The United States Postal Service (USPS) handles millions of letters and packages daily. Like other delivery companies, they offer a tracking system that lets senders and recipients monitor the progress of their shipments. 

One of the updates you may encounter when using the tracking system is a notification with the wording “Your item has been delivered to the original sender”, followed by a time, date, and location. This status means that your package could not be delivered due to a variety of reasons and has been returned to the sender. 

The most common reasons why packages are returned to the original sender are when the shipping address is incomplete or incorrect, and if there have been multiple failed delivery attempts.

If you are experiencing this issue, you can resolve it by contacting the sender and asking them to reship the package. If you have chosen to return the package, you won’t need to do anything.

In this article, we will discuss why some USPS mail and packages are returned to the sender, how to resolve the issue when you come across it, and also answer some frequently asked questions related to this topic.

Common Reasons Why Mail & Packages Are Returned to the Sender

Your mail or package may be returned to the sender for numerous reasons. The most common reasons are because of an incorrect or incomplete shipping address and multiple failed delivery attempts.

Delivered to Original Sender Update on USPS

It may also be due to customs-related issues for international consignments or when the recipient decides to return the package to the sender. Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons.

Incorrect or Incomplete Shipping Address 

If the shipping address associated with your package is incorrect or incomplete, USPS won’t be able to deliver it to the right location. Some common shipping address mistakes include missing letters, incorrect unit or block numbers, or even misspelled street names. 

If your package couldn’t be delivered due to this issue, USPS will send you a notice stating, “We have issues with your shipping address” in the parcel tracker. You can resolve this issue by first checking the shipping address you provided the sender and then correcting any mistakes on it. If you don’t correct the shipping address timely, your package will be sent back to the sender.

Multiple Failed Delivery Attempts

USPS will also return your package to the sender after multiple failed delivery attempts. The company typically performs 2 delivery attempts for each package. Therefore, you’ll need to make sure that your mailbox is not full and if you’re receiving a package, that you’re available or that the delivery driver can leave it somewhere safe.  

It’s important to note that for every failed delivery attempt, USPS will send you a notice mentioning the failed attempt along with its corresponding details. This notice will also mention that the package will be returned to the sender if it isn’t claimed.

The delivery company will then hold onto the package for around 15 days before returning it to the sender. 

Customs-Related Issues

Customs-related issues can also prevent you from receiving your package. Such problems typically occur if the parcel has outstanding import taxes or if it contains prohibited items. If a customs-related issue isn’t resolved, the parcel will be returned to the original sender or disposed of.

Returned to Sender by Recipient

Recipients can choose to return a parcel to the original sender by refusing the delivery once it arrives. They may do this if the parcel has been addressed to the wrong person, such as a past resident who no longer lives at the address.

Once a recipient refuses the delivery, USPS will take the package back to the post office and then return it to the original sender.

How to Resolve a “Delivered to Original Sender” Issue

Once your package has been returned to the sender, there is nothing that USPS can do, as your package is no longer in their possession. However, you’re able to communicate with the seller and request them to resend your package.

  1. Start by identifying the reason your mail or package was returned to the sender. You can do this by checking the USPS tracker and reading any information USPS has provided regarding your order. If USPS hasn’t provided the details you seek here, you can contact them directly and inquire about the issue.
  2. Contact the sender, either via the e-commerce platform you used to purchase your items or through email. You can then inform them of the reason your item was returned and ask them to reship it.
  3. Recheck the shipping information you have provided to the sender and ensure it is correct. You should also ensure your mailbox is accessible and isn’t full. Alternatively, you can ensure you are available to receive your package on the day it is scheduled to arrive.

How To Avoid This From Happening Again

Resolving this issue can be time-consuming, so it’s best to avoid the issue in the first place. Listed below are some measures you can follow to help prevent this issue:

  • Make Yourself Available During Delivered – Being available when your mail or package is delivered will reduce the likelihood of a failed delivery attempt. As mentioned earlier, USPS will return your package back to the original sender after just one or two failed delivery attempts. Consider looking up the date and time your package is scheduled to be delivered and ensure you are present at the address to receive it.
  • Have It Sent to a Smart Parcel Locker – If you won’t be available to receive your USPS package at the delivery address, consider having it sent to a USPS Smart Locker. These lockers are available at strategic locations, allowing you the flexibility to pick up your mail or package at your own convenience.
  • Ensure Your Shipping Details are Correct – Recheck the shipping address you provided to the sender. If you notice that some of the details are incorrect or incomplete, you should contact the sender immediately and provide them with the correct and complete address. The sender can then contact USPS and update the shipping address.
  • Check Customs Regulations – Different countries prohibit different types of items based on their local laws and regulations. You should check whether the item the sender is shipping is permitted in your country. It is also important to check whether there are any import duties due on the items and pay these duties as needed.
  • Communicate with the Sender – Maintaining communication with the sender is important if you would like to prevent your package from being returned to them. For example, you can inform the seller if you are moving to a new address soon and that you won’t be able to receive the package after a certain date.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below, we’ll address some of the most frequently asked questions on this topic. If you would like to have your questions answered, please feel free to reach out to us.

Will I Still Receive My Mail or Package after It’s Returned to the Sender?

Whether you will receive your mail or package after it has been returned to the sender depends on many factors. You’ll first need to understand why your mail or package was returned in the first place.

If your package was returned to the sender because you provided an incorrect or incomplete shipping address, you will need to provide them with the correct information before asking them to reship your package.

If your package was returned due to import restrictions (item prohibition), you won’t be able to receive your package, even if the sender attempts to reship it.

How Do I Find Out the Reason Why It Was Returned? 

You can learn why your package was returned by entering your tracking details on USPS’s tracking system. For example, you may see a message in the most recent update that states “Your item was returned because of an incomplete address” in the Tracking History section.

This message implies your package could not be delivered because you or the sender may have provided USPS with an incomplete shipping address. To find out the reason why your package was returned, simply check the tracking updates.

Will I Be Charged By USPS When My Package Is Returned to the Original Sender?

No, USPS does not charge you if your parcel is returned to the sender. However, if you have received and opened a package, attempting to ship it back to the sender will be treated as a new delivery that you will be charged for.

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Gerrit Poel

Co-Founder & Writer
at freightcourse

About the Author

Gerrit is a certified international supply chain management professional with 16 years of industry experience, having worked for one of the largest global freight forwarders.

As the co-founder of freightcourse, he’s committed to his passion for serving as a source of education and information on various supply chain topics.