How to recover a package lost in the mail

Written by sheila c. wilkinson
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How to recover a package lost in the mail
Recover a lost package (handle with care image by dead_account from

It's so frustrating to know that you sent something to someone that they never received. Despite your frustration level, you can hone your detective skills and have a great chance of recovering even a pretty old undelivered package.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Call or go to the post office where you mailed your package. Ask them if they have any undeliverable packages. While this doesn't happen often, it has happened that the package was brought to the post office and somehow didn't get back to you because the address was illegible or the paper it was wrapped in was torn. So start with the most obvious question and work from there.

  2. 2

    Get a 1510 form to fill out if you have lost a package or even a letter in the mail. Some post offices will do this with you over the phone if they aren't really tied up with customers. For the best chance of telephone assistance, call in the midmorning or the midafternoon, when most of them are quieter. This is the form you need to have a piece of mail traced by the post office.

  3. 3

    Know where to look next. Your mail ends up in one of three centres for undeliverable mail. There are offices in Atlanta; Georgia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and San Francisco, California. Here's how these places work: The undeliverable packages and letters come in and are opened so that postal employees can look for any kind of address or identifying information. If the employee finds no such information, he or she types in the name and contents of each piece of mail into a central computer. They will hold every package or letter for at least 90 days. Packages and letters that are sent by Express Mail are held for six months. The more expensive kind of shipping such as registered and cash on delivery are held for a whole year.

  4. 4

    Avoid these missing packages and letters by always doing the following. Write your address and return address out very clearly and completely. If your handwriting is horrendous, print them out with your computer. Before you seal up your package or letter, make sure that your return address is included inside, in case the packaging is destroyed in the mailing. Write in a medium that won't bleed if it gets really wet or cover your address and return address with clear packing tape to prevent it.

  5. 5

    Don't wrap your packages in brown paper; these are the ones that most often get torn up. Address the box or package itself. It doesn't hurt to put a second address on the other side of the package for extra safety. Make sure that the packaging you're using is sturdy and secure when you mail. Shaky packaging is also easily lost. With a little phone call, you should be able to find your missing mail and with a little precaution, you shouldn't have this problem ever again.

Tips and warnings

  • Fill out the 1510 form for any and all missing items.
  • Always put your address inside your packages and letters.
  • Don't write illegibly or mail packages with outer wrappings. These have the easiest chance of not arriving.

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