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 (158)

  • 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
  • anon

    My address is the same, hasn't changed. Now, for some unknown reason the mailperson is marking my mail as undeliverable! I have contacted usps, all they can say is they need to talk to mail person! At what point do they take action and insure that I receive my mail! At least two places I know had the correct address on file! My checks are not being delivered, and there are many missing items, I have no idea where it is!

    Dec 13, 2016
  • anon

    I have had this happen twice in as many weeks and the correct address was on each package. Been here 3 years and get packages fairly often. The dullards that work for USPS need to learn how to perform their jobs. Perhaps rudimentary reading classes?

    Dec 11, 2016
  • anon

    How can we correct addresses online for issues with packages not delivered due to incorrect address??

    Dec 07, 2016
  • anon

    I realized my mail for the past month has been tagged as UAA, and sent back. I realized this when I ordered something online, and when it didn't arrive, I tracked it online, and saw that it was tagged as UAA. I made an online request to have it resent. The next day I waited for the delivery person, but the package was not there. I asked them why and they said my name was crossed off from the delivery box. But I don't think the problem was just with the name inside the mailbox, because the package was not even in the delivery person's truck, so it must be blocked somewhere in the post office. I filed a report on USPS website about the problem, and I still have not heard back from them regarding why my address is tagged as UAA. And my package is still in limbo somewhere, marked as UAA in the USPS website. I went over to the USPS office to get some help, but they were very busy, and after 1.5 hours waiting, someone took my name and address and said they would look into it. In the meantime, all my important mail or packages are being turned back. Can you please advise what I can do to expedite a solution?

    Dec 04, 2016
  • anon

    Estoy muy insatisfecha con el servicio de USPS la direccion que di para un envio por ebay es correcta y ustedes ponen undeliverable as addressed que esta pasando

    Nov 23, 2016
  • anon

    If the Post Office will ever respond to my proposals, our company can eliminate 90% of these costs.

    Nov 18, 2016
  • anon

    I'm upset because I ordered something that was extremely expensive and the mail man knew our names and returned our package to sender because of an error, but knew where it should have been going. Now I am having trouble reaching the company that mailed my package and am so upset that this gift will not make it to the person it was intended for. Not only that, but the company policy states that I would have to pay for the return. That is insane since I want what was in the package. So inorder to get the package I am going to have to pay for shipping three times!!!!! I am extremely angry and upset. The item was about $50.00 and I will pay that in shipping. I could have gone to a store and purchased it for less than that!!!!!

    Nov 05, 2016
  • anon

    Today I received a Halloween card back that I had sent to a friend. The card was addressed properly but it was returned to me with a yellow sticker that stated Undeliverable As Addressed Unable To Forward. The friend has lived in this home her entire life and I've sent hundreds of cards and letters over the years. Monday, I will go to our local post office with the letter to ask why this happened. Perhaps a faulty reader/scanner? In any event, not my fault for sure.

    Nov 04, 2016
  • anon

    This is the truth - I had a package not delivered, that "showed" it to be delivered to my home. I know when I am supposed to receive them, so I watch for them. It didn't so I went down to the PO and asked to speak with a sup, which I did, when I asked where my package was, they said it was delivered, when I told them it was not, I was called a liar. Next- never had one problem until we got a "new" postman. Then everything went to ****. He drove his truck over our 200 yr old brick walkway, cracking it, I complained, they asked me if I expected my mailman to get out of the truck to walk to the mailbox ( 3 ft) away? I said of course, they said; look at him! he was (overweight) he can't do it. ? He played all kinds of games to 'not' deliver our mail, I always ask who I deal with to use someone else! Once I was sitting in my chair watching him when he did not deliver some mail I had to sign for, he did not get out, come to our door, leave a notice, nothing...just left. I sat there not believing what I was seeing. I also complained to higher ups and nothing. This was medication I rely on to live! This guy should be fired he is so incompetent, the super at the post office should follow him. There are good and there are bad apples everywhere, but some how I think the USPO collects most of the bad ones to them!

    Oct 26, 2016
  • anon

    The address field is difficult to match when I search the database for duplicates. There are so many permutations and errors that make it nearly useless. Imagine if E911 had this issue. Here is my question: What percent of mail addresses are not deliverable? Because if you can't figure it out, how can I?

    Oct 14, 2016
  • anon

    I've had two UAA's sent to me in the last two weeks. Both were from eBay sellers who use Pitney Bowes. My address on the receipt is correct, but the address on the printed mailing label is an incorrect address that doesn't even exist in this city. My name and the 9-digit zip code (and USPS carrier route) are correct. In one case my letter carrier noticed, and still delivered the package OK. In the other, I had to make two trips to the local post office to get the package because that day I had a substitute carrier delivering the mail on our route. Somehow the Pitney Bowes computer looks up the wrong (and bogus) address and prints the label, w/o allowing the sender to edit the address. This is a new problem.

    Sep 29, 2016
  • anon

    What are the laws in regards to a rural carrier continually making X's on the outside of the mail box? Why is this rural carrier intentionally making huge X's on this mail box? Would this fall under tampering with a mailbox?

    Sep 21, 2016
  • anon

    I just had one of these while tracking ny package today. I live in Jacksonville Florida and the package came from Seattle. The company I ordered from didn't put the apartment number on the package so they didn't deliver it, luckily however I went to the post office and the post master called my mailman and gave him the apartment number. As I was unlocking my door the mailman pulled up and brought me my package. Was gonna be angry but they solved it as soon as they could.

    Sep 21, 2016
  • anon

    I don't even want to waste energy to say how stupid the usps was. I have 7 packages and only the small one was delivered in my mail box. All the others are returning to the sender!!!!!!

    Sep 16, 2016
  • anon

    I placed a few orders in the last couple weeks. The orders were broken into a dozen parcels. So far all of them have made it to me except the 3 that got shipped by USPS. I have lived here for 2 years. UPS and FedEx have no problem delivering my packages. USPS forgot how to find my house. I didn't even get notified. Once I realized some were missing I had to track them all down, and discovered the missing ones were all USPS, UAA. I called USPS and the agent was very friendly and competent, but was unable to tell me where my packages are or how to get them. Their best solution was to attempt to forward them to me, with no specific delivery date. So far nothing. I'm due to call back in a couple of days. Not too happy with the situation.

    Sep 10, 2016
  • anon

    I sent a package to my sister priority mail 2 day. The rate was $50. When it didn't arrive when it should have I tracked it. It arrived at the post office near her a couple days before I tracked it at 7am, at 8am notice left (no secure location available), 1pm insufficient address. 5 days later it was back in my post office. What does notice left mean? What does insufficient address mean? She recieved no notice as her post office sent the package back day. Also the address was correct, I used usps zip look to confirm when I began tracking. She's lived there over 1 year, she's being receiving her mail and packages at that address all the while. Somebody screwed up. I believe I'm due a refund of the cost of postage.

    Aug 25, 2016
  • anon

    Did u get a refund

    Oct 04, 2016
  • anon

    Was a victim of uaa today. I know something is fishy because a package from a company I have received consistently over the last few months was marked this as UAA. I order online on a regular basis and usually our mail carrier will leave the packages. Noticed that in my building not one package was delivered today. This is so frustrating.

    Aug 20, 2016
  • anon

    "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." This is garbage. Within the last two months, I've had certain flat letters addressed to me at work, with the proper legal address, rejected and sent back as UAA. Of course you don't notice this unless it's something that's regularly delivered and it stops showing up as scheduled. Then, if you're lucky, you have a tracking number and you discover that it's been rejected as "UAA." And the best part is there is no way to remedy this with the USPS, they could really care less about your service. I feel deceived as I had been a loyal USPS customer and defender until recently. Now I will go above and beyond to NOT use the USPS unless it involves simple first class mail.

    Aug 17, 2016
  • anon

    I've had two packages returned UAA this week, and it's only Tuesday! Both addresses were verified on the website. Judging from the lack of replies from the "Inspector General" to any/all the comments, I'm going to assume that this issues is not being dealt with. Very very frustrating. Here's a discovery I made last week, I sent a package via 2 Day Fedex Ground within the same State, with a return label for the client. for less than it would have cost to send Priority USPS mail. The outgoing package took 2 days, the return package took one day. I'll be using Fedex ground in-state from now on for my "Priority Mail" packages.

    Aug 16, 2016
  • anon

    I often receive this notice if a sunday delivery is attempted, as there is a keyed lock on my building (part of a university campus) which only the regular mail delivery person has access to. While the address is correct on the parcels and several other packages manage to be delivered under the same address, the off hours delivery driver in Middletown, CT tends to send packages back rather than leaving a re-delivery slip at my address.

    Jul 17, 2016
  • anon

    A postal employee told me that this is in response to individual mail carriers choosing "The most suitable checkbox" on their computer screen to explain the non-delivery. It's not the RIGHT checkbox, but it's the best choice for some combination of reasons. The postal employee told me that there have been USPS internal meetings about this problem. I suspect that one reason "undeliverable" it's selected is because the office or mail carrier is trying to avoid scrutiny, or to maximize their "Key Performance Indicators". If the letter carrier/post office says they *couldn't* make a delivery perhaps it reflects poorly on their statistics, whereas If they say it was undeliverable as addressed, it does not. USPS managers rejoice as their "KPI" statistics improve. Meanwhile customers and customer service agents around the country are dicking around trying to fix addresses that are perfectly suitable. This is another example of how data-driven results have the unintended consequence of 'simply' shifting costs to a different corner of the business--specifically one that isn't, or can't be accurately measured.

    Aug 02, 2016
  • anon

    Couldn't agree more

    Aug 05, 2016
  • anon

    I accidentally put my wrong address. How do I fix this?

    Jul 08, 2016
  • anon

    This has happened more times than I care to think about and it always happens with Priority or 3-Day Priority Mail. I live in Bisbee, AZ zip 85603 and my important Priority packages have gone to Benson, AZ 85602. The packages always come from Tucson, AZ and they get misdirected to Benson instead of Bisbee. Then the package has to go back to Tucson and get rerouted back to Bisbee. It has only happened with Priority mail. The zip code on the mail going to Bisbee is correct as is the address. It is sloppy, uncaring Postal Workers in Tucson, AZ who carelessly send the packages to the wrong City. I have never had this happen with any packages just the Priority (and those packages are always valuable items).

    Jun 09, 2016
  • anon

    I received on of these undeliverables messages on 6/2...date now is 6/7 I called USPS and was informed that it wasn't delivered due to the fact there was no apartment # listed....but there was a suite # listed where it should have been delivered....I looked up the address on google maps and it's a strip mall and i could see the suite "F" where it should have been delivered just looking at google maps....seems the post man was too lazy or ignorant to do his/ her job...being sent back to me who knows when due to the fact the local office nor corporate couldn't give me any additional tracking information....please USPS at least try to do your job or hire people that can...i work in transportation and this is such a fail on so many levels it's embarrassing.

    Jun 07, 2016
  • anon

    My package is lost in the system. I mailed this package on April 18, almost a month ago. The address I was given by an ebay customer was incorrect (and a scam). Now my package is just looping in between memphis and minnesota, going back and forth over and over again. I can't get anyone on the phone, naturally.... I'd imagine this costs the usps money, to keep it in transit like this. I'd really like my package back. There is a return address on the label.

    May 12, 2016
  • anon

    Call 1800 ask usps with your tracking number

    May 24, 2016
  • anon

    This happens often in my town we live in a rural area and at the end of are address we put the Po box # to get shipments.. Works about eighty percent of the time. Today the lady tells me that they are slammed w/only two people come back in a few hrs.. Come back OO it's still not ready .. Check online status package is undeliverable go back tell lady what's happening o0 ya that's the post masters call ??? Assuming it's the guy who drives the truck ?? Ok sooo can I have my package show her online address is correct and just received two packages yesterday .. We are still bussy will not get to it Untell tomorrow ????? How is that ok all packages when not touched by these people make it to my doorstep when they are involved it only makes it to the post office 80percent of the time it's infuriating.. We have already talked to the postmaster general person w/no fix ??? At a loss here

    May 04, 2016
  • anon

    I ordered some Rimix by rico hair products. I have waited for at least five days for the order to come to my apartment but i never seen the delivery man or gotten a pink slip. Then i tracked it again and it said it returned to sender becuase of they couldn't find the address. So I checked my address; the address was correct. I dont understand why it was wrong this time. They never had any trouble before finding it.

    Mar 31, 2016
  • anon

    I just had this happen to a package I ordered from Taiwan. I was in the shower, heard my dogs barking -- no doubt at the mail carrier -- and checked when I was done. No package. No slip. But the tracking info suddenly shows "undeliverable as addressed." And they're going to send the package from St. Louis back to freaking TAIWAN because I was *in the shower*.

    Mar 26, 2016

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