The federal website where Americans can request free, in-home COVID-19 tests kits launched Tuesday and promptly came down with a case of the hiccups, as some apartment-dwellers or others living in multi-unit buildings couldn’t place their orders.
The Biden administration touted COVIDTests.gov, where the free tests can be ordered through the Postal Service, with no shipping fee — but with a limit of four tests per address.
Before long, social media was filling with complaints from people unable to order anything because the website wasn’t recognizing their apartment number. Instead, the website would indicate an order already had been placed for that address, presumably for a neighbor in another apartment.
Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said the agency was seeing a “small percentage of orders” impacted by the issue.
“The Postal Service is seeing very limited cases of addresses that are not registered as multi-unit buildings which could lead to COVID test kit ordering difficulties,” Partenheimer said. “For assistance in the ordering process the USPS recommends filing a service request at https://emailus.usps.com/s/the-postal-store-inquiry or contacting our help desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS, to help address the issue.”
Partenheimer said he didn’t have a number of how many households were being affected by this issue and insisted it was just a limited number of cases.
Julian Randall lives in a two-flat building in Garfield Park and said he was one of the people who ran into issues placing an order. He said his neighbor who lives above him had placed an order.
“I’ve tried everything under the sun and every combination. I wrote out ‘Apartment 1,’ ‘Apt. 1,’ ‘Unit 1’ and every other way you can think of. None of it worked.” Randall said. “I just wished they put a dropdown box for the apartment number like the postal service has for everything else.”
Others online suggested just adding the apartment number to the main address line and leaving the apartment box blank, but it was unclear if that worked consistently. Randall said he tried that, too, without success.
Randall said the hotline also was a frustrating maze. He waited nearly 45 minutes before getting to speak to a representative — who was very nice, Randall emphasized — but in the end, for now, the problem remains.
“The waiting was a hellish experience and it went on for about an hour but nothing was resolved,” Randall said. “They said they would open a ticket number and said it can take a couple days to resolve but that is not really a timeline.”
Randall said he was prepared mentally to run into problems placing an order but thought it would come in the form of supplies running out – not something as simple as an apartment number.
Still, he remains unsurprised at the results.
“One thing that could’ve been helpful if the federal government knew we were going to do a nationwide rollout why is there not a postal hotline for inquiries regarding this specific rollout?” Randall said. “It’s silly that we have gone through this for over the course of nearly three years and we still can’t effectively mass distribute things,” Randall said.”
If this rollout was somewhat botched even for a small number of people, Randall said, he worries how the Biden administration will effectively distribute 400 million N95 masks beginning next week.
Those having trouble can also register a complaint with the Postal Service by scanning this QR code: