This Letter Is Fine. Why Did It Come Back To Me?

Letter Man with Question MarkThis 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.

 

Why Do I Get So Much Returned Mail?

Stack of USPS returned mail

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!

Innovations In Printing And Mailing

Popular Science 100 Best InnovationsI was flying out of town the other day and picked up a Popular Science magazine to read on the flight. I was happy to see the title was “100 Best Innovations of the Year” and wondered if any of our mailing innovations had made the list. There are a few different mailing innovations that we rolled out this year and I thought I might find one or two discussed in the magazine.

For instance, we have our innovative Return Mail Processing service where we can process our clients’ return mail. This is a good way to keep undeliverable mail from being returned to our customers. Instead, we get it. Then we flag all the addresses in our customer’s account that have been returned, showing the return date and the return reason from the USPS yellow sticker. In addition, reports can be run by user, date range, mail type and many other filters for the letters that were returned.

Another innovation is our USPS Registered Mail solution, which allows users to create and send Registered Mail on our website. If you send Registered Mail, you know that it is one of the most time-consuming and confusing types of mail that you could possibly send. True to LetterStream’s form, we make the process so easy you can create the registered letter–or hundreds of them–in around 2 minutes on our website. We keep track of the USPS tracking information and the signature cards in an orderly fashion on our website.

Some may say that our online Certified Mail process is the most innovative Certified Mail solution they’ve ever seen. We’d like to agree… but we’ve been processing Certified Mail this way for nearly 10 years, so it might not be an innovation of this year.

We’ll, I’ve skimmed the 100 Best Innovations article, and unfortunately I could not find the name LetterStream. But that’s ok, our customers repeatedly give us the honor of being great innovators in the mailing business, and they are the ones we want to please.

If you want to learn more about our mail innovations, check out our website, explore our blog or pick up the phone and call us.

Eliminate Returned Mail with LetterStream Return Mail Processing

Return MailAs part of our goal to be your very best mail room, we have added Return Mail Processing (RMP) to our already rich line of mail room services.

In a blog post earlier this year we showed you how you can reduce the amount of return mail that you receive by cleaning up your address data with our CASS and NCOA tools. Now we are offering a way for you to completely eliminate your return mail by using the LetterStream Return Mail Processing Center as your return address.

This will eliminate the labor you currently spend on processing returned mail and it will keep a permanent record of each piece of mail returned. Imagine when a client of yours says they didn’t get a letter or bill that you sent, being able to see that the mail piece was returned. Then, instead of sending the same bill to the same address, you could work to capture a better or more complete address from your client.

To implement return mail processing we simply swap out your return address with ours, keeping your company name attached for recognition by your clients. Undeliverable mail will then be returned to our RMP by the USPS instead of to your office. We will make a record of which pieces are returned and electronically flag them in your account on our website. Returned mail pieces will be highlighted in your mailing history for instant identification.

Return Mail Processing

This same highlighting will appear on addresses of returned mail when you are searching for mail pieces by recipient name or address. With our handy “show only returned mail” feature, you can see how much returned mail you have by date range, sender, job type, or nearly any other identifier that our system allows you to search on.

Return Mail Search Function

Return Mail Processing might not make sense for you if you have less than a few returned pieces per month, but if you see that stack of returned mail piling up, wondering if you’ll ever have time to figure out what’s going on, now might be the time to see how LetterStream can help.

We have a special roll-out promotion price of $59.00 per month plus $0.10 per returned piece. That’s an insanely good deal, so take advantage of it before we figure out what we’ve done. 😉