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 (154)

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  • 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
  • anon

    I sent a envolope letter to Taylor texas. Its been a week and a half since i have sent it. But they have not recived nothing from there side. And i have not recieved anything as well. I need to know what i can do to locate this letter or how it can be located. I sent one one month ago and they did recieve it. But not this time

    May 09, 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, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General

    May 10, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package media mail on March 30th 2017 and it was insured and required a signature. On April 7th 2017 the post office noted NO AUTHORIZED RECIPIENT AVAILABLE. Today is May 9 2017 and I have contacted the post office and was told to file a claim cause the package did include $350 of insurance. I filed a claim and today I got a letter from the post office stating the claim has been denied. I do not understand why the claim has been denied when the post office can not locate my package and the recipient never picked up the pack and it never was returned to me. The letter states the following The Product Tracking and Reporting system last physical scan(s) show: NO AUTHORIZED RECIPIENT AVAILABLE 56 04/07/2017 12:19 ARLINGTON, VA 22207 Scanned MDD 15175D854A (interface type - wireless) Scanned by route 2207C010 04/07/2017 11:21:33 If my package was last scanned in Arlington, VA how come my package can not be located now. If it was in the possession of the post office when it was last scanned and it was not picked up and it was not delivered and it was not returned then how come nobody knows where it is now and why was my claim denied when the post office had it last and the post office now can not find it. The tracking number is 9451909699937462346773 and my claim ID is 4754752. All I really want to know is if it was not delivered then why was it not returned and if it is being returned how much longer is it going to take cause it is going on 2 months now.

    May 09, 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, United States Postal Service Office of Inspector General

    May 09, 2017
  • anon

    My mail continues to be returned to sender with a notice saying "moved without forwarding address". The problem is, I have lived at the same address for almost two years now. This has become a problem recently. I have 'fixed' this problem once already. I just found out that it is happening again. I have not moved nor do I plan on moving anytime soon! Who can I talk to, besides the postmaster because I've done that already and it happened again?

    May 08, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Cory, Thanks for the comment! 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.

    May 09, 2017
  • anon

    Good afternoon, My name is Cantrell Smith and I refuse a package that was sent to me I told my mailman to return it to sender and he took it back scan it to return to sender so how come they haven't received it as yet can you please explain this to me it shouldn't be at the post office if I sent it back last week

    May 02, 2017
  • anon

    EQ001696256US.....whats wrong with my pkg and how long its gonna take to return my pkg, You said my item was return to the sender and yet the sender dont have the pkg yet....what you guys waiting for ?

    Apr 22, 2017
  • anon

    I am a care giver for my brother. He haS Alzheimer's and is receiving in one month 100peices of junk mail. The problem is he is giving to everyone that sends him a letter. He does not understand that he does no owe these people. I wrote on the letters ( only ones that had a return address) RETURN TO SENDER. The next day he got all of them back in his mail box. Why did they not go back to the sender?

    Apr 12, 2017
  • anon

    I put in a change of address in the post office and on line the one in the post office had my mail return to my old address the one I did online sent me a change of address validation which one is true I haven't received any mail yet.I have important medical paper work that has to be with me.

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    I just had my insurance cancelled all because they said my mail was returned so they could no longer consider that a verified address. I have know clue why the mail man did this. I had received mail from my insurance for 3 months prior to this. Know I have to go 4-5 days min. Without my blood pressure meds. So If I die it's because of an incompetent worker!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    I have lived here over a year and keep getting packages for someone else. I leave them outside and by the end of the day the rightful person comes to pick then up in their vehicle. I almost caught them the other day so that I could talk to them but they drove off too soon. Why do they have packages delivered where they don't live and how do I stop it??? It feels like an invasion of privacy like they are hiding where they live so they have stuff delivered here.

    Apr 05, 2017
  • anon

    Um... they are likely picking up drugs being sent to your address so they don't get in trouble.

    May 05, 2017
  • anon

    I have had two letters returned to sender that had the correct address: one from a friend and another from my insurance company. These are the two I know about. Any idea why this would happen? One was hand written and one was printed.

    Mar 30, 2017
  • anon

    Great

    Mar 30, 2017
  • anon

    I have not received my mail or packages I have order I live in Gulfport MS

    Mar 28, 2017
  • anon

    I have been having problems with getting a few things that I know have been sent and have never received them. I have went to my local post office and they say they're not sure why it keeps getting sent back that it isn't them, my address is correct.. I have had to call one man that sending me important papers from a car accident I had back in October multiple times and I never received it.. along with a few other things.. I live in Paden City, WV and was getting stuff then out of nowhere I am not receiving the things that I really need.. can someone help me and tell me what to do to fix this??

    Mar 28, 2017
  • anon

    My mail keeps getting ddelivered to another address and it says return to sender ive been living in this address for the pass 5 years i already went to my local post office they dont seem to know whats going on i dont know what to else to do i need my mail.

    Mar 23, 2017
  • anon

    Did you get your package back?

    Mar 24, 2017
  • anon

    I am having the same issue Jessica, but I have only live in this house for a short period of time.

    Mar 24, 2017
  • anon

    My son visiting in Austin TX mailed a package to my other son who lives in Albuquerque NM. He did not put his brother's name, nor his apartment number on the label. He paid $9.32. It was sent USPS ground and ended up coming to the return address with another $9.32 having to be paid because, according to the clerk at the post office, when packages are shipped ground returning them to sender when they are undeliverable is not included in the postage. Is this correct or did they take $9.32 improperly?

    Mar 22, 2017
  • anon

    Have sent mail to my grandson who is college in California several times. It also comes back not deliverable as addressed; however, I have verified both online and with the postal service and grandson that the address is correct. What can I do?

    Mar 20, 2017
  • anon

    Help I sent out several Christmas letters to addresses I had been given by friends. Four of the letters came back to me marked "return to sender". I called my friends and got the corrected addresses. I changed the addresses on the original envelopes and remailed the letters with the original stamp. All of them came back again despite the correct addresses. Do I have to fill out a new envelope with a new stamp?

    Mar 16, 2017
  • anon

    I have this huge problem with your postal service. I don't live in the US and send a package to friend who was staying at his brother's apartment to bring that package to me; His brother, who was unaware of the situation, was called (4 days later after my package arrive, February 23rd) by the apartment complex's mail office and was told that there was a package with my name on the billing information, and therefore he rejected the package (which was merely accidental) then the package was marked Undeliverable as Addressed on Feb. 27th and the tracking status did not updated so I requested a redelivery to that same address to arrive on March 5th which didn't update the order's status. Then, on March 7th I requested another redelivery for the next day which actually updated the package status but still did not arrive and finally made another request on March 8th to arrive the next day and status is still "In Transit" and today is March 15th and is still in transit. I've tried to make another request for redelivery but I couldn't (I cannot select a redelivery date) so I tried to select the "Carriers return to sender" but when I tried to submit that very same request I get a "Redelivery item already returned to sender" message and then I contacted the sender and I was told that my package isn't there. I need help immediately! I've tried to contact your costumer service with no luck!

    Mar 15, 2017

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