What Does "Return to Sender" Mean? (2022 USPS Guide)

What does return to sender mean? Have you ever wondered what happens when a package is returned to the sender? This is a common question that consumers ask.

What do I do if my package was returned to sender?

If your mail is getting returned to you after putting the wrong address on the envelope, then you have your next tasks lined up. To get the package resent, you'll need to cross off the incorrect address, ensure enough postage is on the envelope, and try again.

A large yellow "return to sender" label will be on the package.

What happens when a package is returned to sender USPS

What happens if I received a package that isn't mine?

To return your package, simply write "return to sender" on the envelope or package and place it into the USPS postal mailbox. The package will get resent back to the postal workers for adjustment.

Hopefully, the package is still in good condition. You do not need to purchase new postage for the returned package. Instead, simply place it in the mailbox and USPS will take care of the rest.

What happens when a package is returned to sender usps

Why is USPS returning my package to sender?

When USPS (mail carrier) returns a package, it is easy to understand why. First of all, the address label is not an actual storage box, so it will be rejected if it is unreadable.

The USPS "return to sender" message may be accessed via the tracking tool or by a postal worker placing a yellow label on the item (but not accessible to you the consumer).

Furthermore, return to sender indicates that the letter was undeliverable due to an erroneous or missing address, the receiver denied the item, or two unsuccessful delivery attempts.

Check the address

Check to make sure that the address is correct. One small mistake could have the address get sent back. For example, an incorrect apartment number.

If you notice any of these problems, you can always write to USPS, call, or visit a nearby location and ask them to correct the situation.

General returns

Thirdly, a USPS envelope may have been returned to sender. If the mail was returned to the sender, the post office should place a yellow endorsement sticker on it. This endorsement sticker will list the reason for the return.

A number of reasons can cause a package to be returned, including the wrong address or the recipient refusing to receive the package. Also, the address may be incorrect and the post office will try delivering it to a new address.

How long does USPS return to sender?

There are several factors that go into the length of time it may take for a package to get returned to the original sender. Package issues, seasonality, and other issues can have an impact on how long this can take.

If the mail is not claimed within 15 days, it is loaded onto a truck and delivered returned to the sender, which takes an additional 2-5 days depending on the type of mail service employed.

This is usually free of charge, however USPS may charge more if a return attempt is made more than once.

Addressee returned the package for various reasons

The reason a package may be returned to the sender is because the addressee has refused to accept it. If the addressee refuses to accept a package from the USPS, the post office will collect it and reroute it back to the sender.

If the package was sent to a residential address, the carrier may not bring it to the post office himself, so the sender will have to pick it up.

However, if the sender does not have the address, they can ask the destination post office to hold the package for them. The recipient may also request that a package be held for them online.

In addition to being returned to the sender, the USPS may hold the package for up to 15 days if no address is provided for it. Once it reaches the USPS' Dead Mail Office, it will be destroyed or auctioned.

If the sender still wants the package, they can write a letter to them and ask them to stop sending it and return it.

Do I get a refund if my USPS package is returned?

You can get a refund if your package is returned to sender by USPS, but it must be done before the package enters the post stream. Postage that gets sent to the wrong recipient will need to go through the formal USPS postal service process for returning a package and getting it to the correct address.

Refunds can be applied for at the post office or through Click-N-Ship. For business customers, the refund will be issued via check.

Can you track a package returned to sender?

Unfortunately, a "returned to sender" package cannot get tracked by the USPS.

How long does USPS hold undeliverable packages?

When your letter is returned to the sender, a postal worker separates it from the rest of the mail and either stamps it or places a huge, yellow label on the package that reads "return to sender."

Depending on the cause for the package's return, the post office will either keep it for 15 days to see if the mail is claimed by its rightful owner, or the mail will be delivered back to the return address immediately.

Why is it returned to sender?

Mail is returned to the sender for a variety of reasons, the most common of which being an error in the address.

If an address is wrongly written or lacking information, such as a zip code, the post office will be unable to deliver it since they will be unable to precisely find the address.

As a result, rather than attempting to determine where the piece of mail should be delivered, the postal worker will write "return to sender" on the piece of mail and begin the process of returning it.

Another reason mail is returned to sender is when two or more delivery attempts were unsuccessful.

For example, if a piece of mail demands a signature upon delivery, it can only be recorded as 'delivered' if someone at the written address signs for it.

15 to 30 days of time

The standard USPS procedure for returned mail is to hold the mail at the post office for 15 days so that the receiver may collect their parcel.

If the mail is not claimed within 15 days, it is loaded onto a truck and delivered returned to the sender, which takes an additional 2-5 days depending on the type of mail service employed.

This is usually free of charge, however USPS may charge more if a return attempt is made more than once.

The mail recovery center will hold the mail for this amount of time for the intended recipient.

Can I resend a returned USPS package?

If your mail was returned to you, it does not imply that something major is wrong, but rather that the address was entered improperly. As a result, before sending, double- and triple-check that the written address is correct.

If you're not sure why your mail was returned, you can always contact the courier or call your local post office to ensure that the right information is updated so that when you send your parcel again, it reaches at its intended destination.

Another helpful rule of thumb to follow when you have mail returned to you is to remove the return to sender sticker.

Here's how to do it

Take the return package to your local post office.

Ask the postal workers to try and resend the package. Inform them that it was marked as an undeliverable package or a "return to sender" pack.

Ensure that there's not insufficient postage on the package.

Then ask the letter carrier to help ensure its delivery.

Can I get a refund for returned mail?

Mail that is returned to the sender is not refunded by USPS. If, on the other hand, a box that was meant to be delivered to you was returned to sender, you may be able to obtain a refund from the merchant from whom you bought the goods.

If, however, the box you shipped was returned to you, you just need to repackage it and resend it with the correct information.

However, in certain cases, you may not need to repackage your letter if you can properly remove or negate the "return to sender" label, saving you money by not having to pay for further postage.

Favorite Resources

Our favorite resources are included below.

Job interview resources

Resume and cover letter resources

Job search resources

free interview question and answer full guide

Interview Question and Answer Guide (PDF)

Download our full interview preparation guide. Complete with common interview questions and example answers. Free download. No email required.

Download PDF
author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo, Recruiter.com, SparkHire, SHRM.org, Process.st, FairyGodBoss, HRCI.org, St. Edwards University, NC State University, IBTimes.com, Thrive Global, TMCnet.com, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

Fact checked: Our small and dedicated team rigorously evaluates every article, guide, and reference to ensure the information is accurate and factual. Learn more.


Help us by spreading the word