What Are ZIP Codes? And Why Do We Use Them?

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Whenever you go to buy or order something online, from fast food to something from Amazon, you’ll have to give a ZIP code. For years, many people have just done this without ever even thinking about it.

It’s as common a part of our address as, say, our house number or our state. We put it in with everything we order – but what actually is your ZIP code? Many people might provide it hundreds of times per year when they buy something, but they don’t actually know what it is or why they gave that information in the first place!

A ZIP code, then, is a very important part of finding out where we live. Everyone has their own ZIP code for the area that they live in, and these five-figured numerical collections are vital. We have to give our ZIP code to get our mail, to get items dropped off, and through some various other factors that might be very important to make sure we get what we actually paid for.

So, why do we use ZIP codes?

The ZIP code has been in use for a long, long time. It came into being in 1963, and until then the US Postal Service only used postal zones for large areas of cities. You would always have to include the ZIP code after your address but put it before the state. It was used to help keep mail more efficient and to try and minimize the risk of items being sent to the wrong part of the USA.

The ZIP code became very useful for numerous reasons, but it was to help make postal services more effective across the whole USA. The first number of the ZIP code was designated to be used for a group of states – 0 on the East Coast, 9 on the West Coast – and the second and third numbers would be the sectional center facility that the mail would be sent to for processing.

Then, the final two numbers were included to help make sure that it would go to the correct post office or post zone. As such, the famous five-figure ZIP code was born. It was a useful system that was designed to help make life easier for a busy postal service, and to this day it still plays a leading role in making that possible.

However, the system has changed a bit over the years. Did you know that the final four figures of your ZIP code might stand for something more? Now, these are to point out more specific particular areas. The sixths and seventh numbers are a delivery sector, which could be streets, a building, or an area of minor geographical size.

The last two numbers of the ZIP code are for delivery segments, like the side of the street the building is on, or the floor that the package is aimed at in a particular office. So, now that you can grasp why this system was put in place, do you think you’ll find it easier to use and remember your ZIP code?