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 (152)

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  • anon

    I live in Schenectady,ny and my rent money orders keep getting lost on there way to new york city.It’s happened twice in in the past 3 months. I sent it 10/6/21 and it’s now 10/16/21 and still not there.

    Oct 16, 2021
  • anon

    USPS is the worst! First off why does it take you people 2 weeks or longer to get things right? Why have it scanned in the state you live in then take a cross country trip 7 states away? It's not by a freak accident as it happens more often than never. The post office could do a better job hiring more reliable associates for one. And since I am a manager in the delivery field I know how these things work. Fix the issue so people can get their stuff on time and quit using covid as a excuse or weather ect ect.

    Oct 15, 2021
  • anon

    I cringe whenever I see a package sent USPS. The amount of time it takes to get a package is awful and more has gotten "lost" on the way to my house via USPS than with any other service. I currently am awaiting a package that left Detroit on 10/12 and has been, reportedly, sitting in Teterboro since 5:48am on 10/13. The package was expected to make the last 40 or so miles to my house on 10/14. USPS tracking shows this as "arriving late", 10/15, by 9:00pm. Laughable since no one delivers packages at night and it still hasn't left Teterboro. Personally, I cannot imagine keeping my job if I was this incompetent. Forget the $300K he makes, DeJoy isn't worth $3.00.

    Oct 15, 2021
  • anon

    New York to California… my package is in a regional facility in Connecticut… why!?

    Oct 14, 2021
  • anon

    How long is USPS going to use Covid as an excuse. They are an inept government service. I have personally witnessed a postal worker drive slow by my house and pretend to put something in mailbox I have security cameras all over my property. Post office admitted she was a problem. My usual postal mail person is great get a fill in it’s ridiculous. I now use UPS no issues

    Oct 10, 2021
  • anon

    Our package was sent priority mail next day delivery and due by 6 pm yesterday. According to the rep. I spoke with, the Teterboro distribution center was closed by the Postmaster General. We've filed a formal complaint, and the package was insured, but that is not really a lot of help. The package contains my husband's insulin. It is kept refrigerated and must be used within 30 days of removal from refrigeration. Hence, the overnight, next day shipping. It is one thing to remove an insulin pen from the fridge, put in your medication pouch, carry it around, and use it as needed. It is another thing to leave it in a truck or warehouse at unknown temperatures for unknown numbers of days. If and when the insulin arrives, we plan on throwing it out. I just hope that there won't be issues with getting more sooner than our renewal date.

    Oct 09, 2021
  • anon

    So I’m sending a package to El Salvador. It went from the Jamaica NYC facility, to Puerto Rico, and now back at Jamaica NYC facility today, on week 2. It’s supposed to be International Priority Mail. It should have arrived last week.

    Oct 08, 2021
  • anon

    I live in Alabama my package was shipped from Rhode island it's now in a Post office in New Jersey it was supposed to arrive today what's going on

    Oct 08, 2021
  • anon

    My package that was supposed to go to Maryland went from Florida to Nevada!!! Why??? All the way across the country!!! Get it together!!!!

    Oct 05, 2021
  • anon

    this mis-routing seems to be happening to every package coming to my house. a priority mail package took 3 weeks to get from new jersey to cleveland. now, ups has handed off a package to the post office in cleveland. it has now been scanned about 4 times in various cities in ohio. the package's final destination is to me in Euclid ohio. Euclid ohio is a suburb of cleveland. they actually touch! (an inner ring suburb). But the package cant just go straight to euclid from cleveland? this is not mis-direction, this is a flaw in shipping strategy.

    Oct 02, 2021
  • anon

    I've had 2 items lost at that facility over the past 4 months. Given various posts here and throughout the internet referencing lost packages at the" JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER ", the odds are good that someone is steeling packages. It's hard to lose a 7' fishing rod! I no longer offer USPS for items I sell on ebay and ask all seller I buy items from to ship via FEDEX/UPS even if it a few dollars more.

    Oct 01, 2021
  • anon

    The USPS Memphis distribution sucks. We ship packages via Priority and First Classes. Many packages were delayed in Memphis for up to 6 weeks. What a terrible service.

    Oct 01, 2021
  • anon

    I live in Texas and I have a package coming from New Hampshire. For some odd reason it was sent to the LA processing center. Makes me furious!!!!!!!

    Oct 01, 2021
  • anon

    In the last 12 months I have noticed an increase number of our packages being delayed and endlessly bounced around the New Jersey and New York City area, sometimes for weeks. It is infuriating and indicates that something is deeply wrong/awry in the operation with the USPS. At this point, by my own calculations nearly 1/5 packages coming to our home are currently being misrouted or *significantly* delayed (a 1-2 day delivery time turns into weeks) which does not equal 0.2%, but rather *20%*. The inspector general needs to take responsibility for this issue and have the system examined. Many of these issues were non-existent 3-4 years ago.

    Sep 29, 2021
  • anon

    for the last few years most packages I order to my home in northern California that are coming from southern California always somehow end up making it to San Francisco, and then getting routed all the f****** way to south Carolina, or Tennessee, or somewhere way out of state. and it's almost every single time. it delays packages by DAYS. sometimes a week. I can't even begin to understand how or why, but it's getting old already

    Sep 29, 2021
  • anon

    My fiancé and I both had packages coming in the past week. Different times. They BOTH ended up in Saranac, NY from Albany, NY. It needed to go to Amsterdam, NY 30 miles away. His is now saying missing and I’m waiting for mine to say the same. I can understand a simple mistake, it happening once. But TWICE to the same place. Something needs to be done. And it’s happened with relatives in other areas too.

    Sep 27, 2021
  • anon

    It took my package very little time to travel from IL to SC (where I live) then nothing for 6 days and Bam it shows up in NH… what the actual ****. Also fun fact they count days as business days (mon-fri), they have 9 business days to deliver a ground package, we will just disregard they fact that they deliver on Saturday and not count that day at all in their 9 day promise… wow just wow…

    Sep 27, 2021
  • anon

    I had a package arrive in Texas and I live in Louisiana and for some reason the exact package was sent back to Indiana. The package left Indiana two days ago and maybe I will get this item for my laptop eventually so I can get it fixed.

    Sep 26, 2021
  • anon

    0.2 percent misrouted? I must be the most unlucky person. Twice in a month I have had a package mailed to Phoenix, One time from southern California that arrived in Phoenix and was sent to Texas. Another from SEARCY, AR that arrived in Mesa, AZ , (that's MY town) and now its at BOUSE, AZ. My experience is 25% of packages get lost, "misrouted", for a little while.

    Sep 23, 2021
  • anon

    Did they arrive to you? How long after? I"m having this problem now.

    Sep 30, 2021
  • anon

    I paid $70 for clothes shipped from PA on 9/7 to NV. Seventeen days and search request later, it's found at Jersey City distro Center. No tracking since drop off on 9/7. How did a 12 pound box get misrouted to an International bulk Mail 24 hour processing plant. I can't even get my money refunded for the clothes. The label is preprinted and clear. Nearly every package I have shipped via USPS gets lost in with no explanation and I have lost hundreds of dollars. I ordered a three tier professional make up case for my daughter (lost $180). It was misdelivered right here in my home town. No one would tell me where it was misdelivered so I could go pick it up nor would the postal carrier who misdelivered go retrieve it and bring it to my home. So some person got it for free for Christmas and I had nothing for my daughter. The post office could have cared less. I'd rather use a horse and buggy than the pathetic postal system. It's a damn disgrace just like our so called President. Damn disgrace.

    Sep 23, 2021
  • anon

    This is the second package in 2 years that I've had just circle the New Jersey area for a week or more. I get sent out and then it gets sent back to the distribution center and then it sits at the distribution center the last time I had it happen I think it got routed three times and ended up going to a local post office before it finally got shipped back to the right place.

    Sep 23, 2021
  • anon

    My mail was routed to NC then to NY but was supposed to go to AL. What happened?

    Sep 20, 2021
  • anon

    Hi. So I bought an item on Etsy. It was shipped from Illinois to where I live in California. It hasn't made it but went to some postal route in Florida. It's been in Florida for almost a week. Not sure why that's occurring.

    Sep 19, 2021
  • anon

    Stupid routing by USPS. Item routed from destination zip 49858, to zip 49802, to zip 53154, to zip 17604. From Wisc to Mi back to Wisc to Pa. Destination is Indiana 46637. Still in route. Can't find any logic in that! Unfortunately way too typical for the USPS. Example #2, item routed from zip 46765, to zip 15095, to zip 48101, and finally to zip 46601 destination. Original zip 90 miles from destination, yet item goes through two additional states before it's back in original state of IN. STUPID!!!

    Sep 17, 2021
  • anon

    Since 9-10-2021 my package has gone back and forth from the Pontiac MI post office to the Warren MI post office. I live in Troy MI. I WANT MY PACKAGE! What do I do??

    Sep 17, 2021
  • anon

    My package just went from being in Memphis to being in Atlanta. I live in Pittsburgh. But my dad working for FedEx has given me a feel for the mishaps that happen. Sometimes it's not even a mishap and it's on purpose. I was just out here looking to see if there was a logical answer, but this comment section is golden. For those of you that want to disolve UPSP and have private options be aware that you can still use other options and guess what these problems STILL HAPPEN. It's not just that USPS is bad, they're decent, but there are so many working parts and if even one of them go slightly off your package may be sent the wrong way. That's consistent between services. The only real difference is how they handle it.

    Sep 16, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered a part for my lawn mower back on Aug 26th that never arrived, no movement in tracking for 2 weeks... So, I reordered the part.. It arrived at NJ distribution center on Sept 14, then Richmond, Va later that night... I thought I'd have it today, grass is really getting long... Didn't get it, Just checked my tracking... It just departed NJ again on 15th... This is why it takes so long to get packages and/or increases the odds that a package will get lost...

    Sep 15, 2021
  • anon

    I sent 2 packages to SLC at the exact same time (same transaction); one got there ahead of schedule, yet the other is in New Jersey... the complete opposite direction from where it was sent and where it was supposed to go. How? They were literally on top of each other when I left the post office.

    Sep 15, 2021
  • anon

    I was waiting on a package from the UK, thought it was going to be here in time because it reached the Indianapolis sorting center on Sunday. I live in Indianapolis, not too far from the center. Checked today and it said that it was sent to Detroit, MI on Monday. I was hoping for it to get here before Thursday but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

    Sep 14, 2021
  • anon

    2 of my packages have been stuck in the TETERBORO NJ DISTRIBUTION CENTER for over a week! What the heck!!! and when I googled this i came up with people having the same issue 10 yrs ago! what's up with this distribution center. you need to figure it out and fix it!

    Sep 13, 2021
  • anon

    Ditto. Usually takes us two days to get anything shipped on east coast to Boston area. This has had no movement since day it arrived.

    Oct 07, 2021
  • anon

    My package was sent from CORAM NY 11727 to Rockville MD 20850. It got as close as Gaitherburg MD, a few miles away. The next update says it had arrived at the Eastern Maine distribution center. It shows up in my Informed Delivery account, so they know my name and address. It was probably mis-sorted, maybe placed in a wrong bin by hand? If they could read the address well enough to put on my ID account, I assume they put the correct sorting code on the envelope. Can a sorting machine mis-direct a piece of mail with the right bar code? It is First Class, which uses a less detailed tracking method. As I understand, they use the bin number instead of the individual tracking numbers on packages in the bin. I would hope that wouldn't impact the sorting process.

    Sep 13, 2021
  • anon

    What is wrong with priority Mail the last 4 packages I’ve received 3 of them got all the way to my city post office then they are sent to another state then sent back to me?

    Sep 13, 2021
  • anon

    I sent blood samples collected at home from Baltimore, MD, to Pittsburgh, PA, four times over the past few weeks. The lab prepaid for expedited return shipping through USPS. Two packages went straight from MD to PA with no problem, but one went down to Houston before being rerouted to Pittsburgh. The other is currently in Beaverton, OR, and I have no idea how that happened. I'm just hoping the samples won't be degraded by the time they reach their destination. I will not be happy if I have to repeat these tests because of a USPS mistake.

    Sep 12, 2021
  • anon

    I am concerned about tax documents that are delivered to the wrong address and feel that extra care should be given to identity-sensitive mail. The postal service recently misrouted someone's IRS mail to my address; the name was not a match, the town was not a match, and the zip code was not a match. (The street address was the only similar aspect, but still not a match to mine.) If the Town/State/ Zip Code line slipped below the window during the routing process, which it looks like it may have, there were at least three check points (a sectional center facility, a remote video encoding center, and my small town post office) where a person or a sorting machine should have flagged it to read the bottom line before coding it to the wrong town, and before delivering it to the wrong name and address in that wrong town -- especially given the sensitive nature of correspondence from the IRS.

    Sep 09, 2021
  • anon

    I always track my packages. The most recent package's final destination is Indianapolis IN. It arrived there on September 01, 2021. By September 04, 2021 this same package was in Memphis TN. By September 06, 2021, this same package was back at the same Distribution center in Indianapolis IN that it was at on September 01, 2021. It is still in transit, mind you, it is Priority Mail- 2 day, and was due on Friday September 03, 2021. It was mailed in Delaware on Tuesday , August 31, 2021.???????????

    Sep 07, 2021
  • anon

    My package has definitely taken a wrong turn it's destination is elkton,Elkton, and was sent from Jersey city, NJ I have posted below the route so far for the package that I was to receive by 9/4/21 today is 9/5/21 doesn't look I will receive it until 9/7-9/8/21... this is way out of the route it should have went.. September 5, 2021, 11:38 am Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility EASTON MD DISTRIBUTION CENTER  Your item arrived at our EASTON MD DISTRIBUTION CENTER destination facility on September 5, 2021 at 11:38 am. The item is currently in transit to the destination. September 5, 2021, 7:00 am Departed USPS Regional Facility BALTIMORE MD DISTRIBUTION CENTER  September 3, 2021, 10:55 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Facility BALTIMORE MD DISTRIBUTION CENTER  September 3, 2021, 9:23 pm Departed USPS Facility HYATTSVILLE, MD 20785  September 3, 2021 In Transit to Next Facility September 2, 2021, 9:52 pm Arrived at USPS Facility HYATTSVILLE, MD 20785  September 2, 2021, 3:25 am Departed USPS Regional Facility SEMINOLE-ORLANDO FL DISTRIBUTION CENTER  September 1, 2021, 4:16 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility SEMINOLE-ORLANDO FL DISTRIBUTION CENTER  August 30, 2021, 6:50 pm Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item JERSEY CITY, NJ 07304 

    Sep 05, 2021
  • anon

    Here's a major thing that could be done to improve the system of tracking "missing" packages. Instead of sending inquiries about missing/delayed packages to the PO where they are supposed to be delivered, why not send the inquiry to the location where the package was most recently located? I get a monthly club order from a shipper in Colorado, Several times over the past year, the packages has either sat in Colorado Springs for multiple days (up to a week) or done the same at the Denver Processing Center. After the appropriate number of days elapses, I contact USPS to report a missing package. The USPS system sends the inquiry to my local PO in New Jersey. What on earth are they supposed to do about it? If the inquiry went to the place where the package was, wouldn't they be more likely to know what's happening? Alternatively, if a package is shown as "in transit" for an unusually long time -- having "departed" one facility but not "arrived" at the next -- why not contact both the facility it left and the one where it's supposed to be going? Contacting the local PO at the delivery point seems silly when the package is still at least 1 or 2 stops from arriving at the local PO.

    Sep 03, 2021
  • anon

    Item was purchased from an online store. Store ends up being in north Georgia. Cool, that’s 4 hours away. Item ships and is received in Atlanta distribution. That is expected. Item is scheduled to be delivered today. Wake to find it is in Spokane, Washington and is delayed. Now why would it need to be sent to WA when it was shipped from Georgia to another Georgia address?

    Sep 01, 2021
  • anon

    Mailed 2 packages same day from TX, one going to CA and one going to OR. The one going to OR was delivered today, the one going to CA was inexplicably sent to Miami, FL. Lesson learned, all future shipments will be done through UPS as clearly USPS is incapable of simply mailing a package.

    Aug 30, 2021
  • anon

    Misrouting indeed... frankly it is amazing what seems to go on with the USPS these days... please explain the following tracking report? Still live and apparently in endless loop..... (I have filed claims and notified about the item to the USPS but to no avail..).. I feel like i am in the movie Ground Hog day... its starting its sixth loop between Stamford . CT , White Plains, NY and Jersey City, NJ: August 29, 2021, 7:32 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER Your item arrived at our USPS facility in WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER on August 29, 2021 at 7:32 am. The item is currently in transit to the destination. August 29, 2021, 6:40 am Departed USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 29, 2021, 3:33 am Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 11:16 pm Departed USPS Regional Destination Facility NEWARK NJ DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 10:09 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Facility NEWARK NJ DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 4:04 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 7:28 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 6:30 am Departed USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 2:36 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 28, 2021, 1:20 am Departed USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 27, 2021, 5:36 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 27, 2021, 7:21 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 27, 2021, 6:34 am Departed USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 27, 2021, 12:25 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 26, 2021, 10:28 pm Departed USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 26, 2021, 11:23 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 26, 2021, 8:54 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 26, 2021, 8:14 am Departed USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 25, 2021, 8:22 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 25, 2021, 7:54 am Departed USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 25, 2021, 6:39 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 25, 2021, 5:23 am Departed USPS Regional Facility KEARNY NJ DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 24, 2021, 10:45 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility KEARNY NJ DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 24, 2021 In Transit to Next Facility August 23, 2021, 5:03 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility JERSEY CITY NJ NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 22, 2021, 7:15 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility WHITE PLAINS NY DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 22, 2021, 6:30 am Departed USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 21, 2021, 11:09 pm Arrived at USPS Regional Facility STAMFORD CT DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 21, 2021, 10:01 pm Departed USPS Regional Facility JAMAICA NY INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 21, 2021, 3:46 am Arrived at USPS Regional Facility JAMAICA NY INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION CENTER August 20, 2021, 7:07 pm Processed Through Facility ISC NEW YORK NY(USPS) Origin Post is Preparing Shipment August 17, 2021, 4:23 am Processed Through Facility BRUSSELS EUROPEAN MAIL CENTRE, BELGIUM August 17, 2021, 12:18 am Processed Through Facility BRUSSELS EUROPEAN MAIL CENTRE, BELGIUM August 17, 2021, 12:18 am Acceptance BELGIUM

    Aug 29, 2021
  • anon

    some one could make a short movie about this. maybe a cartoon. a mail package trying to find its way home to the correct address and keeps getting sent some where else far away. the package can see its home through the cracks in the vehicle door and starts to cry as the house gets further away.

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    Wow. We're going through EXACTLY the same issue right now. Item shipped from the UK, now touring in a circle among Stamford, White Plains and Jersey. It's been doing so for over 10 days now. Calls to the Post Office have been made and a lost mail form was filled out online at the Post Office worker's suggestion. Still nothing, just continuing along the same loop. It's as ridiculous as it is infuriating.

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Gino, Thank you for your comment. Regarding your concern, please contact Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at https://postalpro.usps.com/ppro-tools/consumer-affairs

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    I sent a package 2 day priority mail to Callistian Springs Tn. It was supposed to arrive at destination on Tuesday. Package was in Nashville Monday an hour away from destination not it’s in Cleveland Oh many many hours away now. This was a time sensitive package. I paid for priority mail.

    Aug 25, 2021
  • anon

    I look forward to the postal service inevitably being dissolved in favor of private enterprise. My package was so close I could have just swung by after work to pick it up. It is now 790 miles away in Ohio. Beautiful work USPS. Just beautiful. Government incompetence at its finest.

    Aug 25, 2021
  • anon

    I fully understand why the USPS looses money. I ordered a part from North Carolina 8/17 Tracking 8/18 shipped from statesville nc 8/19 Greensboro nc 8/20 nashville tn 8/21 should have received package Franklin ky 42134 8/21 but package went to Oshkosh wi 8/22 Indanapolis in 8/23 Oak creek wi 8/24 Indanapolis in 8/24 departed indainapolis in to WHERE ????????

    Aug 24, 2021
  • anon

    My package which was shipped from LA was supposed to be shipped to Glendale CA but is some how in Utah.

    Aug 21, 2021
  • anon

    After reading some of these comments my experience is obviously common but none the less shocking. According to the tracking texts I signed up for my package has so far traveled 773 miles in the wrong direction. I calculated this by looking up the addresses of the various Distribution Centers the package has visited so far and using Map Quest. Just unbelievable.

    Aug 21, 2021

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