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 (293)

  • anon

    Thank you for your comments on our 2016 blog. Though we have closed the comment section on this page, the Office of Inspector General is continuously conducting reviews of lost and delayed mail. Please visit our home page to view our most recent work. Also, we ask you to please visit the “Contact Us” page on this website for information on where to file formal complaints with our agency or the Postal Service. Thank you again, OIG Blog Moderator

    Feb 12, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a giftcard to my mother-in-law for her birthday. And i was not sure what size stamp to use so i brought it directly to post office andx she put a 70cent stamp n put it directly into her bucket. My mother in law never recieved it so im assuming a postal worker had something to do with it...

    Feb 12, 2018
  • anon

    I lost my green card and i wondering of someone turned it in

    Feb 10, 2018
  • anon

    Package mailed Jan 25th, have tracking # and made inquiries, alma get is I don't know where it might be and there is no update information. Just package accepted by Colorado Springs office, And they can't even find it or they just don't care.

    Feb 08, 2018
  • anon

    In March 2017, the New Jersey post office lost the international priority package (49 new comics arrived from Japan). The sender and I reported many times but never found it. Too many packages are lost in the U.S. and many people are angry. Because some USPS staffs have no responsibility as professional workers(??). Every senders and recipients are spending a lot of money/time for the products and shipping.. Why don't USPS show the staff's name and their phone-number who got the package temporary and transfer it in the tracking site?

    Feb 08, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a letter to my boyfriend in Georgia -- inside the letter I put one of those distance bracelets. It took over two weeks for him to get the letter. When he received the letter, the end looked like it was cut intentionally half way up and the bracelet was gone!!

    Feb 05, 2018
  • anon

    Eyeglasses mailed from Weston Florida on Jan 22 to Massachusetts.....no one after a USPS search can locate them after initial scan in Weston. My husband's last words to agent Vanessa in Weston was"it's now in the capable hands of the US Postal Service".!!What is wrong with this business???. Report says 88 million mail and packages lost in 2014 with a 3% return rate. They are making $ on the auction for sure at our expense! How can this be fair and equitable??

    Feb 04, 2018
  • anon

    Trying to find out what happened to a letter I sent to someone before Christmas and they never received..

    Feb 04, 2018
  • anon

    Having very similar problem to another person here. Pricey international package quickly cleared by customers in an "in transit" limbo for weeks now. "Cori H. said: I've been waiting on a small package from the UK for over a month now. It supposedly cleared US Customs on the 15th of October, and has been "in transit" since then. Registered mail; local office is tracking, missing mail and domestic claim filed. Seller in UK is filing an international claim. This wasn't a cheap item. I would like to know if it's sitting in a distribution center or is lost."

    Feb 03, 2018
  • anon

    USPS has lost my parcel, it was posted on 5th January from a USPS office in Norco California, scanned in there and not one update since!! In transit to destination till 8th then nothing. I’ve contacted to office in Norco, they have said it’s not there.. so can only have been stolen on the way to Anaheim as it not there the next stop in the line!! All my own investigating as no one at USPS will help out at all, filled in missing package file, filed a lost package claim and not one reply from anyone.. this has got to be the worst service I have ever come across...

    Feb 03, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a mail to Jersey City Tax Collector office but i was told they have not received it yet. I dropped the mail to a drop box last january 18 or 19, 2018

    Jan 31, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a letter to a post office address 12/23/2017 and as today 01/31/2018 has not been delivered, I sent it from Clearing Il post office to Carol Stream, Il post office and I sent it certified mail thinking that like that can be more secure, it keep saying that is delayed and it is not going to be delivered on time, really...Unbelievable.

    Jan 31, 2018
  • anon

    I had an item that got lost out of its package. they sent me a check for 50.00 but i would rather have the item back. how can i find out if the item was recovered? can anyone see what is in the lost and found box?

    Jan 31, 2018
  • anon

    Missing firearm Case # HQ136627123 has been located.

    Jan 29, 2018
  • anon

    I mailed an item that was not to be mailed. I know it went to the Greensboro NC distribution center, but I cannot find a way to contact them and see if they have a lost and found"box". The item was a pocketbook size calendar without a full name or address. It is of no significance to anyone but me. How can I check to see if it there or if it has been thrown away?

    Jan 26, 2018
  • anon

    Stolen content of the package. Today is 01/20/2018, I just got an open package (like cut with a knife), without the content of the package, in the mail box that was suppose to get on the 16, according to the tracking on the 16 was "out for delivery". Yesterday at noon I went to the local post office, they told me the package was with the carrier, in the afternoon a spoke with the carrier when she was delivering the mails, she did not find my package (by the way the carrier has other package for me but not the one I was inquiring, and is more the package she gave me were out for delivery the same day). Today I went to the mail box and the package was there but opened without the content. I was waiting for new Cell phone. I have the tracking number and the case number that I got when I call yesterday morning to the USPS inquiring for my package.

    Jan 20, 2018
  • anon

    Our daughter sent my husband a birthday card with a gift card from Drummonds Tennessee to Louisville Kentucky around December 27, 2017 almost a month ago. He still has not received it. Not acceptable!

    Jan 20, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a letter that had a gift card in it to my friend for her birthday on Jan 06-2018. she has no recieved it yet. I am located in wenatchee wa, and my friend is located in Stockton CA.. I know it doesnt take that long to get something. it takes at least 4 days to get from point a to point b. is there anything you can do?

    Jan 20, 2018
  • anon

    Hi USPS has lost my Package, I do not know what to do now. reported and filled out a missing package, but have not received any help. Have a tracking number, but last check was on 1/11/2018, it was mailed 1/08/2018. and states it is still on its way to me. it was to arrive on the 12th,, It seems no one can help. No number to call, and the number you do have has 1hour45 min plus Waite time. then they tell you they have the same answers you already got off the tracking.. Is there any help for me or other people with the same problem?????

    Jan 19, 2018
  • anon

    I lost my wallet and i received only my ID in the mail there were other ID cards in my wallet like my DL and even my SSN. I am going crazy trying to figure out why only my ID was sent to me and not the rest who can contact me in regards to this situation ?

    Jan 18, 2018
  • anon

    I had my brotherinlaw ship my wive’s iphone overnight priority express because we are on vacation in Tucson Az for next two months. It went from Ashby MA post office 01431 to Shrewsbury MA Distribution Center and was scanned in on Jan 10, scheduled for del to me in Tucson AZ 85715 on Jan11 by 1200 noon guaranteed or miney back. I paid 37.00 dollars for the overnight service and it is the 14 of January and ut has not arrived yet. Furthermore when I use the tracking number it only shiws the Shrewsbury MA scan that it was received and then saying in transit. When I follow up with requested del day and time is says Jan11 by noon which was three days ago. My local Ashby Post Office clerk called the Shrewsbury MA distribution Center and they said the pkg had left their facility but could not tell him where the package is now. Very frustrating to pay that much money and not be able to track my 800.00 phone with all my info on it.

    Jan 14, 2018
  • anon

    I live in Holly MI, and my mail is going missing or misdelivered on a regular basis. I don't know who to contact about this. I've spoken with the carrier to no avail

    Jan 12, 2018
  • anon

    Mailed my big box of Christmas presents on Dec. 13th to my sister in Jefferson City, Missouri. I live in south Florida and it took 5 days to get to Jacksonville, Florida on the 18th. The tracking stopped Dec. 21, "Package delayed, in transit to Jefferson City, Missouri." By golly, on Dec. 31 it finally showed up at a distribution center in Kansas City, Missouri. Now I am excited that it is getting closer to my sister. It tracks in on Jan. 2, 2018 at Columbia, Missouri. This is 40 miles from my sister. She could have driven over and picked it up. Well, we are now up to January 10th and the package has not tracked since then. MY GOD, what is the problem????????????Jeffe

    Jan 10, 2018
  • anon

    I sent a card to my daughter in Denver after Christmas and she still hasn’t received it

    Jan 09, 2018
  • anon

    I’m an employee at the Charleston branch on cross county rd and I have misplaced my dental retainer I was told that it has been sent to Atlanta what steps should I take to recover this item?

    Jan 09, 2018
  • anon

    My parents and i had shipped two boxes of things to Guam from las vegas. One made it to Guam but it looked like it had been opened and badly re-taped. The second box has a tracking number and it showed that it had left vegas but never made it anywhere except the Dead Letters office / Mail recovery center. (HOW EVEN????) We had made sure the addresses were correct and legible. And i am extremely frustrated and am considering booking a flight to Atlanta just to find my box. I am reading all these things about how most people dont get theirs back and am hoping for that needle in the haystack. If someone has ever gotten their mail back from the MRC, please let me know what the process was and the things that happened. Thank you.

    Jan 07, 2018
  • anon

    OMG...you sound just like me. My mom and I both shipped our packages the same day, Dec 11th, to my daughter who is in Guam. My moms package got there about 8-10 days later, which I initially was happy about because she made homemade Italian cookies. My package, on the other hand, has dissappeared. Im so pissed. I sent mostly clothes to my daughter and son-in-law, a board game, some christmas tree decorations, etc.....I honestly spent over $400 dollars on the clothing alone. Nevermind everything else. It was a big box, and I wrapped it in shipping paper (like I always do) with a legible address and taped it to the hilt. I wrapped and taped both boxes, they were secure !!!! No way anything became unraveled unless SOMEONE BROKE OPEN ON PURPOSE. When I go online to USPS Tracking, the last known date was Dec 14 and looks like it never even made it out of the country. Seriously, what recourse do I have ?????

    Jan 18, 2018
  • anon

    Trying to find out what happen to a letter I sent..

    Jan 07, 2018
  • anon

    2 MAC cosmetics brushes were lost in the mail. From omaha to tulsa was shipped from omaha on 22ed one of the brushes has a pointy end. Both brushes are worth a combined total of 80 dollars

    Jan 06, 2018
  • anon

    Trying to find out who I contact about a card I sent and never made it to its destination..can you help me with this ?ty

    Jan 02, 2018
  • anon

    We are desperately looking for a lost package going from Philadelphia, 19111 to Naples, 34102. We can not find anyone able or willing to help find this package. It’s a tan cardboard box, with a company sticker on the top left corner with logo, email, website and phone number with cartoon of a Boston terrier. The address to Naples was written in marker and taped to the box. We have no tracking info since the package wasn’t mailed properly, but nonetheless is lost. We have called post offices in Philadelphia, Georgia, Naples, Fort Myers. Any help would be much appreciated!

    Dec 29, 2017
  • anon

    I’m having issues with usps too. I got an delivery confirmation that the parcel was dropped off in my mailbox. Guess what nothing in there. I live in an secured building where you need an electronic key to enter bigger deliveries are dropped off at the front desk for pick up. I checked everywhere the delivery is nowhere to be found. I contacted the Local usps in Arlington / Va who called me back with the info that the mailman swears on everything what is holy he delivered it at the front desk which is the complete opposite of what the online confirmation states ( mailbox ). The local post office is investigating further but didn’t make me any hope of resolving this. I’m pretty angry my package made it around the globe with no issues to be lost or stolen by the mailman on the last feet to the mailbox. Any suggestions how to proceed file a police report ? Claim with USPS?

    Dec 27, 2017
  • anon

    I want to knoe how do i go about receiving my dead mail even if i have my tracking number

    Dec 27, 2017
  • anon

    PLEASE HELP USPS lost I EAD card also known as a pink card I need this card to drive work and go to school I have been to every office and all that they are saying is that my package is in transit I has been in transit for 1.5 months the package had priority shipping and all the tracking number is showing is that the package is delayed and we don’t have a delivery date yet and when I call the 1-800 number they are sending me everywhere at this point all I need is for usps to say it is lost and they are not even doing that all they are saying is they don’t know where the package is and they are not saying it is lost I have applied to get another EAD card but USCIS needs proof that the card is lost can anyone help me out

    Dec 23, 2017
  • anon

    File criminal charges. You can. I was & will.

    Dec 22, 2017
  • anon

    I won some things in a giveaway and when I recieved the package envelope it was ripped and empty.

    Dec 19, 2017
  • anon

    PLEASE HELP!! IT SAID IT WAS DELIVERED BUT I NEVER GOT IT . IT'S 2 BLACK SHIRTS AND ONE WHITE SHIRT AND A GOLD NECKLACE. I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU GUYS CAN GET BACK TO ME. EITHER WAY I'M GOING TO THE POST OFFICE TOMORROW TO GET THIS RESOLVED .

    Dec 18, 2017
  • anon

    I am a bit upset because i ordered a holiday gift that was sent registered first class international mail on November 26. It was shipped overseas on the 30 of November, however it is now December 18 nd when I try and track it at USPS online it says that the origin post is still preparing shipment. I just can’t believe that it has not even entered the US by now. The sender is just as confused as I am because we don’t know if it fell off a plane or what on the way here but according to the tracking it was shipped over on the 30 and now over 20 days later the US hasn’t actually received it according to the tracking. Is there a way to find missing registered mail that is inbetween countries? I don’t know what to do other than file a claim. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Dec 18, 2017
  • anon

    Dec.15 got my package rip inside and open items and missing items, value $500. Thanks ! Greeley, CO Post office , WHERE ARE MY MISSING MAGAZINE'S ALSO??????

    Dec 17, 2017
  • anon

    Here's another one for you. My brother in Montana brought Christmas cards to the post office in Great Falls, MT inside a zip lock bag to protect them from the elements. The all had stamps on them but no one ever removed them from the plastic bag. I live in Upstate NY and received this baggy of Christmas cards and after opening the baggy realized that non of them had ever been cancelled. 4 of the 6 cards were to go to people in Montana, 1 to Wisconsin and one to me. I called my brother and he couldn't believe it.. I even took a picture of it because of how odd it was. I mailed the cards from our post office. LOL

    Dec 15, 2017
  • anon

    I am saddened by the lack of responsibility that the NY City post office has for delivering packages at any time of year. I have mailed several packages over the past 4 years to my son in Manhattan. They have never made it to his residence or they haven't tried to to deliver them as he gets his regular mail but not the packages. This last package (Christmas gifts) was mailed in a box with a large red printed bow on it. You'd think something that bold could find it's way to it's destination. He is home during the day so he was waiting for this package and even went down to inquire with the mailman who said he didn't have a package. He went to his post office and they said it was out for delivery. He went home and waited. No delivery. I checked the tracking and they said first they didn't know the address, then that they could access his building even though he got his regular mail. How odd. No one seems to care that this package was never being delivered. I do want reimbursement to it's loss but that does not replace the fact he will not have his Christmas package on top of losing his job. Thanks a lot USPS.

    Dec 15, 2017
  • anon

    I lost my wallet on 12/07/2017 please it has green card social security and driving permit!

    Dec 12, 2017
  • anon

    I dropped a package at my local post office 10-06-17 a.m. in the drop bin. it was a piece of antique glassware I had sold. Buyer did not receive. I ended up refunding him 117.50. even though I dropped my package during working hours, into secure drop box, into secure room of government employees it did not get scanned. Never showed up on radar anywhere. This tells me it never left the building as it would certainly have picked up a scan somewhere along the way. everything was correct, I have copy of label. it was securely fastened. I have had 2 months of absolute frustration and bad information. a supervisor told me last week I may end up eating this loss as there was no way to prove it was put into mail stream. I said lets look at camera from that day at around 11:00. He said they have no camera, how convenient! This branch routinely tells clients to "just drop your package in the bin" as it sits out in open. Now I see if it isn't stolen it will be auctioned off and I will not only be "robbed" of 117.50 but be out my most valuable piece of glassware which I would rather have back than the money . I think the post office system is a disorganized, uncaring group of people who don't realize/or care how they hurt individuals who have no choice but to use them. I finally understand where all the bad post office jokes com from

    Dec 12, 2017
  • anon

    I filed a complaint but it was never responded to. Thanks for showing the same kind of service that I detailed in my complaint!

    Dec 12, 2017
  • anon

    I have been fighting with the post office since May 2017 to dec2017 about missing mail and missing checks I file two claims with the postal inspector no one is doing anything about the mailman is putting mail in the wrong building and the wrong mail box I spoke to the supervision at the local post office she hung up on me I am about to lose my apartment because the mailman is losing mail what can be done about this matter.

    Dec 11, 2017
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. 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.

    Dec 12, 2017
  • anon

    I received a package from my parents in Germany. Did not get the requested 'ready for delivery' e-mail. Although at home i found just a card I can pick up at this location. The package looks rough; later I see it was re taped with a different tape. Chocolate, Gifts, Gingerbread missing. Flour and spices are still there. The package only weigted 10lb instead of the shipped 20lb. I spent my Friday getting someone on the phone just to hear I need to have the Form 2856 filled out by a supervisor in any post office. Then the first one is 'not from my delivery district' sends me 3 miles away to the second one who miracly can't help. Meanwhile someone eats my Christmas gifts, laughing because I can't take another day off for cookies and chocolate. Where my parents paid $60 just for shipping.

    Dec 09, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a package to my daughter in NYC. She received it damaged with items missing. I contacted MRC, never heard back.

    Dec 07, 2017
  • anon

    The experience is HORRIBLE and could easily be made better by: Providing a phone number that a human being answers. Providing ALL post office locations with the correct phone number (I say this after being told 14 different phone numbers from various post office locations) Giving local employees more power to contact the dead mail center. That would just be a start.

    Dec 04, 2017
  • anon

    My friend mailed me my military dog tags inside of a card in an envelope and when I got the envelope they weren’t in there. There was a slight rip in the envelope though.

    Dec 01, 2017

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