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 (107)

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  • anon

    I'm looking for my package it was supposed to be delivered on November 30. 2020

    Feb 16, 2021
  • anon

    My I.d is lost in the mail i needed to add unit 34 on the mailing address

    Feb 16, 2021
  • anon

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

    Mar 01, 2021
  • anon

    Where can I buy unclaimed mail in Indianapolis?

    Feb 15, 2021
  • anon

    Extremely disappointed in my US postal service. Customer service seems to be a thing of the past and the lack of care given is very sad. They have “ lost “ a one of a kind item- I received 1 of 4..... they misplaced the 4th. It’s an irreplaceable item and they said “ we are sorry for any inconvenience “. How about simply finding it? It’s in a very Distinguished container. They just don’t care anymore

    Feb 13, 2021
  • anon

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

    Mar 01, 2021
  • anon

    Hi, my package was not delivered to me. I called the USPS Customer Care, and it says it was sent to USPS Mail Revovery Center. What is my next step? How do i contact the Recovery Center. Thanks and Best Regards, Allain De Leon

    Feb 11, 2021
  • anon

    Go to Usps.com Help Find missing mail

    Feb 19, 2021
  • anon

    Hello - There is a piece of missing mail somewhere in your Atlanta facility. It was not delivered to my customer who lives in Atlanta and also never returned to me? I have a photo of what the package looks like it that helps. What is my next step? Thank you in advance for your time. Ungala Gillespie

    Feb 10, 2021
  • anon

    I have been trying to get my product back or my a refund for a real long time now with NO luck. Now you say the tracking number is wrong when at one time you said it was at the recovery center. It cost me $159.99 that I can't get back without the product being shipped back to the company it went to keto diet pills in Largo Florida. I can't afford a loss on this. Please help me solve this issue. I have always been satisfied with your services in the past. Thank You so much

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    My daughter mailed me a package Dec 3 and I never received it I just get the run around

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    Where can u buy unclaimed mail?

    Feb 09, 2021
  • anon

    Hello can you help me please. I sent 4 parcels from Thailand in October and 5 in November to my friend in Washington State. The latter 5 have arrived as I was able to trace them to the US and push delivery with my tracking number. I lost my tracking number and I am concerned that first 4 parcels are, as my second 5 were, resting in a US postal center until I physically chase them, which I cannot do without the tracking number. Can I trace these items by delivery address? I appreciate your support. Thank you.

    Feb 08, 2021
  • anon

    WHATS THE USPS MAIN OFFICE ADDRESS?

    Feb 07, 2021
  • anon

    Hello its been really hard for Me To talk with a representative my package was forwarded i talked to someone and they said that it was going To be mailed to me In A couple Days And have yet to receive it I just want to find out Were it is or if I can go pick it up myself no one has contacted me yet it has become very unprofessional

    Feb 04, 2021
  • anon

    I have an informed delivery account. I saw my mails coming and I have a forwarding address on file, but the post office is not forwarding my mails. Why? My forwarding address is in Houston.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    I sent 4 boxes of books from Beaver Dam WI to Marysville, WA. One of the boxes came Rewrapped at seattle Network Distribution Center. Out of 44 books there were only 2 in box.

    Feb 03, 2021
  • anon

    My package went to the disposal center, can I get it back? My change of address did not get there in time.

    Jan 30, 2021
  • anon

    I have been trying to get help in finding a box mailed to me on 8/03/2020. We filed a missing mail/search claim. I received a vague message stating they were behind in that area. I tried calling the local branch and was hung up on before anyone answered multiple times. I cannot get hold of anyone and don't want my item to disappear entirely. I am at a loss.

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    I dropped off three packages that didn’t have a proper label on them. I received one back. The other two are lost. I went back to the post office in Southaven, MS and asked about them. They told me to go to dead mail and try to locate them.

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    I sent a package from Houston to Indianapolis and it never arrived. The package was sent before Christmas. The value for around $50.00 and I would appreciate help to recover this package

    Jan 28, 2021
  • anon

    My second stimulus check got sent to the wrong address because I was in rehab when I recieved my first payment. I did the change of address form but it was already too late and my mail got sent back. Please he)p me find it before I'm evicted.. have to have it to pay my rent!!!

    Jan 26, 2021
  • anon

    My mail got returned by new tenants

    Jan 23, 2021
  • anon

    I recently sent a latter containing a boat title and I forgot to put a stamp on the envelope and I also forgot to a return address on on the envelope. How do I get my boat title back

    Jan 21, 2021
  • anon

    How do find out why a parcel was sent to the Recovery Center and what steps can I take to recover or have this item delivered to its proper address?

    Jan 20, 2021
  • anon

    So frustrated 3rd sent box never received. Items were irreplaceable. 3rd box i saved recept and now this one is sent to dead mail. CC center number nobody answers and can't leave message. On hold 2 stinking hours with 800#. Why just why

    Jan 19, 2021
  • anon

    I mailed a birthday card with a check to my son in law in Chicago on December 19 and he has not received it till today. Please help

    Jan 18, 2021
  • anon

    In regards to recover mail .

    Jan 15, 2021
  • anon

    Lost Christmas card from my cousin Ronald whetstone in utah

    Jan 14, 2021
  • anon

    I'm interested in unclaimed mail I was told you sell it after some time can I get information on this please Sincerely JoLynn

    Jan 11, 2021
  • anon

    I had one package which i sent out on 12/13/2020 and never scanned but suddenly just now i got notifications that my package went to recovery center and claim as dead mail. What should i do?

    Jan 10, 2021
  • anon

    I have yet to receive a response to my claim for a package you all put to dead mail. This was to be a gift for my Son and was to be delivered by the 22nd of Dec (it is now 8 January). The voice mail of the Consumer Affairs department is now "full" and not taking any calls (not sure why there is no-one actually answering this number). It is clear why this insitution is failing

    Jan 08, 2021
  • anon

    I received an empty package that was mailed to my house. Nothing was inside and the package had been opened. It was mailed to me from a friend.

    Jan 06, 2021
  • anon

    Mailed out Christmas packages on Dec 7 2020 family in Indiana 47901 still have not received them 7 total boxes mailed out of New London Wisconsin 54961

    Jan 05, 2021
  • anon

    ey in it for a book of stamps in m'y mail box on Déc 22 2020 and have not recieved them, I had talked To m'y local post office about it and was told thé carrier must of took it out of thé mai box and put in it with outgoing mail. Hé had To have se en that there wasn't any stamp on thé envelope. I had wrote on it that I wanted à book of stamps and signed m'y name. I wasn't aware that thé carrier doesn't carry stamps with him

    Dec 29, 2020
  • anon

    I have several packiges that were shipped from chins That say received by the united states of America postel service. But my post office tells me they have no way to even track the packoges. When a packige comes on with a over seas tracking number I sent there a intake department that converts the overseas tracking number into a cusps tracking number? Please get back with me this is the worst I've ever Ben treated by a post office iny life Like there treating like IM stupid That I am not

    Dec 28, 2020
  • anon

    The mail I send from the Chicago International & Military Service Center is done as follows: 1. Like items are placed in a tub ( food with food; books with books; clothes with clothes) 2. Each tub is numbered ( 1 of ) how ever many tubs or items are sent in one container. 3.I would further write on the M-Tel Placard the items within the numbered tub I feel by processing the mail I dispatch to the MRC would help the staff expedite their handling of the mail.

    Dec 26, 2020
  • anon

    I am desperately looking for my green military duffle bag that was lost within the USPS system. I assume the shipping label came off in transit (around OCT 21, 2020). It has a lock on it. Do you all send military duffle bags elsewhere after receiving it at the recovery center? Thank you.

    Dec 26, 2020
  • anon

    Would like to know how to retrieve mail That had the wrong address on it and Does not have a return address on it How do I find out and how do you retrieve it How long does it take to get it back

    Dec 18, 2020
  • anon

    On December 3, 2020 I mailed my Granddaughter a birthday card with 4 gift cards. I mailed it from the Bethel, DE post office to New Egypt, NJ. She never received it. I even asked the girl at the post office if it should be hand stamped. Being it fit through the slot in the card board easily, she said it should not be a problem. The gift cards in question are an Ulta for $25, Aeropostale for $25, Dunkin Donuts for $25 and Starbucks for $25. I've mailed gift cards in the past and never had a problem. I hope you can possibly locate them. I appreciate any help you can give me. Thank You.

    Dec 14, 2020
  • anon

    I recently mailed probably 60 packages to myself at my new address. 14 of those never made it. 2 post masters have tried to help me track these, but the main post office where the packages went back to is screwed up. They recently fired their old Post master there, but the new one is never there and no one answers the phone. I personally went in 2 times when these first were sent back, explained the situation to 2 different customer service people who said they would help me. But nothing. One Post Mistress referred me to the Dead Mail center. The phone number given for the Atlanta Mail Recovery Center online does not work. The people who do answer say you have the wrong number. USPS is so messed up. Its falling apart, completely inept.

    Nov 25, 2020
  • anon

    Miss Nielsen, I have an International package at the Atlanta Recovery Center since 11/06/20 per USPS own tracking system, which has my email and text contact information attached to the package's tracking #. The package has FIVE external address labels with my address, so even if the Dutch Custom Label/Form was damaged after it cleared Miami Custom's, there is no excuse for the USPS to claim they can't forward it to me. I've put in to 2 Contact For Service Forms, a Search Form to ARC, spoken to my local Annex, all for not. The replacement my folks has sent on 11/26, has been floating around Georgia since Dec. 6th, I figure if I get it by Easter I'll be lucky. If not...It will probably join the package at the Atlanta Recovery Center! I sure hope you get your packages. We sent 22 P.M. boxes from Oahu to Atlanta in 2013 when we moved here and all arrived without a hitch, things sure have changed for the worse. Good luck to us.

    Dec 29, 2020
  • anon

    I have been told by a USPS representative I talked to online regarding a package lost in Jacksonville, FL which was picked up from Tequesta, FL 3 weeks ago, that I should contact the Mail Recovery Center for lost and found packages. The customer service rep told me if I talk to someone and describe the envelope and its contents you would be able to find it if you have it. However, when I select the option for contact information regarding finding a package in lost and found the link on your site does not work. Please provide me with a phone number for the Mail Recovery Center at USPS.

    Nov 13, 2020
  • anon

    A package that was supposed to be mailed to me is now listed as "Dead Mail". This is the term used on my USPS app but there does not appear to be any reference to it on this site or on USPS. There are also no clear guidelines on how to recover my mail or check on the status of my claim. Why is the USPS so unclear about how to deal with issues related to a term you used to describe my mail? Why do I have to search all over the internet and be redirected a ton of times just to be given incorrect information on the phone by USPS. I'm disappointed in the terrible service.

    Sep 03, 2020
  • anon

    okay literally same

    Sep 26, 2020
  • anon

    "Im Wondering If Myself, and Robert Ward Has Any Mail Ended Up In Lost File."

    Sep 01, 2020
  • anon

    I mailed a package on July 28,2020, if my package is sitting in the recovery center please return to sender I have lost so much money trying to recover these items. They are not cheap, my package ant yours to keep, not understanding why this place feels the need to hold or destroys people property. I would like someone to reAch out to me, regarding my package. I have done a missing mail search and they advised me to contact the Recovery center no number so please contact me it’s been to long and this package cost me some money!

    Aug 31, 2020
  • anon

    I just had certified first class mail get "stuck" in El Paso and never reach its intended recipient! These were TIME SENSITIVE COURT DOCUMENTS sent by my local COURT HOUSE on my behalf to go to New Mexico from Missouri. When trying to contact the El Paso Post Office to find out why it was not being forwarded to the destination Post Office for delivery, they WOULD NOT RESPOND TO THE OTHER POST OFFICE! So now I have to go back to the court house and see if I can resend the documents and PAY FOR IT TO BE SENT CERTIFIED again! Unfortunately I can not use any other means such as UPS or Fed Ex. NO EXCUSE FOR THIS!

    Aug 30, 2020
  • anon

    My package said it was to arrive by a certain time and date. I had change of address form with proof that I had been living at and received other mail at this address, but for NO reason was marked vacant and is now at the recovery center. It clearly has my address and I want my mail. Please deliver my package. Its 100 percent a mistake on your part.

    Aug 30, 2020
  • anon

    My $43 package was supposedly "disposed" because it arrived the day before my mail forwarding ended. Seems the local office was quite prompt in destroying my property (or perhaps someone is walking around in our masks and filters) and couldn't take time to check if it could safely have been delivered to me a day later.

    Aug 29, 2020

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