Magnifying Glass

USPS Tracking Lost Packages

Why Track at All?
  As soon as you’ve made your brand new purchase online, it's countdown time until your parcel arrives. All the big retailers like Amazon and e-bay use delivery services. For smaller parcels they primarily use the Post Office. The Post Office has a recognized name because it’s the longest running of all the delivery and postal services. Shopping on the internet means that goods and services can be purchased from all around the globe. Tracking numbers help customers feel more in control of the delivery journey packages travel to get to their end destination. There have been instances of lost or missing parcels being recorded as delivered by the USPS, which is not a violation of the Universal Service Obligation and occurs more often that it should. By not violating the USPS Universal Service Obligation the US Post Office is allowed to claim delivery of a package even though they can not say for certain that it was delivered to the intended address.

US Mail Loading Dock

USPS Mail and Parcel Acceptance
  Incoming packages from other countries and large shippers like Amazon arrive at various hubs across the country. At this point they will be grouped together in a Bulk Mail Acceptance to be moved on to their next destination. The processing facilities presort and place packages and parcels into containers based on ZIP Codes, these are then added to a manifest. The parcels and manifests are then taken to a designated area within a Post Office. By presorting and using containers the process becomes much more automated, allowing for cost savings but leaving the potential for individual packages to be misplaced more easily than if they were each scanned individually.

USPS Bulk Delivery Scan
  For bulk receivers, The USPS Shipment Confirmation Acceptance involves scanning a single delivery barcode as well as the manifest barcode which includes all the packages associated with a group shipment. Parcels that were inadvertantly seperated from the manifest bulk shipment will still be marked as delivered since their individual barcode is still associated with the overall manifest. Once the Barcode has been scanned, tracking numbers are updated for shippers and package recipients to indicate a successful delivery of all packages in the manifest. This can lead many customers to believe that their parcel has been delivered to a specific address when, in fact, the parcel in now lost or mis-delivered.

USPS Universal Services Obligations
  The Post Office is allowed to use the Bulk acceptance and Bulk delivery methods for tracking as there is no clear guideline given about this within the current USO. The existing USO which establishes what mail services the Postal Service must provide lacks a clear and complete definition of what is legally required. At present various legal requirements and regulations in place provide only very broad guidance rather than actual instructions. The fact that the USO is so vague means that the USPS can record lost parcels as delivered because it has been previously recorded as a part of a bulk group, not as an individual package. The ‘Informed Delivery’ system has a specific function to allow the reporting of an item that should have been delivered but didn’t arrive. Steps to resolve this issue are currently under review.