It seems a lost piece of mail isn’t too different from losing your hat at school. In both cases, you’ll want to check the lost and found bin. For the U.S. Postal Service, that would be the Mail Recovery Center (MRC) in Atlanta, its official lost and found department. Known at one time as the Dead Letter Office, the Mail Recovery Center works to reunite undeliverable packages and letters with either sender or recipient.

Processing centers and retail and delivery units send mail items without valid addressee and sender information to the MRC, where MRC staff act as detectives. They scan and open packages in hopes of finding address information that will facilitate the delivery or return of items valued at $25 or more. If items can’t be delivered or returned, the Postal Service donates, recycles, discards, or auctions them off.

Auctions of unclaimed items are popular with the reseller community, although it’s a risk-reward proposition. Most items are arranged by merchandise in large lots, such as sporting equipment and musical instruments, and not sold individually. Potential buyers willing to travel to the MRC are given the opportunity to glance at the oversized box that contains the lot of items. However, they cannot touch, move or otherwise inspect the items before bidding. Three years ago, the Postal Service moved the auctions online in an effort to reach a wider bidding audience. It uses a contractor to run the auctions.

In fiscal year (FY) 2014, the MRC received 88 million items and processed 12 million of those valued at $25 or more. It returned 2.5 million items to customers — a resolution rate of 21 percent of researched items, or 3 percent of total incoming items. For mailpieces valued at $25 or more without a valid address, the MRC retains them for 30, 60, 90, or 180 days, depending on the mail class or special services used. Customers can file an inquiry about a lost mailpiece, and then employees search to try to match an inquiry with an undelivered item.

Our recent audit report looked at the MRC’s effectiveness at handling customer inquiries and managing items it received. We found that Postal Service sales and service associates need to better instruct customers on filing an inquiry. We also found the MRC did not track how many inquiries resulted in items returned to customers because it did not have procedures to capture and analyze inquiry data.

Also, the Postal Service did not sufficiently oversee the contractor responsible for auctioning unclaimed items at the MRC or fully log and reconcile items sent for auction, the report said.

We are looking for feedback on your specific experience with the Mail Recovery Center or auction process. Do you have any experience with the Mail Recovery Center? Do you see ways to strengthen the process?

Have you ever participated in the auction process? If yes, what works well? What could be improved?

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Comments (198)

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  • anon

    I received a manila envelope that was open and empty with a letter saying to contact the mail recovery center. I am looking for a form to fill out but cannot find it. What do I do to start a search for this? Thank you, Jean Frances

    Aug 16, 2016
  • anon

    My son-in-law shipped me a package from VT. Unfortunately he did not think you should have to purchase insurance. When the package arrived it had been retaped and all items were inside - except one, an HP Mini computer in a Garmin box. I was astonished to hear "that's why we offer insurance". Funny, I don't have people insured in the event I don't do my job .... I have received the run around ever since on trying to locate this at the unclaimed hub in Atlanta. I have the make/model/sn and the pc is personalized for me. No response, no help.

    Aug 16, 2016
  • anon

    Received an empty white envelope 12 X 16 inch 08/05/16. Top of envelope was torn open. Envelope was shipped from Pakistan , contained 5 black tourmaline stones 760 grams , wrapped in Bubble wrap and tape. What forms do I need to file and can I file online? I am trying to access Mail recovery search center for forms with no luck.

    Aug 09, 2016
  • anon

    Aug 5,2016 I received a Manila envelope mailed from Caoe Girardeau Mo . It was open and the pictures inside were missing . How can I track those pictures ? There was no tracking number ! These are old photos that cannot be replaced ! Any help would be appreciated .

    Aug 06, 2016
  • anon

    A package we have been trying to track since the end of June from Tampa to Columbus MS went missing after one day. It that was sent to the recovery center is no where to be found. We filed a claim on- line but have received nothing from the postal service - not even a confirm that they received out claim. We have a CA number and a online claim number but nothing more. I have called every week and NO ONE can help me. The workers are sympathetic but really not helpful because they have no idea what the next step is. Twice I was given a number to the recovery center which was a dead number both times. My postmaster said they don't even have an internal number to contact them. I spoke to someone from the PO Consumer Affairs Office yesterday who also told me that they do not have a number for the recovery center - seriously?!!!! The box was full of items that are valuable to my daughter, who is active duty military - but the most valuable to her are her Air Force Academy yearbooks. What can I do to get progress on this missing package? Is concerning to anyone else the number of items that are in the online auction photos? Are lost items ever recovered? According to the person I spoke to at the Consumer Affairs Office these claims disappear after 60 days - please tell me this isn't true?! The box was not insured enough to cover the contents - are there any other options of recovery costs? Thank you

    Aug 05, 2016
  • anon

    My US passport, a passport renewal application, passport photos and a certified marriage certificate have all been lost in USPS mail. I am currently trying to track it down. The reason I know it did not reach the US State Department is because I received a mangled check (originally for the passport renewal) in a USPS envelope in my mailbox.

    Aug 01, 2016
  • anon

    I have been trying to track my package for over 2 months now and it seems to have made a dead end stop in Phoenix Az store zip code is 85021. I called the store numerous times for them to tell me they never received my package. I called a post office in fort sill where the package was originally being shipped to and they said the store in Phoenix with zip code 85021 had received it and they have no idea why they would tell me they hadn't received it. The post office In fort sill called the store in Phoenix az and confirmed that my package had be delivered and accepted there but they had no idea where my package went after that. I made a claim I even have a case number I have been waiting for almost 3 months for my package and I would LOVE to know what happened to it so please help me find my package.

    Jul 17, 2016
  • anon

    That is quite extraordinary how much goes missing! Better use a private service like Fedex or UPS. I have lost irreplaceable family documents which were send to me by registered mail from Ireland. Tracking shows the package being delivered to NYC, and then that's it! Pay extra if necessary, but do not take a chance on this.

    Jul 11, 2016
  • anon

    I filed a missing mail search 2 weeks ago and haven't heard anything. . The card mailed included my father's dog tags from WWII. . 40 dollars cash a letter and card for my granson. . I'm heart broken. . I would like to know if anyone received my search request! !

    Jul 10, 2016
  • anon

    Yes I just reserved my packed and it was damaged and there is nothing in side I won't to know where my stuff is I didn't buy it so it can get lost

    Jul 08, 2016
  • anon

    I shipped a box from Florida to Denver. Address was correct. They are telling me it is now in the dead mail in Atlanta, Georgia. Is there a phone number for that location? I filled a missing mail claim, but have not heard a thing. This is unbelievable. Please help with a phone number for this place in Atlanta, Georgia Thank you

    Jul 06, 2016
  • anon

    The Usps has lost now 2 of my letters in the last 3 months. One of which was fine for 2 and a half months. Very inconvenient when there is a money order for your mortgage inside. Do you think the usps compensated you in any way for the expenses incurred by them losing your mail. NOPE. Even sent them certified and priority. Won't use you guys again.

    Jul 05, 2016
  • anon

    I just found out about this website. I received a gift from my friends in England a few weeks ago as a birthday gift. They mailed a t-shirt, a guitar pick, a CD and a small letter. When I received it in my mailbox, the package was torn open and taped up very poorly. The guitar pick and CD were not in the package. Either someone from the post office along the way stole the items or the mail man. My old mail man went to prison for stealing thousands of packages from people so maybe this mail man did the same thing. Either way, it is a crime to open someone else's mail. It is far worse to steal someone's mail.

    Jun 30, 2016
  • anon

    I have my passport in the lost and found and would like it mailed back to me.

    Jun 25, 2016
  • anon

    I have done everything I can think of to attempt to contact the USPS to get my water pump (irreplaceable as it is the original one from my classic car) and get them to contact me or respond in ANY manner, phone call, email, letter, etc and I've yet to hear from them. Has ANYONE out there ever been contacted by the USPS to explain what they are doing to return your property that they lost? I'd be real curious. Jerome Miller

    Jun 12, 2016
  • anon

    I had a very expensive antique clock lost in the mail and the post office even denied receiving it. They say they will start a search for it but I guarantee you that your chances of ever seeing the item again are very small, too many thieves, wrong deliveries, and other mishaps in the postal service cause many to lose their items and never see them again with no reasonable explanation, only indifference and arrogance.

    Sep 30, 2016
  • anon

    What's there number

    Jul 08, 2016
  • anon

    I mailed an priority envelope from Honolulu to Effingham, SC on April 23... It was recieved a ripped envelope on March 16, 2016. Someone had taped part of it? This was a Mothersday gift... Where is it? It was Kona Coffee?

    May 29, 2016
  • anon

    I am searching for a letter I mailed in the fall of 2015. I mailed it from home and asked the mail carrier to bill me for the postage. The letter was picked up without an envelope for postage. A week later I received and orange envelope asking for more postage. I returned the envelope with the postage, but the person I mailed it to never received it. They said I would probably receive it after Christmas morning I never did. Mail carrier said it was probably in dead letter file. So I am contacting you to locate this letter. Can you help me or refer me to someone who can.

    May 28, 2016
  • anon

    I mailed a cast iron water pump from a 302 cubic inch Ford motor to a rebuilder in CA. The well package box was caught and ripped open in the Des Moines IA distribution center. The employees there did not know which box it came out so they said they sent it to your Atlanta MRC Center. (My postmaster called the DM center and this is what he was told). I filled out a MRCSR three weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was told there was no mechanism for attaching a photo to this form (Really, in this day and age?) Is there ANY chance there is a USPS employee that would know what a small block Ford water pump is based on a written description? My other question is what kind of time frame is there before I receive a response from the USPS as to the progress , if any in my case? Will you call me or email me (you have both methods of contacting me) as to where this stands? The tracking number from the original shipment is 9534 6120 1452 6109 0542 09. Please contact me with what I should expect from here. Thanks Jerome Miller

    May 16, 2016
  • anon

    I sent 2 boxes for my husband who's in ship... But my package was lost and says it's in Atlanta .. Why did you guys didn't informed the sender if the package was said to be UNDELIVERABLE! This is ridiculous! almost 3mos of waiting for nothing???????!!!! Very bad quality of service! I experienced this twice! The first package was wrecked box lost items... and then just gave me a 20$ insurance? wow!! just wow!

    May 09, 2016
  • anon

    My son is in the military and sent me a army mom dog tag someone in postal service 0pened the top of my letter and helped themselves to my army mom dog tag. I hope they are enjoying it. Probably sold it on ebay.. nothing worse than a theif. There probably not a military mom either.

    Apr 23, 2016
  • anon

    It is very hard to get in touch with the lost and found. The post office lost a book that was mailed to me. How do I get in touch with them. To see if the book has turned up.

    Feb 27, 2016
  • anon

    The terminally "in transit" box that the USPS shows to have handled 17 times according to the tacking automation system, has made it's way back to the sender because the carrier person said....you can't make this up, "WE HAD TOO MUCH MAIL" so the carrier simply send it back without attempting to deliver it or even leave a notice to "pick up." This is happens when a govt. employee doesn't fear being fired. Fix your termination process.

    Jan 22, 2016
  • anon

    I was told to use an MRC form and I did file it but no one even knows what it is at the postoffice at University College Station Post Office, so I had to bring it to them printed off my computer search? Now the package is still sitting in Atlanta miss sent and not delivered put on the wrong truck? Tracking # 9505511074785341435559 No one will follow up as claimed and cannot reach anyone on phone? What is customer Service if from Dec 7th to Jan 19th this package is still...not delivered and sits in Atlanta in error? I am very frustrated with USPS poorly organized and not responsive!

    Jan 19, 2016
  • anon

    An attempted delivery of a small USPS package on Dec. 22, 2015 was rerouted to a different address in Chicopee, Ma., and I can't seem to find it's current location. The tracking number is 92748924912389511006679266. Can you please help me resolve this situation. Thank you very much.

    Jan 17, 2016
  • anon

    Why has it taken from Jan.4 to now the 16 for my great granddaughter to still not have her package.she is 7.I don"t understand it .It only had 235 miles to go. Have you lost her package?

    Jan 16, 2016
  • anon

    "Lost and found" must refer to USPS's customer service...........there is NONE, only unhelpful automated systems. USPS can delay or steal whatever they want without any repercussions.

    Jan 15, 2016
  • anon

    Mike Lee, you hit the nail on the head with your comment - except that I would not include the word 'found'. USPS needs to be completely overhauled, but only AFTER a federal investigation is conducted on why there continues to be no resolution to customers reporting such a huge # of lost, damaged, and evidently, stolen items. Today's automation and electronic systems should HELP, not HINDER the proper tracing of lost items. Instead, for this entity, they are used to completely replace human interaction, sending callers into a never ending loop of useless voice prompts. I've called several numbers and left messages for listed Dallas/Ft. Worth management who supposedly look after resolution issues, but do you really think anyone called me back? A small package was recently 'delivered' to my apartment, according to the tracking confirmation - but I never received it. I have wasted an eternity trying to find out what happened, to no avail. When I finally reached a really understanding and helpful agent on the phone last Friday, he took my information down and created a case for me. I called the general # today to get the status which I was told should be established by now: the automated recording stated (after another 20 minutes of wasted time) that the office in charge of cases was now closed...this was at approx. 1:45 pm CST on a weekday!! The local post office in my area (Bent Tree, in Dallas) has a phone number posted online, but can anyone tell me why a business phone number is provided when NOBODY there ever answers? I have tried contacting them numerous times, to no avail. According to customer reviews, this is the top complaint. There is no ability to leave a message, just the same stupid voice recording that starts after 4 or 5 rings and then hangs up on you. The folks who work at the front desk there are super nice and helpful, so no disrespect to them...it's how customer service is managed (or rather, is NOT managed) by phone here that's the issue. This whole postal system needs a shake-up. I go paperless whenever I can, and will now refrain from ordering anything online whose vendors use USPS: it's too much hassle dealing with the consequences of a lost item. One more example of corporate disregard for the people it serves.

    Jan 10, 2017
  • anon

    I ordered silver coin sets as christmas presents from the US Mint to be shipped via a free shipping holiday inducement and there was no provision to take out insurance. The package was shipped via Fedex Smartpost and I tracked the shipment daily including the day it was indicated out for delivery by the USPS. Unfortunately, it was not delivered during my regular delivery and failed to show up that day. Later in there day I received a notice from Fedex that it had been delivered. Then checking with USPS, it confirmed the delivery was made at a certain time. I immediately contacted USPS online, by telephone and even visited the local branch with little help. I received an email notice that the USPS could not guarantee delivery and the case was closed. additional telephone contact provided me with carrier time stamp data that indicated the delivery was made about 6 minutes after the two subsequent carrier time stamps beyond our immediate delivery block. So they know when it was delivered but not where. It appears that if it in fact was delivered, the recipients have not turned it in to the USPS thus it becomes stolen property that I paid for. After over 4 weeks it still has not shown up. I was forced to reorder the coin sets and had them successfully shipped and received by relatives in 3 different states. I filed a stolen goods report with our local police force. I further have filed a certificate of non receipt with the US Mint. The other possible scenario is that the carrier kept the package for his or her self. I regret suggesting this, but certainly would not be a first time for internal theft. I also contacted my credit card company to dispute the charges since I never received the goods. Unfortunately, their theft benefit could not be employed since coins are conveniently excluded from coverage. I am upset that the USPS has not employed the GPS package tracking technology that has been around a couple years, and basically said "tough luck". I am not encouraged in getting resolution from the US Mint because likely all they will do is check with the USPS which said it was delivered. Furthermore, in one telephone conversation with local (Catonsville, MD) manager, it was said the the carrier placed it on steps and another conversation it was changed to mailbox. I checked with the US Mint on the package dimensions and was said to easily fit a standard curbside mailbox.

    Jan 15, 2016
  • anon

    What I have to do because I made a ebay order and only received parts of it order and look like the package was open. I contact the seller and return the item. I send it back on Dec. 31 and today january 14 the track # do not show me where is the item. This is the track # 9534610977185365157923

    Jan 14, 2016
  • anon

    Hi, i need some help,9261296901015007303435 track number, my package maybe lost or stuck on Jacksonville from january 8, why don't move ?? Thanks a lot

    Jan 14, 2016
  • anon

    Im trying too see if I have any packages or lost mail there

    Jan 14, 2016
  • anon

    I ordered a Cuckoo Clock from Germany in November as a Christmas Present for my daughter. It shipped on 12/18/2015 by DHL #961409965807, and was turned over to USPS on 12/19/2015, USPS tracking #CL605059287DE. Three weeks past Christmas now, and still I wait. Maybe She'll get it in time for her Birthday. Very disappointing. I could have paddled a row boat to Germany and back, and gotten it myself by now.

    Jan 13, 2016
  • anon

    With so much mail in the lost and found. What is the number one reason for this. Is the usps not competent enough to insure proper delivery of these parcels,etc.?

    Jan 13, 2016
  • anon

    I wanted to know the same thing..how in the world can it be a "Lost and Found"? Like really..Who lost it? I have been waiting on a package to arrive since January 2 to arrive and still waiting. Lost or stolen some where at Puerto Rico post office!

    Jan 13, 2016
  • anon

    I sent a handmade gift to Canada using Priority Mail International Parcel and it has been sitting there since December 3rd. "Your item arrived at our USPS facility in JAMAICA, NY 11430 on December 3, 2015 at 4:04 am. The item is currently in transit to the destination." ÔÇó ÔÇó ÔÇó It's NOT in transit, it's still in Jamaica, NY as far as I can tell. Canada Post - who has a very easy-to-contact option on their website - replied to me right away, after having searched their system for the package, and told me that the package has not yet entered Canada. In fact, THEY found out the package was still in NY! ÔÇó ÔÇó ÔÇó What the hell? I could have WALKED there by now and handed the Xmas gift right to her! It's been 45 days since I mailed it, plenty of time to get through any customs inspection and on its way. Even with the holiday crush, this is WAY too long for a package to be in transit. Not to mention a disappointing Xmas for a special person. ÔÇó ÔÇó ÔÇó Also, the USPS website in a nightmarish tangle of hoops to jump through just to ask a question or register a complaint, with drop down menus that drill into the center of the earth before you can get to the point where you can actually send a question or comment, and there is no provision for communicating if your particular issue isn't under one of these sub-headings. It's ridiculous! (And this comment section does not recognize paragraph returns.) ÔÇó ÔÇó ÔÇó Send my package to its addressee or send it back! ÔÇó ÔÇó ÔÇó Short version: ÔÇó Where's my package and why hasn't it been delivered? ÔÇó Why is your USPS website so hard to use?

    Jan 13, 2016
  • anon

    I ordered a couple items online. Yesterday the tracking number said they had been delivered to my PO Box. I checked my box and there was a parcel locker key in it. I was excited, but when I opened the parcel locker there was a package for someone else, but nothing for me. I put the package back into the postmasters slot so it wouldn't get stolen because there is no way to relock the parcel lockers. This morning my spouse went to the post office and explained what happened and the clerk admitted she mixed the keys up. She checked the other locker, but my items had already been taken. What is my recourse here? The postal worker admits she knows who took it.

    Jan 12, 2016
  • anon

    I NOT GET LETTERS, MANUALS OR PARCEL , MAGAZINE , OR ETC.... THAT WHY .. I ALREADY CHANGE EVERYTHINGS AS WHEN I MOVE AS CHANGE ADDRESS SINCE NOW .. MY EX HUSBAND TAKE AND OPEN THE MAIL I AM LEGAL AS LAWS SO .. SUGGEST ID PICTURE ON UR COMPUTER AND CHANGE ADDRESS AS SAME PERSON (NO STRANGE WONT ALLOW TO GET THOSE ) AND IF WHOM EX HUBSAND HAVE TO IDENTIFY LAST NAME OR DIVORCE AS ALLOW CUZ HE ALREADY TAKE ALL MY MAIL AS OPENING I GET MAD AT HIM ALSO OWE ALOTS AS I AM FRUSTUAL PLEASE NEW TECHNOLOGY ABOUT MAIL GO AHEAD THANK U

    Jan 12, 2016
  • anon

    HI, My friend dropped off by accident my UPS package at a USPS location and its been 2 weeks now the package hasn't shown up. I contacted UPS and they said to contact USPS cause the tracking will only be activated when its mailed off. Were located in Australia and was passing through the US. Its a returned package for online goods and now i may loose a lot of money cause it sounds like its just sitting at the USPS location in CA when the package is going to CA warehouse. will this be forwarded to UPS eventually?

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    Hi Yoshi, Was your issue resolved and your package returned to you?

    Apr 27, 2017
  • anon

    Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, this matter is outside of our jurisdiction. Please call the U.S. Postal Service Customer Service office at 1800-222-1811 and they will be able to help you.

    Jan 12, 2016
  • anon

    Hello! A few days ago I filed a complaint (#155956414), no one has contacted me yet. The US postal office located on 14311 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181 needs attention. They have lost my mail 3 times in 4 months and I just moved to the area. They have lost my friend's mail a couple of times. They don't answer the phone. According to reviews on google and yellowpages many customers say the service is terrible and the branch is very well known for loosing mail. Please investigate, this branch is in my neighborhood, this branch and their employees can do way better. Thank you very much!

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    Hello Malorena, If you filed a complaint with the Postal Service instead of our office, you will need to follow-up with them on the status of your complaint.

    Jan 12, 2016
  • anon

    lost or stolen Documents checks , Immigration documents , Bank document , I am wondering where are there ended , and whom took care of including the affidavit...thank you

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    In 2015 AT&T sent a pre-printed return label and a box with instruction to use USPS service. I dropped off the package and get the receipt. USPS online tracking system is showing the package was picked up by a shipping agent on 12-30-15. That package when to the oblivion since. There is no way of contacting USPS either. That is how ineffective our tax money is being wasted.

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    Sorry to hear your package was lost, but your last sentence is inaccurate. The US Postal Service does not receive tax dollars, relying solely on the cost of postage to fund their operations.

    Jan 11, 2016
  • anon

    I just read an article that the USPS gets about an average of 2.18 billion dollars in exemptions on pretty much everything from vehicle registrations to real estate and everything between and this article was from 2014. Just saying that the gentleman was correct in his last sentence.

    Nov 21, 2016

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