The U.S. Postal Service is about the best in the world at providing its core service of mail delivery. In fact, its ability to deliver mail and return undeliverable mail to the sender effectively makes the United States government one of the most efficient in the world, according to a working paper by National Bureau of Economic Research.

A group of economists rated the efficiency of the world's governments with a simple test of their postal systems. The group mailed fake letters to nonexistent businesses in 159 countries and waited a year to see which were sent back to a professor at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The goal was to use a simple, universal service to explore why, other than corruption, developing countries tend to have poorly performing governments. All the letters went to countries that subscribe to the Universal Postal Union, which requires that incorrectly addressed mail be returned within a month.

The United States was one of only four countries to send the undeliverable letters back within 90 days, along with El Salvador, Czech Republic, and Luxembourg. In fact, the U.S. had the fastest return rate at 16 days, although it may have benefited from returning the letters to an address in the United States. It also returned 100 percent of the fake-addressed letters.

The study was not intended to assess the Postal Service, but the results do highlight some of its key strengths, at least compared to foreign posts. Foremost, better classification systems for addresses tended to result in faster returns, the economists noted. The Postal Service uses uniform address standards and its address database is among the most robust in the world.

Again, this was not the study’s intention, but the results seem to support the Universal Postal Union’s (UPU) position that a national addressing system is essential to the economic and social advancement of countries. In its recent white paper, “Addressing the World – An Address for Everyone,” the UPU says that in many developing countries, physical addresses exist only in city centers. Without physical addresses, it is difficult to impossible for public services and businesses to reach their intended targets.

“A quality address infrastructure must be considered as an essential part of a country’s socio-economic infrastructure, not only for improving public services, but also facilitating business, trade and, consequently, national development,” the UPU says.

How important is an addressing infrastructure to government efficiency and business development? What parts of addressing does the Postal Service do particularly well? What could be improved? Share your thoughts.

Comments (178)

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  • anon

    Dear sir/madam I have recently moved to Westwood MA from Italy and my mail with my maiden name keeps been denied returned back to the sender. I live in a single house we are family of 4 everyone except for me is having this problem where the mail addressed with my maiden name is been returned. I spoke the local post office and they do not know how to resolve the problem. They have told me that main fault is of the main central post office in BROCKTON that receives and distributes the mail to the various town which includes WESTWOOD zip code 02090. I have called the central post office in BROCKTON processing and distribution center ( and found no solution with them as well) and have fond the staff very unprofessional. Due to this inefficiency I have had several major problems and . I would like to see if someone with the inspector general can help me to resolve this major issue. I have been receiving mail of other people that no longer live at my house address but not mine! Please help contact me to resolve this immediately as I stated this is causing major problems. Thank you Maria Vernier

    Jun 17, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website.

    Jun 19, 2017
  • anon

    My package was returned, with no explination. There is a large lA written on it

    Jun 16, 2017
  • anon

    I have never had this issue before. Our mail was sent back to the sender due to sitting in our mail box too long. Our mail box is in a horrible spot and isn't even on our road. So I do not check it daily, maybe once a week because it's too dangerous to park my car where the box is at. How do I get my mail back? And is there any way to get our mailbox moved to our actual road?

    Jun 16, 2017
  • anon

    I am very upset with the postal office civic center in Oakland, CA the carriers are all terrible I am having an experience now with them. My sons birthday is this weekend June 16 we'll actually the 19th but we are celebrating this weekend and I orrdered some Warriors gear for me and my son and they ordered part of my delivery on the 9th of June and now I just received a disturbing text that they are sending my packages back due to undeliverable address how so? When you just delivered a couple of days ago. Very frustrating

    Jun 14, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website.

    Jun 14, 2017
  • anon

    I have a major complaint, I order something from Amazon think that what I purchase will be delivered to me with no issues.unfortuently I was wrong so instead of my package being sent on June 8th like it was scheduled. It has been returned to sender with out any notification or permission I'm pissed off. And I wanna sue USPS for their missconduct. I work hard for my money and what ever I purchase online I expect it to be delivered to me with no issues at all!!!! My local usps is in Gretna, Louisiana. I believe zip code 70131. I believe they need to be investigated on there shady practices.

    Jun 13, 2017
  • anon

    Hello Alfred, Thanks for your comment. The best thing to do would be to file an online complaint with our Hotline. This will allow us to look into the matter for you.

    Jun 13, 2017
  • anon

    My package was said to be "refused by addressee and is being returned to sender." When can I expect my package to get back to me? Will there be tracking information available on the return trip?

    Jun 12, 2017
  • anon

    Hello Nick, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website.

    Jun 13, 2017
  • anon

    My mail comes to me daily with no issues, but in the last year I have had several pieces of mail returned to sender with the notice "Insufficient Address" written on it. The address they had on the envelop was correct but it was still returned. I contacted costumer service in January and received a case number but never had anyone call to follow up. Now it happened again but this time with a bill! I have had zero issues receiving mail from this business before and they have the correct address on my bill. Now I'm sitting on hold for 50 minutes waiting to talk with a costumer representative with USPS. This is ridiculous! Is there some other way to get this corrected?

    Jun 09, 2017
  • anon

    what can I do about someone getting my mail holding it for 90 days opening my mail without my consent.

    Jun 08, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Ernesto, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website

    Jun 08, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a surprise birthday invation out for my husband. I was informed one of the addresses I sent to was wrong and now I don't want the letter to be sent back to my return address. I wasn't thinking!! Please help how do I stop it from being sent back to my house??

    Jun 06, 2017
  • anon

    It has been one month and still you have not figured out why my mail is being sent back to sender. I own this house. I have lived here for a year and a half and had no issues with the mail until these past few months. My local post office is saying that I don't live here (even though I do) so they keep sending my mail back to sender even though it has my correct address on here. I've had medication, credit cards, important mail, bills etc sent back to sender. I need this figured out. I have 4 cases open with the hotline since last month. I've spoken with the consumer affairs and my local post office. Why does no one know how to fix this? I've already contacted the local police and a lawyer.

    Jun 06, 2017
  • anon

    Hi my visa document was returned to the USCIS by the post office. There is no change in our current address. In fact we received our previous visa documents to the same address. Could you tell us what could be the reason it was returned.

    Jun 05, 2017
  • anon

    My package was sent back what do I do to track it or to get it sent back to me... Ive already tried changing my address and plus i put my po box number with my zip code...and top it off was charged 10 fee because the post office sent it back... I dont know where to go from here...

    Jun 03, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service

    Jun 05, 2017
  • anon

    My aunt received my check, but sent it back because I wasn't there to get it. Who should I contact to give the right address to, so it can be sent to me?

    May 28, 2017
  • anon

    Hello I've sent a letter 3 times but it keeps being sent back to me. The postal worker told me everything was fine with it and had the correct postage. The letter is being sent to United Kingdom and I made sure the address was correct. What could be the problem?

    May 27, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service on the USPS website.

    May 30, 2017
  • anon

    My package was returned because I had my address wrong, is there any way I can fix it and you can resend it to me?

    May 27, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package on May 2, 2017, it was to be returned but the tracking keeps showing the same information as of May 5, 2017. I contacted USPS through the site. Received a call from the destination post office, they don't have it and know nothing about it. It was suggested it was in a sorting facility somewhere. It was also suggested I file a claim. It's really disappointing when the post office won't even try to find it. It was suggested to me to reach out to my congress person, I hate to do that but if I have to I will. I had to resend (at a loss for me) the items through another carrier knowing it will arrive. I know my box is one of millions, but for me it's mine. Why put tracking numbers if it will still get lost or I hope it didn't end up with someone else. Advice on the next step would be appreciated.

    May 26, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Robin, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, 800-275-8777, or file an online complaint with Customer Service.

    May 26, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a birthday present to my nephew, and it was undelivered to my sister's address. How long will it take for me to receive it back to me?

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Drew! Thank you for your comment. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, 800 275-8777, or file an online complaint with Customer Service at the USPS website.

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    My mail is all being sent back "Return to Sender". I never put in for a change of address, I never asked for my mail to forward, and we have not moved. No one can help me and I just want my mail. How can I get help?

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service at the USPS website.

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    I have a package that I just received information on that it was processed as a return to sender. I need the package! If it has not been returned to the vendor yet is there a way to have it shipped back to me?

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service at the USPS website.

    May 23, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed a letter with street address and p.o box its been over 4 days and it hasn't been received what happen?

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service at the USPS website.

    May 23, 2017
  • anon

    i was tracking my package and this occurred what does this mean? "The customer has requested that the Postal Service redeliver this item on an unknown date in (my city, TX *****)"

    May 21, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Ryan, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    A friend sent me a card and she received it back with a yellow return to sender sticker with no such number. She sent me a photo and it was indeed my correct address. Our address is displayed on our mailbox also. Any thoughts on what I should do.

    May 20, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Kathy, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    Where are y'all suck at delivering mail I can tell you that much because I didn't receive Mail two months now

    May 16, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 22, 2017
  • anon

    I have priority mail marked as return to sender sitting at Tampa now for more than 2 weeks. How long will it take for delivering considering it was priority in first place? (See the note below from tracking website) The return on your item was processed on April 29, 2017 at 10:21 am in TAMPA, FL 33634.

    May 14, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Abhishek, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 15, 2017
  • anon

    I'm not sure what this message means. Your item was returned to the sender on May 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm in SEATTLE, WA 98166 because it was not claimed by the addressee once the item reached its maximum hold time at the post office. I return this back to sender yesterday.

    May 13, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Wayne, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 15, 2017
  • anon

    I addressed an envelope to the IRS in Atlanta GA giving the PO box number and had this letter returned to me with the notation "RETURN TO SENDER, NO SUCH STREET UNABLE TO FORWARD. My question is, why would a PO Box be confused with a street address? This is the way the letter was addressed: Internal Revenue Service PO Box 105083 Atlanta, GA30348-5083

    May 12, 2017
  • anon

    Hi John, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General

    May 12, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed a package for my daughter to her place of employment and forgot to write on package C/O SUNSET GRILL. She never received package. Would post office not deliver because it had her name on it but not care of business name? Will it get sent back to me? If so, how long might it take?

    May 11, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Jodie, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates and audits internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General

    May 12, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package to a wrong PO Box # and it was returned to my local post office. I was required to pay postage again to receive the package back. Then pay again to send to correct Box #. Is this the normal procedure? I thought that was the reason to include a return address. I can understand needing to pay to send again, but not to receive it back. The postal manager informed me the fee was for a one-way trip only. This does not seem right to me. Is it?

    May 13, 2017
  • anon

    I have an issue... I own a home in the township of "middlebranch" which for some reason unknown to me makes it so I can not have a mail box , even though 5 houses down the street about a half mile can indeed have a mailbox. I am required to have a po box that I can never access outside of this little post offices hours 8:30-4 closed 11:30-12:30 for lunch Monday -Friday... how am I or anyone else that works for a living supppsed to get our mail ? ... besides that the post office has started to return my mail marked for my residential address, which has created a huge problem because not everyone will except a po box for an address (such as banks) ... this is ridiculous other than starting a petition to move into the21st century and allow me to have a mailbox i don't know what to do...

    May 09, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Brittany, Thanks for your comment. The best way to address this issue is to file a report with the OIG Hotline. You can do so by clicking the red button at the top right hand corner of this page that reads "Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse." Very Respectfully, The USPS Office of Inspector General

    May 10, 2017

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