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 (108)

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  • 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
  • anon

    My package departed Jersey City distribution center and then was in transit. Six days later the tracking info said it departed again 6 from Jersey City. Then it departed Springfield Massachusetts distribution center, and then arrived again in Jersey City. The package is intended to go to Rhode Island. I’m worried that my package, which is fragile, may be damaged with all the extra travel.

    Aug 20, 2021
  • anon

    Hello Lucy, 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 would love to actually see the statistics on the number of packages misrouted, and not just the first class letters. I repeatedly have packages arrive at my local distribution center in NC, only to have them routed elsewhere. I've also had a fair number of packages go on walkabouts throughout the country before arriving in NC. It would be interesting to have USPS calculate how much of the workload is from completely unnecessary handling of the mail.

    Aug 17, 2021
  • anon

    My package that includes medicine has taken 8 days from California. I’m tracking it but it ended up in Brooklyn, NY Distribution Center 2 days ago then to zip code 11213 on August 13, then back to Distribution Center in August 13/14 and back again to that same wrong zip code 11213. The correct zip code is 11201. This is urgent medication!

    Aug 14, 2021
  • anon

    I usps a package from Harrisburg NC on July 14. It was not scanned again until July 19 in Detroit Mi. Now i was told package from damaged and have not heard from anyone. I filed a lost package form and still no response. If the package was broke open in Detroit, why was it not put into another box and sent to me. My local post office sent them an email identifiying what was in the box and now has not heard back from Detroit. I want my items. How can this happen and where is my items.

    Aug 13, 2021
  • anon

    First class mail coming from FL. to NC. Package made it to my local post office in 2 days then was sent to a Chicago distribution Ctr. where it sat for 2 days, sent to another Chicago location for another 2 days, back to 1st Chicago location for a day then finally last night package made it to my local post office. I thought today was gonna be the day, I was wrong. This morning it was sent to the post office in the next city over where it has sat since 9am.

    Aug 12, 2021
  • anon

    My mail is constantly misrouted and what should be a normal 3-4 day delivery more often than not takes 2 weeks. It seems like this is something that happens far too often at my address. So is it my address that's flagged or something and I'm being messed with or this is a bigger problem than your % you quoted?

    Aug 11, 2021
  • anon

    Your distribution centers are run by idiots. How does a package go thru customs in NY, than get handed off to a NJ distribution center, than make it all the way down to an Orlando FL distribution center for which I live in Florida, only to be sent back to the NJ distribution center for them to send it out again? This is not my first rodeo with this happening with the USPS whether it's an international package or a domestic package.

    Aug 06, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered something from CA which was shipped out immediately and arrived in Detroit, MI. Normally my package is then sent directly to where I'm at in the thumb. Instead it has been to Lansing, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and is now back in Lansing for some reason. I've checked the address multiple times. I also have informed delivery and it was said my package would be here Monday August 2nd. Never got a package or confirmation that it was delivered. I checked informed delivery and saw that my package for some reason was sent to Lansing. This is absolutely ridiculous and inexcusable. The package is first class and should have arrived 1-3 days after shipping. I have never had issues with USPS before now. I will be contacting the original shipper and advise them not to use USPS. Please look into why this is happening because a lot of people rely on USPS to receive their mail and stop sending us junk.

    Aug 06, 2021
  • anon

    I bought something on ebay that shipped from LA CA. I live in northern WI. It should be simple, right? Wrong. For some dumb reason, the package had to go to Jacksonville, FL first before heading to WI, adding 2-3 days to it's journey, and I don't know how many extra miles. No wonder the USPS can't operate in the black anymore...

    Aug 05, 2021
  • anon

    I gave a return envelope with the correct address to the Suisse Consulat, for a visa on the passeport, they send it back with the tracking number from NewYork city to Brooklyn NewYork, for a local mail, that’s so curious and ridiculous that a mail on the same city is still in transit to next facility. Since 07/10/2021 to now 08/03/2021. Yes it’s a mistake of misrouted from employee but go to the source of the issue and make up it almost a month. Truly

    Aug 03, 2021
  • anon

    Package 1. Georgia to Nashville TN then back to Atlanta GA bounced around for 5 days in Atlanta then 2 more days to Hephzibah GA. 10 days in transit to go 150 miles what the hell! Package 2. From Warrendale PA to Akron Ohio. 185 miles. Left Warrendale PA went to Wisconsin then to Illinois and sitting there still. This in the span of 1 week what the hell is wrong with the US Mail system!

    Jul 25, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered a hat that was being delivered from Canada. I live in Poulsbo, WA and the package went from a facility in Tacoma, within a days delivery to my address when it was sent 2/3 across the country to Champaign, IL. this isn't the first time I've had this happen to me, but by far the time that's gotten under my skin. I do not believe that Stat of .2% of packages not being delivered properly since it has seemed to have gotten worse as almost 1 in 5 of my deliveries go through this BS. Please have all correspondence via email.

    Jul 13, 2021
  • anon

    Received phone message regarding mail being delivered to the wrong mailbox. Just like in the past: new delivery person, regular mail carrier on vacation, etc. Not interested in any more excuses we want a resolution. The majority of the mail we receive is junk mail as we have a PO BOX. I asked to be contacted by email and instead received a phone call resulting in a voicemail message - why? All correspondence in email please. Thank you

    Jun 18, 2021
  • anon

    It’s the most inept government agency ! I have never gotten reimbursed for anything lost Never use them anymore

    Oct 10, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered reading glasses from Greenwood IN. The package went from Greenwood to Indy to Jersey City NJ to Newark NJ where it sat for four days. I live 15 miles from Newark. Today, the package was shipped to Stamford CT! It's now 3 days late for delivery and it has to go back to Newark from Stamford and then to my local PO. Why anyone still uses the USPS for package delivery is beyond me.

    Jun 16, 2021
  • anon

    I had ordered from ebay a small part. Post office declared it was delivered to my mailbox although i never received a notice that something was delivered that day. Posted a request to find out what happened- I received a notice it was being investigated and two weeks later i was told gps data says the post office driver location was at my mailbox when the delivery occurred. All the mailboxes (7) for the culdesac and road are next to each other. Who knows who got my first class mail but from now on i specify signature required. They sent an email declaring the issue was resolved and I never got my part with no recourse

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon

    My office receives numerous complaints weekly about mishandled mail at the MEMPHIS NETWORK FACILITY which we forward to the USPS chain of (haha) command. The response, NONE.

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon

    Why doesn't management address issues? Are they prevented from replacing negligent workers? My package delivered to MEMPHIS NETWORK FACILITY by DHL, to be mailed to Tupelo, Miss., 100 miles to the SE. Package was sent to Pittsburg, Penn., via Cincinnati. Returned to Memphis where it languished for several days before being put BACK on a truck to Pittsburg yesterday! Sadly, this is the third time in 18 months a priority package has taken the same route from Memphis. Yes, the workers are making mistakes, for whatever reasons, but management seems to do nothing to correct issues. Start firing managers. Complaints are ignored. My recent complaint was answered by a CSR in the Tupelo USPS. Tupelo is golden, and NOT the problem. Why route a complaint to the final destination, when the package is misrouted before prior to reaching FD? PLEASE, go to the source of the issues, then move up the paygrade scale to the real problem.

    Jun 10, 2021
  • anon

    It's absolutely mind-boggling that you are asking the question of would customers except reduced customer service if the prices were lowered if you reduce customer service any lower than it already is there will be none I have never been so disgusted and disappointed with a government entity as I am the post office in my entire life they've managed to lose four separate pieces of mail that was detrimental that I receive it big shocker nothing a month-and-a-half later still nothing no answer that is unscripted whatsoever no help no customer service and no mail lol and you're actually asking opinions about reducing the customer service to lower prices do you know what a joke that is I don't know what happened to The Postal Service but it never used to be this way ever I used to always count on USPS it's a complete joke anymore I would rather drive five states to pick my stuff up they never count on this place again ever !! BEYOND DISGUSTED

    Apr 26, 2021
  • anon

    USPS has the most ridiculous shipping practices.. I ordered an item that was to be shipped from Texas to Arizona. The item left Keller, TX on April 3rd. It arrived in Fort Worth, TX April 4th. From there it was sent to Indianapolis, IN, spent 5 days there and then sent to Memphis, TN on April 10th, where it is still sitting today, the evening of April 12th. What on earth, USPS, you literally had to just send it straight WEST!!

    Apr 12, 2021
  • anon

    Yeah this is fantastic. A great example is when Amazon tried to send me multiple packages from their San Antonio facility to my address in Del Rio, TX. The local post office (literally the worst I’ve ever seen) received the packages from Amazon, then decided to send them aaaaaalllllllllllll the way across the state to Corpus Christi. Literally should have been at my house that day, but instead USPS figured it’d be a great idea to send them on a bit of an adventure first. Seriously, why do we keep this garbage operation running? All anyone gets with USPS is junk mail, late, lost, or incorrect deliveries, and headaches.

    Apr 04, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered an item march 24 and paid 16 dollars for priority shipping. Package shipped march 25 from nassau n.y. Supposed to be here march 29. It took it 5 days to go 72 miles to springfield ma. It got there on march 30. Tracking says it processed through there that day and tracking has not been updated since and this is april 4th. No telling when it will get to S.E. missouri. Last item I ordered set at hazzlewood Missouri for 15 days before it moved again. VERY Unacceptable. Will never use usps again. Will use a reliable shipping method such as fedex or ups

    Apr 04, 2021
  • anon

    UPS isn't much better to be honest. They stop delivering at quitting time which I get but then hire more people to cover what needs to be delivered.

    Jul 20, 2021
  • anon

    Personally I get sick and tired of paying extra to receive less. Priority mail handled with less care than first class, and first class that could go travel faster if it was sent with a blind man on a donkey. Of course none of this would be possible without that slime ball DeJoy mucking up the works. But that's your problem and probably no one will read this. But Priority Mail that leaves Florida, gets put on a truck and sent to Tennessee and that's where the tracking stops is not any reasonable person's idea of efficiency. Just be proud that your lack of effort is directly responsible for destroying my business.

    Mar 29, 2021
  • anon

    Thursday, March 25, 2021 paid for overnight express. $26 and change, from Virginia to Palm Coast, Fla. (to be delivered via the PO on Pine Cone. This was delivered on time but in the wrong key box for the so called gang mail boxes in a senior community. This was to be delivered at the front door and not in a box. After several phone calls Friday, March 26, and talking to 3 different employees, it was confirmed the particular carrier would be notified to rectify the situation and bring the overnight express pack to the front door of the correct address today, Saturday March 27. Still waiting.

    Mar 27, 2021
  • anon

    I asked for help as to what to use to mail 2 envelopes guaranteed 2 day delivery. I was told Priority 2 day mail. I paid $7.95 for each envelope mailing them on a Tuesday. By Friday they were still untrackable and undelivered. I was told I had to wait until Monday to make a claim. NO GUARANTEE! Not what the postal person told me. I was told 2 day delivery and by Friday at the latest guaranteed. I spent an hour and 45 minutes on phone trying to get it straightened out only to have them say they couldn't track it and some one would have to call me back. I had another package I was expecting from a city 2 hours away and they sent it to New York to South Carolina to Iowa to Kentucky to Cincinatti Ohio to Columbus Ohio to Toledo Ohio to Athens Ohio. It took 2 weeks to get it. I ordered another similar item from California and had it in 2 days Amazon. The Post Office is all screwed up and charging too much. I get mail back all the time as undeliverable due to lazy workers. I know the address is good when it's family.

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    I paid $7.95 for a Priority Envelope to be sent to Harrisburg, PA from Hatfield PA. at 2:15 PM on 3/10/21. Instead of being delivered in 2 days it took 8 days to be delivered. Here is the tracking- March 10,2021 - Hatfield PA March 11 Philadelphia PA March 12 Providence RI March 13 Springfield MA March 13 Lancaster PA March 14 Columbia SC March 16 Hyattsville MD March 17 Harrisburg PA March 18 Delivered at 2:18 AM in Harrisburg This routing is outrageous - How does this happen? I paid $7.95 for service that I did not get. I would have been better to send my documents by first class mail. When I ask for compensation for the poor service I was told that no refund could be given. Mr Dejoy has created a mess of the USPS!

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    Louis DeJoy, is the reason our mail is DELIBERATELY sidetracked, misdirected, and slowed down. He should be replaced; especially after he attempted to destroy the mail service at the behest of the authoritarian wanna-be, Donald Trump.

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    I feel that most mail carriers, postmasters & USPS employees are doing an awesome job, especially when considering what they've had to deal lately. There's no denying they were having a rough couple of years before covid-19 with lots of changes & a huge financial loss year after year. But then, to get hit out of the blue with Covid-19, delivering mail through riots & heavy protesting & an election year like none other we've ever had. Being the keeper of many American votes & getting them safely delivered to the right place at the right time was a huge responsibility. And think about you guys, what would we do without the USPS? I for one would like to my mailman & postmaster in Montevallo Alabama from the bottom of my heart. Maybe everybody should show a little more appreciation to their local USPS employees, tell them thank you, that you appreciate them & offer them a little more encouragement. It gets discouraging to hear nothing but complaints and brights all the time even if there's a gentleman... you can find something somebody doing right I'm sure . Just coming into work, bringing your mail and put it in your box is something to be grateful for these days. We all get a little pep in our step when we get compliments and "Attaboys". I think they deserve a real big one right now. Thanks Mr. Ken and John!

    Mar 22, 2021
  • anon

    Recently several of my parcels have been misrouted. Mostly upon departure from southern California to Arizona via Washington State and Reno Nevada.

    Mar 19, 2021
  • anon

    I can't figure out why delivery station clerks and carriers are supposed to leave bad bar codes on pieces that keep going back to the plant, hit the automated mail processing machines and loops right back to the wrong station. It is as if once a coding failure occurs the piece becomes an involuntary test subject and the investigation is more important than just eliminating the code, rebooting and letting the system speed the piece to the correct location.

    Mar 16, 2021
  • anon

    I guess you haven't REALLY taken notice of the overshot IRRESPONSIBILITY that alot of these local post masters THINK they have in smaller communities. Its one thing to give them the power to do what necessary but when a pm uses that power to bully local folks who have FILED complaints. I myself have filed 3. 7 months in this and i usually dont receive my ordered packages. They are being withheld on purpose AND im not being notified by either informed delivery or by those idiotic orange slips left in mailboxes that i was keep a book of. IF i do get to receive a package, 9/10 its usually opened, repackaged and/ or HEAVILY DAMAGED. Ive lost my opportunity to start up my online business due to said post master and now my mail and packages are being messed with. . YOUR ABSOLUTELY WITHOUT A DOUBT, IGNORANT system that is set up or in place, is a joke! One sided, YOUR SIDE. And yet said workers have the power in their possession to misdirect, lose, damage, steal, displace delivery items. Dont believe me, then you REALLY need to investigate 24087 area and that thing you claim as a " post master". I solely believe usps did hire her off the street somewhere. She acts as if her " elevator doesnt go all the way up "

    Mar 16, 2021
  • anon

    The short-sightedness of the previous administration's appointment to the post office along with the issues of COVID social distancing, and forced mailing of packages and letters routed through USPS is staggering. I sent a certified letter from Cleveland March 9th for arrival due Saturday, March 13th to Everett, WA. My certified letter with a transaction number from which I get regular update last explained that my letter had arrived and then departed (somehow twice) from Seattle. It's supposed to go to Everett, WA which is 31 minutes up I-5. It's now late and has been in transit in Washington for 3 days. Please explain. Btw, isn't there some kine of motto the post office used to live by? What happened to you?

    Mar 14, 2021
  • anon

    It is illegal to refuse deliver my mails to me without a real truth reason. I don’t have COVID, but the carrier blamed me I am sick so he puts all mails on hold. I am not sick at all.

    Mar 14, 2021
  • anon

    Leaving comments here seems to be as useful as a postal employee.

    Mar 13, 2021
  • anon

    I sent acertified mail on Feb 17th from my rural community, to go over the mountain in the next town( 6 miles) It will be almost month, the tracking no#. says it went to Boston, Mansfield, Brockton, Mansfield, and" Mail staff" put sticker on the mailing address. HOw come it was never returned to me since I have my mailing address on top left corner. I sign my name ..MIssing mail..

    Mar 12, 2021
  • anon

    no comment

    Mar 11, 2021
  • anon

    My package was delivered in another state i do not live in, I've contacted customer service 10 times already. They said it was for the state but why did it make it to my state. Someone misread the label and they're not helping.

    Mar 11, 2021
  • anon

    Mine has been in the Virgin Islands and it says delivered, but I live in utah so what’s going on?

    Mar 10, 2021
  • anon

    Most likely it was scanned incorrectly. Instead of them scanning it as “accepted”, it was accidentally scanned as “delivered”. Your mail will still be sent to you, but your tracking will no longer update

    Jun 07, 2021
  • anon

    Thank you for your comment Michael. I had the same issue as this happen to me. My package tracking number stated that it was delivered to NJ on April 19th, when I ordered it on July 8th and live in NC. I am hoping that is what happened and that it will be delivered to me soon. I have not been able to receive an answer that makes any sense, until I read your post. Much appreciated. I know we are all human and make mistakes.

    Jul 14, 2021
  • anon

    I am getting late fees due to mail been misdirected

    Mar 10, 2021
  • anon

    I sent a certified letter with a tracking number on 2/16/2021. It has almost been a month since it was mailed and it has not been delivered to the intended party as of yet. There has not been any updates since it arrived at the Regional Facility Richmond VA Distribution Center. Except on 3/5/2021, I received an update after requesting more information repeatedly, that it had departed the USPS Regional Facility Richmond VA Distribution Center. This has happened before after a holiday. What is the problem and how can it be fixed?

    Mar 10, 2021

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