Gosh, we wonder the same thing. Will it ever stop?
But fortunately for us, we get paid to process returned mail, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all (at least, not in our case).
Mail gets returned to the sender for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes, for no reason at all. Almost all returned mail has a yellow sticker on it that has been placed there by the Post Office.
In this blog post we’ve put together a little Troubleshooting Guide to Returned Mail that should help you “sort it out”–sorry, couldn’t resist.
Let’s start with the obvious reasons and work our way down.
1. The address on your letter is incorrect. This could be anything from the wrong zip code, to a misspelled city name, to a street address that doesn’t exist. The yellow sticker may say “No Such Address” or “No Unit” or “No Such City”. To correct this, a) Double check your records and make sure you’ve got the right address and/or b) go to USPS.com, click on the link on the left to “Find a Zip Code” and enter your address. If the USPS website can’t find the address, chances are it isn’t correct. You can also use our online address correction tools to clean up an entire mailing list.
2. The person no longer lives at that address. It could be that your address is fine but the mail piece was returned because the person has moved. The yellow sticker might say “Unable to forward” or “Forwarding Address Expired” or “Not at this address” or “No such person”. With north of 7% of Americans moving each year, you can anticipate that your mailing list will have similar changes. When someone moves, they fill out a change of address card (online or at their local post office) which the Postal Service puts in their computer systems to verify addresses. So, when a letter is addressed to a good address, to a specific person who filled out a change of address card, their mail will be forwarded to their new address. Unfortunately, if the person didn’t fill out a change of address card, but they did move, that mail piece will be returned to you. This is the same as “moved – left no forwarding address”. We have an online tool that lets you see if people have moved (filling out the changed of address card) any time in the last 18 months and provides you with their new address.
3. The person has no mailbox. This isn’t very common, but it can happen. The yellow sticker might say “No receptacle”. This means there is no mailbox for the mail carrier to put the mail in. This could occur because the house is new, isn’t built at that address yet, or the mailbox was blown over in a storm or run over by a car. There could be many other things that take out a mailbox, or it could have been taken down intentionally by the owner. Unfortunately we don’t have any online tools to solve this one.
4. The Post Office didn’t get it right. Sometimes the postal clerk or someone else at the post office gets confused and assumes or incorrectly determines that the mail can’t be delivered. There’s not much we can do to help out on this one, but if you believe everything is correct with the name and address then drop it back in the mail and see what happens. It just might make it where it needs to go the second time around!