Most mail arrives safely at its intended destination, even if it travels thousands of miles, but occasionally a parcel or letter goes astray. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) will attempt to track down lost mail, but recovering the missing correspondence requires perseverance and sometimes a little luck. Some types of mail are easier to track and recover than others. Postal workers destroy undeliverable letters, printed matter – such as magazines – and merchandise with a value of less than $25. In addition to relying on the Postal Service for help, you can do some things on your own to search for your business's lost mail.
Before you contact the Postal Service, verify that you used the correct address on a shipped order, a previous employee's W-2 tax form or an invoice, for instance; when you're busy running a business, it's easy to accidentally print, say, your own old residential address rather than an associate's or customer's P.O. box number on an envelope or parcel label. If you shipped merchandise, a gift or some other item with monetary value, make a photocopy of the receipt to show the item’s value. If you have a tracking number for your item, take it with you when you visit the Postal Service office. Be prepared to describe the size and packaging and to provide any other information that will help identify the item.
Filing a Claim
The receipt for Priority Mail, Express Mail, insured mail, registered mail or an item shipped cash-on-delivery will include a tracking number. If you printed a mailing label online with Click-n-Ship, you’ll find tracking information on your Click-n-Ship receipt. If you have a tracking number, you can file a claim to track your lost mail. File online at USPS.com or in person at your local USPS office. You’ll need separate forms to track domestic and international mail. The Postal Service recommends filing your claim as soon as you realize your letter or package is missing, but not more than 60 days after you mail the item. It will attempt to track the package and reimburse you the value of the item if the search is unsuccessful.
Even if you don’t have a tracking number for your letter or package, ask your local USPS office for help. The person to whom you sent the package should do the same. Local postal workers can watch for your item to turn up. The addressee should also ask neighbors if the item was delivered to them by mistake. If the item is distinctive in any way, ask the mail carrier if he remembers seeing it. Finally, if the item was valuable and you have reason to believe it may have been stolen from your mail box, contact the police. Mail theft is a problem in some areas and police may be able to help you recover your missing items. Report mail theft to your local USPS office as well.
Mail Recovery Center
Items of a higher value without correct addresses end up at the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia. Postal workers attempt to find the owners of these items, but if they don’t have a correct address or anything indicating the owner’s identify, the items are sold or donated. If you mailed an item worth more than $25, it may have ended up at the Mail Recovery Center. Tell your local USPS office that you want to fill out a Form 1000. The Postal workers will forward your request to the Mail Recovery Center and workers there will conduct a search for it. From time to time the Mail Recovery Center conducts online auctions at GovDeals.com. Watch this site in case your item shows up for sale.
Cynthia Myers is the author of numerous novels and her nonfiction work has appeared in publications ranging from "Historic Traveler" to "Texas Highways" to "Medical Practice Management." She has a degree in economics from Sam Houston State University.