SCHENECTADY N.Y. -- It's the five-digit password we all memorize: the ZIP code.
"12309," said Susan Koller reciting hers at the Stitch Mania Meetup in the library. Those 5 numbers were all the people in the Schenectady knitting group needed to connect.
"You get support from the other knitters and crocheters," said Koller.
Meetup uses ZIP codes to match people who share common interests, like knitting. Unfortunately, not everyone is as honest as these knitters.
"They sometimes don't believe me when I tell 'em," said Patricia Annis, a mail clerk.
She works in a place where lies literally pile up on the shelves of the mailroom, at General Electric in Schenectady. They sort the fact from the fiction.
"Mickey Mouse, Humpty Dumpty, Jane Doe... that's not good, but that's what we get sometimes," said another mail clerk, Sharon Santacroce.
It's because the ZIP is just so easy. Ed Stefanik, GE's plant manager has to repeat himself whenever he tells people the address.
"No, this really is the ZIP code here: 1-2-3-4-5," he'll say.
The proof is in the GE Schenectady newspaper from July 2, 1971 when the manager of the Schenectady Utilities Operation "observed that Schenectady GE's Mailing Operations personnel process an average of 50,000 pieces of incoming external mail daily."
Instead of mail getting dropped off at the downtown Schenectady Post Office, ZIP Code 12305, GE now had their own mailroom with the ZIP Code 12345. The easiest ZIP Code in the country has made Evan Estola's life a little more difficult.
"You'd better make sure you’re not over-counting fake Schenectadians," he said from his Meetup office in New York City.
Meetup needs that ZIP code to match you with groups in your area, and Evan's the guy that does the math to make the match. But when you don't want to put in your real ZIP code,
“There were actually over one million fake registrations from the 1-2-3-4-5 ZIP code," Estola said.
It's just... easy.
“Sometimes it’s hard to determine whether something is an actual anomaly, whether it’s statistical noise, or whether it’s just a bunch of people lying," Estola laughed.
In this case, they are all lies complicating Evan's data, cluttering GE's mailroom, but not overcrowding the knitting club.
Because while a million people say they live in Schenectady, the truth is, the city's got 66,000 people, and none of them live in the ZIP code 12345.