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 (244)

The most direct way to report fraud, waste, misconduct within the Postal Service is via our Hotline form

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  • 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
  • anon

    MY FIANCE ASKED ME TO MAIL HIS a BOOK FRM GLENDALE NEW YORK TO LONG ISLAND CITY NEW YORK. LITERALLY A FEW TOWNS OVER IF ANYTHING A HALF HOUR DRIVE -- IT HAS LEFT THE POST OFFICE. IT WAS SENT CERTIFED WITH RETURN. I HAVE A CASE NOW ON IT.. BUT IF FOUND PLEASE CONTACT IT IS VERY IMPORTATNT FOR IT IS TO BE SENT TO LONG ISLAND CITY IN ORDER TO HELP US WITH CHRISTMAS. IF ANYONE CAN HELP ME I WOULD APPRCIATE IT AS WELL. I HAVE CALLED THE CONTACT NUMBER WHICH THEN DIRECTED ME TO DEPT. OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS LEFT MY INFOMATION TO BE CONTACTED BACK. PLEASE THIS IS SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT TO HELP US WITH CHRISTMAS FOR WE ARE BOTH RAISING A TEN YEAR OLD CHILD -- I KEEP PRAYING TO SAINT ANTHONY.

    Dec 01, 2017
  • anon

    Looking for a package, inside I have my Visa and my passport, is really important to me.. It get lost in the USPS from Atlanta GA. I hope you find it because I really have a bad time all this days. Is horrible and frustrating...

    Nov 30, 2017
  • anon

    Looking for loose in the mail book entitled "Jesus Calling". Outer packaging , sent Priority Mail from 02726 was scanned & delivered in Belton, Mo on 11/18/17 without the contents (above mentioned book). I spoke to a Supervisor there who looked in their lost and found. He suggested that I contact MRC.

    Nov 28, 2017
  • anon

    I have had more than one package go MISSING ( IE STOLEN) in the Portland OR mail center that was to go overseas. I have filed missing mail forms AND NOTHING EVER HAPPENS. I HAVE TRIED TO CALL 404-344-1503. THE LOST MAIL RECOVERY CENTER AND THEY EITHER REFUSE TO ANSWER THE PHONE OR JUST PICK UP AND DISCONNECT YOU . HORRIBLE HORRIBLE SERVICE AND THE FREE REIGN TO STEAL PACKAGES WITH NO CONSEQUENCES FROM THE USA MAIL AUTHORITIES

    Nov 27, 2017
  • anon

    I dropped a heart monitor in the mail at the end of September. The company I am sending to hasn't received the package! It doesn't have the return address on it. They are still waiting and now May charge me with the cost of it which is almost $1500.00! Please tell me what need to do to locate it! I'm in Oklahoma I will drive there to retrieve the package if I need to!

    Nov 26, 2017
  • anon

    I'm still hoping to get my books. I even stopped at office where they were last checked. No one seems to know what to do or where lost mail area is within their own facility much less where it goes. They don't even want to try. Atlanta GA recovery center is a black hole on the planet. I just want my books back. Please help!!!

    Nov 25, 2017
  • anon

    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.

    Nov 18, 2017
  • anon

    I sent a first class mail package from San Jose to San Diego by USPS. The tracking #says it has reached but my daughter didn't get it. It's almost 10 days, is there any way to retrieve the package?

    Nov 16, 2017
  • anon

    I had a package delivered to me. When I got it. It was damaged. It was jewelry and I need to report loss items. Where do I do that?

    Nov 15, 2017
  • anon

    I know my mail was delivered to the wrong address and I made a lost mail report and believe the post office is doing nothing to find out where they delivered it. tracking # showed delivered to my address it was not.

    Nov 13, 2017
  • anon

    I sent my son a card on October 26,2017. He has never received it. I took it to post office to weight it because it had a gift card inside. Who do I speak with to try and find the card. I already called post office where I mailed it. I would like at the very least a refund for the gift card and postage. Please respond ASAP.

    Nov 13, 2017
  • anon

    I sent my passport to Bahamas Consulate in Atlanta, GA. They rcvd the entire pakcge with applicatin ofmr, money order and picture, but my passport was missing. They received a damaged package and lost item (passport). I tried filing a serach request online, and had been waiting to hear back from them. I tried making phone calls to every possible location/authority (conssumer affairs, postal inspector etc) but no use. I can't bite my nails any further. Please let me know if I should lose hope and start paper work for new passport? Thanks

    Nov 09, 2017
  • anon

    where do I report a problem about a missing letter. Also having a problem with the mail person dropping my mail outside where it is later found on the ground. I noticed one of my neighbors getting another neighbors mail. I think we have a problem with an untrained mail person, but in any case I want to know where my letter went. How can I get my missing mail. This is unacceptable.

    Nov 06, 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.

    Nov 07, 2017
  • anon

    i mailed a parcel from a kiosk first class, got no tracking on my reciept. when the item failed to arrive by day 11 i filed a search order complete with photos that i had and duplicate pdfs of the contents. 7 days later called customer service where they openened a second order wherein i was contacted a week later re: order 2 by the destination post sort center and told point blank that he would "go through the motions" but there was really nothing he could do for mail without tracking. over a month later my original search order is still open, i have not been contacted either way on it, and seemingly i can do nothing but hope MRC comes across it and my report at the same time. before auctioning it as nonreturnable mail contents.

    Oct 27, 2017
  • anon

    A letter was mailed to us on October 13, 2017 from Fargo North Dakota and arrived in Kansas City on 10/17/17. We didnt get it until 10/26/17 with "DPS" witten in red on it. Our zip code is 64155. What happened to our letter, why did it take so long for you to deliver it?

    Oct 27, 2017
  • anon

    A letter was mailed to us on October 13, 2017 from Fargo North Dakota and arrived in Kansas City on 10/17/17. We didnt get it until 10/26/17 with "DPS" witten in red on it. Our zip code is 64155. What happened to our letter, why did it take so long for you to deliver it

    Oct 27, 2017
  • anon

    Hello my girlfriend had left her grandfathers and dad's military dog tags at a Holiday Inn. The hotel shipped them to us but the envelope they sent us was empty. I called to hotel and they said they put both tags in there and called the post office it was suppose to be delivered to and they didn't find them. I was wondering what to do next...they are very important to my girlfriend and I really would like to be able to get them back to her. The last name on the dog tags are Mooney.

    Oct 27, 2017
  • anon

    My wife and I got married on August 19th. My aunt in Holland the Netherlands. Send our gift via the mail. There should be money it and I have not received it what do I do about this?

    Oct 23, 2017
  • anon

    Hello I dropped off at my local post office a package aparently with no information, no lable or package slip inside. The package is an eBay transaction therefore the item is well describe and recorded. I understand that I need to file a claim on this item in order to localized and have it returned to me, but the format on line doesn't allow me to complete my claim base on the lack of information. I need to find this package and apparently has gone undetected by the USPS ad most likely end up as a lost package. Please tell me who I need to speak or where to file because I am getting the runaround from everybody in every corner of the [post office service with no solution to my dilemma. Sincerely and very appreciative if you can help a client, customer of years

    Oct 19, 2017
  • anon

    As a US postal employee I am embarrassed and frustrated that I cannot answer question for my daughter. She was tracking mailpiece to be delivered to her in Lehigh Acres, Fl. It got to Orlando then went to "Dead letter". How does she file claim, can it be retrieved? Thanks.

    Oct 19, 2017
  • anon

    As a US postal employee I am embarrassed and frustrated that I cannot answer question for my daughter. She was tracking mailpiece to be delivered to her in Lehigh Acres, Fl. It got to Orlando then went to "Dead letter". How does she file claim, can it be retrieved? Thanks.

    Oct 19, 2017
  • 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

    I am having the same issues with the Sorting Facility at Bell Gardens. This is a known black hole, package went in and never came out its been 7 days since it was last scanned. This facility should be investigated

    Oct 26, 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

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