be done with it. If this is the only kind of email you get from her, create a rule that automatically sends her email to your junk folder.

    • avatar blue tooth says:

      The better thing is to just add her to your junk-mail list. problem solved.

    • avatar August Miller says:

      My sister sent out a mass email once. It was just an announcement that she had changed her email address. She didn’t BCC it and so one of her friends took it upon herself to add the rest of my sister’s recipients and spam us with chain e-mails.

      • avatar JC Dill says:

        Do a reply-to-all, debunking one of the chain mails (most are easily debunked, check with This usually works wonders to get one removed from such “forward to everyone you know” lists.

        You may also want to use this as a tag line after your signature when you send out non-business email: “Whenever you receive an email instructing you to forward it to everyone you know, please forget that you know me.”

        • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

          JC Dill-I wholeheartedly recommend the debunking thing.  I have a co-worker who is generally a nice guy on work and banal topics, but I stay the heck away from politics with him because he is a hate-filled, ultra-racist uberChristian when you get him going.  He started sending around extremist right wing emails that were pretty clearly untrue but that he wholeheartedly believed that were downright offensive, even to someone as moderate as me.

          I started hitting “reply all” and cutting and pasting the info which debunked each and every one of his evil rants.  It didn’t take long for me to get taken off of his email list.  🙂

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            I adore snopes. It’s helped me through many a long winter’s night—where otherwise I might be worried about a lonely-but-poetic meth-addicted teen, or some such.

            Personally I think people who send these should be publicly beheaded—but that’s just me.

          • avatar R Scott says:

            I like it. Then video it and send it to all your…………. oh wait. Never mind.

          • avatar ZippyDoDa says:

            I love snopes as well. The only time I have ever seen a spam message on FB proven correct by snopes was the tragic case of Kaleb Schwade. Poor little man was shaken at 5 months old and just passed away recently at 4 years old. Every other chain letter type thing I take right to snopes. I used to post the snopes links to these as a reply, but it was a waste of time after a while. Same thing with my relative…she got offended at that as well. Yes, she is a very sensitive person who takes everything as a slight against her.

            Anyways, that’s all off topic. 🙂  

        • avatar Daniele says:

          People absolutely hate to have their parades rained on by cold fact and logic. I’ve done precisely what you’ve suggsted, Jill, for years and I rarely get chain mail. When I’m added to new chain mail lists, I rarely get it a second time. I have been accused of being a condescending know-it-all because I return these things with an explanation as to why they’re wrong with proof to back it up, but I’d rather be condescending than inconsiderate of others. They don’t like that when they hear it, either. One of my relatives who used to pass on every single “beware of computer virus!” thing that came into her inbox will call me every once in a while to ask how to check to see if it’s real. She’s as in love with now as I think many of us are.

    • avatar Jrz Wrld says:

      Ugh, what do you do when it’s your own mother? Mom and I currently aren’t speaking because I snapped back at her after one too many offensive spam emails. It’s my mom, so when she woudl send me emails marked “IMPORTANT” or “URGENT”, I’d stop everything to open it. Sometimes it would be something of substance, but usually it was useless or offensive. When one such email arrived while I was riding a really rough deadline, I snapped back at her about it (not mean, just impatient) and received such a storm of s**t in return (very cruel things were said) that I just have walked away from her. We literally have a rift in our relationship over spam. It’s crazy.

      • avatar P S says:

        You have my sympathies. Your mother sounds like my MIL. She accused me of making “veiled threats” when I told her (for the umpteenth time in several years) that I did not want to be on her mailing list of religious chain emails that included hostile right-wing “newsletters.” The last one in particular tried to convey that gays had some agenda to take over America. Uhhh, last I checked most of my gay friends just want to live normal lives, would laugh and say “What agenda?” to such a newsletter, but try telling her that.

        I told her it put a strain on our relationship and that if she couldn’t respect my boundaries then I didn’t know what I was going to do. If she thought THAT was a threat then she was really reaching given I meant I was at a total loss on how else to get across to her that what she was doing was offensive.

        Friends who know my situation told me I was a lot nicer to her than they would have been. When MIL went crying to DH about it, he informed her that he, in fact, helped me write the email. Yet she continued to try to paint me as evil and she managed to convince my FIL, who is the only real “Daddy” I’ve ever had, to stop speaking to me for several months.

        It wasn’t spam that broke the camel’s back in our case. But neither me nor DH have spoken to her in over a year, which has led the rest of his family, save for one aunt and uncle, to cut us off completely. We’ve had it suggested to us that she’s narcissistic more than once and we’re increasingly convinced that’s the shoe that fits the most.

        You’re absolutely right – it IS crazy. You should be able to establish a boundary and plain old be able to say “knock it off” without being met with a slew of verbal abuse in return.

  2. avatar Kate Olsen says:

    lw1 – go immediately to the Post Office and fill out another change of mail and alert all friends and places that you might want to get mail from of your new address – You also need to have a frank talk with your Mom that her with holding mail is a federal offense – not to mention a moral one

    Lw2 – send an email back that you think it is against company policy to forward these emails and since you value your job, you will not forward them, unless you receive more and then you will forward to the human resources department

  3. avatar ZippyDoDa says:

    LW1…Mail is quirky. My father has been gone for 21 years, and we still get mail for him every now and again. Strangly, my sister receives mail for her deceased ex Father in law at her address–a place he never lived at!! I am wondering if perhaps your name is the culprit here. If you have married and changed your name, then the post office may not recognize mail in your former name as part of the forwarding process. Ditto with reunion invites and those from people unsure of your current name or address.  I would take an extra step and file a seperate change of address for any previous names you have had. Good luck!

    LW2…I feel your pain! I have had to repeatedly tell a relative to stop with the forwards. She resonded that she only sent me good stuff and then proceeded to tell me how hurt her feelings were when I rejected her in this manner. I learned how to make a seperate file in my personal email for her emails to go directly to. Now I don’t have to be bothered with them when I go to my inbox. I have let my relative’s new emails sit for weeks in that file folder w/o a second thought (and often just empty it out w/o looking at a single one).

    • avatar bamabob says:

      Zippy, I know what you mean. No matter how kindly you ask, you’re always the bad guy. Your solution is a good one. Your relative is still sending you those “good” emails so she’s happy and you don’t have to bother with them.

    • avatar Katharine Gray says:

      Before I begin let me say that I have been sort of turned off lately by those who have dumped on the latest advice seekers.  It almost seems like the commenters have decided that the cool thing to do is to trash the people sending letters to Margo on one basis or another.   However….

      Letter #1:  I’m sure as a good and attentive daughter you call your mother at least once a week.  How hard would it be to ask her…did any mail come for me?  Especially since this seems to be a long standing problem with the post office. And how hard is it to know when your reunion year is coming up and checking with former classmates regarding same if you haven’t heard anything?  As for your bill that has *ballooned*…did you not realize you incurred this expense?  I haven’t moved very often in my life, but each time I did, in addition to registering a forwarding address, I sent my friends a change of address card…to do with what they will.  And if my alma maters got info to me I sent them my current address.   I don’t think the  post office change of address forms last in perpetuity either.  Maybe about six months?  So, take some responsibility for contacting your friends and your schools and your debtors about your change of address. 

      And, just maybe, your mother has put your mail aside thinking…oh she will come visit soon and pick it up…and then when you don’t…its out of sight out of mind for her. 

      Maybe your mother is getting wifty.  Maybe she has always been disorganized.  You act like this is a purposeful thing on her part.  I highly doubt it.  Either she is getting wifty or she gets so much junk mail that she overlooks things which might be important while tossing things she thinks are simply requests for you to sign up for magazine subscriptions or new credit cards etc. 

      LW#2:  I am an internet addict but I avoid those *send me back* emails like the plague.  Its the new version of the old *chain letter*.   (And Margo, I must admit to succumbing to the lure of seeing something spectacular if only I sent it to 18 or so people and then nothing happening).  Every now and then there is a some wheat in the chaffe of the email dumps…and I will pass it on to those who I think might appreciate it (who can resist the dogs and cats?)  Of course if you are not a pet lover, I wouldn’t send it to you. 

      I would just delete and move on.  Just as I’ve never seen Barbie do a dance on one of these deals, I have never lost a friend because I didn’t do what the email asked me to do.    Chalk it up to a bored friend and think about asking her to lunch or something to occupy her time.   

      • avatar Kathleen Hein says:

        I closed out a bank account when I moved from OH to CA. A charge for $18 came through between the time I filled out the paperwork and formally removed all my money the time they actually closed the account, and for some reason, the bank accepted the charge! They didn’t have my forwarding address (I didn’t think they’d need it) and for some reason, any notices of this they sent didn’t get forwarded by the USPS, so 18 months later, I only found out about it because my CURRENT bank froze my account because I was put on the “bounces checks” list. I contacted my former bank and paid the money they said I owed immediately- over $200- and STILL couldn’t have my name on a bank account for 7 long years. (Only credit unions, who have different rules.) So believe me, it happens.

        • avatar Sandy B says:

          Something similar happened to me with American Express. First they enrolled me in a service I didn’t sign up for. So I called and cancelled it- along with the card because I was going overseas and downsizing all my paperwork etc. Well, they DIDN’T cancel the card after all- and one more charge for memebership into the special service I didn’t want got through- and they just started charging my interest on it month after month. I came back to credit agencies all over me- for that and a Verizon account I also closed out. I told them “I am leaving the country, I WANT to pay everything I owe- are you SURE that’s all?”. Well, apparently it wasn’t and they turned me over as well. Altogether I “owed” less than 200 dollars but I was furious. And it took a long time to untangle the AmEX because I refused to pay them and insisted they clean up the mess.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            LW1: “Apparently, I’ve been receiving some bills there, too, because my mom finally mentioned one in passing. Now, instead of owing $16.50, I owe more than $400 in late fees.”

            While I understand your frustration with your mother’s forgetfulness—not updating your accounts is your own fault. It’s one thing if you call a rep and give them a new address and they put in the wrong info—it’s another if you didn’t call at all. And Facebook will usually solve the reunion/wedding issues, even though it sounds like you haven’t been in contact with the people whose weddings you missed for quite some time (no phone calls? no emails?) Ultimately it’s up to you to make sure your new contact information gets passed on. As for the overdue bill—call the main office and tell them what happened. If they are unsympathetic (or wonder why you’re taking around a decade to correct the situation, or why you gave your mother’s address instead of your current one when you opened the account, because that’s about the only way they would send a bill to your mother instead of you), then offer to settle for a reduced amount.

            LW2: “Needed it back?” Umm.. does she not already have a copy? I’ve never heard of such a thing, but anyway…

            Tell your co-worker that you’ve been getting spam forwards with viruses attached. For the sake of protecting your computer, tell her to send only work-related emails, with “WORK RELATED” in the subject line. Tell her you will delete anything that doesn’t have “WORK RELATED” in the subject line, and that anything that appears to be a spam mail will be deleted (because it might have a pesky virus in it). There you go.

          • avatar Ghostwheel says:

            “why you gave your mother’s address instead of your current one when you opened the account, because that’s about the only way they would send a bill to your mother instead of you”.
            Actually, no, this would not be the only way they would send a bill to your mother instead of you. If you opened an account that you used once and paid off (got 50% for opening an account at some store you only shopped at once-I know a lot of people who do this), moved, sent in a change of address to the Post Office and three years after you opened that account they started charging a yearly fee, the bill would go to your old address, and you would have no idea that a bill had gone astray. This happens more often than people think.

            Other reasons a bill can go to an old address include incorrect information entered when the account is opened. The bill gets returned to the company, they do a credit check and use the next most recent address (This happened to a friend of mine); the company’s computer system crashed and their backup only had your old address (happened to me-my mother called and told me I had mail); or in a really bizarre case that also happened to me, I went to re-open an old account and despite the fact that I handed the person helping me my driver’s license with my current address, they used the old address that was originally on the account. I have other instances, but I won’t bore you. Point being, it happens, and not always because someone was flake or used their mother’s address instead of their current one. Lucky you if you’ve never been caught in the mess.To me, getting your mail messed up is SNAFU.

          • avatar David Bolton says:

            Yes, these are things that could have happened. Whenever I’ve changed my address I have always called any credit card company, simply because I didn’t want to run the risk that any statements went to someone else during a transition period. Now I don’t worry with that because all my statements are delivered online.

    • avatar Daniele says:

      Zippy, I’ve had that problem with a friend, too. I hurt her feelings when I returned a chain letter with an explanation that debunked it and a request that she not forward me chain mails, jokes, and the like, and she told me that it hurt. I told her that I found anonymous chain mails inconsiderate and that I preferred to hear about what she’s doing, her family, and how she is because I was interested in her and not impersonal fowards that often cause harm because they use fake virus warnings to scare people who aren’t that comfortable with computers. Now that she’s got a smart phone, I get a *lot* of pictures, which is occasionally annoying, but I do like seeing her garden and her kidlets.

  4. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    Oops…I meant to say your *creditors* and not your *debtors*.  I’m sure you made sure your that anyone who owed you money knew exactly where to send it. 

  5. avatar Jody says:

    Our Postal Service is stressed due to people not using it as much as they used to. So, we have workers who either don’t have time to worry about wrong addresses, etc., or don’t care enough because they are now doing the job of 2 people because of cut-backs.

    About 3 years ago I received a piece of mail from a charity with the name “Jennifer” on it. The last name was correct, but I’ve NEVER been a Jennifer, or anything remotely close. Just the “J”… that’s it. Today, I receive ALL KINDS of mail for Jennifer. (Thanks a lot to all the companies for selling the mailing lists you always promise you won’t sell.) I’ve called, scratched the name out, “Return to Sender, No such person at this address”, You Name It! Doesn’t work. Nobody gives a damn.

    I would suggest a phone call to the Head Postmaster, letting them know you’ve changed your address at least 10 years ago… blah blah blah. I’ve done that in the past and it worked after a move. Fill out the form again too, as suggested. And, then… you’re going to have to take responsibility for your mail at your Mom’s. Sorry.

    LW#2: I never read those emails because I don’t have time for that stuff. I have wondered on the fly how people have time to make them up… and why. I get them all of the time and I pay them no attention. I’ve been asked here or there if I’ve received one and I always answer, “Probably.” In some instances that has stopped them. But, I have retired Aunts that insist on sharing with the women in the family. I just make sure to see who sent it, and that’s it. I think it’s their way of keeping in touch and showing me they are thinking of me. Kinda cute really… even if it’s annoying. One day I won’t receive those emails from my Aunts anymore. Maybe I’ll keep them and go back and read them when that happens.

    • avatar lopez says:

      We actually get mail for people who have never lived in this house. I mean NEVER. We had this house BUILT. So there are at least 2 someones out there making stuff up to tell creditors, doctors, and the llike  to send their bills here. I wonder how big an obligation I have to notify someone or can I just dump in the shredder guilt free? I don’t feel bad for whoever is using my address but I also don’t need anyone showing up to inquire either. Do they do that? I pay my bills, so I wouldn’t know. 🙂

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        lopez: you are under no obligation to open or save any bills coming to another person at your personal address. According to the Debtor’s Protection Act, no collection agency from a creditor (medical facility, school, bank, financial institution of any kind, retail establishment, etc.), or working for a creditor can send a representative to your home to harass the people using your address. Unsavory loan services don’t send polite notices.

        However, I have some advice for you, which is technically not legal only if you open the mail you are receiving. Find the phone numbers for the agencies sending bills to your house, Call them, and request the collections department. Give the name(s) of the persons using your address, and tell the rep you talk to that you are the first and only owner of your home (you do NOT have to, nor should you give your name, or any personal information). Give them the address, which will already be in their computers along with the other persons’ names. Tell them firmly that you do not want to receive any more mail addressed to the person(s).

        Collections agencies have access to property records (as does anyone who checks, these are matters of public record). They can confirm your years in residency, but will not look any further into you personally. They don’t have the time…I worked in collections, and trust me, they don’t have the inclination, either. They will delete your address, and hopefully make a note that the address is not good (most collection reps don’t want to waste time and will make the effort to take decent notes, but some are sloppy, so it may be that you have to repeat the process). An excellent way to insure that your information is deleted immediately is to ask if they have someone who does skip tracing (the person who actually locates debtors who have disappeared, but does no collecting), and to speak to them.

        I truly loathed is a depressing, pathetic and rotten job. Not because I felt sympathy for most of the people (although there were a passing few who were genuinely heart-breaking), but because most of them were, by definition, nothing more than thieves. Nothing like being called every sort of s**t-heel because someone on a fixed income (supposedly) had to have a $300 pair of sneakers, and a $500 leather jacket (my husband and I were both working, and my son got his clothing…and so did we…from discount and second hand stores)…and then never bothered, or intended, to pay for them. Or the woman who told me she was “Saving for her daughter’s funeral”. No, the child was not sick, or in any danger…but that was her unique and disgusting excuse for not paying her bills. I had to pay mine, but I only lasted six months before finding another job. One that didn’t regularly deal with the dregs.

    • avatar martina says:

      I lived on 15 3rd street in one city and our mail would often get delivered to 15 3rd street in the town next to ours.  I informed everyone (personal, business, vendors) to use the extra four digits of the zip code that is supposed to be specific to your address and they did and our mail was still delivered to the wrong 15 3rd street.  We don’t live there anymore and now only have a PO box
      A couple of years ago, to my shock and amazement, I received a chain mail letter in the mail with no return address.  Who still sends chain mail?  I had a chuckle but was still annoyed that someone would “curse” me that way.  So, like an idiot, I’m standing there looking at the thing wondering if I really need to do forward this on.  Am I going to be logical and throw it away or give into my superstitions and forward it on?  I threw it away.  I hate the e-mail chain letters but they don’t elicit the same response as a hard copy letter that you physically hold in your hand.  I generally delete the e-mail version without second thought. I occasionally get some from a couple of little old ladies from church about love and friendship and I’ll skim over them and just respond with a quick “right back at ya”.

  6. avatar Kathleen Hein says:

    LW#2 Changes of Address/Forwarding are only good for 1 year- and has been that way at least since *I* moved 2000 miles away from my parents, 10 years ago. Once the year is up, sometimes the post office will send the mail back to the sender, telling them the person has moved, and sometimes they don’t. We’ve been in our current house for almost 3 years, and I receive mail for 2 of the former tenants. (I, too, tried the “no such person” route, and the only time it has worked was when I received the most recent tenants’ medical information)

    Frankly, although I’d be upset/annoyed if my mother wasn’t forwarding mail to me, I’d be more mad that she was OPENING it, and still not forwarding it.

    Good Luck with getting the charge reduced- but even more so, with cleaning up the black mark on your credit report.

  7. avatar JCF4612 says:

    LW1: Pay your bills online. Call former classmates regarding your current address and married name. Question mom at every opportunity about whether mail for you has arrived. Then question her again so she gets the point. Have sister question her as well. 

    LW2: Ignore the tiresome forwards or have them sent your spam folder. Check spam folder occasionally to see if sender has actually sent you anything of value.

  8. avatar Jamie Lynn says:

    Good luck getting the post office to help. I moved to a small town when I got married. My husband’s ex, whose name is one letter off from mine, lives in this same small town and although she got married six weeks before we did (and changed her last name from my husband’s to her husband’s), my mail still-two years later-gets forwarded to her. We both have called and nothing has changed. They blame the computer. Please. Don’t tell me a computer can’t tell the difference between a k and an m. Honestly. I’m just glad we have a decent relationship, because some of that mail has been pretty important (medical and work documents) and if she were the “evil ex” type, I may never have ended up with my stuff.
    Also, a lot of those forwards come with a subject line requesting stuff be sent back that your coworker may not have even written. Just delete it. And if she gets “mad”, who cares?

  9. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1 – How did she miss two high school in 10 years? Do they have them every 5? And, she missed 3 weddings and the folks inviting her didn’t have a current address or know she moved? Important weddings huh? I think this letter is odd and why would one just ask the sister to please check for mail since Mom forgets? I think someone’s got some time on her hands much like me since I’m sitting here typing this…..    🙂

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      Yeah, I thought the same thing.

    • avatar D L says:

      I thought the same thing as well. 

      I noticed that LW#1 mentioned how she advised the post office, SS and DMV regarding her change in address. She doesn’t say that she contacted each vendor and advised them of her move. I’ve moved a few times in my life and each time I did, I made a list of every organization/company that would need to know my current address. This included all credit card companies, banks, doctors, insurance companies, phone companies/services (land and mobile), cable service, etc. I’m a bit suprised that LW#1 didn’t keep track of what bills she had prior to moving. I’m more surprised that her supposed friends had no idea that she had moved. Even if LW#1 isn’t tech-savy, if they were close friends, you would something as important as a move would come up in conversation.

      The post office DOES make mistakes for whatever reason. (My husband and I still receive mail for people who used to live in our apartment and we’ve lived there over 5 years). And yes, mom should pass the mail along but she obviously isn’t doing that so why not enlist your sister’s help and for godsakes, ASK your mom about your mail when you speak to her. But I think LW#1 needs to be more diligent in this process the next time she/he moves.

      • avatar David Bolton says:

        Well—and here’s the thing: let’s say she dragged out a store credit card she hadn’t used in a really long time, and bought something. Whose responsibility is it to remember that she’s got a bill coming? Hers. Whose responsibility is it to change the address with that credit card? Hers. If she’s got time to write a letter to Margo—she’s probably got time to call the credit card company to make sure they have her current address, instead of trying to blame her mother.

  10. avatar R Scott says:

    LW2 – I have the perfect reply for you the next time you get one of these chain trash mails. Pay attention. It’s a bit tricky. Here goes:  “Please remove me from your distribution list.” and  cc your boss. I know, huh? Rocket science.

  11. avatar RobFromBoston says:

    LW #1  I’m confused as to how your GOOD friends whose wedding you just WOULNDN”T miss somehow got married and had children without you knowing.  Not only had you not seen or talked to them for years after the invite was mailed but you obviously didnt feel compelled to make sure they had your new address for years before the invite was mailed.  Stop complaining  Your mother isnt a PO Box.  Why dont you just ASK HER IF YOU HAVE ANY MAIL when you talk to here?  Or do you go years without talking to her as well.

    • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

      I asked the same question…..were you really that close to them if you did not know about the wedding and the baby by talking to them?  Close enough to actually go to the wedding? Not to sound rude, but all the weddings I have been invited too, I knew the date LONG before the actual wedding (save the date announcements, bridal showers, etc.).  For the wedding invites, instead of blaming mom, you should thank her…she saved you money.  And like other people said, take some personal responsibility. It is not your mother’s job to remember to give you your mail, including invites to events for people you don’t really talk too (from what it sounds like) and bills. I don’t visit my mother that often, but everytime I do…I look at her desk to see if any mail for me might be there…but there is not 99.9% of the time….It may just be “out of sight, out of mind,”–Nothing deliberate…but there are other things that she is focused on.
      LW#2: Chain letter emails. I ignore them. Simple. (And if she is doing it at work, and if it is bothering you that much, you could say something to an administrator…anonymously (forgive the spelling…it is kind of late here).

  12. avatar Rita@ Goldivas says:

    I once had a experience with the ex-wife of an employee who had child support deducted from his paycheck, which we then sent to the ex-wife. She called us, screaming because the check hadn’t arrived. It turned out she had moved, and thought that filling out the change of address at the Post Office would cause the Post Office to notify us. Duh! We explained that, no, the Post Office doesn’t notify us, they will simply forward her check. That takes longer, so she would get the check, but it would be late. We were amazed that we had to explain this to her. Evidently LW1 has the same idea. While some vendors may request that in addition to forwarding mail, they be notified by the Post Office, this is a service that must be requested by the sender. It is NOT automatic. So, when you move, in addition to filling out the PO form, do fill in change of address notices with all your charge account issuers, and notify your friends.

  13. avatar Lila says:

    Re: the mail situation, I agree with those who say we have to be responsible for updating our own addresses and keeping in touch with those who are important enough to us to want to know about weddings, etc. One day your Mom won’t be living there any more, but your mail will STILL go there. Think a stranger will be any more helpful than your Mom has been? …especially if the mail just keeps on coming, year after year…

    As much as we have moved, we have been the recipients of the previous residents’ mail from time to time. It is almost all just junk offers, catalogs, things addressed to “Mr. X or current resident.” NEVER bills, personal letters or the like… because they took care of notifying all of their correspondents of their new address.

    You can also convert a lot of your bills and bank statements to electronic form these days and get them out of the mailbox entirely.

  14. avatar Miss Lee says:

    I am not a Christian.  I was not raised Christian.  All of my friends are aware of this but continue to send me lovely Jesus emails.  I think it is just habit with some folks..forward a pretty, heartfelt email to everyone you know…who could object.  I just delete them after I look at the pretty pictures, if any.  I have enough walls to beat my head against already.

  15. avatar Gerry Schwartz says:

    Regarding LW#1, leaving aside all the steps that readers have pointed out the letter writer may take to solve this problem, and which she should certainly look into: it’s amazing to me, after reading both Margo’s and all the readers’ comments, that no one has suggested that the mom get checked out by a doctor to see if she is early stage Alzheimer’s. She may have a medical condition that is contributing to her apparent inability to register the importance of the mis-sent mail and to handle it properly. Are there any other visible manifestations in Mom’s life of diminishing mental competence? The LW doesn’t say, but it’s the first thing I thought of.

    • avatar snowwhite4577 says:

      I did not want to say anything about an illness because the letter writer states “every now and then….she will forget to give me my mail,”.  I guess I need more details, but to be honest; just because your mother forgets to give you your mail does not mean that she is sick. It might be irritating….but it does not mean mom is sick.

  16. avatar Carmen McNeil says:

    LW#1: I’m sorry, but if you know your mother has a history of not remembering mail, why in the world would you not be all over her asking if you had mail? Yes, it would be wonderful if you’re mom remembered to give it to you. But it’s your mail, not hers. It’s clearly much more important to you than it is to her so treat it as such and be proactive. This is what I always tell people at my work who get upset when so and so forgets about a task that needed doing. “Your item of importance is not necessarily their item of importance. That person probably has 10 other things on their mind. If it is important to you, then take ownership and follow up until it gets done.” Call your mother every few weeks to say, “Hi, how are you. How’s life? I love you, oh and by the way do I have any mail?” If you don’t remember to ask, why would you expect her to remember?

  17. avatar Ar Mo Chroí says:

    LW1: What’s the issue with asking your sister to go through your mother’s mail every so often? If she can do that, you’ll get your mail & you can contact those people/companies regarding your change of address. It’ll be annoying at first, but better than the “system” you have in place now.

    I agree with all the other commenters who’ve said there might be something wrong with your mother’s thought processes. Take her to a doctor for a full workup just to be sure.

    LW2: I occasionally get chain letters from people. Nothing you say will get your name off their list. Instead of wasting my breath, I blocked their email addresses. Now, anything they forward to me gets automatically sent to my trash bin. It’s a win/win all the way around. 🙂

  18. avatar Nikki Sunset says:

    RE: mail.
    Mail forwarding doesn’t last forever. It only works for one year. You need to hand in a new change of address card to the post office each year.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      think about this.

      “you need to hand in a new change of address card each year.”

      so… “change of addresses” REVERT after a year?

      you have to file a new change, even when you haven’t changed?

      so every time you’ve moved… you have to re-apply a change of address to EVERY place, EVERY year?

      so i could be sending out a “change of address” form to places i haven’t lived in 20 years? all going back to… what? my childhood home?

      somehow, the system moves me back to my old address, by itself, unless i correct it?

      this is so nuts, i can only assume that you’re wrong. because that’s just crazy.

      • avatar ZippyDoDa says:

        Chuck-I just changed my address (and don’t you know, you can now only do it online and it costs a buck to do so) and its true that the change only lasts a year. I think that the post office assumes that within that year you would have alerted all your bills/magazines/other of your new address and it would become a moot point.

        Therefore, items that are perhaps sporadic in their delivery may be reverted back to the old address. I am thinking of items like the free address labels organizations send, things that say to John Doe or current resident. Crap that doesn’t really matter and isn’t (I hope) going to lead to identity theft. 



      • avatar David Bolton says:


        I think she meant it applies like this: look at my example from earlier. Someone moves and files a change of address. Five years later they use a credit card with the old address still on the account. When the bill comes, the change of address forwarding would no longer apply—because it only lasted for a year.

        • avatar Violet says:

          But who uses a credit card they haven’t used in five years? And if you do take out a card that you haven’t used in five years, it should cross your mind maybe you are not getting the bills for it. I just don’t see this scenario happening.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            I don’t get it either…but I know that I had fits with American Express a long time ago because our mail boxes (we were living in an apartment complex) were broken into, twice, and all residents mail was stolen. I called all of my creditors, including AmEx, and asked for new statements (this was in prehistoric days, before the glorious advent of on-line billing), or a billing number to put on a check so that I could pay my balance due. AmEx’s rep says I must have a statement to pay my bill, and they’ll send one. Three weeks, I received hate mail with a late fee charge, but no new copy of my bill. I call them again, and say, Hey, I never received a statement. They say Sure you did, on blahblah blah, and I tell them, I called you and told you all our mail was stolen, tried to pay you immediately, you said you’d send a Completely Necessary new statement…and all I’ve got is a late fee plus my balance due.

            They find the record of the call, and specifically tell me, Do Not Pay, we’ll fix this. Two weeks later, I get an Ugly-Gram telling me that they’re turning me over to collections because I’ve refused to pay my bill. I called them, insisted on speaking to a supervisor, and told him that I was finished with AmEx and wanted to pay my damn bill…but forget the late charge. He found ALL of the documentation (including my never late Gold Card, years long membership) and begged me to stick around. I was done. I paid him over the phone for my balance (it was actually my annual fee, and all of $25), and closed the account.

            So, yes, weirdness can happen. But for ten years? On multiple occasions, with multiple accounts? Today, in the wireless, telecommunication, internet and cell-phone age? I really doubt it.

      • avatar sueb1997 says:

        Chuck seems to have the understandable, but incorrect, idea that the post office keeps a giant database of everyone’s address.  Not so!  They don’t “know” where any of us live per se.  They just deliver mail as it’s addressed, and when you specifically tell them to forward your mail from X address to Y address, they perform that service.  For a limited time period (I actually thought it was six months only).
        When you get forwarded mail with the new address on that yellow sticker, remember that the *sender* did not put that sticker on, the post office did.  The sender does not know your new address (presumably, or why would they send mail to the old address?).  When you receive mail with the forwarding sticker, that is your reminder that you need to contact the sender (assuming they are someone you expect to hear from again) to give them your correct address.  When *all* your mail comes addressed to your new address instead of with the yellow stickers, your job is mostly, but not completely, done.  You still have to think about anyone you didn’t happen to get mail from since your move, but who might contact you in the future, and let them know the new information (a la David’s example of a credit card you haven’t used in a long time).  Think about it — the post office does not contact all your correspondents for you; that is your responsibility!

        • avatar Lym BO says:

          Really, Sue, this should all be a moot point. If companies had a valid email address the snail mail component would be irrelevant, because email follows you everywhere. People need to be more cognizant of who needs their information. Maybe I’m neurotic, but each time I have moved I sat down & thought to myself: who needs to know my forwarding address? I then contacted them.
          Chuck, who uses a credit card five years later? I’ve had a few department store ones that I don’t use frequently, but if it has been a while they always verify contact info when I do. It’s both parties responsibility to do this. Every business I’ve ever worked for verified this info at least once a year.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        No chuckles…when you file a change of address form, your former Postal facility will only forward mail with your old address on it for One Year from the date you file the change. Within that year’s time, you are expected to inform anyone, and everyone of significance (friends, relatives, creditors, doctors, etc.) that you have a new address…so that your mail will go to the appropriate postal facility, and from there, to you.

        Forwarding an extra, free service, and it is one that takes up a lot of time, given the inclination and need for frequent moves in this country, and the huge numbers of people doing so. Hence the fact that forwarding is only a free service for one year (this includes parcels as well)…unless you file another change of address card to get another year of free forwarding. That is strictly your responsibility, and your choice…and would be necessary only if your mail, for some peculiar reason, kept being delivered to your old residence (and why blame the post office? Call all of your business associates, creditors, doctors, friends and acquaintances and just TELL them “Hey, this is my new address. Mom keeps forgetting to send on my mail. Please change it in your computer, address book…whatever” How hard is that?).

        LW1, you’ve missed weddings and reunions because of your mother’s inability to remember to forward your mail…but how? You’re computer literate, and I am very tentatively assuming that you have a phone…so why didn’t these friends having the three weddings call, or email, when you didn’t RSVP? After the first failure, why didn’t you call friends with your new address? I know that my delightful high school reunion committee had to be dissuaded by a series of increasingly subversive and bizarre emails and Where Are They Now? forms to make their cutesy emails and letters stop (leave me alone, I hated high school just wouldn’t cut it)…and they were able to find my correct address, sans help from my family, after 8 moves (including two interstate), innumerable address changes, a series of unlisted phone numbers…and despite my not having been Miss Congeniality. Why not, after the first few mom based mishaps, not start alerting people. And how does one have bills…plural…that are not being paid because of a wifty mom’s forgetfulness…and not be aware that one is in arrears? I have a little trouble believing that it took an entire decade for you to be absolutely clear on your mom’s habitual forgetfulness.

        So, file yet another change of address, and call everyone again. Everyone you can think of, and email whenever possible as well (documentation is a good thing). In the mean time, ask your sister (unless you fight like two cats in a sack) to forward your mail to you once a week…if there is any. It’s your responsibility, in the end. Mom won’t be around for ever…why kvetch over this?

  19. avatar Lym BO says:

    LW1: I’m sorry, but if want your mail then you need to inform those important people & businesses of your new address. I see this as blaming the wrong party. You are responsible for yourself, not your mother. I have to say you must’ve been really close to the brides & grooms for them not to know your forwarding address. {sarcasm}. They got married and had a kid & you were miffed at your mom? You missed your class reunion-again must’ve bee really tight with classmates not to have known about that affair. I personally think your mom does it to motivate you to take care of your own business.
    LW2: View it as spam regardless from whom it comes. You are in charge of your own time. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into reading it if you don’t find it humorous or educational.

  20. avatar Paintballchick says:

    I am a longtime reader of Margo, first time replying…

    LW #2: I am quite surprised that no one has suggested that the LW go to her Human Resources Department, or to the spammer’s supervisor. At the company where I work, we don’t have an official spam policy, but are very careful not to waste our co-worker’s precious time with spam. (We get enough of it from the outside world, believe me!) I do realize how lucky I am to have a corporate culture that supports this ideal, but it looks like LW#2 is not so lucky. If these e-mails are interfering with her ability to get her job done, then it needs to stop now.

  21. avatar D C says:

    Regarding chain email.  A few years back a woman I knew back in college, who was actually one of my bridesmaids, but who I had fallen out of touch with, reconnected via a college group reunion.  She then began sending me all manner of stupid emails. 

    One day, she sent me something “Christian” that said something about homosexuality and not in a good way.  That same week, a gay friend of my daughter had been beaten up outside the schoolyard for being gay. 

    Upon reading the email, I hit “Reply All” and proceeded to very nicely explain that I did not agree with the opinions within the email and, in fact, felt that they contributed to the kind of acts that my daughter’s friend had been the victim of. 

    My former bridesmaid, and now former friend, was LIVID.  She wrote back and let me have it with both barrells because, “MY MOTHER READ THAT!!!”  I guess her mom was offended that her daughter knew someone who wasn’t a homophobe. 

    Anyway… I stopped getting chain email from her.  You could block her email address, unless you really need to get stuff from her.  But really, you don’t need to feel like you should open anything like that, much less reply to it. 

  22. avatar Mush says:

    Many email companies like hotmail or yahoo mail will allow you to sort emails into another folder automatically. I have one such folder that included all emails with “fwd” in the subjuct title that came from one contact. Keeps them out of your inbox and easy to delete without insulting the person sending them to you.