The U.S. Postal Service considers mail to be delayed when it’s not processed in time to meet the established delivery day. Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? But determining whether mail is actually delayed — even when it’s reported as delayed — isn’t always a straightforward proposition.

Take, for instance, what happened when we analyzed delayed mail volume at mail processing facilities nationwide from January 1 to December 31, 2020. We found the North Houston Processing and Distribution Center (P&DC) in Texas reported the most delayed mail in the nation. Not so surprising, given the facility processed the most mail in the country last year. But as we note in our recent audit report — one in a series we are doing on processing plant performance — it turns out not all 3.6 billion pieces the facility reported as delayed for the year were truly delayed. 

Our initial objective was to identify the causes of delays at the North Houston P&DC, and we found they were occurring due to late-arriving mail and decreased employee availability, the latter a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. An increase in package volume also contributed.

During our site observations, though, we discovered the North Houston P&DC management wasn’t processing mail on the normal sort plan. Instead, the sort plan being used bypassed certain operations, which in turn caused mail to be reported as delayed. So, while 3.6 billion is the official reported tally, the actual number of delayed mailpieces at North Houston for 2020 was undoubtedly less. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to determine the precise number.

Still, we made a recommendation on how to reduce late-arriving mail, and USPS management accepted it. That — and more employees eventually returning to work — should help decrease the amount of delayed mail at North Houston P&DC, whatever the true amount is.

Comments (97)

  • anon

    I'm trying to find out why, the mail i sent on 3/4/2022 still says in transit. i went to the Post Office have got no answers thus far. The state agency i sent it to will only accept mail, not faxed or emailed items. (Strange??) I find it strange that the item was on a reasonable delivery schedule, then it gets stuck in transit right before it delivered... At this point my dead line for my mail is running out. I resent the letter, because the counter representative suggested that i do so. I just checked and the tracking page @ usps says it is in transit..... I don't know who to contact or why the state agency wont accept any thing but a mailed letter.

    Mar 21, 2022
  • anon

    Three undelivered birthday cards to grandsons (includes cheques) Mailed 3 weeks to a month early and still remains undelivered. The cards are mailed from Florida, to be delivered to Ontario Canada. Please inform me how to check what is happening with these cards. Signed: Upset Grannie!

    Mar 16, 2022
  • anon

    Shipped out a package overseas to SE Asia 1/31/22. Since then package had left USA to Europe and back to USA multiple times to LA, Chicago, Carson, Miami and then to Europe back and forth. Now it’s in USA again. WHEN will my package get there??!! It was suppose to be “6-10 business days”, and as of right now it’s been a total 45 days counting weekends and still not delivered! Awful!

    Mar 15, 2022
  • anon

    In this age of real time technology, it seems to me that if a particular hub or local postal service is experiencing delays, the sending post office should have an alert show up when they type in the receiving address and WARN the sender of (specifically for Express delivery) that the huge amount of money they are spending to overnight the parcel doesn’t actual mean it will be received in a timely manner.

    Feb 09, 2022
  • anon

    I needed a package to get overseas relatively quickly so I purchased the quickest postage that could be justified. I ended up buying the "international express" which indicated a "3-5" shipping time. It has spent close to a month just in the states going back and forth between distribution centers (cleared customs within a day, then spent 20 days floating around california). Finally, this morning it departed the US. In attempts to file an online claim, I am required to provide proof of the value which this particular item does not have. So, I will be forced to call their horrid "customer care" and hope I can decipher their code to get to speak to a real person. No wonder USPS reports exponential losses every. You are garbage USPS

    Feb 01, 2022
  • anon

    I have sent several letters via USPS Certified Mail in the past 6 months only to find they have either gone unsigned for or the signature is forged. Some of the signatures I have gotten back are “C19” and “C. Covid.” What a scam! I requested refunds to no avail. What’s the point of paying extra for this service if you’re not going to get the recipient to sign? You would do better with basic tracking. Waste of money.

    Dec 15, 2021
  • anon

    As of this year 3 packages are still missing. Once they arrived in the States they went missing another package from the States here is not arriving. MIA And package are being held up at the Brockton Distribution center. How about the person in charge does his bloody job OR start paying all of us back for all the mail missing in actionp

    Dec 04, 2021
  • anon

    Tracking # 9500110694871324412971 mailed Nov. 20. Still undelivered on Nov.29. Went to Bushnell, Fl post office, no help. Said they have no complaint forms when I requested one. Paid $5.46 how do I get refund.

    Nov 29, 2021
  • anon

    I AM HAVING THE SAME ISSUE. Priority Mail Express 1-Day ON SENT ON OCT 19TH WITH A CASHIERS CHECK OF 3,000.00 IN IT GOING TO ST PAUL, MN HAS YET TO GET THERE. WEBSITE STUCK SAYING IN TRANSIT AFTER IT LEFT THE DISTRIBUTION CENTER IN OKLAHOMA CITY. THE BANK WONT PUT A STOP ON THE CHECK UNTIL AFTER 90 DAYS AND I CANNOT REPLACE THE MONEY AND RESEND IT ITS COVID AND NOBY HAS FUNDS FOR THIS KIND OF STUFF. HAD TO BORROW THE MONEY JUST TO PAY OFF A LOAN ON MY 401K IN ORDER TO GET ANOTHER ONE NOW I OWE THEM STILL AND CANT WITHDRAW FROM IT AND OWE 5 OTHER PEOPLE FOR LENDING IT TO ME. I CANT GET ANSWERS FROM ANYONE. WHATS THE POINT OF A TRACKING NUMBER IF IT CANT BE TRACKED. WHATS THE POINT IN HAVING WORKERS WHEN ALL THEY SUPPOSEDLY SEE IS WHAT WE SEE ONLINE. IVE GONE THROUGH EVERY AVENUE EXCEPT GO FIND IT MYSELF. I AM BEYOND PISSED. I HAVE FILED A CLAIM TO AT LEAST SEE IF THEY WILL REFUND THE MONEY LOST IT IS FAR FROM MY FAULT THEY CANT FIND IT AND THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE. WOW THEY REFUNDED MY 27.10 TO SEND IT AND I HAD TO DO THAT ONLINE DUE TO ALL THE POST OFFICES SAYING THEY CANT UNTIL THERE IS A SCAN SAYING IT MADE IT TO ST PAUL MN. IS ANYONE HAVING THE SAME PROBLEM WITH OKLAHOMA OR MINNESOTA ???

    Nov 08, 2021
  • anon

    This is the absolute worst this has ever been and has caused lost time and money due to such ambivalence and a useless system of customer care. The care is from the top. Not the right person for this at all. Absolutely criminal.

    Nov 08, 2021
  • anon

    I've had a mail delayed in customs in LA for months. Im beginning to think im never going to recieve it, it was an expensive anniversary gift for my husband and im still looking forward to giving it to him, no matter how late. But im not seeing much about delays anymore. So why is mine still backed up?

    Nov 02, 2021
  • anon

    Why did you even put this article up? You just admitted that a facility was NOT following procedure and you can't actually tell how much of the mail was being delayed? Thank you for letting us know about your incompetence. I don't think anyone coming to this site hoping for answers would ever doubt for a moment your inability to handle your job.

    Nov 02, 2021
  • anon

    I'm from Minnesota and I sent a birthday card a week early to my son in California hoping it wouldn't be late. It has been eleven days and not received. Should I be patient or worried? If stay patient, then when should I get worried?

    Oct 22, 2021
  • anon

    I mailed my payment of a Capital One Visa bill on October 4, 2021which was due on October 14, 2021. The check has still not posted to Capital One and now I have been charged a late fee. Sending a first class envelope from Minneapolis, MN to Carol Stream, Il should not take 10 days. What is going on? I am also sending my complaint to Senator Tina Smith who is looking into the sorry state of our US postal system.

    Oct 16, 2021
  • anon

    Payment for bills went thru without late notice even when covid was being blamed for late mail delivery. We now send out payment the day a bill gets to us .However it has become a repeated problem with the same companies not receiving payment on time. Weeks go by without the banks clearing the bill. We are then charged late fees upon late fees. I am even charged a fee to talk to a representative. We post our mail at the post office. What can be the problem and what is the solution? I pay my bills and want to secure my high ratings. It seem like fraud to me to think companies are making a profit on late fees.

    Oct 12, 2021
  • anon

    My parcel received status processed through ISC NEW YORK NY(USPS) on August 30th and has not been tracked since. How can I find my package ???

    Oct 06, 2021
  • anon

    I am wondering if the postal inspector general ever reads or response to these posts. It seem like it is just a place to vent with no reply from usps. Thoughts?

    Sep 29, 2021
  • anon

    I'm curious what happens after the mail is scanned for the informed delivery. I should be receiving 4 to 7 pieces of mail almost every day. Since August 1, 2021 I have received maybe 1 piece a week. According to informed delivery it should be way more. My husband had a seizure at work. The railroad won't let him go back until they figure out a cause & put him on medication. For him to get paid his medical disability the railroad MAILS the disability claim forms & we have to mail them back. (No they won't email them. I've begged) So my husband hasn't been getting paid. We have bills that are overdue. My salary isn't enough. I have family to feed and support. I went to my local PO lady said she didn't see it back there. Said she was coming in early the next day. Said she would look & call me. Never heard from her. I've called & called. Nobody will answer. Well since I went up there I'm not even getting my 1 piece a week. This is a joke. Please. Someone has to please help me get my mail. We are going to end up homeless if this doesn't get fixed. Please reach out to me.

    Sep 26, 2021
  • anon

    IMPORTANT – PLEASE NOTE: Complaints about the Postal Service – including lost, stolen, or mishandled mail – that are unrelated to the content on this page will not be posted. Please visit the Contact Us page for information on where to file formal complaints with our agency or the Postal Service.

    Oct 10, 2021
  • anon

    I and my family recently moved , we moved 8 miles from our previous address . Now first off my 87 yr old mother lives with us now she gets all of her other income direct deposited but she received an annuity because my father was a federal employee and she always gets it the first of the month, so during our move which after living in the same place for sixteen years and having six kids and 3 adults it takes awhile so we had the Post office holding our mail , but each time we would pick it up the same clerk would be rude and unpleasant we did put in a change of address for the family to be submitted for the third of the month so my mom would get her check because dealing with the OPM is a nightmare. So the day we knew her check would be there the 1st because it was shown on informed delivery on the 30th we went to post office and found out the same clerk submitted our COA on the 17th eighteen days before it should have been because he never read the paperwork , so now he has us sign a paper and then resubmits it which starts the whole process over , needless to say she never got her check in fact we have got no forwarded mail including two other fairly large checks and no one seems to know where my mail is , I've called customer service 6 times and will continue to call , also have 2 mail search request that have yet to be updated at all and no one seems to care . Oh but I do recieve junk mail and guess from where you got it USPS.

    Sep 25, 2021
  • anon

    I put in a change of address back in March 2021 had to fly out of state the beginning of April due to my mother becoming terminally ill and my mail was still messed up. I wasn't getting my mail, I was getting my ex husband mail (even though I did individual change of address). I came back after 8 weeks and my mail was still being sent to the old address, some of my mail they had at the Post Office in Lewisville and some I never even received. I have done 3 changes of address, spoken with the Post Master at least 2-3 times and here it is September I am not receiving half of my mail that is suppose to be coming to me. I have updated my address with the companies I do business with but there are some things that need and should be forwarded to me and this isn't happening. THIS IS A MAJOR ISSUE and I've tried my hardest to be so patient but it's not getting me anywhere due to since March I've received maybe 10 pieces of mail. I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone would fix this once and for all.

    Sep 24, 2021
  • anon

    09/20/21 Hello, Is there a system or sorting problem at USPS today? Several package's tracking info from various states, NY, TX and HI indicate "Processing or other delay". Any comment or update? Thanks, Lisa K.

    Sep 20, 2021
  • anon

    My mail carrier has told me himself that unless it has my last name on it, he won’t deliver it. Well I do have mail that still comes in my maiden name. Also I find it funny (not) that I have missing offers in the mail for CCs and I’m experiencing fraud in my name.

    Sep 16, 2021
  • anon

    I had a Priority Mail envelope which I mailed from the Henrico, NC post office on August 30, 2021 going to Ellicott City, MD. It arrived at at the Raleigh distribution center on August 31 and finally departed Raleigh on September 4 and that is where all tracking has stopped. I just keep getting messages that "my package will arrive later than expected", and "in transit, arriving late". No one knows where my mail is and I can't get any answers. I am absolutely disgusted with the incompetence of the postal service. I spent $7.95 to be able to track my mail and it has disappeared.

    Sep 10, 2021
  • anon

    Same boat as most everyone else here. Sent package to Japan on August 20th guaranteed delivery for August 28th. Scanned at Chicago ISC on August 21st and then nothing. Calling only gets you "call back in 24 hours as representatives don't have any more information than is online for tracking". Incredible that you can have a Priority Mail Express International Package that gets scanned and then doesn't move for weeks. So much for spending hundreds of dollars to have it shipped. What in the world is wrong with the USPS that this can happen?

    Sep 07, 2021
  • anon

    I have ordered albums and they’ve been sitting in ISC Chicago IL since August 23. I do not know what’s going on. I just want to know when I can get my packages bc I ordered those in July and I had to wait for South Korea to send them which took time but them being stuck in that facility in Chicago feels like it took more time than in South Korea

    Sep 05, 2021
  • anon

    Delayed mail ?? I retired Dec 1 2021. Roughly in Sept 2021 USPS newly appointed PMG Louis DeJoy decided that all mail would be cased after delivery of morning mail. This alone delayed mail by 1 day. COVID had many offices left with zero carriers. Rural carriers are paid a salary and thus do not earn OT for being over hours paid as long as under 54 hrs week. I worked 9-10 hrs day REG and my pay was for 8.5 . Parcels are crazy. We were required to return several times a day for late arriving parcels. We were called at home at 8pm asking us if we delivered a parcel because the scan had not shown up in reports. The delay would show up several hrs later. Our office had 100% scanned parcels. really ?? NOPE. The managers would go through list and manually put them through as being delivered. This act has been going on in my office for last 4 years. Our office had a parcel increase of 1000%...yes 1,000 percent. NO dispatch time change. I was required to drive like a manic just to make dispatch. The younger carriers drove even faster. I am the only carrier to retire at age 60 with 27 yrs. The rest of my office has 2 carriers 50yrs old and they have another 10 yrs to go. We AS RURAL CARRIERS have been abused by the time system. It worked in our favor before parcels because we did not take a break to eat or anything. I had to pee in a container in back of mail truck!! The reason is time. 10 min to drive back to office . 5 min in bathroom. 10 min back to where I left off. That is 25 minutes....IF traffic was light. I could not go back to office just for bathroom. Our start times were increased to 830 am instead of 630 am. Our mail arrived 6am, but clerk hrs were cut so they could not finish sorting our mail UNTIL 830 am. Dispatch was still 530 pm- since 1993. There were many many times where someone had to drive and get all our mail we had collected at 520pm to give to truck driver and then the manager had to take our remaining collected mail that was after 530pm and drive it to another office that had a later dispatch time. This is just a few things that have delayed mail. This has been a nightmare for last 7 yrs.

    Sep 01, 2021
  • anon

    Wow! I’ve had a package sitting in Chicago since Sept 6th stating it is in transit. I go to the other country site that states it is even loaded on the plane. Packages will keep piling up if work stops after morning mail and I remember reading that Dejoy was stopping OT. Real issue here!!!

    Sep 23, 2021
  • anon

    You are responding to a retired rural carrier who never got overtime. In trade if he finished by noon he went home. Most other postal workers including city carriers workers on the clock. If they finished by noon they are expected to move somewhere else and continue working to make 8 hours on the clock. Except for January and February of 2020 most have been working 12 hour days since Columbus Day of 2019. And the unions have been fighting back over staff breaking OHSA regulations over fatigued drivers on the roads. Every Christmas season for a decade has seen later starting times as the available staff is overburdened by parcels needing scanning and distribution. For the COVID Era every day is like a Christmas season day

    Oct 07, 2021
  • anon

    I have an item I ordered from China, that CLEARED customs in USA on 08/02/2021. USPS Tracking shows "Your item has been processed through our facility in ISC CHICAGO IL (USPS) at 4:19 pm on August 24, 2021", there is no movement since. I filed a formal complaint, the reply was "Customs can hold packages for investigation for up to 45 days." The package was already cleared by customs at another facility, not accepting their excuse. Obviously there is a problem at ISC Chicago, IL - they are just piling our packages up somewhere.

    Aug 30, 2021
  • anon

    I ordered a costume part off of Etsy a while ago. It’s coming from the Netherland, so I expected a long wait time, but this is ridiculous. It shipped on about august 3rd, and after taking 7 days to get accepted, 9 days in customs, now I have been waiting for it to get out of Isc Chicago il for 5 days. It was supposed to arrive on the 18, about a week ago. I hope to god that I get it before it becomes a real shipping horror story. Something should be done about this, and all of these ridiculous waits depicted in all of these stories. Next time I’m ordering something over 100$, it won’t be from the usps

    Aug 24, 2021
  • anon

    I'm in the same boat. I bought a guitar from the Netherlands for my daughter, and our dates are exactly the same. Now I can only hope it isn't damaged and gets here soon

    Aug 30, 2021
  • anon

    I mailed a package out to my daughter in South Africa on July 2, 2021. It was mailed priority mail, which I paid for and it has been stuck in the U.S. since! I have mailed packages before and it takes a good amount of time for her to get them, but the issue is always when it gets to South Africa!! It hasn't even left the U.S. yet! She needs this package and it's getting ridiculous. When I look at the tracking, it goes back and forth and back and forth between facilities and then got stuck in Chicago!! I haven't had an update since Aug. 2nd. And the contact numbers are a joke. It's all automated and just keeps having me put in the tracking number and then gives me the latest update that I can see online. I am so frustrated that I can't even talk to a real person! My local post office just shrugs their shoulders. I paid for priority!!

    Aug 18, 2021
  • anon

    I had my mail going to my dad's house for a while, but I don't stay with him anymore I actually moved in to an apartment in the same complex I put in a change of address which it was just the same except for the apartment number and everything changed and very sufficient time and I'm getting my mail now they held it for a couple days but now my dad has not received any mail for 4 days and he gets mail every day for him or my mom I checked my change-of-address I did not put entire house I only put for myself there's no reason why my Dad's mail. Or be held he had a stroke a couple years ago he cannot fill out paperwork or call and speak to you all about it properly so we are trying to inquire about it and I don't know who I need to speak with there is important mail that should be coming and probably already has and we need to find out where it's at and how he gets it

    Aug 16, 2021
  • anon

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

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    You do know that the contact given in this link is useless, don't you? It simply redirects to customer care, who keeps repeating the same darn thing over and over again. They have no freaking clue where the package is. USPS is a failed postal system worse than any 3rd world country. Cannot believe that we live in the "best country" in the world and our postal system cannot locate a freaking First Class package.

    Sep 03, 2021
  • anon

    I have been waiting for my package to pass through ISC Chicago for weeks, it is a simple item for my garden from Latvia, I live in Boston so I'm not sure why it went to Chicago as opposed to New York ISC but previous commenters are correct, a top to bottom investigation of that facility needs to be performed. If the workers there don't know what they are doing, fire them and hire logistic support that does. I have never had an item coming USPS go through customs and take weeks, it makes me terrified of ordering an item overseas again.

    Aug 09, 2021
  • anon

    Same thing, I ordered various stuff from Aliexpress, everything arrived, just a package is stuck there since August 9th, all is coming to California, almost everything come thru ISC San Bernardino, and last like a week or more and I thought it was slow, now almost a month thru ISC Chicago and nothing, same thing but I don't know if its USPS or Customs, but LW tracking from China says: New York Haul Hoout... Since 2 months ago...wtf, are just toys

    Sep 07, 2021
  • anon

    What is going on. I have 4 packages now in Chicago. One all the way from April. What is going on??? The is just unacceptable.

    Aug 03, 2021
  • anon

    Why do packages that go into USPS Regional Facility PHILADELPHIA PA NETWORK DISTRIBUTION CENTER take Days or more to get out.

    Aug 03, 2021
  • anon

    I suspect the packages are not sitting in PA Distribution Center. They have been sent to another center across the US somewhere and are floating out there. I have had that happen many times. The tracking is turned off at the last destination.

    Aug 06, 2021
  • anon

    I order a package from China on May 2, 2021. On June 27th it reached ISC Chicago and posted a delivery date of July 2, 2021. A few days later that date disappeared and the package has been sitting with ISC Chicago and has yet to move or update on delivery progress. I contacted USPS who stated the package is stuck with customs and they cannot do anything. This is ridiculous and very poor logistics/management. It states processed through ISC Chicago so why not send the package. This is worse than Baltimore - USPS who delayed my clients Wedding photos and gifts months.

    Aug 03, 2021
  • anon

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

    Aug 31, 2021
  • anon

    My lifelong support of the USPS has dramatically changed in the last 2 years. Lost mail and packages, no accountability. Staff morale seems at an all time low. USPS has lost our mortgage payment, bank checks, and many other packages and who knows how many letters. We have changed our purchasing habits and try to purchase goods online only from sellers who will ship through UPS or FedEx. Louis DeJoy is a problem creator, not a problem solver. He is arrogant and incompetent and a bully.

    Jul 30, 2021
  • anon

    USPS has turned into a “bureaucracy of red tape”, with no accountability, no realistic complaints system, and total indifference to it’s mission. ,Junk mail, scam mail, unsolicited mail are all flowing smoothly. It’s the important mail that is without priority or concern. Lazy postal employees find rudeness results in less work for them. The dedicated employees are barely surviving among the misfits. This system is broken at the executive levels with trickledown through upper management levels. Shameful!

    Jul 28, 2021
  • anon

    I won't shop with anyone who sends packages through USPS anymore. Half of my packages never show up and the few that did are always days late. A few years ago I had around $1k in wall hangings that were stuck in facility and never found and took 6 months to finally get a refund. Considering this has been a problem for decades I have zero hope it will ever get fixed. If only as much energy was put into fixing the problem as coming up with excuses.

    Jul 28, 2021
  • anon

    Item shipped from the UK and as of today, July 25, is sitting in the Chicago ISC facility since July 07. I called and was told, “yeah it’s there and we’ll get it to you as soon as possible”. It’s no wonder USPS is losing money hand over fist.

    Jul 25, 2021
  • anon

    My packages is stuck in ISC Chicago since 17 may i have sent 3 pakages to be sent out to KSA 2 and after toooooo many calls they did scan 2 packages 15 july, the other package still missing, also it seems like they just scanned them and put them on side still there since 17 may today 23 july I don't know what I have to do. The shipment value is 1200 dollars and I paid 400 dollars as a shipping fees it was supposed to be express shipping service it should arrive within 10 days but it is been 10 weeks But it's been 10 weeks and its still stuck in Chicago

    Jul 23, 2021
  • anon

    Can I ask what number you called? I have had an international package sitting there for a bit now, and I have tried to call the ISC Chicago phone number on their business listing, but it always says that there are no people to take the call. I do have the option to leave a message, is it worth doing?

    Jul 29, 2021
  • anon

    You’re not alone. I was supposed to receive packages and they make it to isc in Chicago since early May. Its been sitting in customs since. Pretty bad! Only in America

    Jul 26, 2021

Pages