Letter Back


We’ve lived in this apartment for three years now. We still get mail for the lady who lived there before us. At first it was understandable: she even left a forwarding address in case we received mail addressed to her, but after a year of forwarding her letters it slowly became less and less like a neighborly favor and more and more like annoying evidence that she couldn’t be bothered to update her contact information.

After a while I stopped forwarding letters ( also I lost the address) and started marking them with “Return to Sender”. But they still came back: still marked with my own handwriting labeling the letter as mis-addressed. I tried scratching out the barcodes. The letters still came back. I tried leaving a message for the mailman. The letters still came back- now labeled with a smartass retort from the mail carrier: “What was I hinting at?” he wanted to know after a particularly explicit request that the letters return to where they came from, “He didn’t understand”.

The letters still came back. Hogwarts is less persistent.

I’ve moved past annoyed and into experimental: I’m interested to know how many times I can cycle this letter through the mail system on Kaiser Permanente’s ( the most persistent source of misaddressed mail) dime. I wrote the first “Return to sender” in black. Next I plan to outline it in red. After that silver. After that blue. And so on. Maybe I’ll date each color to test the speed of the system. It will be part art project and part social experiment.

It should be interesting.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 2, 2015.

2 Responses to “Letter Back”

  1. What a great & creative idea! I haven’t experienced the extent of receiving previous owner’s mail as you have, but I feel your pain. After living in my place now for almost 6 years, I still get mail addressed to the previous owners. At first, I was kind like you, requesting the mail be returned to sender. Now, I toss it in the recycle bin on my way into the house. Clearly they didn’t want that catelog of office supplies… The only time I find myself putting “return to sender” now on any piece of mail I get for “The Wilson’s” is at Christmas time. It’s more because I feel sorry for those who the Wilson’s didn’t keep in touch with enough to inform them of their move, which happened more than 7 years ago since the place stood vacant a year prior to my purchase of it.

  2. Maybe you could also write “Return to Sender” in a different language? Like Spanish first, French second, Hebrew third, Japanese fourth… 😉

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