Why is my package in St. Paul? The true story of Undeliverable Mail.
Where does undeliverable mail go? It’s probably crossed your mind once or twice. Letters to Santa… misaddressed packages with no return info… mail with unreadable addresses? Much like your missing socks, it all has to go somewhere and can’t just disappear.
The USPS addresses unaddressed mail
The good news is the always-reliable USPS® has it all mapped out. They have a very efficient system in place to ensure that mail is delivered to the rightful owners, customer privacy is protected, and lost items are reused. How do they do it? There are a series of important steps or, as I like to call them, “destinations.”
Destination #1: The Post Office™
It all starts at your local Post Office. The USPS attempts to deliver all mail, and undeliverable mail pieces are sent to the USPS Mail Recovery Center. Within the U.S., there are two Mail Recovery Centers located in Atlanta, Georgia and St. Paul, Minnesota. Believe it or not, the USPS started the first Mail Recovery Center in 1825. In 2006, exactly 181 years after its creation, 90 million items were sent to the centers.
Destination #2: Mail Recovery Centers
You may be unfamiliar with Mail Recovery Centers, but chances are they have a mail piece belonging to you. Exactly how do they try to return it to you? First, items are scanned by machines to determine if they contain items of value such as checks, credit cards, money orders, etc. Mail that contains valuables is opened in an attempt to identify an address where the piece can be forwarded or returned.
In the instance where an undeliverable letter contains a check, the check is shredded and an explanation letter and image of the check are mailed to the address on the check. If the mail piece cannot be delivered or returned, and is worth less than $25, it’s destroyed to protect customer privacy. If the mail piece is determined to be an item of value, meaning it’s worth more than $25, it will be held anywhere between 3 to 12 months, depending on the type of mail piece. Beyond that, valuable items are auctioned off, which brings us to our third destination.
Destination #3: United States Postal Service Auctions
Going once… going twice… undeliverable items are sold! And on behalf of the USPS, Stamps.com would like to invite you to attend the USPS Auctions that are hosted in Atlanta throughout the year. The Atlanta Mail Recovery Center holds the public auctions on the sale of unclaimed, damaged and claim-paid merchandise. Click here to find the dates, times and location on the USPS website.
Don’t let your packages (or socks) go missing
The USPS makes every effort to ensure that your mail is delivered, and you can easily do the same. Let’s say you want to mail a really good friend some new socks. Your first step should be to include your return address in the top left corner of the package. Next, place your business card, letterhead or a note with your contact info inside your package. In the rare event your package is lost, the Mail Recovery Center will use your info to return your socks to you. Let’s hear it for the USPS!