Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Five Americans – "Zip Code" (1967)

Zip code
Postman says it’s faster

Do you remember the days before there was such a thing as ZIP Codes?

I grew up in a small city.  The local postal workers were expected to know it well enough that they could sort the mail properly based on just the street address.  

But those who sorted mail in larger cities needed to know more than just the street address in order to handle incoming mail.  

In 1943, the U.S. Post Office assigned postal zone numbers to larger cities – for example, “New York 5, New York” or “Los Angeles 12, California.”

On July 1, 1963, the USPS revamped its mail-delivery system by introducing five-digit ZIP (“Zone Improvement Plan”) Codes that covered every mailing address in the country.  

At the same time, the USPS assigned a two-letter abbreviation to each state, which initially resulted in some confusion.  

For example, there are four states whose names begin with the letters “M” and “I” — Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Missouri.  Any one of them could have been assigned the MI code, but the honor went to Michigan.  The other three were assigned MN, MS, and MO.

MO always struck me as a rather arbitrary choice for my home state, but that abbreviation must have been in use long before 1963 because the yearbook at Joplin (Missouri) High School was called the Joplimo back in the 1940s.

In 1983, the USPS rolled out “ZIP+4,” which assigned nine digits to an address instead of just five in order to make mail sorting quicker and more efficient.

It’s hardly necessary to prove that the American legal system has lost its mind – most of us figured that out long ago.  But if you’re still not convinced of that, here’s an example of just how little common sense some courts have from CNN.com:

California's high court ruled [February 9, 2011] that retailers don't have the right to ask customers for their ZIP code while completing credit card transactions, saying that doing so violates a cardholders' right to protect his or her personal information. . . .

The court concluded that requesting a ZIP code is not much different than asking for a phone number or home address.

Knowing someone’s ZIP Code is NOTHING like knowing his or her phone number or home address.

(Shhhhh!  You're spoiling
it for the rest of us!)
The last time I checked, you don’t share a particular phone number or address with other people – your phone number and your mailing address are unique to your and your family. 

But you probably share your five-digit ZIP Code with thousands of other people.  After all, there are 320 million Americans sharing some 42,000 ZIP Codes — that’s an average of 7500-plus people per ZIP Code.  That doesn’t narrow it down very much, does it?

Here’s the more fundamental point.  The plaintiff could have told the retailer who asked for her ZIP Code to eat it.  (Eat it raw!)  

No retailer in its right mind is going to press a customer for his or her ZIP Code if he or she is reluctant to provide it.  If it does, it runs the risk that the customer will get p*ssed off and walk out of the store.  

You might well ask why the customer who was asked for her ZIP Code would take the case all the way to the state supreme court.

A California class-action complaint
Because the case was filed as a class action, that’s why.  In a class action, the lawyers represent not only the individual plaintiff whose name is on the complaint, but also all those who are “similarly situated” – that is, all of the thousands and thousands of California consumers who shopped at the large retail chain that was the defendant in this case.

The statute the plaintiff cited in this case provides for penalties of up to $250 per violation.  Multiply that by the number of people who used a credit card at that retailer – 10,000 customers? 25,000? 100,000? More? – and you’re talking real money.

Keep in mind that the lawyers who file class actions usually walk away with the lion’s share of any judgment or settlement, and you will understand why this case was appealed all the way to the highest court in the state.

*     *     *     *     *

“Western Union” was a top-five hit for the Five Americans – not to be confused with Jay and the Americans of “Come a Little Bit Closer” fame – in 1967.

Later that year, they released a single about a much newer method of communicating.  “Zip Code” made it into the top 40, but just barely.

In “Zip Code,” the singer has fallen for a girl who was sitting in the front row when his band performed in New York City.  He puts the appropriate ZIP Code on his letter because the USPS has promised that doing so will speed up the letter’s delivery to the girl.  

We know approximately where the girl lives because the song specifies her ZIP Code.  It’s 10036, which cover a good-sized hunk of midtown Manhattan (including Times Square and Rockefeller Center).

Here’s “Zip Code”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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