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 (237)

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  • anon

    this is the first and last time i will intercept a package. i intercepted my package since november 2, and it still says intercepted. when i call and ask where is my package, nobody knows anything, basically its lost, and im upset because that package is worth $900. what are my other options besides filing a claim because i already did that and it was no help.

    Nov 19, 2017
  • anon

    ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS YOU HAVE BEEN REQUESTED TO RETURN THE MONEY ORDER YOU PREVIOUSLY RECEIVED HOWEVER,WE HAVE YET TO HEAR FROM YOU.PLEASE RESPOND.THANK YOU

    Nov 17, 2017
  • anon

    Hi so I sent a envelope to someone in canada with 4 stamps is that enough? and i put one stamp under the one in the top right corner is that ok? and I get my envelope sent back how long will it take?

    Nov 16, 2017
  • anon

    Why, after I mark something, "Return to Sender," is it then being redelivered to my home, two days later? This same thing is happening at my place of employment. It's annoying. If it says, "Return to Sender," then do that & stop wasting people's time!

    Nov 15, 2017
  • anon

    I work at a school with time sensitive letters going to the students' homes. I am getting mail returned to me because the parent/guardian's last name is different from the student's. This smells like bias because the address is correct and the postal carrier isn't giving the person who lives at that address a chance to make the determination if that person lives at the address or not. Some of my students live in foster homes so the student and the adult in the home aren't going to have the same last name. Other students don't have the same last name as the parent they are living with so why the discrimination?

    Nov 14, 2017
  • anon

    I am very displeased right now with usps. I fixed and updated my full address for redelivery, yet I got back an "insufficient address" and it is sent back to the sender!!! I know my address is right so I just don't understand this.

    Nov 13, 2017
  • anon

    So, I sent a package to this guy in Nigeria. He bought this item through eBay but I have not received payment yet and I have already sent the package. EBay emailed me saying do not send the package until you receive payment and this guy was a fraud. I saw this message 12 days after shipping the item. Is there anyway I can get this package sent back to me?

    Nov 13, 2017
  • anon

    Hello I move back in September of this year of 2017 from and apartment complex to a house and I did a change of address form when I had moved but I have lost my bank card and had to reorder a new and I lost it and reorder it the same day October 28 and from that day to today I still have not received it The bank people told me 7to 10 days and it has been longer that 7 days

    Nov 09, 2017
  • anon

    Why is all of my mail being returned to sender I was getting all my mail for years at the same address now everything is being returned to sender

    Nov 08, 2017
  • anon

    I shipped a package to a a prison in upstate NY. Because it was on lock down when it arrived it was returned. When it went out for delivery my address the package was marked undeliverable. The package is now at the post office. The tracking number says if I don’t pick it up in 15 days that it will be returned to send (which at this point is the prison). What I want know is will it actually go pack to the prison or come back to my home?

    Nov 08, 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.

    Nov 08, 2017
  • anon

    We sent a important letter 1st class& took it to our local post office in Wash DC ,and gave it took the post office cashier once we purchased 3 1stclass stamps then she stated she could take our letter ,and put it with the rest of the mail that was going out ,, Our letter was going to Miami Lake, Fl 33014 from Wash , DC However our letter never reached Fl , its been 2wks now.So we called our local post office which was supposedly mailed my 1st class package , To ask them how can I find out the location of my supposedly mailed letter ,since the cashier took the letter from us to be mailed out..However the cashier stated it should have been sent back to sender by now or it may be in Georgia in the recovery center , but she didn't have a telephone number for their recovery center in Georgia.. Which didn't make a since to us.. How can I find my 1s class pak sent??? How many days does it take to send a letter to Miami Fl from DC? Hopefully I retrieve my 1st Class pak sent , it is very important ,that's why I went to our local post office instead of putting it in any old mail Box on the street..which probably would haved worked better ..I'm very disappointed!!!

    Nov 07, 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.

    Nov 08, 2017
  • anon

    For anyone having problems with mail being re-delivered to you that you marked "Return to Sender", you need to black out the barcode at the bottom-right of the envelope.

    Nov 02, 2017
  • anon

    Most of my important mail keeps getting returned to its original sender. I get some mail and not other mail. I won't know a letter has been returned until I get an email or phone call stating I missed an appointment or payment. I have spoken with my local post office, completed a forwarding address card, and been patient.This has been going on for 1 year now. What do I need to do because I believe my new drivers license was returned to the dmv because it has now been over a month. My next step is to file a complaint with the attorney general. Please advise

    Oct 19, 2017
  • anon

    EXACT SAME THING IS HAPPENING TO ME FOR OVER A YEAR IN SILSBEE,TX. I'M ONLY RECEIVING JUNK MAIL. I APPLIED FOR MY SCRAP METAL ID 5 TIMES. IT WAS LABELED DELIVERED ON THE ID SITE 4 TIMES AND THE 3RD TIME IT WAS SENT BACK AS UNDELIVERABLE. MY NEW CREDIT CARD "BECAUSE MY CARD # WAS STOLEN AT A BEAUMONT GAS PUMP" IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. THAT YEARLY LETTER YOU GET TO REGISTER YOUR VEHICLE AND HOW MUCH. 2 YEARS NO SHOW. BUT THE OTHER 2 IN THE HOUSE KEEP GETTING ALL THEIR MAIL. I'V BEEN AT ADDRESS SINCE DEC 2010. THE OTHER 2 IN HOUSE HAS ONLY BEEN THEIR SINCE 2016. ALL 3 OF US HAVE DIFFERENT LAST NAME'S BUT I'M GETTING JUNK MAIL FOR MY NAME AND A MC CLELEND THEN MY LAST NAME.

    Nov 02, 2017
  • anon

    Unknown female is using my mailing address...... letters sent by many corporation addressed to her with my address.....& I keep returning back to sender....but this has become routine.....Help please......

    Oct 05, 2017
  • anon

    I am waiting on something to come to my address and my room mate send it back what can i do about that will i be able to go to the post office and pick it up.

    Sep 30, 2017
  • anon

    It's been over a month now and I haven't received my package. It was sent back to the original sender September 25. I called customer service and all they gave me was where the package was sent, I called them and they said there is no package here. So how do I get my package back?

    Sep 27, 2017
  • anon

    My sister who lives with my mother has been mailing and/ or faxing my mothers mail to my brother in Virginia without my mother's knowledge or consent. We only discovered this recently I have Power of Attorney to open and pay my mother's bills because my my mother cannot read and write fluent English. This Private correspondence is being used by my brother to put a lien on her house without anyone's permission or consent so he may take her house from her.

    Sep 25, 2017
  • anon

    If my package has been returned to sender, will I ever be able to get it back or does it stay there?

    Sep 24, 2017
  • anon

    i sold a iphone to someone and i believe i’ve been scammed and i need my package returned.

    Sep 24, 2017
  • anon

    I had a package undelivered as addressed so it was supposed to be returned to the sender and I have been tracking it and it’s been in transit to destination from September 3, 2017. I want to know why

    Sep 23, 2017
  • anon

    Same thing happened to me I had a birth certificate shipped over to me from Texas to Florida and was returned and I'm stuck in Florida now so my package it's going back to Texas on the post office will not give me no info or anything

    Oct 28, 2017
  • anon

    Me too, i went up to my post office to ask and also contact the sender there were no info about my package was "returned" to the sender. And they told me it was marked as undeliverable and returned to the sender on the same day like how?????

    Oct 19, 2017
  • anon

    Did you get your package back?

    Oct 13, 2017
  • anon

    I have a package going to malaysia, is there a way i can intercept it?

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    I recently sent back a package from Oregon to California with the handwritten notice to RETURN TO DE DER. Reason being was the person notified to me after he dent it that it was the wrong item. With that said, when the package arrived I then returned the package back to him immediately. It only has the original tracking # that showd it had been delivered to my address. As I said that I only write on the package to to return to the sender . Well, the sender claims that he never received the package back tl him. So he is either lying to me or the package is lost. Since I did drop it off at Postal Connection I even thought that possibly a worker that received the pkackage might've kept it for himself. Negative thinking but Im very concerned and need this solved. Money is involved involved that is owed to me. Now Im hoping that I've contacted the correct place for answers. Sincerely , Valerie Casey

    Sep 17, 2017
  • anon

    I returned a package via return to sender. If you look under the tracking number it will be the same. It took them several days to process the return and then return it. I believe it took almost a week before they processed and returned it to the sender. Just keep checking the tracking number. Hope this helps!

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    I have a package coming to the address where I no longer live, I did to address change with usps. Will the package arrive to my new address or will it get send back to China.

    Sep 04, 2017
  • anon

    Re: Return to Sender- Every time I put something back in the mail that I deemed not wanted, our postman puts it back in our mailbox. When I took it to the bulk mailbox across the street, clearly marked as "Return to Sender" with an arrow.. we got it back in OUR mailbox in two days! I don't know what else to do besides what I'm doing now by writing to you. Please advise.

    Sep 02, 2017
  • anon

    You need to black out the barcode at the bottom-right of the envelope. When the post office receives mail it gets fed into a machine that automatically scans for that barcode first, if the barcode is there it directs the mail to the address that barcode was tied to.

    Nov 02, 2017
  • anon

    I'm having trouble with mail being returned to sender . Due human error either PO box is wrong are it has the street address instead of box number. Of course my po.box is known by the postal workers . How can I find out what is being sent back in order to remind sender of my correct address?

    Sep 02, 2017
  • anon

    I rescheduled a delivery before it was going to its destination is there any way I can get it shipped back to me because I'm being fraud by someone. I shipped an item out thinking the buyer paid to which he didn't so, I really want to know if it's possible to get it shipped back because I have trjed to intercept the package but to no avail.

    Sep 02, 2017
  • anon

    My package was sent back by the apartment building manager without my notice. What do I need to do to reclaim it?

    Aug 29, 2017
  • anon

    Why don't developing countries use GPS coordinates for mail addresses?

    Aug 18, 2017
  • anon

    I had a change of address and my pay check was suppose to br msiled yo a la address but instead it got returned to sender so i had a redelivery through post office how soon will i know its there for me to pick up and how do i know which office

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    I moved into a newly constructed unit of a townhouse building of 7 units. Each having a seperate house number. Many pieces ofmy mail and packages are consistently being sent to the same wrong address(It is almost identical to mine. The only difference is my address is North and the wrong is Northeast they have different zip codes.) This has been occuring for 4 months. Mail that is handwritten or labelled correctly come to me but for some reason, many businesses, including government businesses input my address into their computer and it gets defaulted to the wrong address. The wrong address is an undeliverable address so the packages get sent back to sender and never make it to me. The wrong address post office is not able to flag my name and forward the missing mail and packages. Please help me!!

    Aug 04, 2017
  • anon

    I got a ps 3849 form that says certified mail, and there's no sender name on it. Should I consider this as death Mail or what Thanks

    Jul 30, 2017
  • anon

    I have the same question I just got one today and have no idea what is it for let me know if you ever found out what was it for thank you

    Aug 02, 2017
  • anon

    I do not want letters or packages sent to me ever again in the future!

    Jul 30, 2017
  • anon

    We have had ONGOING delivery problems for two years now with rotating/substitute mail carriers and a very ineffective regular carrier that continue returning our mail to sender. We get no notifications or notes in our mailbox, the mail just suddenly stops coming. She has twice now listed our house as vacant and returned everything with no forwarding order, without as much as a note letting us know she is holding our mail for 7 days. I thought it was customary that if the box became full a note was left indicating the mail was being held at the main branch. This has not happened. We have a community box and she gets mad when we don't pick it up every night, but we are out of town frequently for work and can be gone for 2-3 days at a time without warning. We own a business and aren't there during the day when she MIGHT truly try and find out if we are home. The last time we had to get the postmaster general for our area involved, and found that she had personally gone into the electronic USPS system to return everything intentionally without notifying us of anything. It took 6 months to unravel the problem and created much havoc with the IRS and other governmental agencies that showed we no longer lived at our address (where we have lived since 2003). Once again, this week we stopped getting mail. Our post office won't return calls and hangs up when we call them now, because the carrier is probably the root of the problem again. There is also significant turnover at our branch so you never get anyone wanting to solve the problem. Our carrier has again returned everything with no forwarding address, and marked our house as "vacant". No one can help solve this. When we spoke with someone (finally) this morning at our branch, they argued with us about the vacant issue and said "she told us that she saw the house was empty". It's never been empty. Ever! Why is this allowed? What are the laws regarding this behavior by a mail delivery person? I want someone to get to the bottom of it. You are a federal agency and must abide by some kind of governing laws or ethics regarding this behavior.

    Jul 29, 2017
  • anon

    There is no accountability at the Post Office, so you'll waste a lot of time looking for any. We had a family member commit mail fraud against us by filing a change of address for us to the house we used to live at. We then had to prove that we really lived where we did lots of hoops. A week later, she changed the address again. The only way to get things accomplished honestly is to bribe your mail man with sweets, sodas, treats, and gift cards. Seriously, we've had zero problems since we started doing that after a five year battle with our local branch who required no proof to change an address, but all the proof in the world to prove it was the wrong address.

    Aug 02, 2017
  • anon

    My company recently created a shipping label for a letter to be sent to one of our employees. We put the letter in a 12.5" x 9.5" USPS Priority Mail envelope. We also included the Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery. We need it delivered to the recipient, but apparently, a notice was left at the delivery location with instructions as to what is next. My question is, say that it gets returned to the sender which is my company, do we receive a refund?

    Jul 27, 2017
  • anon

    Hi there. This question is in regards in Florida I sent my fiance a letter and he is an incarcerated Prison inmate here in Florida and I think I forgot to put my return address on the top left if they don't give him a letter because I don't have a return address on there how are they supposed to send it back to me?

    Jul 25, 2017
  • anon

    They usually just discard these letters unfortunately

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    When someone chooses to use the "Return Services Requested" - why does it take so long to get the letter returned. I recently mailed a letter on June 22, 2017 and it returned to sender on July 19, 2017. Returned as Vacant, unable to forward. I have had the same poor service in the past when using the return service option. Please respond. Thank you.

    Jul 25, 2017
  • anon

    I was trying to receive a package at my apartment and I decided to go into the post office knowing that I have not changed my address they would most likely not deliver the package. They knew I was coming into get it but instead of holding it for me like I had asked them to they returned it to sender how would I get that back?

    Jul 22, 2017
  • anon

    Somebody was trying to send me something in the mail & put the wrong adress. One wrong letter in the city name. Instead of Upland they put Uplanf. Where can I find this mail?

    Jul 21, 2017
  • anon

    I've been waiting for a letter that was sent out last Thursday from Jamestown usually it takes 4 days to get to me. It I notice on my last letter the mail man put a question mark on my letter I was in the process of changing my address to where my mail is going to how can I know if the mailman didn't leave my letter and took it back. Per my roommate we have never put my letters return to sender is there a reason why the mail man wouldn't drop it off? This is a really important letter

    Jul 13, 2017

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