Objective

Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of U.S. Postal Service Mail Recovery Center (MRC) operations and identify opportunities for improvement.

The MRC is the Postal Service’s “lost and found” department, serving a vital customer service role by processing undeliverable and lost items. The MRC receives items deemed “undeliverable” from Postal Service facilities throughout the country, including post offices, delivery units, and distribution centers. These items may be designated as undeliverable because of incomplete addresses, damaged mailing labels, etc. The MRC received about 67 million items in fiscal year (FY) 2019.

MRC staff conduct preliminary assessments of items arriving at the MRC within a seven-day window and determine how each item will be handled as follows:

  • Returned: Pieces that are eligible to be returned to the sender or delivered to the intended recipient. This mail could either have been improperly sent to the MRC, or MRC staff were able to find a sender/recipient after opening and examining the item.
  • Inventoried/Stored: For certain mailings where MRC staff cannot initially determine the sender/recipient but deem the item to have some material value (e.g., parcels of sentimental value or worth $25 or more), MRC staff inventory and hold these items and await customer inquiries. The MRC can store items from 30 days to indefinitely, depending on the contents, mail class or special services purchased. At the end of these designated hold periods, unclaimed items are sold at auction, donated, recycled or destroyed.
  • Analyzed Further: Certain items (such as First‑Class Mail) are further analyzed via automation and manual verification as they can potentially contain cash, checks, gift cards or money orders.
  • Disposed: Other items, such as those confirmed as undeliverable or not eligible for return, delivery or inventory (e.g., Marketing Mail) are recycled or destroyed.

We completed our fieldwork before the President of the United States issued the national emergency declaration concerning the novel coronavirus disease outbreak (COVID-19) on March 13, 2020. The results of this audit do not reflect process and/or operational changes that may have occurred as a result of the pandemic.

Findings

MRC processing operations were not always effective. Specifically, items received at the MRC were not processed in a timely manner, as the MRC did not meet its seven-day acceptance processing goal from December 2017 to September 2019. We found some mail had not been processed for more than two months during our January 2020 observations. These delays occurred because of the following:

  • Incorrectly Sent Items: MRC staff spent additional time processing items that should not have been sent per Postal Service policy, such as deliverable mail, undeliverable Marketing Mail, and recyclable materials (such as batteries). These items were sent from various Postal Service facilities across the country.
  • Lack of Accurate Data Regarding Arriving Trucks: MRC staff were unaware of the number of trucks arriving each day because Surface Visibility data was not always accurate. Our analysis of data from December 2019 through February 2020 showed the number of trucks dispatched to the MRC did not match the number of arriving trucks for 90 percent of the days. The data issues occurred because staff at the various originating facilities were not accurately inputting data into Surface Visibility. As a result, MRC managers did not have accurate information to most efficiently allocate staff and resources.

Handling these improper and unplanned workloads drove ineffective acceptance and processing operations at the MRC. These conditions were exacerbated by understaffing at the MRC during FYs 2018, 2019, and 2020. For example, the MRC had 84 clerks while it was authorized 104 as of November 2019.

We also determined MRC staff were not opening and examining all undeliverable First‑Class Mail in accordance with Postal Service policy. After reviewing 200 First‑Class mailpieces cleared by MRC staff for recycling, we found 16 pieces (8 percent) contained cash, checks, and gift cards totaling $1,692 —these items should have been originally identified upon examination by MRC staff. MRC management stated they were unaware of this policy.

MRC staff were also not effectively disposing of batteries and gift cards as follows:

  • Batteries: We found 30 containers of batteries incorrectly stored at the MRC, some for as long as two years. Postal Service policy states that batteries should be promptly recycled, but MRC managers stated that disposal funding was not provided. While $75,000 was eventually provided during our audit and the MRC disposed of the current battery inventory, uncertain funding mechanisms could result in a future accumulation of batteries that could pose a safety threat to MRC staff.
  • Gift Cards: We found about 39,000 gift cards not promptly disposed at the MRC. MRC management attributed these delays to a lack of guidance on how they should be disposed (e.g., auctioned, sold, destroyed, etc.).

We also noted a variety of opportunities to strengthen internal controls over cash, inventory of items being stored, and returning insured items:

  • Cash Reconciliation: MRC clerks were not recording all occurrences of cash when removed from undeliverable mail. The MRC’s processes also do not validate the complete record of funds extracted from the mail or allow a final reconciliation between the funds extracted from the mail and those eventually deposited.
  • Inventory: MRC staff did not maintain an accurate physical inventory of items being stored. During our inventory tests, we noted 20 of 21 (95 percent) high-value watches remained in the inventory but were incorrectly marked as “Disposed.” The Postal Service does not have a process to conduct periodic inventories where such discrepancies could be identified and resolved.
  • Returning Insured Items: MRC staff returned 63 items to customers for which indemnity claims totaling $6,619 had already been paid in FY 2019. These deficiencies occurred because the MRC did not have a process to verify if an indemnity claim had already been paid on the item (prior to its return).

During our audit, MRC management established a procedure to limit the number of trucks received daily and staffed their operation at full complement. As such, we will not make recommendations related to these issues.

Recommendations

We recommended management:

  • Develop and implement strategies to:

            - Identify and prevent postal facilities from incorrectly sending items to the MRC.

            - Ensure all trucks sent to the MRC are accurately recorded in Surface Visibility.

            - Ensure MRC staff are aware of and complying with Postal Service policy for opening and examining all undeliverable First‑Class Mail.

  • Develop and implement a mechanism to ensure funding for prompt disposal of batteries at the MRC.
  • Develop and formalize guidance on the disposal of gift cards at the MRC.
  • Establish and implement an additional process to accurately record cash removed from undeliverable mail and periodically reconcile this amount against the total cash deposited.
  • Establish and implement processes to maintain an accurate physical inventory and conduct periodic reviews.
  • Develop and implement an additional process to verify whether an indemnity claim has been paid on an item prior to its return.

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Comments (112)

  • anon

    It’s been 60 days and my large package still has not arrived.

    Aug 16, 2021
  • anon

    I have a letter that is missing from my son's address so it's lost I would like to know if I can find out if it's in the Dead male area

    Aug 13, 2021
  • anon

    I'm disgusted with usps! All of my sons clothing and laptop and other items that cannot be replaced were stolen by usps. You refuse to reimburse me for them. Someone needs to be held accountable. This is not ok. Over $1500 worth of merchandise. Most still with the tags on them. Usps denied my claim after telling me I had to wait to file one. Cross and thieves far as I can tell.

    Aug 13, 2021
  • anon

    I have had a package missing since February of 21. 6 months later now and still no help with finding my pack age the Douglas Georgia post office evidently did not scan the package because there is no record of the tracking number. Ms Jay Jackson from US postal service said she was going to help me email me several times and then just fell off never answered my emails again so I guess she quit or no longer works there for her not to answer my emails after all I had high hopes in her to help me I guess that's the things you get for being nice so now what do I do? How do I find my package missing mail missing package never responds so what is a woman to do just call it quits and give up and never get her package I think that's what they want so they won't have to work very hard.

    Aug 06, 2021
  • anon

    Have a Package at the reclaim center want it sent back to me .

    Jul 31, 2021
  • anon

    I had two mother's day cards and my daughter's magnetic picture for 2021 with postage on the envelopes. I had partial addresses on I do not remember if I put the names of who they were to go to on them. My daughters were excited to send them so when I stepped away they ran them out to my mailbox. I was going to grab them out but had car problems ended up riding my bike to work and forgot to remove them. They may have ended up in Salt Lake lost and found box. I thought they were at our local post office but not every piece of mail is looked at, that's too much mail to look at. My mail lady is busy so she didn't think to look and felt bad. No one's fault but mine. Thank you!

    Jul 26, 2021
  • anon

    The Apple Valley Ca. Post Office loses packages. The tracking says delivered. The post office says it is not there. In March 2021 a package was suppose to be ready to pick up. I went in almost every day. I was told it is not there. Then checking the tracking after two weeks it said sent back. How can they send back a package they said was not there? Now I am having the same problem again. It is ready to pick up. They say it is not there. They can't find it. It is important. This should not be happening;

    Jul 22, 2021
  • anon

    Is there an online form for the Mail Recovery center?

    Jul 09, 2021
  • anon

    Why my mail was sent to the recovery office today that’s my stimulus money in it I finally get it and now this is what happen this crazy

    Jul 08, 2021
  • anon

    I paid over 300 for an item to be sent to my address. The sender did not put my apt number so the package was sent to idaho recovery. I’ve made 3 cases and it’s been a month. No package has came.

    Jul 07, 2021
  • anon

    I have not received my mail for two weeks? What is going on? My mail is important. (19154)

    Jul 04, 2021
  • anon

    I need to locate and retrieve an item sent to the recovery center from Missoula, 59801 probable March 2021 I cannot find any contact information to submit a request or claim to retireve this item

    Jul 02, 2021
  • anon

    I bought an antique citrine ring from England. It was shipped in a padded envelope. We received the envelope but it was torn and the ring missing. Is there a lost and found for such things as this? If the envelope was damaged during processing and fell out.

    Jul 01, 2021
  • anon

    I have two packages that the label came off of in 4/2021. they have been reported and now have been escalated to the recovery center to try and locate with an online form that included descriptions and uploaded photos of the missing items. that was in May. It is now the end of June and I cannot seem to find out the status of this search. I was given a search ID after the case number was escalated. BUT, when I called your general phone number the agent apparently does not have access to the system the uses the search ID number, as she assigned NEW case numbers to my original tracking numbers. SO, JUST HOW IS SOMEONE supposed to have their missing items located?

    Jun 25, 2021
  • anon

    So is there an inventory item list from each USPS processing plant stating what they have/are sending to the MRC?

    Jun 22, 2021
  • anon

    I have been waiting since March 2021 for a package from Russia to me in the US. There have been no updates since 4/7/21. It is now nearing the end of June. I opened a case, and a representative closed the case even though I still have not received it! I have tried to reach people but always get zero answers. I also have another package that has been sitting at the Chicago distribution center for weeks! Someone tell me what to do.

    Jun 18, 2021
  • anon

    I lost my glasses through usps. How do I recover them through lost and found?

    Jun 16, 2021
  • anon

    Packaged lost at Federal Way Distribution Center on 4/30 scanned as Dead Mail. Summerlin (where package was sent to) said to contact them but no way to do it. Called #877 no help, went to local Arlington WA office 2 times, filed track package claims 3 times online. Now says at Atlanta GA Dead Mail Auction center. How can the post office legally auction off my items when I have been trying to get them for three weeks. I even said I would go pick them up in Federal Way and have the documents to show it. They are not replaceable as custom bedding. I have pictures even. No one will tell me how to get in touch with Atlanta. Phone number just rings and rings then disconnects. This should be illegal. They are my items not to be auctioned off. Reading the post office procedures and policies the local offices should be filing a MRC with Atlanta. (DMM 1.9.1) I have tried to file online but has rejected me three time. How can I get my items?

    May 26, 2021
  • anon

    sent letter to son in law on apr 25 2021 would like to submit a missing mail request for help in hopefully recovering it florida post office very helpful but somehow this mail is lost i would appreciate help with this issue thank you 630 388 9401

    May 26, 2021
  • anon

    How do I buy returned mail?

    May 24, 2021
  • anon

    Am I able to obtain unclaimed mail?

    May 22, 2021
  • anon

    How can I buy from lost mail? I understand that there is everything, batteries, watches, clothes, etc. I stay in Miami-kendall

    May 19, 2021
  • anon

    How do I get my package that is on it way to the mail recovery center?

    May 17, 2021
  • anon

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

    May 18, 2021
  • anon

    i am missing 2 white bubble envelopes that are addressed to hsn for over 2 months now. they have not received them and unfortunately i did not put a return address on them

    May 12, 2021
  • anon

    Why do they receive stuffs they know they cannot ship to us. I have a full box of dry fish , lenses etc missing and when I go to my local branch they tell me they don't know what to do. Whiles they scanned and sent the package back to the deadmail center. Is too bad.

    May 04, 2021
  • anon

    my parcel never reached the addressee what should i do

    Apr 29, 2021
  • anon

    My package was sent back and it says to be at the recovery center how do I get information on my package

    Apr 23, 2021
  • anon

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

    May 18, 2021
  • anon

    I have a tracking number for my package that went to the MRC. It has been there less than 30 days. How do I contact the MRC so that I can have my package sent to me? Thank you! Judy

    Apr 21, 2021
  • anon

    Another large package 34x25x18 28lbs MIA over 60 days, 2 missing mail claims and the only contact besides automated email was a call from the expected receiving facility to tell me it’s not there. No contact from the last facility that actually had it or the MRC. I have since had 2 other packages go MIA with the same endless loop of enroute to next facility arriving late tracking status. Are actual people doing anything or has the automated system taken over? The local post master had been contacted twice with no call back with information as promised....

    Apr 21, 2021
  • anon

    Update, Apparently my search request had been closed would’ve been good to know. They asked if I had contacted the last distribution center to scan it, I told them I didn’t have contact information for them and of course the response was the 800 number I was already talking to. Here’s a tip how about listing phone numbers to these locations instead of the general Usps 800 number that is nightmare of automated uselessness to navigate that usually only has the same information you already have off the tracking number. So I am now 60 plus days into this starting over. They will contact me initially for more information which I have provided twice to include pictures of the item before and after being boxed up for shipping.

    Apr 21, 2021
  • anon

    How can I contact MRC to report my lost mail that contains personal information such as passport? Any phone number?

    Apr 20, 2021
  • anon

    Shame on USPS !! I’ve spent $500 in shipping and you all have NO IDEIA where my packages are !! Nothing in 3 months !!

    Apr 16, 2021
  • anon

    How do I go about purchasing undelivered mail at auctions near zip code 53142 ?

    Apr 16, 2021
  • anon

    You can rest assure that I will not purchase anymore on line and have packages delivered by usps fedex or any other carrier you are the worst. delivered

    Apr 08, 2021
  • anon

    I am looking for a missing package and I have already sent a letter to MRC but haven’t heard back. I asked in the letter to get a phone call or an email to acknowledge that they have received my letter. I don’t know if it’s lost as well just like my package which is really frustrating that that is the only way to reach the mail recovery center. Every business has at least a phone number or email you can reach them by and I have never had a problem until now. USPS told me that MRC is a “complete different part of the postal service.” Honestly I am highly disappointed in the service I have received it seems that no one can help me and the place I need to hear from doesn’t even have their own phone number? It’s ridiculous. Here I am waiting to hear back and the longer I wait the more it’s possible that my items are currently being auctioned off.

    Apr 03, 2021
  • anon

    A package was sent with 4 books and only 1 book arrived. the box was severely damaged. the box was damaged when it was delivered. how do I track and recover the lost items

    Apr 02, 2021
  • anon

    Mailed letters without return address have not gotten to destination

    Mar 31, 2021
  • anon

    I dropped off a package at the Glendridge Post Office in Atlanta, Ga which had a UPS label rather than a USPS and wanted to know how to recover package.

    Mar 30, 2021
  • anon

    I received a package that was opened and it had multiple stampings of "Received without contents at Toms River, NJ 08753" I spoke with the sender (a friend) and she said that she definitely put the item in the package and it was actually in another envelope within the envelope that was delivered to me.

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    I started a search request on February 24th and got an automated email one month later stating... The US Postal Service® received the search request you submitted and it's being processed. Your package has not yet been recovered, but every effort is being made to locate your item(s). Search Request Details: Request Date: 02/24/2021 It is unjust how there is not a single communication from an actual person from the Mail Recovery Center. I was given a number by a USPS person via the phone, but when calling the number, it rings for quite a bit and gives a busy tone at the end. My mom sent a total of 8 boxes which 7 priority small packages were received, but the last big package was a 20x20x20 box and was all of a sudden a dead mail and sent to Mail Recovery Center? We trusted USPS to handle our box with care and now that package that holds my parents winter clothing/shoes/bags (due to relocating from Guam to Colorado) is all gone and have not yet been found. People like my parents work hard to purchase their belongings and I do not think that it is right to auction people’s belongings ESPECIALLY when they didn’t lose the package but was USPS fault for not handling mail/packages with care. I spoke to 3 reps on the phone and all they can say is “we apologize for the inconvenience “. Is this what you teach your staff to say? Honestly, they sound like robots. One rep said that it could have been the label was off and couldn’t return to sender to addressee. I honestly called 3 times waited on hold for over an hour with each call, and nothing! Well, my mom stated that they taped and sealed the whole thing and the label was in a baggy that USPS provided. So what exactly happened? All these comments from people trying to find their mail/package without an answer from the Mail Recovery Center is absolutely absurd! People wanting to claim unclaimed items are absolutely ridiculous! There are so many comments from people trying to get their mail back. There needs to be a better system with Mail Recovery Center as just reading on comments, such a high rate of packages/mail being lost!

    Mar 26, 2021
  • anon

    Hello, I am the Region Postal Advisor for the US Navy in Europe. I am looking for the email address for the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center. On-line it says that I can send an email search request to: MRC Search but does not list the email address. Can you provide taht address? Also, do I need to submit a form with the search request? 691.595 MRC Search When employees are inquiring about letters, flats, or parcels valued at $25 or more on behalf of the customer, send an email to: MRC Search. An MRC Search form will be returned to the sender (employee) via email. The employee completes the MRC Search form and returns it via email to: MRC Search.

    Mar 25, 2021
  • anon

    Where do see the form to fill in for the MRC? I am looking for a shipment of books. That local post office notification does not work. A letter from the Consumer Advocate and Consumer relatins. It says fill out an electronic search form that goes directly to the MRC in Atlanta. The letter does not give me the web address for that form, which I think is strange. Thank you. Neal Fitze

    Mar 13, 2021
  • anon

    Where can I find an auction location in Long Beach to purchase unclaimed items?

    Mar 09, 2021
  • anon

    Can I but unclaimed mail for 1$? (Only 1 package/mail) in newrichmond Wisconsin

    Mar 05, 2021
  • anon

    I've been waiting on a package ISC isn't sure where it at & no one is helping & I've already filed the missing mail report & still cant get any help

    Mar 05, 2021
  • anon

    anyone find answers to buying unclaimed damaged packages

    Feb 27, 2021
  • anon

    USPS MRC should have a photo library of all pkgs that go into there facility that have a reference # to let the rightful owner reclaim their property after providing ownership information. USPS has no right to auction off property that doesn’t belong to the USPS , FLAWED SYSTEM

    Feb 27, 2021
  • anon

    This is genius. I have been missing my deceased grandmother's items for a few months now. Emailing whoever I can, for someone to help me. It's emotionally exhausting to know the items could be out there somewhere and NO OME will or can help.

    Mar 02, 2021

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