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POSTAL FAQs – What Happens to Undeliverable Mail

Apr 12, 2016

Fact: undeliverable as addressed (UAA) mail costs the U.S. Postal Service about $1.5 billion a year, and the mailing industry $20 billion a year. For direct marketers, it's money down the drain in more ways than one. Not only the costs of printing and postage, but also the opportunities in sales and customer relationships, are lost if your communication never reaches its target.

That's why the U.S. Post Office — and we at Click2Mail — make every effort to return UAA mail to you, so you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Q: What makes mail undeliverable?
Usually, there's something wrong with the address: it's incomplete, incorrect, illegible, or the addressee has moved and not left a forwarding address. Other reasons include insufficient postage and the addressee's refusal to accept delivery.

Q: Does the USPS always return UAA mail to the sender?
It will do so if at all possible. But for that it needs a valid return address — which is why Click2Mail requires that you include one on all the mailpieces we print and/or mail for you. 

Q: What happens to UAA mail that lacks a return address?
The mail will be "processed" at the local branch office to determine whether it meets the criteria to be sent to the Mail Recovery Center (formerly known as the Dead Letter Office). This means opening the letters and packages to try and identify either the sender or the recipient. 

Many types of mail often used by direct marketers do NOT meet the criteria to be sent to the MRC, including:
• Undeliverable or unendorsed Standard Mail® letters and flats
• Printed matter: circulars, periodicals, telephone books, catalogs, etc.
• First Class Mail® postcards
• $25 or less value loose-in-mail items such as promotional samples
• Target mail and anonymous mail

These types of mail are disposed of (destroyed, donated or recycled), and the senders will never know that it was not delivered. 

Q: Is there a way to recover my mail from the Mail Recovery Center?
You can file a claim, but it's not guaranteed. In general, the higher the item's monetary value, the more likely you are to be successful.

Having UAA mail returned to you so that you can either correct the address or remove it, is a critical step in list management. After all, why spend even more money mailing to addresses that have 0% chance of giving you a return on your investment?