FMCA’s Mail Forwarding Service powered by DakotaPost continues the association’s tradition of delivering members’ mail whether they are full-time or part-time travelers.
By Ried Holien
It’s likely that any longtime motorhomer will tell you that switching to the full-time RV lifestyle, or deciding to spend more days in the coach, is a process. Questions regarding what to do about one’s work, stationary home, and possessions must be addressed, as well as how to stay in touch with loved ones. Few of us would include Uncle Sam on that list of loved ones, but certainly the U.S. government also wants to know how to contact us as well. There are always bills to pay, documents to file, and licenses to acquire. Like it or not, most of these activities are still handled by postal mail. Even RVers who are enjoying the freedom of the open road need a place to receive old-fashioned paper envelopes.
Whether you are the kind of RV traveler who stays for months at a favorite campground each year, or you spend only a few weeks in any one location, having an actual physical mailing address is still a necessity in the modern world. Yes, cynics might point out that most mail comes in one of three forms: bills, bureaucratic (license renewals, taxes, etc.), and bunk. It’s not all bad, however. People still pay postage to send out wedding invitations, baby announcements, and Christmas cards. While social media websites can partially serve those functions, most everyone still likes to receive the actual cards. And social media can’t solve all necessities. After all, nobody “likes” the Facebook page of the IRS to receive friendly reminders about taxes coming due.
“Mail forwarding is invaluable to the RV lifestyle,” said FMCA member Kari McGrath, F76385S. “Without it there would be no other way to get our mail. With it, we have the freedom to go wherever we want, whenever we want.” She and her husband, David, were able to retire while in their 50s to travel full-time in their motorhome. (Kari offered this advice to others considering the full-time lifestyle: “Don’t wait! Jump in feet first!”) To handle their mail, they use FMCA Mail Forwarding powered by DakotaPost.
FMCA established a mail forwarding service in 1980, operating it out of the association’s Cincinnati headquarters. In 2014 the decision was made to outsource this service. After evaluating several mail forwarding providers, DakotaPost, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was selected. The company began servicing FMCA mail forwarding customers in the fall of 2014.
Because of its partnership with FMCA, DakotaPost offers discounted rates to FMCA members.
Kim and Michelle Pollock, F265794, were boaters when they lived on the East Coast in the early 1990s. They switched to land exploring when Kim took a different job in California. They began camping with a Jeep and a tent, but after 18 months they purchased a 28-foot Safari Trek motorhome. Within two years, they sold their stationary home. “We then learned about the 4-Wheelers chapter of the FMCA, joined it, and never looked back,” Kim said. In fact, he is now president of the chapter. They have been full-timing since 2002.
The Pollocks’ early full-timing days involved a few challenges. “Cell phone coverage was spotty, Internet connections were few and far between, and we knew next to nothing about RV maintenance,” Kim said. Finding the right physical mailing address and mail forwarding service were high priorities to the couple.
“When we decided to go full-time, we had a decision to make about our residency and the logistics of being on the road,” Kim said. “I did my research and, for us, the answer was to become residents of South Dakota. I selected DakotaPost (then called Alternative Resources) as our mailing address. They helped us become legal residents, register to vote, get a driver’s license, and everything else we needed. We talked on the phone for about a month; then my wife and I flew to Sioux Falls. We flew back the next day as official residents of South Dakota, complete with our driver’s license photo next to the presidents on Mount Rushmore.” Kim said they’ve utilized the mail forwarding service for 13 years, trouble-free.
DakotaPost offers assistance with South Dakota residency questions, including vehicle registration. “Quite simply, it’s probably the best state in the nation in how well they treat RVers,” Dustin Strande, DakotaPost president, explained. “First, it’s a great location. Sioux Falls is conveniently located at the intersection of Interstate 90 and Interstate 29, with good air service, so it’s easy to get to. The state welcomes RVers with no state income tax, no state inheritance tax, no state personal property tax, low excise tax on vehicles, easy access to residency, and low insurance rates. It’s a great place to declare as your home base.”
For longtime FMCA members Wally and Iris Schmidt, F60829, “the big decision to ‘full-time’ was a hurdle,” Iris said. “We needed to liquidate our worldly possessions after 36 years of marriage. That was a challenge. An auction solved that problem after our home was quickly sold.” Other details, including what to do about their mail, simply fell into place, as they signed up with FMCA’s mail forwarding service.
They began their new life at 5:25 p.m. on May 8, 1989. “We drove away with children in college, a well-packed coach, and very happy hearts!” Iris said.
The Schmidts immediately fell in love with the RV lifestyle, and that passion has never faded. Iris has been the membership director of FMCA’s Beaver Ambassador Club chapter since 1986. FMCA mail forwarding customers for 25 years, Iris said that the service has “enhanced our ability to travel where and when.”
When it was announced that DakotaPost would begin operating FMCA’s mail forwarding service, the Schmidts had some questions. “I so appreciated the calls from FMCA’s executive director, Jerry Yeatts, explaining the transition to DakotaPost. I definitely appreciated the personal contact with DakotaPost president Dustin Strande to get me on the right track,” Iris said.
The decision to outsource FMCA’s mail forwarding operation was not made lightly and involved visits to several companies supplying this service. Jerry Yeatts said the switch to DakotaPost felt comfortable for FMCA. “When I first visited DakotaPost, I felt like I was back at our mail forwarding facility in Cincinnati. The way the office and mailboxes were set, the manner in which the staff was sorting and packing the mail, and the genuine friendliness of everyone immediately made me feel that this was the right fit for FMCA’s mail forwarding subscribers.”
But another factor sealed the decision. “When DakotaPost shared their vision for the future with new technology, that really convinced me that this was the right choice,” he added.
The new technology that Jerry particularly appreciated is DakotaPost’s new Virtual Mailbox, more easily referenced as “VMB.” DakotaPost employees scan the outside of each envelope, and clients go online to view what mail they have recently received. A brief video at www.dakotapost.net/virtual provides an overview of the process. Basically, here’s how it works. A user logs in to his or her Virtual Mailbox account and sees a photo of the exterior of each envelope that has been received and scanned. For each piece of mail, the user makes one of three selections: “Scan” schedules the envelope to be opened by DakotaPost employees, who will scan its contents for the user to view shortly; “Send” schedules physical delivery of that piece of mail to the user’s current postal address; and “Shred” schedules shredding of that item at a future time. An “Undo” button cancels any action should the user decide otherwise about a particular piece of mail.
“The idea behind Virtual Mailbox is that it gives travelers 24/7 access to their mail and the confidence in knowing what is in their mailbox on any given day,” Dustin explained. “VMB also allows clients to review their mail before it is sent and tell us whether they want us to shred or scan an item. Also, by knowing what is in their mailbox, clients are able to request that their mail gets delivered less frequently, saving them costs in postage.”
DakotaPost’s online portal lets customers change their current mailing address, request their mail, or update their account information any time.
Other mail forwarding services offer different price packages based upon frequency of delivery. DakotaPost offers that as well, but the company’s DakotaPost’s VMB feature allows users to customize their delivery based upon knowledge of what is already waiting for them and how high in importance it is to receive it. Mail is sent out via U.S. Postal Service or FedEx.
While Dustin says that customers have embraced the company’s recently introduced Virtual Mailbox technology, it is still a new concept for the majority right now. He noted that most people switch to DakotaPost for the age-old business benefits of fast and friendly service. Sorting out junk mail and responding quickly to questions remain big draws, as does the company’s South Dakota location. If they prefer, customers can call and speak with DakotaPost representatives to update their forwarding address, change the frequency or day of the week their mail is sent out, or discuss other features.
FMCA Mail Forwarding powered by DakotaPost works smoothly for Kari and David McGrath. But like other customers, they’ve had a few humorous hiccups in the course of using a mail forwarding service in general.
“My mom sent us four bags of 99-cent rice we like, paying almost $13 to do it, and did not realize we, in turn, had to pay to forward it,” Kari said. (The rice was worth it, she added.)
FMCA Mail Forwarding Powered by DakotaPost, 3916 N. Potsdam Ave., Sioux Falls, SD 57104-7048; (800) 477-2664; email: [email protected]; www.dakota post.net/fmca.