Missing mail can be frustrating and worrisome, especially when it’s important, or you’re traveling. Unfortunately, mail does go missing. And if it does, what do you do?
Here’s what you need to know about reporting and attempting to recover missing mail.
Why Does Mail Go Missing?
Mail can disappear for many reasons, including:
- Typos on the delivery address and/or return address, or the delivery address being obscured from getting wet, etc.
- Delivery, sorting, or customs delay
- Unfortunately, the increasingly common mail theft
- Loss or damage while in transit, or postal carrier negligence
Mail is also occasionally misdirected or sent to an incorrect destination due to bugs in automatic sorting machinery, or human mistakes.
When is Mail Officially ‘Missing’ and When Should You Report It?
When mail hasn’t arrived by the expected date, it could be missing. Sounds obvious enough. However, remember that the delivery time will vary depending on the mail type, class of mail, and location.
According to the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), you should allow the following timeframes before reporting mail as missing:
- First class/priority/tracked mail – 7 business days.
- Domestic mail – 14 business days.
- International mail – 20 business days.
If you ordered something online, always check the confirmation email or order details for the estimated delivery time and the courier. If the parcel’s running considerably late, it’s time to file a missing mail report.
How to Report Missing Mail in 3 Steps
It’s crucial to report missing mail or packages ASAP, as doing so improves the likelihood that you’ll locate your prodigal parcels. Get ready to go full Sherlock; you’re about to start your investigation:
1) Search for Clues and Track it Back
- You already know the first step. Input the tracking number on the postal service provider’s website. This will provide you with context and initial intel on the case.
- If you sent your mail through USPS, input your tracking number on the USPS tracking page.
o You can usually find your tracking number in your order confirmation email or mailing receipt.
o Follow the tracking link or the instructions on the courier’s website.
2) Initiate the Official Search by Completing a USPS Request Form
- In step two, you bring the feds in on the case. You can fill out a help request form on the USPS website to start a search for a lost package or piece of mail.
o With this request, USPS will start by contacting your local post office to see what they can find.
o To improve the chances of a successful search, you should include all relevant details, including the tracking number, shipping date, shipping label, package description, and sender/recipient information. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes.
3) Escalate by Submitting a Missing Mail Search Request
What if you started a search for your missing mail item, but there’s still no sight of it after a week?
At this point you can escalate by making a USPS Missing Mail Search Request on the USPS website. With this, the search for your lost item will become a higher priority and USPS will conduct a more thorough inquiry into the whereabouts of your meandering mail.
You’ll need to include the following details:
- Sender and recipient mailing address.
- Size and envelope type.
- USPS tracking number.
- A description of the package contents.
- Any pictures that could help with recognizing the mail.
Manage your expectations though. Even after all this, the USPS can’t guarantee that searches will be successful. And since hiring a private eye is likely out of the budget, that means taking additional steps to protect yourself.
What If No One Can Crack the Missing Mail Case?
If, after taking the above steps, your missing mail remains a mystery, consider the following:
- You can report a problem to the Postal Inspection Service or make a complaint to the Postal Regulatory Commission. If you think the mail was stolen or tampered with, contacting law enforcement is another option.
- Keep careful records of the entire search process, along with any interaction you have with postal employees or other pertinent parties. You may need to present this info at some point.
- If the lost mail includes sensitive info such as bank statements or personal documents, safeguard your identity and personal information, such as changing passwords, canceling cards, and alerting affected parties.
Avoid All of the Above by Using a Virtual Mailbox
With some effort and follow-up on your part, most providers and the USPS do rectify most missing mail cases eventually.
Occasionally, they fail to locate a piece of mail or deliver it to the proper recipient. Hey, nobody’s perfect.
There’s a life hack, however, which reduces the likelihood of having to deal with a missing mail case and all that goes with it: a virtual mailbox.
- Receive and handle your physical mail electronically, from anywhere, anytime.
- Receive email or mobile app notifications whenever new mail arrives.
- Forward, shred, and securely store your documents electronically.
Virtual mailboxes are becoming more common for everyone, but also for frequent travelers, digital nomads, business owners, college students living out of state, etc.
Simply select a location, pick a plan, and start managing your mail virtually.
Happy Sleuthing! May all of your mail be present and accounted for and may you crack all of your missing mail cases (cue detective show opening music here).