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How to fill out shipping info when you have a PO box

Filling out the shipping information may be tricky when you have a PO box, but it’s not impossible.

Filling out the shipping information may be tricky when you have a PO box, but it's not impossible.

Everyone with a post office box has been there. You go to order something online, but the shipping details are incredibly vague, so you play it safe and plug in your PO box information, only for the system to kick it back and say it cannot deliver to that address. You switch it to your physical address and just cross your fingers that it will come UPS or FedEx, only to find out a few days later the seller used one of those services to only ship the package to, you guessed it, the post office. If you are lucky, and thank goodness for small towns, someone in the post office knows you have a box. If you are not, that box is going back to the seller. You are out the money and nothing to show for it, and now have the headache of submitting another form to say you didn’t get your package and either need it to be mailed, again, or to get your money back. Let’s hope it wasn’t for anything time-sensitive.

So, what can we do?

First of all, we can’t really blame the post office, UPS or FedEx. It comes down to how the sender ships the package. In a perfect world, these online websites would perfectly disclose how they will be shipping a package so the buyer would be able to fill out the address tailored to the shipping method, but that’s just not how it works, yet.

Since one can infer that Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers will always pick the cheapest method of shipping, all we can do is try to prepare for every possibility.

In case the package lands in the postal service, remember that they use highly automated systems for processing and sorting mail. The USPS databases are updated with addressing information provided by local officials, and locally addressing is part of the Enhanced 911 Emergency Network. When entering the physical address, be sure you are using the new one assigned to you during the 911 mapping project that occurred a few years ago. Automation will not be able to connect you with your old address and it may be sent back to sender, automatically, unless someone in the office can catch it before it is sent back.

When you’re just not sure how the package will be mailed, the best thing you can do is to include both your physical address and the PO box number, but remember the PO box must be in the address line directly above the city, state and zip code. The postal service recommends using a dual address format as illustrated below:

Customer Name
Street Address
PO Box number
City, State Zip Code

Now, it is possible that the online form will error on the use of the words “PO Box,” so you may have to get crafty, but multiple postal service workers have assured us they will know what you mean if you put “number,” “#” or “box” before your number.

As an example, if we were to order something at the newspaper office, we could utilize the dual address format as such:

Salyersville Independent
15 E. Maple St.
Salyersville, KY 41465

Susan Wright, with USPS Corp Communications, also noted that the postal service offers an additional convenience of street addressing for PO Box customers. If you know you want something to come to your post office box, but the mailing form you are filling out will not let you enter a PO box address, you can address it using the post office’s street address and include your box number:

Customer Name
330 E. Maple St. # [your PO Box number entered here] Salyersville, KY 41465

This will ensure that your package will make it to the post office, and they will have the information to connect it to your box.

If you are chronically having issues with this, or on any other mailing matter, you can contact Salyersville Postmaster Lori Marcum at or (606) 349-3400.

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