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?

Report a lost package.

Comments (218)

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  • anon

    I was to receive a package on Oct.26,2016 it never arrived but was scanned by mailman as delivered at the exact same time I watched him at the mailbox, when I went out it wasn't there but the status of delivery also change to delivered in mailbox at the same time he was there, I filed and the claim it was denied after Elaine from consumer rights of USPS called and told me the package was lost the address sticker came off and stuck to someone else's mail, I want my money back I have so much proof that it wasn't delivered, it should not be this hard to rectify this situation.

    Nov 15, 2016
  • anon

    I mailed a card out on 9/24/2016. The person who was to receive it has not gotten it. I know it should take no more than 1-2 days since it was in the same state and a couple of cities down the hiway from my city. What can be done to find this card. Thank you

    Nov 14, 2016
  • anon

    I made a claim for an order I received from overseas; 10 of a collection of books were missing and when I received my package the box was in bad shape and re-taped; made the claim, went through all the steps and never heard a word from them, so I thought I lost these valuables books, then while searching for these volumes online I found that a Amazon seller has exactly these out of print and foreign books for sale and bought them from an auction site that sells unclaimed lost packages from usps, and he bought them about a month before the 60-day window; so USPS turned my books to the auction in Atlanta while I was still trying to get these people to actually look for them in New York. USPS you should be ashamed of the horrible service you provide and your lazy and unqualified personnel.

    Nov 10, 2016
  • anon

    I'm trying to locate my mail.

    Nov 08, 2016
  • anon

    I shipped a box that contained valuable OPM information plus medals (purple heart/medal of honor) that my Uncle Clair Harvey Lane gave his life for in WWII. It was shipped from Davenport, IA to Shippensbug, PA. The box top was cut off in Des Moines and sent to me but do not know what happened to the contents inside the box. I have talked with Customer Care plus submitted a detailed Parcel Search Request to the Mail Recovery Center (MRC) in Atlanta, GA. I got the request back in a short time with "NOT FOUND" at the bottom of the form. These items cannot be replaced. How can these items be lost? The box description was submitted so why can't they find the box? The items should still be in the box. Unfortunately, there is no way to contact the MRC. I hope they haven't auctioned my valuable items off - wanted to forward them to my son to keep my Uncle's legacy alive.

    Oct 31, 2016
  • anon

    2 Boxes of valuable books were LOST in August enroute from Utah to Texas. I have filed all online forms including pictures of each book and cost of book and even mailed forms to the MRC. I have called for 3 months and no one answers the phones. I have flown from Texas to Atlanta only to find out the MRC has relocated and NO ONE knows where to. I have tried endlessly for 3 days while here in Atlanta to speak with ANYONE regarding my items yet, no one answers their phones nor are they at their desks. These books are my son's resource library for his occupation and must have these! The MRC is NOT responding to any forms of communication to let me know if they are even looking for these items. There is NO customer service what so ever. I am desperate and am willing to look at every single item in the building myself to locate these items. Why is no one responding?

    Oct 26, 2016
  • anon

    Two months ago I received a package with items missing from it as well as the entire package and its contents damaged. I have tried to file a claim three times and have received no compensation. At the very least I would like to recover the missing items. How can I get a hold of the recovery center to request that they look for my items in the lost and found? I can't even find a way to contact the recovery center. Every time I try, I get led back to filing a claim, which I do not want to go through again. I just want my missing stuff back. Please give me a phone number or email address to request that they look for my items. Thank you.

    Oct 22, 2016
  • anon

    Seems they have lost my passport and tons of personal information. NO help whatsoever from the local Altanta post offices and all they can say is that it's in transit. So evidently..it's been on a truck out for delivery for over a week. I have sent numerous customer service emails and just filed a lost mail claim. Meanwhile, looks like I may be missing a flight (no way I will be able to get a new passport and new visa before my flight) and potential identity theft.

    Oct 15, 2016
  • anon

    Yes Iam writing in concerns of a missing letter that was sent from a family member from Iowa to where I live which is Minnesota. It has been 1 wk now and never received the letter, which was important. It had no insurance because I never had this happened ever. Is there anything the postal service can do? Thanks so much. Josefina Zubia

    Oct 06, 2016
  • anon

    My mail service in Dallas is "third world" at best. For four years, 100s complaints in person, over the phone, online, I still receive mail for people who do not live at this address. Stickers have been placed in my mail box. I live in the worst area, next to South Oak Cliff/Dallas where mail doesn't even get delivered partially due to loose dog. Two different times, my mail was bundled, not at my request, and delivered days late. When I reported this, twice, the people at the other end of the phone gasped. Never heard of that! My mail goes to neighbors' houses. I get their mail. Recently, my birthday card was returned as "incorrect" address, which it was not. Belated birthday greetings at 72 better than nada. At least I'm not pushing dirt & maybe the mail service will improve. Not holding my breath!

    Sep 30, 2016
  • anon

    I drop off a phone on aug 26 to be returned to T-Mobile they have not received it due to this they want me to pay 700 dollars for the phone please help me find the phone it was dropped off at the Burleson TX post office earlier morning it's a Samsung phone

    Sep 28, 2016
  • anon

    Use UPS or Fedex. Hopefully once USPS goes into large enough deficit, they will begin firing the lazy one and do their job.

    Sep 29, 2016
  • anon

    My daughter mailed my carry on luggage from Las Vegas to Hawaii, which I'm told was lost and now at the MRC in Atlanta, GA. Both the local PO and I have submitted for missing mail claim with no response since August 30th. There is a photo that was sent of what the luggage looks like so it can not be missed. Besides all the gifts purchase from Las Vegas for my family & friends my personal tablet and other electronics are in there. How do I contact anyone from MRC as to check on the status?

    Sep 14, 2016
  • anon

    I have 5 packages at the recovery center and I want to know how long do yall wait before they are recycled or destroyed. I want my items but I just wanna be sure. And I want to know which is the correct form so yall can send me my packages

    Sep 02, 2016
  • anon

    I am missing a letter that was sent to my old address and was supposed to be forwarded to my new address... I still have not received it. What do i need to do as this letter is very important!!

    Sep 01, 2016
  • anon

    We shipped 8 boxes from California to Kentucky in June. 6 made it. We filed missing mail reports on line and listed the contents. We then received the actual labels from the two boxes with forms attached that wanted us to list the contents. We listed the contents and mailed those back in. One of our on line search requests expired (2 months has passed). With the specific list of graduate level textbooks supposedly on file as being the contents of the boxes that have no address labels now, I would assume that when they're opened they will be easily matched up to us. But so far, we've had no word and with one search request expired and the other about to, I fear we'll never recover the $1200+ set of textbooks and they'll be auctioned off. I am frustrated reading the report about the low percentage of mail returned once it is sent to the MRC.

    Aug 31, 2016
  • anon

    I am reporting loss of documents which is being left in wrong box, Already have reported this incident before but someone of my neighborhood this coming to let me them documents to the door of my apartment by poorly intentional work of the employee of the service postal of the United States. I hope that this comment is read by someone responsible and will solve this problem. Thank You Julio Rivas

    Aug 29, 2016
  • anon

    How do I contact the MRC to inquire about a package? I have been advised by multiple personnel at USPS, both locally and on the phone at the call center to contact the MRC. I have filed a missing mail request, twice. I have a case number. I have tracking. I am supposed to hear from a manager in 48-72 hours to help me find this package, but I was also advised to contact the MRC. HOW? Help. Please. Bermuda Triangle? Santa Claus? I don't know what else to do but have a sense of humor about this. There are a thousand messages just like mine posted below, and people have lost things that are much more significant than my measly pile of academic books. However, the problem is the same. We would like to find the things you lost. We would like to stop annoying you with posts about Santa Claus and the Bermuda Triangle. I am sure you are a wonderful person and I have no ill will toward you specifically, I just need some help. Jingle bells, holly and ivy, and all that is sugar coated plum fairies. Peace and good will to all men. Please help!

    Aug 26, 2016
  • anon

    I sent a package in the mail about a year ago to my father in Washington state. I received a portion of the box with my address along with a letter explaining the box had opened and the contents were gone. I also received a form asking me to describe the contents - two photo albums. (I gave very good descriptions of them and specific photos). I never heard anything back. Are these articles now destroyed because of the time period hat has past? Is there anything further that I can do? Please give me an answer. Thank you- Debbie Oetman

    Aug 22, 2016
  • anon

    Sent a get well card to a friend in May 2016 and she never received it. Had a valid address and a return address on it. Don't understand where it could have gone with all the proper information on it.

    Aug 16, 2016
  • 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

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