The United States Postal Service® handles a lot of mail — approximately 128.9 billion pieces of mail and packages in 2021 alone. With that much volume, it’s inevitable that some packages never reach their destination. When a parcel does go missing or is undelivered, it can be an incredibly frustrating process for all parties involved, especially the shipper. Lost time, frustrated customers, and the cost of replacing the item or refunding the customer are all common consequences caused by missing mail.
In the event that a package needs to be recovered, there are several key factors to remember when starting the recovery process. And while it’s not always a guarantee that a package can be recovered — say, if it were lost or damaged — the long and tedious process is necessary, especially if the item was expensive to ship in the first place.
What is the USPS Recovery Center
The Mail Recovery Center, once known as the Dead Letter Office, is the “lost and found” department of the USPS®. If a piece of mail is is undeliverable or non-returnable, it usually ends up here. The MRC’s purpose is to try and reunite the package back to its sender or with the intended recipient so long as the value of the item is worth more than $25 or $20 for mail that contains cash. Items that are barcoded are held for 60 days while items without barcodes are only held for 30 days.
According to the USPS®, items not recovered within the specified hold times are sometimes auctioned off, donated, or destroyed.
How a Package Ends Up in the Recovery Center
There are many reasons why a package may end up in the MRC. A common scenario in which mail becomes undeliverable or is returned is due to the parcel having an incorrect or invalid address. Another could be that the package’s shipping label became too damaged to identify. Assuming the package wasn’t delivered to the wrong location by mistake and it’s brought back to the Post Office as undeliverable, it then proceeds to be sent to the Mail Recovery Center. At the MRC, staff will open the package to determine the value of the item and to check for other possible package identifiers such as the correct address on an invoice or packing slip.
The Process to Recover a Package
In the event that a package needs to be recovered, the USPS® suggests starting a claim immediately by contacting the local Post Office. Once the claim has begun, USPS® will begin its investigative efforts to try and locate the package. A claim can be made no later than 60 days from the original date it was mailed.
Preventing Lost Packages
The unfortunate reality is that it’s impossible to guarantee a package won’t go undelivered or become lost. Once a package is lost or undelivered, the recovery process is tedious and not guaranteed to result in the sender or receiver getting that package.
That said, there are a couple of controllable things sends can do to help aid in the investigation process should a package not become undeliverable.
- Address Validation – With address validation, address abnormalities and formatting mistakes that can wreak havoc after departing from the sender can be avoided. Validation ensures the correct spelling, formatting, and location attributes of a package are correct
- Additional Address Locations – Senders should be sure to add additional forms of address verification within the package itself. This could include packing slips, Bill of Lading, or invoices and receipts. Having a second verifiable address will strengthen recovery efforts in the event that the package arrives at the Mail Recovery Center.