It seems a lost piece of mail isn’t too different from losing your hat at school. In both cases, you’ll want to check the lost and found bin. For the U.S. Postal Service, that would be the Mail Recovery Center (MRC) in Atlanta, its official lost and found department. Known at one time as the Dead Letter Office, the Mail Recovery Center works to reunite undeliverable packages and letters with either sender or recipient.

Processing centers and retail and delivery units send mail items without valid addressee and sender information to the MRC, where MRC staff act as detectives. They scan and open packages in hopes of finding address information that will facilitate the delivery or return of items valued at $25 or more. If items can’t be delivered or returned, the Postal Service donates, recycles, discards, or auctions them off.

Auctions of unclaimed items are popular with the reseller community, although it’s a risk-reward proposition. Most items are arranged by merchandise in large lots, such as sporting equipment and musical instruments, and not sold individually. Potential buyers willing to travel to the MRC are given the opportunity to glance at the oversized box that contains the lot of items. However, they cannot touch, move or otherwise inspect the items before bidding. Three years ago, the Postal Service moved the auctions online in an effort to reach a wider bidding audience. It uses a contractor to run the auctions.

In fiscal year (FY) 2014, the MRC received 88 million items and processed 12 million of those valued at $25 or more. It returned 2.5 million items to customers — a resolution rate of 21 percent of researched items, or 3 percent of total incoming items. For mailpieces valued at $25 or more without a valid address, the MRC retains them for 30, 60, 90, or 180 days, depending on the mail class or special services used. Customers can file an inquiry about a lost mailpiece, and then employees search to try to match an inquiry with an undelivered item.

Our recent audit report looked at the MRC’s effectiveness at handling customer inquiries and managing items it received. We found that Postal Service sales and service associates need to better instruct customers on filing an inquiry. We also found the MRC did not track how many inquiries resulted in items returned to customers because it did not have procedures to capture and analyze inquiry data.

Also, the Postal Service did not sufficiently oversee the contractor responsible for auctioning unclaimed items at the MRC or fully log and reconcile items sent for auction, the report said.

We are looking for feedback on your specific experience with the Mail Recovery Center or auction process. Do you have any experience with the Mail Recovery Center? Do you see ways to strengthen the process?

Have you ever participated in the auction process? If yes, what works well? What could be improved?

Report a lost package.

Comments (218)

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  • anon

    26 days in counting... Hopefully it's not fraud by USPS employee... I hope I can find at this Mail Recovery Center with my tracking #....

    Oct 11, 2017
  • anon

    I am needing help finding mail that was damaged and lost by the USPS

    Oct 11, 2017
  • anon

    Beach 102nd St, zip code 11694 has designed communal mailboxes, but post office employees can't deliver our packages because of there missing keys. I understand it can cost but our packages are getting lost/stolen and it's sometimes they are important documents. How can this get rectified? How much it cost?

    Oct 06, 2017
  • anon

    The Post Office in Bell Gardens should be closed, there is no way so many packages gone missing, auditors need to do their job and check it out. How can this keep happening and nothing was done about it. We have a lost package of valuable books worth a lot of money, some are non replaceable, costs and memories of the items inside the package. The package with the USPS tracking number from Chicago to LA. when it got to Bell Gardens, receipted and was in transit from June 3, 2017. It stopped and never made it to the destination. Numerous phone calls were made, filed a package search. A response received on the first month that the address slip was found separated but no box nor contents were found. Then requesting us to itemize the content inside the box. It is now over 6 months, it is still missing ? We will need someone to audit this post office to ensure there is no internal stolen packages. This is getting ridiculous and frustrating ! Something needs to be done about this! I am pretty sure there are a lot more missing packages and not been reported.

    Oct 05, 2017
  • anon

    Since the price of everything goes up almost every 6 months with USPS, perhaps the service should also make an effort to change. Loss of items, deliveries to wrong addresses by USPS is becoming more and more of an issue. No resolve has happened, and the service is not adequate. When shipments get lost almost every month by the USPS, it is time to start investigating within about fraud, negligence and big time incompetence!!!!!

    Oct 02, 2017
  • anon

    Some books are missing from a shipment that I am postive I spent. They whole bag of them is missing!!!

    Sep 27, 2017
  • anon

    The Tire Center in Burlington, NC was mailing my key for my Ranger 2000. when I received the letter the bottom of torn and the key was missing. Is there anything I can do.

    Sep 22, 2017
  • anon

    I'm having this exact problem! I was reviving a ring, but when the envelope got here, there was a year in the side and the ring was gone.

    Sep 26, 2017
  • anon

    I hate this response. USPS Customer service cannot tell you anything other than what you already know, your package is missing. I've gone through multiple cases of this and when I ask why, the response they give is "I don't know". I had a package that was accepted by a post office, but then when directly to dead mail recovery. Absolutely no scans (other than giving it a tracking number). No one could tell me why this happened. Nothing documented anywhere (what's the point of a tracking number which information could be attached to?) So it's at the recovery center in Atlanta right? Wrong. This package has gone to some black hole and no one knows where it went. That's a problem, as I've found many people have had this same experience. I've been contacted by consumer affairs who argue with me. I told them the USPS is accepts the responsibility for the package while it's in their care so they should document where packages are in dead mail recovery. She argued back with "who is responsible if the phone call drops? Accidents happen." My response is that's a telecom issue and you aren't a phone company. This is a mailing issue and you're a mailing company. And since i'm the customer, It's your responsibility to call me back if that happened. But I guess customer packages can just disappear, poof, and the company charged with delivering it isn't responsible unless you load up on those paid extras like insurance and delivery confirmation, etc.

    Sep 22, 2017
  • anon

    I am currently waiting on a paycheck that was sent out on September 15, 2017. It is now September 21, and I have yet to receive it in the 21205 zipcode

    Sep 21, 2017
  • anon

    I am looking for a piece of that i have not received. If there any way can help,thank you.

    Sep 19, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed something on Thurday the 7th. It was las scanned on the 9th in Louisiville. Today is the 12th and it can be found. Been on hold for 2.5 hours thus far to file a missing package claim. NEVER USE THIS SERVICE .EVER!!

    Sep 12, 2017
  • anon

    I have been missing mail from my aunt who has sent it from CARLUKE ML85DT SCOTLAND mainly missing are cards and letters with pictures .. how can i check on them????

    Sep 12, 2017
  • anon

    I accidentally shipped a package without a shipping label, I really need to recover this package. Please Help.

    Sep 06, 2017
  • anon

    What happens to the dead mail that iz considered waste by local distribution centers? Are members of the public able to obtain those type of items?

    Sep 04, 2017
  • anon

    I am very disappointed and disgusted with the post office. I mailed a package to my son almost 10 days ago. it was for his birthday which has come and gone and no one can ten me where the package is. I have been on line sever times checking on the status and the only update that is showing on the site is it is on it's way to Tucson, AZ, which was last updated August 19, 2017. Yes, I have visited my local post office two time to inquire about the status of the package and they keep saying it is on it's way to Tucson, AZ, but if it doesn't arrive in the next two days file a claim, that is fine but an item in the package cannot be replaced. It is to the point that that answer I am getting from the post office is unacceptable. Is it possible for the post office in Red Oak, TX to inquire with the last post office that is listed on the where about of the package or if in fact it even left that post office. The post office in Tucson, AZ said that it appears that the package never left Texas. And people wonder why the post office is losing money. I have mailed my last package through the post office, because of the customer service and lack of concern.

    Aug 24, 2017
  • anon

    I cried when I read this about the online auction of lost packages. You can not talk to a person anywhere. So upset with the postal service are they opening and removing the contents to put on the auction sites? My local post office was told not to email again about my package. Please don't send a package by the postal service>

    Aug 23, 2017
  • anon

    I sent 3 money orders totaling $2450 on August 4th. The 1st class letter has yet to reach the addressee. This was to cover my August rent.

    Aug 23, 2017
  • anon

    I did an address change on 6/7/17 and have yet to receive any mail at my new address!!!!..The post office blames the businessess and the businesses blame the post offices. I sent out x 2 handwritten letters to all places i deal with to inform them of the new address and called all of them multiple tinmes since 6/7/17 yet NO MAIL has been delivered!!!...I filed case numbers x 2 also yet nothing has worked!!!!...please someone help me to get my mail delivered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    Well now I received a email stating my package was found last week. Funny thing is that after it is found it is lost again. Someone wants this guitar more than me. From my original post "Tom Brino reply I am in the same boat. A guitar 20 plus years old 1 of 200. I saw it in Japan and had it shipped by the seller. First they say there was a house number missing on the label. It was never forwarded to my local Post Office instead it stayed at the port of entry Jamaica NY Distribution center. Now they say it was never scanned there due to a missing label. Funny thing is that I have the USPS sheet showing it was scanned and also the scanner ID that was involved. I guess someone is building up a nice guitar collection. Aug 02, 2017"

    Aug 14, 2017
  • anon

    I had shipped a package to Orlando Florida from Kansas City Missouri. The person I sent it to has not receive it and it has been 4 weeks already. It was a brown box that weight 10 pounds. It had Navy blue packing paper inside around the gifts. Inside of it was two outfits of children clothing. Seven or Eight dresses. Had names on the rapping. Six pairs of sandals. Six boys tank tops. Two blue T-shirts. I am wanting to know what happened to my package if you could please contact me back either through above email.

    Aug 12, 2017
  • anon

    My name is Deidre Woods and I am try to track a letter that was mailed to me Decemeber 4,1987. At this time my name was Deidre Carmel Harris. The letter was from Nancy G. Sewell in Selma, Alabama. I never received this letter. My question is it possible to track this letter from over 30 years ago?

    Aug 10, 2017
  • anon

    I have been trying to locate a lost package for 4 months to locate a lost package with my local post office and no one has been able to help me. They have sent me on a wild goose chase all this time and now my phone company is charging me $709 for the lost phone I shipped back to them. USPS wont take responsibility for losing it nor will the location I sent it through and now mine and my children's phones are pending a disconnect on 8/20/17 because I've received no help from anyone and I'm very irate. Please contact me asap regarding this matter. Thank you

    Aug 09, 2017
  • anon

    I accidently mailed a white 4x4 in envelop on August 6 in Olathe Kansas. Mike and Debbie Johnson is all that's on the envelop. There was $50 cash in it. It was still sealed.

    Aug 08, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed a letter to my daughter in Mission, KS three weeks ago from Omaha, NE with a check for her new baby. She checked with the Post Office in Mission and they indicated it went to Atlanta. What I cannot understand if they damaged the letter, why not return it to sender? This Post Office has done this before and a month later the letter showed up. MAKE IT A POLICY THAT IF LETTER IS DAMAGED, SEND IT BACK TO RETURN SENDER, YOU DO THIS IF THERE IS NO POSTAGE ON IT. Please correct this procedure so we can be proud of our postal system and not other methods for mailing. Thank you

    Aug 07, 2017
  • anon

    I am very disappointed with the USPS and having worked for them for over 32 years, I am also very embarrassed that the USPS has absolutely no recourse in finding mail. The supervisors don't want to help and are ignorant when you try to call them. Everyone blames the other post office and now I am experiencing the USPS losing stock certificates that I mailed to St. Paul, Minnesota. I have filed a complaint and it says someone will call you back, they don't and they don't seem to care. Now I am a customer looking in to a very flawed system where no one wants to help find your mail. Over the last month I have had a package delivered to an address two streets over that I had to go retrieve, my husband mailed something 5 miles away priority mail delivery confirmation and it never was scanned delivered, and now stock certificates lost because they only have the original scan. A disgrace to say the least!

    Aug 05, 2017
  • anon

    i have need my lost my sent mail for official used...

    Jul 30, 2017
  • anon

    We mailed between 60 and 70 personalized graduation thank-you's with pictures included on July 15, 2017 from the post office at 4420 Dressler Rd NW, Canton, Ohio - Jackson-Belden location, and as of today, July 28, 2017 NOT ONE has been delivered. We have contacted to post office and are being told that the mail goes to Cleveland, Ohio first. I understand that, however, 13 days later not one has been delivered? We were given the Postmaster's secretary's number, (330) 438-6477 to call, but cannot get anyone to answer, just voicemail. Please help!

    Jul 28, 2017
  • anon

    My sister mailed me a big box of my childhood memorabilia.It contains a large amount of miscellaneous keepsakes. Apparently it opened during mailing. I received the box with only 2 small items in it. The package was marked "Received unsealed" and "received in damaged condition". I did file a missing mail claim online with usps. My question is this: I will be in Atlanta at the end of next week. Is it possible for me to visit the dead mail center there in person to check for my items?

    Jul 21, 2017
  • anon

    the us post office does not care about your letter or package - if they did - they would hold those who did wrong responsible - they don't - and from that nothing will get solved - ever

    Sep 27, 2017
  • anon

    how can I contact the USPS Mail Recovery Center (MRC) to inquire for a package that it was never delivered to me, and in case participate to their auctions?

    Jul 20, 2017
  • anon

    I shipped out a box with 108 pieces of Lilly Pulitzer clothing and only 35 pieces showed up at the recipients house! I am missing 73 pieces of Lilly Pulitzer clothing!! that is $$1837 worth of clothes!

    Jul 19, 2017
  • anon

    You will never get your stuff back! Kiss it goodbye!

    Jul 12, 2017
  • anon

    In my case it's a guitar that cost $5000 and is not replaceable it's one of a kind doesn't matter about insurance it can't be replaced how the fuck is this possible?

    Jul 26, 2017
  • anon

    I am in the same boat. A guitar 20 plus years old 1 of 200. I saw it in Japan and had it shipped by the seller. First they say there was a house number missing on the label. It was never forwarded to my local Post Office instead it stayed at the port of entry Jamaica NY Distribution center. Now they say it was never scanned there due to a missing label. Funny thing is that I have the USPS sheet showing it was scanned and also the scanner ID that was involved. I guess someone is building up a nice guitar collection.

    Aug 02, 2017
  • anon

    I sent all my cable internet bill with my money order for $102for my cable internet and the cable company have not received anything yet.

    Jul 12, 2017
  • anon

    Lost Teal Fit bit.

    Jul 11, 2017
  • anon

    I lost my passport back in March and was curious if someone found it and brough it to the post office if there was a lost and found.

    Jul 10, 2017
  • anon

    I mailed myself a package (about $400 worth of books/textbooks) as I was moving across country. It was sent June 3rd and was expected to be delivered June 9th, and almost a month later, I have yet to receive it. Last it was stuck in Bell Gardens, CA as of June 7th. I am extremely disappointed with the lack of answers the USPS has provided to me. I have filed a complaint and talked with my local post office, but so far nothing. This process has been frustrating.

    Jul 08, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package from Chicago to my brother in San Pedro, CA on 07/14/2017 media mail 18 lbs of books needed for his job. Last scan 07/20 in Bell Gardens. Almost a month later no sign of any movement. Filed lost package claim, multiple cases with USPS (they automatically close after 48 hrs), mail search requests, complaints with consumer affairs and with Inspector General and NOTHING. No-one called me back or send an email, just the acknowledgement that my complaints were received. A nice lady from San Pedro station called me to tell me that the package never arrived at their station. She suggested that it might be returned to me or go to recover center in Atlanta. How do I know where it's at and why? How do I recover it from GA?

    Aug 11, 2017
  • anon

    my godfather has sent me 3 money orders from Mount Pleasant right here to West Ashley we are catching hell trying to find it I think it's real sad that we can't recover all meals more quickly then we do mailman these days I'm very lazy I've given my neighbors meals that he's left in my boss they've given me mail that he left in their boss and it's not our job we have check to see if the money orders were cash and they haven't so how can I retrieve my mail to come to me they're helping me pay my bills thanks

    Jul 06, 2017
  • anon

    I'm experiencing the same problem as a lot of the people on here. The package was undeliverable both ways. I ship a lot of packages and never have delivery issues until I ship something extremely expensive this happens. It's at the MRC just sitting.

    Jul 03, 2017
  • anon

    954616511117083003626 Mailed a package in late March going from PA to Miami. Arrived at Jersey City...left Jersey City...and has never been seen since...after many inquiries. Please find it.

    Jul 01, 2017
  • anon

    The package I sent to my grandson for his birthday was suppose to arrive May 26th. On June 5th after initiating a search inquiry I received a message on my voicemail stating that the package was sent to the Recovery Center in Atlanta. We have filled out 2 mail recovery forms to date but have yet to hear about the status of my package. My question is--if you can identify the sender, and probably also the addressee, from the tracking number--and you know the package ended up at the recovery center, WHY?? Is it taking you guys so long to find it and get it back to either myself or my grandson??? It's already June 29th. Doesn't the post office know what they're doing anymore? Or do your employees just don't care? No wonder you are losing business to Amazon, UPS and FedEx. You have definitely lost my confidence as I'm sure the confidence of the public.

    Jun 29, 2017
  • anon

    I left my debit card in the stamp machine, have tried calling 972-386-3440 for the Post Office on Noel in Dallas 75240, no one answers. I need my debit card!!!!!

    Jun 28, 2017
  • anon

    I shipped out a box of my books on June 5th from Oklahoma to Connecticut, about a third of my library. The other two boxes are still waiting to be sent out. The box was supposed to arrive on the 12th. Instead, today I got an envelope with a letter saying the package had been damaged, and a square of cardboard cut from the box! No books to be seen! What the hell happened? Where are my books? How could forty pounds of books have been damaged so badly all they could send me was a scrap of cardboard that literally fit in a standard letter envelope!! The worst part is, I didn't think it was necessary to make an itemized list of my books before I mailed it out, so I have no idea which books are lost and which are back in Oklahoma still waiting to go out, so I can't put anything in the 'lost mail' form except 'forty goddamn pounds of books!' Are my belongings, some of which were personally inscribed gifts from my father from when I was *four*, going to end up donated or destroyed?? This is unacceptable and I need to know what the h*** happened!

    Jun 27, 2017
  • anon

    I feel for you Elizabeth. I ordered some Auto mechanic manuals back in Dec 2016 with signature receipt required. Manuals are not cheap (6 volume set at about $100 a manual). It made it to the Bell Gardens, CA facility and they were never to be found after that. I did the whole lost package and tracking process as directed by customer service. Unfortunately, that was a waste of time. Periodically I get an update. To this date, the package was never to be found and the tracking number still shows in transit. I Googled that particular facility and they have a history of lost packages. Hmmm, interesting. Not sure why an audit of that facility isn't done. When you have a lot of high value ticket items missing, that should trigger an alert or something so folks can see what is going on. I know a lot of mail goes through facilities, but when you count on stuff being there to do your job or a important gift, you expect it to get there. I no longer use USPS for important items. I use FEDEX where I have a bar code, I can see it and know it made it. I have never had an issue with them or UPS for that matter. This whole situation just rubbed me the wrong way. What adds insult to injury, the standard blurb replies in this thread from the monitor is that this is not the department which cares for these issues. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It is the proverbial pointing the finger, it isn't me/not my department. Go over there. Got it. You go there, wait over 45 min to speak to someone (after going through a ridiculous IVR system), and you get the whole fill out the form by someone who is less than enamored you are calling. Yes, I got that person that made you feel like you have just wasted their time or you're making them late for their break. Then nothing really happens...a few emails are sent to kinda make you feel like something is being done but really it is like you're being waited out. No escalation/next level examination/investigation, no resolution, no real help..."I can help you with that" customer service really doesn't exist. That is a virtual dead end by design. SO, a suggestion, why doesn't the IG inspect lost rates and see if there are centers that are historically high in losing things. ID ways in which to prevent those lost items. A large volume or pattern of high value items missing in a facility might suggest poor training, equipment or imagine...fraud. Hopefully not but who knows. Then you can audit customer service and give a report card on that and ways to improve. I can tell you, there is a LOT of growth potential that could be found in that space. Just a thought. I know....to add insult to injury, the reply to my post is going to be the standard...not my department, call 1-800.... Only saving grace is my local post office folks have been great.

    Jun 27, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Elizabeth, 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 27, 2017
  • anon

    While I respect that you read and replied to Elizabeth's comment, I can honestly say that our local post office can rarely tell you anything regarding missing mail /packages. I mail a lot of packages, and I have problems often, it is most always gift cards that don't arrive to destination. I have also had several gift cards and debit / credit cards that have never arrived to my personal address, and EVERY single time I have called in to speak with a customer service representative , I am on hold for 45 minutes to 2 hours just to talk to a live person, and once they open an investigation, you rarely hear back from anyone in a reasonable amount of time, if at all. I sent a gift card several months ago to a neighboring state, it was supposed to arrive in 2 days and it did finally arrive , but it took 4 weeks and NO ONE could tell me anything during that time and not one single call back to notify me of progress, changes, etc. The only call back I received on the investigation was 3 weeks AFTER the pkg delivered , and they were just telling me that they couldn't find my package...now you tell me... what is wrong with this picture?--the package had delivered BUT 3 weeks later, they still didn't know it had delivered. The service seems to be getting worse. Maybe it is time to clean house in some postal mail centers and service locations? I actually have a pkg missing as we speak-- a gift card sent out on 9/7/17, was supposed to arrive by 9/11... still hasn't arrived and the tracking info is "all over the board" - for 4 days now, it has once again been in the city it is supposed to deliver to, but tracking info hasn't changed and no one knows where the pkg is. I can certainly understand why USPS is losing business to fed ex and UPS. I will close with saying that our local post office has some wonderful( short staffed and overworked) employees, as i am sure everyone location does. The bottom line is ... the delivery issues, and lack of USPS involvement in rectifying these issues, seems be getting worse instead of better :(

    Sep 26, 2017
  • anon

    Hi OIG Blog Moderator. Is someone actually read the comments? Looks like all OIG posts are a cut and paste standard blurb that adds no value or assistance to those since many have already said they've followed those instructions. What have you or what can you do to get folks past the dead end route of customer service once they get no response or recourse? No one from USPS has been able to advise what happens after you've done all you can do? What or who is the escalation after that? How is it that things like a trombone mouthpiece with a man's name engraved on it end up at a USPS auction when clearly he put in a claim with a description. Why wasn't that easily matched up by USPS and sent to him vice him finding it on eBay? Who is actually looking into these issues since they don't really seem to get resolved. Are you at least referring to some workgroup or consumer advocacy within USPS to get something in place or clean up the shortcomings? Folks need real help. They are frustrated.

    Jun 27, 2017

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