Losing a package is not only a hassle, you may not always find the package again.
Depending on your mailing service, the amount of time it takes before the package is considered lost, and the steps taken to recover it, will be different.
Here’s How Long it Takes to Consider a Package Lost:
USPS (United States Postal Service) has a general guideline of waiting at least 7-15 days before reporting your package missing. Make sure that you don’t wait longer than 60 days, or you can’t file a claim. For APO/FPO/DPO packages, the time to wait before filing is between 21-75 days.
When Can You Report a Package Missing with USPS?
Once you realize your package is lost, you can file a claim through USPS to report it missing. Usually, this occurs about 7 days after the mailing date of your package.
For example, if you buy from an Etsy.com seller and they estimate your delivery will be within 8 days, you will start to realize your package is lost after about 14 days without the delivery of your package.
Often, you can track your package and see its whereabouts to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes, your package might be delayed due to a winter storm or a backup at a mailing facility.
If that is the case, you’ll have to be patient. However, if your package really is lost, you’ll want to file a claim right away.
For certain packages, there is a different set time to consider the mail as lost, which you can find on USPS’s website.
Here are the basic package waiting times to look out for:
|Package Type||File No Sooner Than:||Wait No Longer Than:|
|Priority Mail Express||7 days||60 days|
|Priority Mail Express
Collect on Delivery
|15 days||60 days|
|Registered Mail||15 days||60 days|
Collect on Delivery
|15 days||60 days|
|Priority Mail and Other Insured Mail||15 days||60 days|
|Collect on Delivery||15 days||60 days|
[Source: USPS Website]
Make sure that you don’t wait too long to file a claim or report your package missing. After 60 days, your package will be recycled, disposed of, or probably “returned to sender” if you do not reach out to USPS in time.
To file a claim, you must provide your mailing address, the date you should have delivered your mail, and other details.
Once you have submitted this information, a customer service representative will reach out to you within ten business days to help resolve your claim.
Sometimes, they may ask you to fill out a postal inspection service form.
How Does USPS Recover a Lost Package?
Sometimes, the barcode or address can become damaged or smudged, making it difficult or impossible for the mailman to deliver the package.
Any packages that are lost, damaged, or need to be recovered will end up at a Mail Recovery Center operated by the USPS.
Once those packages arrive, USPS workers look over the mailing information to determine what went wrong. Once they can find the rightful owner, they will make sure to help the package get to where it belongs.
If the barcode or shipping label is missing or damaged, workers will sometimes open up your package and see what is inside.
Opening a package is very helpful when you file a claim because they will match the items missing with your claim profile and know that it is your package, even without an intact shipping label.
However, if there’s no way to identify the package’s intended delivery address or sender, then the USPS discards, donates, recycles, or auctions those packages off.
If you want to make this process easier and help yourself get your package, you’ll want to notify the USPS and let them know the situation.
You can do that by filing a claim through their website:
Submit a Missing Mail Search Request:
If your package hasn’t been discovered and sent to a Mail Recovery Center, or nothing has yet been done to recover it, you may submit a Missing Mail Search Request 7 days after the date of mailing.
A Missing Mail Search Request is like filing a claim. This lets the USPS know that your package is lost and that you would like assistance in finding it.
To submit a Missing Mail Search Request, make sure that you have this information:
- The Sender’s mailing address
- The Recipient’s mailing address
- Identifying info, such as your USPS Tracking number(s), mailing receipt, or label print date from your online postage provider
- The documented mailing date (typically the first scan on your tracking number)
- Description of the package contents, including receipts and pictures
- Description of the envelope or packaging of the item
[Source: Stamps.com & USPS website]
Having this information makes it much easier for USPS to find and recover your package. Without it, you may not get your package back.
Furthermore, filing a claim without this information makes it harder for USPS workers and centers. Please make it as easy as possible for them to assist you, and be patient!
How Long Does it Take to Recover a Lost Package?
Recovering a lost package will take time.
Either the package will be “returned to sender,” or the USPS will have to search and process your package through their Mail Recovery Center. This can take anywhere between 7 and 30 days, depending on where your package ends up.
For example, if you bought a package through Etsy.com and the seller got your address wrong, the package might be returned to them. That means that your original delivery estimate of 7-14 days from the Etsy seller will restart, making the total time it takes for you to get your package somewhere between 14-28 days.
If the package isn’t returned to the sender and instead ends up at a recovery center, the time it will take for a USPS representative to find, process, and figure out how to get your package to you could be a week or more.
Basically, ordering and receiving a package that gets lost or returned to where you ordered it from will take time, so estimate at least a week or two of delays before you get worried.
If this happens, try to be patient – especially with the USPS. Millions of packages are being processed and delivered EVERY DAY through the mail, so sometimes things get lost.
Can a USPS Package be Tracked if it is Lost?
Packages are tracked through the barcodes on their shipping labels. Shipping labels are scanned and processed digitally through the computer every time your package reaches a destination.
For example, your shipping label is created, printed, and attached to your package at either a USPS post office or at the business you ordered your package through. Once that label is created, you will receive a tracking number to follow on the USPS website.
However, when a package gets lost or your barcode gets damaged, mail carriers and USPS workers can no longer scan your barcode. Once that happens, the tracking system no longer works.
You can no longer track a package through the USPS website without the ability to scan your barcode.
If you can no longer track your package through the USPS website, your package will most likely end up at a recovery center. It is at this point that you will want to file a claim.
If you don’t file a claim with the USPS website, they probably won’t be looking out for your package specifically, and it could get lost in the shuffle.
Furthermore, if they don’t have specific information on what is inside the package (like we mentioned above), they won’t be able to identify that it is yours when they open it up.
Don’t just let your package sit and go unnoticed! Take action and be patient with USPS workers. They will do their best to find and recover your package for you.