Undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail is a clunky name for a big problem: Mail not reaching its intended recipient because the address is incorrect, incomplete, or illegible. UAA mail is costly to both the Postal Service and its customers – about $1.5 billion a year for the Postal Service and $20 billion for the mailing industry, according to a report we issued last month.

But the costs of UAA go beyond just returning, destroying, or forwarding undeliverable mail. For mailers, there are direct costs, such as printing and postage, and indirect costs, such as lost opportunities. A direct mailer has no chance for a sale if the piece never reaches the customer. And an undeliverable invoice either slows down cash flow or, if the piece never reaches its intended recipient, results in no payment at all, as Pitney Bowes notes in a white paper. Furthermore, a company’s customer service costs can jump if irate customers call after getting a late fee for a bill delayed by an incorrect or incomplete address.

Then there is what some mailers call a customer relationship management (CRM) cost. Address software provider Melissa Data explains, “CRM costs reflect the damage to customer relationships that result from failed communication.” The CRM cost of UAA mail can be calculated a few ways, but the simplest might be to determine the customer’s annual value (say he or she spends $600 a year on a cable bill) and divide it by the customer’s expected response rate (for this cable company let’s say 5 percent). In this case, the CRM cost of a UAA mailpiece is $30.

Despite concerted efforts by the Postal Service and mailers to reduce UAA mail, it actually increased by 2.1 percent to a total of 6.6 billion pieces from fiscal years 2011 to 2014, our report notes. We found the Postal Service’s strategies to reduce UAA have been ineffective because of how complex the address verification process is and because mailers have to abide by conflicting laws and regulations. For example, companies in the financial and insurance industries are legally required to send mail to the last known address even if Postal Service systems indicate a change of address has been submitted.

Still, we expect certain Postal Service programs to help. The Postal Service has made it easier for recipients to change addresses online. And on the business mailer side, the Seamless Acceptance program, which relies on electronic documentation, should help by providing greater visibility into data associated with each mailpiece. The data will let the Postal Service associate UAA mail with the sender and provide opportunities to craft entirely new solutions to ensure address standards are met.

How does UAA mail affect your operations? What other ways could the Postal Service and industry reduce UAA mail? How do you price the lost opportunity of undeliverable mail?

Comments (139)

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  • anon

    I live in a small community of about 900 residents. I have a P.O. Box at the Post Office. If anyone sends me a piece of mail with my street address the Post Office returns the mail as undeliverable. A few years ago we had the same problem but I found the phone number of a supervisor and complained about it and he said (and told the Post Master if you know where the mail goes deliver it. Since that time the leadership has changed ( and the supervisor made it known not to give out his number LOL) and we are back to returning mail. It seems as though the leadership hide behind regulations that make no sense as some kind of ego thing. If the address is undeliverable because of a machine reading the address so be it but for a long time they wrote inform the sender of your P.O. Box and I did. Informing someone of my P.O. Box may help but it doesn't mean that people will write the P.O. Box on the address. The fact that they wrote that message on the envelopes pretty much proves they could deliver the mail but choose not to. The US Postal Service should research what service means! Thank you

    Sep 22, 2017
  • anon

    A friend sent me a letter from Germany with my correct address and my correct first name, but she accidentally put in an incorrect last name. Will the letter arrive at my house?

    Sep 13, 2017
  • anon

    The most frustrating part is that they can still track the package. That means they can easily use the tracking number to get the address, but instead they'd rather just send it back and waste everyone's time and money. One interesting observation, it happens mostly in bad weather (delivery driver decides they'd rather send it back than walk to your door in the rain), or when sent by another carrier like fedex and transferred to USPS for the final leg/actual delivery; that way they can directly hurt their competition by making them mail it round trip for free.

    Aug 29, 2017
  • anon

    I checked the status of my shipment yesterday because it was supposed to be delivered to me August 26, 2017 and it said it was returned to the sender. I paid $65 for this bag and it was not delivered to me and I wasn't given any valid reason for this. My address that was put in to be delivered at is complete and valid I dont understand why I havent gotten my package. My package arrived to the city I live in, Jackson Heights, and then it said that it couldn't be delivered so it was sent back. If it made it all the way to the address that I typed in at the checkout, that I use for every single other online purchase I've ever made, I really don't understand why I haven't gotten my package. I am incredibly dissatisfied with this USPS experience because all the years I've shopped online I've never dealt with a situation similar to this. The package I was expecting to receive was a book bag for school which will begin shortly and I am expecting my item to be shipped again and actually delivered to me before school begins. I really cannot understand why this has happened this is ridiculous.

    Aug 27, 2017
  • anon

    Hello Learta , 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.

    Aug 28, 2017
  • anon

    The post office does not deliver to our vacation home in Breckenridge Colorado. We cannot get a PO Box because we do not live here. Amazon keeps using the USPS for delivery to our home. Of course, we never received it as it is returned UAA. Most folks don't realize that USPS does not deliver to all addresses. We do get packages sent via FedEx and UPS. The post office should start delivering packages to validate dresses. The this day, it is crazy to not deliver to places that competitors do.

    Aug 21, 2017
  • anon

    i shipped package from Albany Or. To Texas, I kept eye on tracked package seen it made it to the city in Texas, than it showed return to sender, naa. I got package back yesterday, it's the correct verified address, I'm so confused, but more importantly I paid 26.00 to ship, an I going to have to pay agsin, I have original receipt and proff the address on package is indeed a true and verified shipping address, if I have to pay again I will be basically giving the item away for free, I am not a business I am selling my mother in laws belongings to help compensate her income for cost for assisted living, she is on limited income, I had to use my own money to ship items because ebay/PayPal hold funds for up to 3 weeks, now because of this issue with package not being delivered buyer contacted ebay and they put a hold on money period, if I have to pay to ship again that will be an additional 26.00 out of my pocket , please help, thank you tracey mcreynolds

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    i shipped package from Albany Or. To Texas, I kept eye on tracked package seen it made it to the city in Texas, than it showed return to sender, naa. I got package back yesterday, it's the correct verified address, I'm so confused, but more importantly I paid 26.00 to ship, an I going to have to pay agsin, I have original receipt and proff the address on package is indeed a true and verified shipping address, if I have to pay again I will be basically giving the item away for free, I am not a business I am selling my mother in laws belongings to help compensate her income for cost for assisted living, she is on limited income, I had to use my own money to ship items because ebay/PayPal hold funds for up to 3 weeks, now because of this issue with package not being delivered buyer contacted ebay and they put a hold on money period, if I have to pay to ship again that will be an additional 26.00 out of my pocket , please help, thank you tracey mcreynolds

    Aug 16, 2017
  • anon

    Thanks for posting this. I learned about this in class.

    Aug 01, 2017
  • anon

    Maybe if my mail carrier spoke or read English better it would get delivered properly?

    Jul 28, 2017
  • anon

    So I just realized.. it's always the USPS that gets my package undeliverable. While when I order thru FedEx, UPS or DHL. It's all fine. They have it delivered properly. How do they find the way while USPS can't? I think usps should stop delivering packages once and for all and let other couriers take over who can do better jobs finding there way. They can't even sort out mail properly and put proper mails with proper names.. how do you even trust them with you're packages being delivered. And when it's undelivered and something goes wrong they send it right away back to sender. Can you not wait and put the mail or package for hold even for 2 days at least. They don't even deserve any raise.

    Jul 27, 2017
  • anon

    I don't understand how a package or a letter cannot be delivered properly. Hello? This is a new century. We are not living in Asia where you cannot find you're way. How do you not find a way to get something delivered?? I had this and having one problem right now. "Package undeliverable" this is USA come on.!! Get you're self together. Maybe mail man is not trying hard enough to find you're address.

    Jul 27, 2017
  • anon

    My package was not delivered what should I do? Should I go to the post office and claim it?

    Jul 27, 2017
  • anon

    Hello. I checked the status of my package and it said it was "undeliverable as addressed" I checked the mailing information on my ebay page thinking maybe the wrong address was listed, but all of my shipping information is correct, and that now my order is/was in San Fransisco and on it's way to it's destination. Which I have no idea where that is at. What do I need to do to get it back? Thanks for your time

    Jul 14, 2017
  • anon

    I was supposed to receive a package yesterday but when I tracked my package it said "Alert, address illegible or incorrect and when I doubled checked the address it was all correct. I never had this problem occur to me I've had item send to this address multiple times with ups and had no trouble but why is this happening and where could I go to recover my package or a possible redelivery ?

    Jul 14, 2017
  • anon

    I have an ebay business and shipped a package (at my cost) to my buyer. Subsequently the buyer notified me that the address was an old one. The package was returned to me as undeliverable. Question, will I have to pay another shipping cost, or can I correct the address and put it back in the mail. I think I know the answer, but thought I would ask. Thank you.

    Jul 12, 2017
  • anon

    We have the solution to UAA costs.

    Jul 01, 2017
  • anon

    I have same problem. I am buyer on eBay. 10 pkg in less than a week were returned to shipper as " no deliverable address". Mail too. Ive lived here over15 yrs. New carrier past couple months. I put in about 6 complaints at all levels. Today I came home to a pkg with a note on it :Marcia Sills has no forwarding address in system Provide it or it will get returned to sender . " WHAT did I die did I move. Why? How do I get Usps to cover shipping on the 10 pkg they already sent back to sender? OMG Thanks

    Aug 22, 2017
  • anon

    I would like to know how a signature confirmation letter sent to the front office of an apartment complex with the correct address listed on their website and even listed when I lived there, but yet they can't deliver it. I mean what is up with the carriers in Austin, Tx they have some of the worst issues I have ever dealt with there. My packages when I have lived there has ALWAYS been an issue. I sincerely don't understand it. I should have used ups or fed ex with signature confirmation. I just don't get why there is so many issues with this area. It's just flat out horrible. Now when I called customer care and WAITED OVER AN HOUR AND A HALF all they can do is tell me they can just put in a case number for it, well that doesn't help when it is going to COST ME MONEY. I remember even trying to call any post office in that area and NO ONE would even answer the phone, they would just let it ring and ring and ring and this is at all hours of the day, no one will answer any phone there. How is this good customer service?

    Jun 21, 2017
  • anon

    The house we just moved into has been receiving mail since 1928. Now that my 87 year old mom & I moved in, we cannot receive mail or the many packages that are being sent to us. Why? They said we must move our mailbox across the street, even though the first 6 houses before us have their mailboxes on their property. So we are supposed to cut the post out of the concrete and install it across the street. They won't deliver to us at all, and said they will return all our mail & packages in 10 days if we don't do this. This is in Ada, Oklahoma. The supervisor just keeps repeating herself, and I just don't understand. After getting off the phone with the supervisor, I saw our carrier go flying by our house. I'm dumbfounded by this new law.

    Jun 14, 2017
  • anon

    hello my package was tracked as unadressable because they had 5664 instead of 5564 , how do i get my package?

    Jun 13, 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 on the USPS website.

    Jun 14, 2017
  • anon

    Good afternoon. This has increased A lot with our company. I call the customer and its a good address. This is costing the company a lot of money. Can you tell me all the reasons for non deliverable sticker to be put on an envelope but its a good address. I read that if a customer moves and doesn't do it on line this may be why. Is this correct? Thanks for your time

    Jun 09, 2017
  • anon

    I am supposed to get my package today but it says it is undeliverable even though all of the information is correct.

    Jun 05, 2017
  • anon

    I was checking my tracking and it said undeliverable as addressed but the thing is that i have put the correct address so what should i do?

    Jun 02, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Angie, 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.

    Jun 05, 2017
  • anon

    Ib ordered things online about a month ago, was due 5/11. Says it's undeliverable but never even left original shipping state pennsylvania. I'm in Illinois. How can i get my package!?

    May 31, 2017
  • anon

    A birthday card was mailed to me from Cincinnati OH on 04/07/2017 and I received it as RTS, no such address on 05/27/2017.

    May 28, 2017
  • anon

    I was expecting a package today. Unfortunately it was addressed to my old home. However, we did notify USPS and requested a month ago to forward all of our correspondence to the new address. It has happened so far but apparently not with tis package. The tracking says "Undeliverable as addressed" and that is being "returned if proper information is available" Why is it being returned and not forwarded to my new address? Thanks in advance.

    May 26, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Maria, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, 800-275-8777, or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS OIG

    May 26, 2017
  • anon

    i was supposed to get a package on Tuesday may 23 and i check my tracking and it said it was Undeliverable, i get packages all the time this is the first time something like this happens to me and i got one Monday may 22 just fine coming from the same company and same type of shipping, i m really confuse, know it said is going back to sender.

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    Jennifer, This is happening to our company more and more with no reason. Have they told you something that makes sense. Our local post office even called the carrier where an undelivered pkg came back from and the carrier stated "I never returned that I don't know why it was sent back" So not sure if carriers are getting lazy! or they are getting Sorted wrong at the post office cause the process of mailing a letter has never changed since I was born in 1975. If you know of a new way people are to address an envelope please advise. Have a great weekend

    Jun 09, 2017
  • anon

    Hi Jennifer, Thank you for your message. The OIG is an independent agency of the Postal Service which investigates internal fraud, waste, and abuse; and day-to-day mail delivery issues are outside of our jurisdiction. If you have not already done so, please try contacting your local Post Office. If you have already done that, try contacting USPS Customer Service, (800-275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service. Very Respectfully, The USPS OIG

    May 25, 2017
  • anon

    Expected a package and tracked it and it said package undeliverable i don't understand why how can i get my package

    May 15, 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, (1 (800) 275-8777), or file an online complaint with Customer Service at the USPS website.

    May 16, 2017
  • anon

    instead of just telling people to call, you should be putting an effort to actually answer questions. or else you're just wasting everyone's time, including your own. you probably wouldn't have hour wait times if people could just get the answers they need online instead of 5 paragraphs avoiding the question. Update your website and get with the times. people need your help, not this. you should be focusing on your reliability to your customers. this is why people go to UPS instead, they're faster, more reliable and actually able to answer people's questions without sending them for a loop with unnecessary information. we don't care about surveys or experiments. we want answers. help your people, for god's sake.

    Jul 05, 2017
  • anon

    Good article but what do I DO once my carrier has decided the mail is not addressed properly (yes, it got so far as to be loaded in his mail to deliver) and returns it to the sender? The sender is in Russia and the article is an envelope with a scarf in it. Is it possible to go to the US post office in Albany, GA and see if they can help me? I never did get an answer when I called there Friday despite letting it ring close to 100 times. I don't think it is right for the post office to have to return a piece of international mail rather than actually reading the label, seeing it is addressed to me and depositing it in my post box out front of our house. I am personally hoping that the carrier will deliver the scarf to my house and I will not have to get someone who can take me and my wheelchair to the post office, help me from the car or truck into my wheelchair, help me get up the ramp into the post office, etc. Please let me know if there is ANY way I can get my mail without having to go through a huge production just to get me wheeled there.

    May 07, 2017
  • anon

    This is the second time I have had a delivery problem since moving to my new address. today I received the dreaded UAA on my tracking notifications. It was scanned and out for delivery 6 hours ago then all of the sudden it was UAA 4 hours later?? How could it be scanned and out for delivery if it was undeliverable as addressed? I'll tell you how, my lazy postman doesn't want to walk across the street to knock on a door and spend and extra 2 minutes on the job. The Piedmont Post office is FULL OF WASTE AND ABUSE and I am sick of it. I waited all day for this package to be delivered and must have been in the bathroom when the postman came by because if I had seen him I would have walked out to the truck. The shipper confirmed they correctly addressed the package so now I am either going to have to wait until Monday or it is going to be returned. This is outrageous! I am sick to death of the USPS. I will ship UPS or Fedex from now on. Seriously guys...great job!

    Apr 01, 2017
  • anon

    Some responses in my search for the answer to this question imply that weather and incomplete addressing, are causes, which are understandable. Many responses state that carriers don't know the area for the delivery, or don't feel like it. USPS needs to figure out a solution if FedEx and UPS can figure it out

    Mar 18, 2017
  • anon

    In my experience we do have high rate of UAA returns but not for any of the reasons cited above. Our returns are not due to "address is incorrect, incomplete, or illegible". UAAs seem to be a random event. We see a constant 1%-2% of first class letters return with a yellow label showing "not deliverable as addressed". When the item is reshipped with the same address it makes it to its destination 95% of the time. We pull addresses from our system print them on the envelope with a printer so we know that a.) they are legible and b.) the addresses are consistent yet the delivery inexplicably fails the first time. These returns cost us time and money well beyond just the second stamp that we must pay for. In the end customers are unhappy and we lose current business plus future business due to negative feedback. Are there incentives in the USPS system that drive returns as a means of inflating delivery performance metrics? These particular UAAs are fully within the control of the USPS and are an opportunity to reduce cost. I would suggest that the Postal Service perform an investigation to fully understand why, where, and how these failures occur and begin implementing process improvements to close the gaps.

    Feb 21, 2017
  • anon

    We have a much higher rate of return for UAAs. We put "Return Service Requested" on our envelopes, so we have to pay for each piece that comes back. Obviously we have often checked some of these addresses and found them to be perfectly fine. So, why are they being returned and not delivered? Never got a satisfactory answer from any postal official, except, once when we spoke to a customer relations man, he said that, if they ran those envelopes through again, that most of them would probably be OK'd. So, what's up with that? Having to pay for envelopes that are returned when they shouldn't have been, due to USPS causes, is not good for business for sure.

    Mar 13, 2017
  • anon

    My package says uaa because the apt number was not put on it,my question is can I go to the post office to retrieve it?

    Feb 21, 2017
  • anon

    Building receptionists must be made financially liable for mail or packages which they receive and fail to notify addressee. A nominal fine based on the days the item is delayed may be useful. Notification should be in writing and delivered to the addressee by the receptionist.

    Jan 27, 2017
  • anon

    USPS does a great service for us. But there is always room for improvement. I feel that the USPS could alleviate some of this issue by doing what Apple had to do when their maps application was rolled out. Allow users to submit changes to incorrect addresses (pending review of an official postal worker, of course). Also, allow for an address to exist in the database, even if the USPS does not deliver to that address. In my case, lots of mail gets returned because vendors search the database and then decide I put my address in incorrectly, then they send it to the zip code they think is correct. It then has to get returned. Please, USPS, rather than projecting the costs that we pay for undelivered mail, try and fix the problem as it seems that a majority of these are due to incorrectly addressed packages or incorrectly addressed addresses. I would love to add my address to the USPS system even though my mail stops at my post office. Thank you!

    Jan 26, 2017
  • anon

    How about a package with a tracking number that goes from Maryland to Illinois. Tracking shows it was delivered to front door/porch at 1404pm, next scan at 1405pm says Undeliverable as Addressed . Really , then how did it get scanned as delivered, can someone explain this?

    Jan 17, 2017
  • anon

    Hey John. I have been having the same issue since January of 2017. Been receiving mail fine for 10 years before that. Haven't received any mail since January 1st. After putting my house number in large letters and on the mailbox I decided to send mail with tracking number which shows it routing from the sorting center to the local post office and then out for delivery. On the the last leg it shows Undeliverable as Addressed. I requested a redelivery so we'll see how that goes. I even tested sending mail from Fedex and UPS and they made it through just fine. I called the mail carrier number the local post office gave me a month ago and they said there were no issues with my address. Just over two months now and missing my gas, electric, county tax, insurance and mortgage mail which they confirmed as returned mail I am at wits end as most use USPS and will not deliver through UPS or FEDEX. Did you get your issues resolved?

    Mar 14, 2017
  • anon

    Poor service they could have left it in da office

    Jan 15, 2017
  • anon

    Whant to change the address

    Jan 05, 2017
  • anon

    I, too, am having an issue with a package but I'm not here to rage. USPS could be improved upon, certainly, but ya'll are doing your very best and I appreciate what you do. Be kind, people, no one is perfect and mistakes happen. Everyone posting their grievances here today waited til the last minute to send a holiday package and that's the cold, hard truth. Be kind to your postal workers (front of house, back of house, and on their routes).

    Dec 27, 2016
  • anon

    On-line sources confirm an address is correct and I've stayed at the address and spent letters there yet the post office says it's incorrect and my package is being returned to me for an insufficient address. Do some addresses work only for letters But use a separate drop for packages?

    Dec 24, 2016

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