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headline: Moron Makes Mail Mishap
February 15, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I sent a small package via priority mail and it never arrived. Probably due to me writing the wrong zip code. Is it lost forever?

A couple weeks ago I sent a bubble mailer envelope containing a small gift and a letter via priority mail and it never showed up at it's destination. I'm not sure what the problem is, I thought I did everything right when I sent it, but I may have transposed two of digits in the zip code. Will it eventually make it to its destination or get returned to sender or is it forever lost in the ether?

The incorrect zip would send it to Chicago where there are no instances of the semi-common seeming address (although a very distant suburb with a different zip does have an instance of it).

How long should I wait before assuming it is lost forever? If it is lost did it show up at someone's door or is it buried somewhere in the postal system? Would anyone ever open it and read the embarrassingly mushy letter and keep the gift?
posted by cirrostratus to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Will it eventually make it to its destination or get returned to sender or is it forever lost in the ether?
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Gotta love the post office.

How long should I wait before assuming it is lost forever?
I had a package show up two years later once. If it isn't delivered or returned within a month I would consider it gone.

If it is lost did it show up at someone's door or is it buried somewhere in the postal system? Either it was delivered to someone (who will keep it, toss it, or indicate it should be returned to sender) or it is sitting in the dead mail section of the distribution center or it is sitting in the "return to sender" section waiting for room on a truck.

Would anyone ever open it and read the embarrassingly mushy letter and keep the gift?
Someone might. Can't really answer that but I'm sure there are people out there who definitely would.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:47 AM on February 15, 2012


How long should I wait before assuming it is lost forever?

A few weeks at least. It might go all the way to the local post office before someone realizes that the street address doesn't exist there. Or it might get delivered to a similar street address (I live on Ross St and I get mail at my house for Rose St sometimes).

Would anyone ever open it and read the embarrassingly mushy letter and keep the gift?

They might. You're supposed to write "not at this address" or somesuch on misdirected mail and put it back out for the postal carrier. However, I doubt everyone does this. I've stopped doing that for the former occupants of my house, for example.
posted by cabingirl at 11:51 AM on February 15, 2012


Also, I am sure you've heard this enough already, but Delivery Confirmation is your friend. At least then you can ask the post office about it.
posted by cabingirl at 11:53 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My experience has been that usually it will get to the correct address eventually. Priority has a better chance of making it there than regular mail, because they do track it.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:54 AM on February 15, 2012


When I ordered something online and put in the wrong zip code, the package first went to the zip code on the package (automatic sorting, I assume), then someone actually read the address/city, and it made it's way to me. The whole thing took about 2-3 weeks.

I know this because I had a tracking number, and I "saw" it happen online. So - I think there's a pretty good chance that it will eventually turn up at the right place, even with the wrong zip code.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:56 AM on February 15, 2012


I'm assuming there isn't because I don't have any sort of tracking number, but is there any way I can track it down and try to intervene?
posted by cirrostratus at 11:58 AM on February 15, 2012


Did you put a return address on it? If they have trouble with the zip they may just deliver it back to you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:10 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree with those who believe you should wait longer. I sent a postcard from Italy to the wrong zip code (and no return address) and it arrived at the correct house in about three weeks. I'd say all hope is not lost.
posted by CheeseLouise at 12:13 PM on February 15, 2012


I'm assuming there isn't because I don't have any sort of tracking number, but is there any way I can track it down and try to intervene?

Yes. You can call the post office at the incorrect zip code and ask there. You may have to ask for the phone number for the "Carrier Supervisor". Tell them the situation, ask if it's maybe in "dead mail", and see what they can do. In general, I've found PO staff to be at least pleasant in situations like this, if not downright helpful. And really, as long as you had a return address on there, the odds of having it returned to you as undeliverable are pretty high; it just may take a while.
posted by The Michael The at 12:40 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as the street address and city is correct, the USPS has the tools to get the package to its destination. A messed up ZIP code is not fatal to its delivery.

Postal codes/ZIP codes assist in sorting mail. Your mail has been mis-sorted (how mis-sorted depends on which numbers were messed up) but rest assured that North American postal services are very good at getting mail to misaddressed recipients.
posted by neksys at 12:41 PM on February 15, 2012


Assuming your address was otherwise correct, with the proper city and state, chances are it'll get there eventually. Letters at least are read using OCR, and get screwed up sometimes because they can end up labeled with a barcode for the ZIP as written. The distribution center or P.O. it gets sent to usually catches it, and sends it to the proper place, but it takes a while sometimes.

I've seen a letter, addressed by a child in appropriately large and crooked handwriting, directed to "SAN FRANCISCO" and no ZIP. It was in Massachusetts, in a bin for South Grafton, with a barcode for ZIP 01560-0000 (CISCO). It got directed to the "What the heck is this?" bin at the final sort by the computer, and since it obviously was intended for San Francisco, it got its barcode crossed out, and that's where it went.

Letters and packages that show up in funny places get noticed, and it's because there are systems in place to make sure they get noticed. It doesn't always work, but it usually does.
posted by helicomatic at 12:59 PM on February 15, 2012


Yeah, as long as the rest of the address (house number, city, state) is correct, it will probably get there within another couple weeks. I live in a small enough town that, no joke, I've received mail from family addressed as "(My name), Anacortes, WA." The post office can make some glorious mistakes, but they can also surprise you by coming through, too.

And, as a rule, if I care about it getting there, it always gets a tracking number. Part of the cost of shipping FedEx or UPS; an additional option with the post office (so, easy to forget).
posted by xedrik at 2:57 PM on February 15, 2012


Ditto everything that has been said. I would add that since it potentially went to Chicago, you have a higher chance of it getting lost. NPR confirms what has been my experience sending packages to family in Chicago.

I always insure the package, (even if not valuable--IMHO I feel they are more careful with the package if they see it is insured), and get delivery confirmation.
posted by 6:1 at 3:09 PM on February 15, 2012


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