This Is What Happens to Undeliverable Mail with No Return Address

Mail doesn’t get delivered for lots of reasons: the address is illegible, the sender hasn’t put on enough postage, or the person doesn’t live at the address any longer, among other reasons. If there’s a return address, the U.S. Postal Service will return it to the sender. But what happens to undeliverable mail with no return address?

Turns out, undeliverable mail has been a problem since Colonial times. In 1741, then-Philadelphia postmaster Benjamin Franklin called out almost 800 people who hadn’t picked their mail up in a local newspaper, Smithsonian reported.

“Franklin warned that if they were not redeemed before March 25 following they would be ‘sent away as dead letters to the General Post Office,’” according to the National Archives.

These days, what happens to the undeliverable mail depends a lot on what it is. According to the USPS, local post offices will handle the mail or they will send it to the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia—also known as the post office’s lost and found.


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