Have you ever tracked a piece of mail and noticed it seems to be taking a not-so-direct journey? This sometimes happens when the Postal Service mistakenly sends mail to the wrong facility. But why does this happen, and how often?

We sought to answer those questions in a recent audit report. Mail can get misrouted for several reasons. For example, postal employees may forget to remove old routing labels from reusable trays and bags. Or mail bins fill up at sorting machines, and the overflow can obstruct the mail chute, pushing incoming mail pieces into bins for other destinations.

The Postal Service, it turns out, does a pretty good job of routing the mail, especially considering the challenges brought on by the pandemic. Less than 0.2 percent of First-Class Mail letters were misrouted. We did, however, identify a few best practices the Postal Service could implement nationwide. These include managers communicating with each other when mail is misrouted to the wrong facility and adding extra containers next to high-volume ZIP Code bins so employees can easily replace the full bins.

These and other measures should help keep mail on the most direct route from sender to receiver.

Comments (302)

  • anon

    I have two packages that arrived at the Baltimore Distribution Center over the weekend that I was expecting to receive today. I looked at tracking and both have been sent to post offices in Western Maryland and I live only a few miles from the Baltimore Distribution Center. One went to Oakland, MD, the other to Grantsville, MD. The status on one of them says MISSENT. :(

    Mar 07, 2022
  • anon

    Currently have a package on the way from Oregon to Alabama. It left Oregon and has now been in Guam for 3 days. Tracking hasn’t updated but it says it should arrive today.

    Mar 04, 2022
  • anon

    Seems as though a pretty simple fix and hopefully implemented soon. I have constant continual problems with my mail and times where it has been resent to me by sender because not having been received and I still yet never received the mail. Countless and continual issues including the issue addressed in this original post.

    Mar 02, 2022
  • anon

    Seems to be frequently that I have a package get to my regional facility, which is in my town, and then it gets sent elsewhere instead of being delivered, this has happened on several occasions...too many to be considered a fluke or coincidence. I'm not sure why it happens but it has to considered sloppy or just hiring people ill-suited to do work that requires precision or specificity. It would seem to me that with all the dollars shoveled into the USPS we could manage to round up a few people who could actually do a reasonable job instead of what we have now, which is completely slipshod. I'm glad I've managed to screen capture the tracking detail so when I finally get a return call from USPS I can complain about why my package got rerouted 200 miles away from me after it finally got to my town and hence probably another 3 days until it gets back here again. I'm not impressed with the usps...to say the least.

    Feb 26, 2022
  • anon

    Not having any luck with usps in my area of north Carolina. Several packages this year including one that's supposed to be delivered today have been missent to out of area post offices where they sit for days and make their way to the charlotte facility where they sit for days. If I messed up this much at work I would be fired.

    Feb 26, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package due to arrive from Texas to West Virginia. I received a tracking number with a delivery date. The package didn't even leave Texas until the day it was supposed to be delivered to me. Three days later, tracking says it's in Charleston, WV at the distribution center, roughly three hours from me. The next morning, it's in North Carolina for some reason, where it's been for the last three days. It's not even a weekend. This has been through the week. Good thing it's not medication or something of the sort. I can understand letters getting stuck together and misrouted, but with packages, that's not really a valid excuse.

    Feb 25, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package going from New Jersey to Arkansas that was supposed to come in last week and made it to the state sorting and distribution center only to likewise leave and go all the way to North Carolina for whatever reason, which has never happened before.

    Feb 28, 2022
  • anon

    I live in a suburb of Salt Lake City, UT. My package arrived to the SLC facility on February 19th but instead of being delivered to me it went on to Sacramento and now San Francisco, CA!

    Feb 24, 2022
  • anon

    I dropped off a small package yesterday at my local PO with a destination of 20 miles west of me in Columbus OH. I got a notification that it arrived at the Pittsburgh dist. center this morning. That's 190 miles in the wrong direction. Expected delivery is tomorrow. I DON'T THINK SO!! Why do they keep sending stuff off in the wrong direction? This happened last year when a NJ co. sent me something. It went to Columbus dist. center then got sent to Key West FL for 3 days!!! That was 2 day overnight shipment as well.

    Feb 23, 2022
  • anon

    I currently have a package cycling between Jacksonville and Jersey City. It was mailed in the 3rd week of January from Ohio and has spent a month in this strange limbo. Today, according to tracking, it arrived at Jersey City, left it, then arrived at it again, all within the space of a couple of hours.

    Feb 22, 2022
  • anon

    I sent a package on Feb 11 from Dover, Delaware to the United Kingdom. As of Feb 21st the package is in New Orleans, LA

    Feb 22, 2022
  • anon

    My package was shipped on Friday 18th. Since that day I keep receiving notifications that the package is moving between the same locations. It departed the Washington DC network distribution center on the 19th but on the 21st I get another notification that it just arrived there AGAIN. I have an upcoming trip in 2days and that mail contains my passport!!!

    Feb 22, 2022
  • anon

    I have a subscription to Ipsy. So 1 box was shipped from Greenwood, IN on 2/9, arrived in Atlanta on 2/10, left Atlanta 2/17, so SEVEN DAYS LATER, and arrived back in Greenwood, IN on 2/22! Tracking says I will have it March 3rd. Mind you I purchase these subscriptions on the 1st of every month. The 2nd one ORIGINATES FROM NORTH CAROLINA WHERE I LIVE. So it was sent from Harrisburg, NC to the local facility there, sat there for over a week, and then was shipped to Marbleton, GA!!! I live in Cary, NC but my mail, and this has never happened before with this subscription, originating 2 hours down the road is being sent to me thru GA now? Normally it comes straight to Raleigh and then to my post office. All other packages I have in transit from other companies appear to be on a normal journey except these 2. I do not get it.

    Feb 21, 2022
  • anon

    They literally had my package at my post office and the next day it was tracked in Seattle. I am outside of Pittsburgh PA. This has happened on several packages, but this is the biggest screw up so far.

    Feb 21, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package mailed to me in NJ from NV. It was supose to be here Sat., the 19th. Instead, it showed it was in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Now who knows if I’ll ever get it. The people in the USPS, like all gov employees, are incompetant.

    Feb 20, 2022
  • anon

    I ordered an Item from Amazon sold by a seller in SC - it never arrived and the USPS inquiry I submitted revealed it was lost. I then found the same item from Walmart sold by the same Amazon seller in SC. it was moving along arriving in Columbia SC on it's way to me in NJ. Next movement was to Miami Florida????? WTF!!! How could this happen - this is insane and someone is incompetent. USPS usually does a very good job but this is the 2nd time on the same item from the same seller at the same SC address!!!!!!

    Feb 19, 2022
  • anon

    I watched a package go from NJ, its origin, down to Hapeville, Atlanta, which is ten minutes from my home in about two days. It then stopped showing updates on movement where it presumably sat for 36 hours?? This morning I see its history has been updated to show the package has travelled back to NJ. All the while saying it’s arriving “today”. Should have sprung for the Amazon prime shipping

    Feb 19, 2022
  • anon

    Ive been waiting since 2/2/22 for my package. It started in OK, then went to TX and sat forever then started to move and arrived in MN, then went to IA, and now to IL. I'm in Wisconsin and just seems like its fraud or what in the world type of route is this????

    Feb 18, 2022
  • anon

    My vendor sent Priority Mail - 2 day from Tampa, Fl to Drummonds, TN. Instead USPS routed the box to Chicago, IL which is 8 hours from Memphis, TN. I needed this package to be delivered by the 18th as promised. Now my product won't get here in time. Thanks USPS for nothing.

    Feb 17, 2022
  • anon

    I sent a package from NYC zip code 10025 to NYC zip code 11231 and tracking shows it to be in Carolina, Puerto Rico!!!

    Feb 17, 2022
  • anon

    Did you get a reason why your package is in P.R. Mine is there too and I’m in Queens NYC - it was due today February 18 but that’s impossible now.

    Feb 18, 2022
  • anon

    Don't feel bad about these non-acceptable delivery situations. I live in Puerto Rico and ordered merchandise from Florida. The delivery route for the package was to New York and then back to Florida, then to the distribution center in Memphis and finally to Puerto Rico. No wonder postal rates keep going up, including their box services. I think the government should contract private companies like Fedex and others to do the delivery service and get rid of the non-functional Postal Service, since it's not providing the quality service it used to in the past.

    Feb 23, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package valued at $269 plus the $26 for express shipping moving through the system perfectly, until it reached Jamaica, NY International Distribution Center on February 14th at 9:03PM . The package was coming from Brooklyn, NY to Tennessee. It was supposed to be delivered yesterday, February 16th by 6:00 PM. I have had no tracking updates since the 14th, and there is no way to get ahold of this distribution center to locate it. There is no reason my package should have to go through customs considering it is not leaving the U.S.

    Feb 17, 2022
  • anon

    Good luck! I've had a few packages get "lost", "sent 1,000 miles further away from where it's supposed to go ", or just takes DAY, IF NOT WEEKS TO MOVE. That's also the facility who decided to charge me $35 on a package that was marked 14lbs and weighed 14lbs and .5oz. Customer also contacted me and told me the box arrived wet on the outside... I got a refund for USPS's stupidity on that. Hopefully it's not going to the Memphis regional facility..

    Feb 18, 2022
  • anon

    I sent a package from iowa to Arizona it was supposed to be delivered yesterday I check the tracking and it says it was in Arizona on the 13th but now on the 16th it says it's back in iowa what the heck is going on with our mail system

    Feb 16, 2022
  • anon

    Hi....currently going through the same thing. Package shipped from Iowa to California. Shipped 22 days ago and keeps going in circles from Iowa to California distribution centers. Call your local post office and speak with the Postmaster to report the problem. It has been misconduct and needs to be intercepted by a live person from the sorting machine and handled by a live person for your package to be routed properly.

    Feb 22, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package delivered from Greenville, In to me here in southern Illinois on 2/10/2022, which is only about 3 hours away. Tracking stated it had been accepted at Indianapolis mail center on the same day, and would be delivered to me on Monday February 14. Now all of a sudden today February 15, tracking states it has been routed to Kansas City, KS Mail Center, which is roughly 600 mile away. What is going on?? I asked the postmaster at my local post office, and all she could say is she did not know, and that I would have to wait and hope I get it... Is this the best we can do?

    Feb 15, 2022
  • anon

    I mailed a gift to a friend for her wedding, dropped it off at the post office on February 9th. According to the tracking, it went from my area (MA) to a CT distribution center, then NY, then Chicago (she lives in IL). Tell me why it then went BACK to New Jersey then the original CT distribution center?! I paid for priority shipping so it would get there early this week, now I don’t know when it will be delivered at all.

    Feb 15, 2022
  • anon

    Memphis Tennessee has packages not being delivered! 2 weeks or more packages stuck in their distribution center. What is being done?

    Feb 15, 2022
  • anon

    My package keeps bouncing between pa and ga and I’m in ga where can I find my package and how can I get it I’ve been waiting for months

    Feb 14, 2022
  • anon

    My question is is you had a package that left Washington to come to Panama City Florida I never received my package it stayed in Panama City facility for 4 days then they thought that they had delivered it to the wrong house they was searching for it well I found out 3 days later it's been sent to Jacksonville Florida it needs to come back to Panama City Florida what's it doing in Jacksonville

    Feb 14, 2022
  • anon

    Mine isn't nearly as bad as some of the other comments. I'll throw mine on the pile anyway. Last Thursday I dropped a package off at my local post office. This post office is 3.5 miles from the San Francisco airport. According to their tracking it sat in their post office for 24+ hours and then magically made it to Los Angeles in about an hour. Los Angeles is 370+ miles away almost directly south. It's ultimate destination is about 180 miles northeast from where it started. Departed Los Angeles about 5 hours later that day (Friday). The only action noted on Saturday was "In Transit to Next Facility". Sunday morning I see this - "Your item arrived at our USPS facility in SAN FRANCISCO CA NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER". So, if this is what really happened, my package travelled at least 750 miles in 3 days to end up at a facility that is 14.6 miles away from the post office that it was mailed from. Gee, no wonder that had to raise their rates. Can anyone explain to me why Postmaster Louis DeJoyless got a performance bonus last year? On top of his highest ever salary for the position? Anyone?

    Feb 13, 2022
  • anon

    This is interesting to learn. I came here because a package I ordered for delivery to a friend in California has bounced from Washington State (it's origin) to two distribution centers in California and then all the way to a distribution center in Illinois on the other side of the country, which is kinda baffling. Hopefully it arrives back in California safe and sound.

    Feb 12, 2022
  • anon

    My package says was in Eugene Oregon now it says Roseburg Oregon and at the bottom it says return to the California industry I live in Eugene Oregon please fix this

    Feb 12, 2022
  • anon

    I have a package that routed through Roanoke VA, that is the final stop before it gets to the post office in Danville where I live. It went to Chatham VA which is a small town about 15 miles or so away yesterday. Left there, came back to Danville early this morning, went back to Roanoke again and guess where it is now? Chatham. What is going on?

    Feb 12, 2022
  • anon

    Package tracking said was it was in my city in Euclid, Ohio waiting to get scanned; next thing I know it is delivered to a person in Minnesota registered mail. The details are nefarious.

    Feb 11, 2022
  • anon

    Had a package that was supposed to be out for delivery today. Unless a miracle happens, I can't see that occuring. Everything was arriving smoothly until it departed the Jacksonville, FL center to Fort Myers??? I live no where near there. While I can begrudgingly deal with a extra wait, its giving me flash backs to my other package gone wrong. Really hope they just gave me the wrong tracking number by mistake. Ordered something from Marketplace. Person lived two hours from me. It was supposed to be a 2 day thing, but I never ended up getting it as once the package arrived at my post office it was rerouted and delivered in a completely different state! Was a vintage collectable too. Nothing uncommon but with the market for these things exploding in price I was very upset. Now if I want to replace it, I'll have to pay $50+ instead of the fair price of $35 I did before.

    Feb 11, 2022
  • anon

    I had a package shipped from VT to KY over two weeks ago. It has spent the last week in a Newark to Cincy and back again vortex.

    Feb 10, 2022
  • anon

    Mailed from Woodland, CA to IRS in Kansas City, Mo on January 25, 2022 has not arrived (it is now February 10. Went back to Woodland, CA post office and on February 6, 2022 mailed another document to IRS in Kansas City, MO via PM Express this time and there is no information about its whereabouts. I really need to know what is going on with this.

    Feb 10, 2022
  • anon

    Ordered a package from Tx to NJ in January, chose this seller because estimated delivery date was the 4-5 of February and it's a valentines day present for my boyfriend. Yesterday the package was in two different distribution centers in NJ, I figured it'd get delivered today. Nope. When I woke up this morning I discovered that my package which was just 45 mins away from my home, is now in Georgia. Honestly ridiculous.

    Feb 10, 2022
  • anon

    I had two packages this week that were supposed to be delivered within US sent from Southern Calif. one going to North Carolina, ended up in Puerto Rico; another going to Hawaii, ended up in Guam. Just received message from Ewa USPS in Hawaii with generic form letter saying sorry, but it will take weeks for package to arrive. This is unacceptable. USPS should clearly offer refund on postage. Disappointing. Both shipped from Santa Ana main post office, went to Anaheim, CA where mistakes occurred. Anaheim USPS facility needs to determine why happens so frequently.

    Feb 10, 2022
  • anon

    I mailed a USPS Priority envelope on 2/1/22 from ME to KY which should have arrived in 2 days. For some reason, it went to North Houston, TX on 2/3/22 and arrived in Billings, MT on 2/7/22. It states online that it is currently in transit to the destination but does not indicate that it has actually departed that location. I'm now on hold with customer service with a wait time of 25 minutes. The person I finally spoke to was very nice and took down all kinds of information. I'm hoping the envelope makes it to its destination, but I was told I should hear back within 2-3 business days. I have my fingers crossed!

    Feb 09, 2022
  • anon

    My goodness, such incompetence. I ordered a small package from England on January 3rd, i live in NC. it arrived in NY on January 21st and was stuck in that facility for over 10 days. I filed a complaint, and a few days later they said it was resolved. I just looked at the tracking today and today February 9th it just said it arrived in London England, lol. What in the world?

    Feb 09, 2022
  • anon

    My package was mailed out February 3, priority was supposed to reach destination iowa from North carolina on the 7th but it's the 9th and it just left Houston, Texas. And now says it's on its way to destination.

    Feb 09, 2022
  • anon

    On 2 February 2022 a shipment tracking update informed me that my item was missent to zipcode 11232 instead of 11228. Today is the 8th of February and I have received no further updates. The distance between the two zipcodes is short! How long will my delivery take?

    Feb 08, 2022
  • anon

    Package shipped from Seattle to Virginia, reached memphis annex distribution center in two days and it shows package in transit arriving late since 4 days. The same status gets a refresh (automated) every night around 8:30pm est and no further updates whatsoever. Filed an inquiry and item search request.

    Feb 08, 2022
  • anon

    Package mailed from NY headed to Minn on Jan 29. Arrived in Sringfield Mass on Jan 31st and has been bouncing back and forth from springfield , Mass and Albany , Ny till Feb 6th. How many time does it need to be sorted before it gets to where it is supposed to be??? For Real… What is the sense of paying price for priority mail???

    Feb 08, 2022
  • anon

    I have a package that keeps going back and forth from Oak Creek in Wisconsin to Madison repeatedly since 3 days and usually it goes straight to Iowa from Chicago but went to Wisconsin

    Feb 08, 2022
  • anon

    How does a package from Chicago to Chicago wind up in New York when it was supposed to be delivered today February 7, 2021 and now it needs to come back to Chicago. It’s scan then where I dropped it off so this isn’t rocket science.

    Feb 07, 2022
  • anon

    USPS Retail Ground service shipped on 1/19 from Utah to NYC with an ETA of 1/25. Arrived in a facility in NJ on 1/30 and sat there for four days before being shipped out to St. Louis on 2/3. Today is 2/7 and I just received tracking notification that it has arrived in De Moines. Rest of the family are getting their USPS packages daily with no issues.

    Feb 07, 2022

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