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The Mass Address Story
Houston, we have a problem
10 September 2015
The story of Mass Address begins with a maintenance request I submitted for water leaking down into my apartment from the unit directly above mine.
Exactly 2 weeks later on 24 September, the leak had turned into a gaping hole in the plenum space between my apartment and the apartment above. Insects and the smell of mold started to invade my living space. I sent in another maintenance request with the following statement, ‘I am not paying next month’s rent until the hole in the ceiling is repaired. There is absolutely, positively, no excuse that it has taken nearly a month for you to call a godforsaken contractor to fix the hole in this ceiling. In the meantime, my apartment now has bugs and spiders are free to make webs right in my house. FIX IT IMMEDIATELY.’
7 October 2015
For 2 weeks I came home with the hope the staff had finally repaired the hole in my ceiling. The hole remained. So I submitted another maintenance request, ‘It has been 30 days since your maintenance personnel destroyed the ceiling in my apartment. My apartment reeks of mold and insects continue to come inside unabated. You will not receive a single dollar for rent until this ceiling is repaired. Not a dollar. I am also not paying any late charges assessed. If you do not repair the hole, I am leaving for a breach of contract. I will take the $600 to get into an apartment that actually provides maintenance. I cannot pay $600 for an apartment that has SERIOUS structural damage causing pests to enter my domicile. I don’t need to send another picture. You already have one.’
Sometime between the 7th of October and the 10th of October 2015, I was laying on my air mattress one night thinking about my 2-year-old son. I thought about how hard it would be to see him on a regular basis because of where I lived. After my divorce, my ex-wife moved in with her parents who lived on the other side of the city. I became emotionally compromised and just started bawling. I thought about my rundown apartment and the fact I was now completely alone. I cried out to G-d like I had never done before. I asked G-d to please provide me a place to live closer to my son. In less than 24 hours He answered that prayer. I applied for a nice 2-bedroom duplex less than a few miles from where my son would be living. When the owner who is a former Air Force pilot found out I was in the Air Force, he let me move in without a security deposit. It was a miracle.
I packed up all of my belongings and left the rundown apartment. Before I left, I sent a detailed letter to the apartment management expounding on the fact they had violated Florida law and were in breach of contract because of their failure to provide timely maintenance. I dropped some big law firm name and number in my letter and told them to contact my lawyer if they had a problem with me not satisfying the remaining months on my lease. I didn’t have a lawyer and barely had a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, but they didn’t know that. Appearance is 9/10ths of the law. As soon as I had signed the lease on my new duplex, I went online to change my address with my bank. This is where the seed for Mass Address was first planted.
Bancorp had rolled out a new online bank called Simple. What made this bank so special is the fact you no longer needed to maintain a checkbook to keep your incoming and outgoing transactions in order. It truly was an amazing bank, but their customer service was beyond terrible. Matter of fact, if it were not for their terrible customer service, I still would be banking with them. I signed into the online banking app to change my address on my profile. When I got to the address section, it was greyed out. I could not make any changes. So, I had to call the bank to change my address. The bank told me for me to change my address I had to prove my identity by sending in the documentation. At first, I was upset because I answered all of their security questions and I also had access to the banking app which they could see on their system. There was nothing I could do. I had to send them documentation. I scanned my driver’s license and emailed them a copy. Customer service responded less than 24 hours later and told me my license would not be sufficient for proving my identity because it was the same address listed on my bank account. I told them the reason why is because I have not had time to get my address changed on my license. Florida law gives residents 30 days to obtain a new license once their address changes. I then asked what else could I send to prove the change of address? They sent me a list of approved documents. By this time, the US Postal service change of address order had been mailed to my new rental. I scanned that paper along with a signed copy of my lease and driver’s license and sent that to the bank. Rejected. They would not accept those documents either. At this point, I am seething angry.😡 The bank asked for a utility bill with my name on it. So, after waiting 30 days for my first electric bill to come in, I scanned it and sent it in. Rejected. The bank insisted I get a new license which showed my new address on it. I told the bank to close my bank account and transfer the funds to another institution. They complied. They did not ask for any identification either while doing it. Imagine that. I still had to go by the old apartment for a few weeks to get my mail until the forwarding order at the US Postal Service kicked in. On one of the last trips to the old mailbox, I thought about what I had just gone through to get my address changed. I wondered why the post office did not tell the bank I moved. My curiosity was peaked. I started doing some research to understand how the change of address process worked.
One night while surfing Amazon for computer parts I decided to check out Newegg to see if they had the same part at a cheaper price. I typed in the part I wanted and scrolled down. Off to the right hand of the screen, something caught my eye. It was an ad from Amazon displaying the same exact part I was looking at with the price listed below it. I was mesmerized by this ad. I understood how cookies worked but were shocked that Newegg would allow one of their competitors to run an ad on their system. That is like going to buy a new car and at the deal table, another competing dealer is sitting there telling you how much they are selling the same exact car for. Why would a dealer allow that? It should be noted that I am not a computer programmer. I have however taken many classes and have accumulated roughly 80 credit hours across 7 different colleges and universities. (I have completed my degree since I first wrote down this story.) There was something about this ad that I could not put my finger on. I was currently browsing computer parts on the Newegg server, but that server was displaying “real-time” pricing and imagery from Amazon which is not only physically separated from Newegg but also resides on a completely different network. I consulted a good friend, Mr. Google. This is when I discovered something revolutionary: API’s.
API stands for Application Programming Interface. It is a piece of software that allows two applications to talk to each other. When I read that statement, I felt like Tobey Maguire when Leonardo DiCaprio reveals he is Mr. Gatsby with the fireworks exploding in the background. OMG about sums up how I felt at that moment. I started doing some research online regarding the change of address process. Not too far into my research, I came across an old PowerPoint presentation from a man by the name of James Wilson. Mr. Wilson was the head of address management for the United States Postal Service. His phone number was listed on the PowerPoint presentation. I gave him a call. We must have talked for around 30 minutes. During our conversation, I learned about the change of address process and how the US Postal Service doesn’t actually know where people live. There is no database with the names and addresses of all Americans. It is against privacy law. However, there is a loophole that allows the Post Office to keep a database of names and addresses for the purposes of delivering mail. That database is known as the National Change of Address (NCOA) database. The NCOA database holds the names and changes of address of at least 160 million Americans. These address change records are kept on file for 4 years. After 4 years, the records are destroyed. It’s the law. Mr. Wilson told me in order to forward mail to a new address there must be a forward order on file. Not long after our conversation, I was driving to Bainbridge, GA on a Thursday morning and was deep in thought about the ad I saw on Newegg and how privacy law worked within the US Postal Service. I came up with a general idea on how I could develop a real-time change of address system without violating a person's right to privacy. At this point, I knew I had a revolutionary technology but I had no name for it. I started thinking about what the software would do and who the intended audience would be. The name Mass Address popped into my head. I laughed. I said to myself, there is no way that domain name will be available. So I put my fleece before G-d. I said, Father, if you want me to pursue this idea, here is the sign I need from you. The web domain www.massaddress.com will be available. If that web domain is available, I will know that you gave me this idea and it is not some crazy idea that randomly popped into my head. When I got to Bainbridge, Georgia I went online to a domain name seller. I typed in massaddress.com. AVAILABLE. I could not believe my eyes. I was in utter shock. So I started to doubt myself. I looked up www.massaddress.net. AVAILABLE. I’m starting to freak out. www.massaddress.org. AVAILABLE. At this point I am elated! I purchase all 3 domains. Later on that evening I went on to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many other platforms. Every single place I checked, Mass Address was available.
I simply could not believe out of 6 billion people on planet Earth, nobody had thought of purchasing the web domain MassAddress. I knew immediately this endeavor was divine and I felt confident investing money into it. When Mr. Wilson told me about the privacy law constraints, I wrote Mass Address to be in compliance with those laws. Mr. Wilson did not tell me how the National Change of Address process worked. He just told me it’s illegal for the Post Office to share someone’s new address unless the requestor could prove they knew the old address. When I wrote Mass Address, I had no idea what Undeliverable-As-Addressed mail was or that it costs businesses and government entities $20 billion dollars a year. This came afterward. Initially, I was only concerned with fixing an annoying problem that involved the Post Office contacting every organization I had ever done business with to let them know I moved. It’s not the Post Office’s responsibility to notify agencies you do business with. They do not have the resources to do so nor do they have the ability. In this book, I am going to explain in detail my vision for Mass Address and how it’s going to supercharge the economy while reducing and ultimately eliminating identity theft.