This question is similar to ones that we’ve answered in our blog posts over the years, but with a slight twist. Sometimes a perfectly addressed letter gets returned to us without a yellow sticker, without handwriting on the outside saying something like “no longer at this address“, and seemingly without any clue as to why the mail piece came back.
Well, there are always clues. For starters, re-read the recipient’s address, one line at a time. Is the address really accurate as written on the envelope?
If every indication is that the information is correct, simply ask the USPS mail carrier for some insight as to why the piece was delivered to you instead of the person it was addressed to. Chances are they can tell you; but if not, simply hand the letter to them and ask if they could re-mail the piece for you. Quite often they will politely take the letter and get it back into the mail stream for you.
There are times when the USPS barcode (printed on the lower portion of the face of your envelope) is incorrectly coded to send the letter to your own address. If there is a barcode at the bottom, see if there is a zip code spelled out beside the barcode. If the zip code printed there is your own zip code, the mail piece may get rerouted to your own address again due to the automated equipment the Postal Service uses to sort mail. In this case, use a sharpie or black pen or marker to block out the barcode on the bottom. This will force the postal sorting machines to look at the destination address one more time to figure out where the piece is going. Chances are, this will allow the piece to arrive at the right destination, assuming your address is valid (click here to read about address correction).
Still not sure what is happening to your mail piece? Take a picture of the envelope and email it to us. Make sure you capture the entire face (front side) of the envelope. We will be checking the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses, postal barcode, permit/postage area, and anything else on the face of the envelope that can give us clues. Please make sure your image is in focus. It can be rather difficult searching for clues in an out-of-focus image.
We will do our best to unravel the returned mail mystery and let you know what we find.