Does USPS Lose Packages? (You’ll Be Surprised)

No shipping service is perfect, and sometimes the worst happens – your package is lost in transit, never to be seen again. The United States Postal Service is a federal agency under the same branch of government as the President. So that means it never misplaces a package, right?

I was interested in the same matter, so I researched USPS in-depth. Does USPS lose packages? The answer might surprise you, so keep reading!

Does USPS Lose Packages?

It’s estimated that the United States Postal Service loses about three percent of the total mailpieces it handles for various reasons, but most commonly involving shipping labels. Customers are encouraged to wait at least seven days from the date of shipping to file a missing mail search request.

To learn more about why the Postal Service commonly loses packages, what happens if USPS has lost your parcel, who’s liable for a missing package, and more, keep reading!

Why Does USPS Lose Packages?

The common reason that the United States Postal Service loses packages is label malfunctions.

To clarify, the zip code is the part of the label that can make or break a parcel reaching its destination.

But, one thing to bear in mind: the barcode portion of the label, not the written numerical zip code, determines success (as the zip code info is built into the barcode).

That said, if the label gets smeared, falls off, or is rendered in any other way illegible, the machines through which the parcels are fed and scanned may incorrectly route the item.

Also, this is why it’s important to have a legible return address, so if the package can’t make it to the recipient, it will have somewhere to go that isn’t Lost Mail.

Similarly, altogether incorrect addresses can account for some lost mail, where the given zip code and address or name don’t match up.

What Percentage Of USPS Packages Are Lost?

According to, about three percent of the total number of mailpieces that flow through the USPS system end up irreparably lost.

Further, estimates that there are more than 146 billion mailpieces each year!

While three percent doesn’t sound like a whole lot, that’s actually 4.38 billion lost mailpieces every year.

According to NatPay, that three percent rate could be contested, as the measuring rubric for lost packages is far from perfect.

What Happens If USPS Loses Your Package?

What Happens If USPS Loses Your Package?

If you feel that your USPS package is lost, the Postal Service has a system in place to help you find it.

First of all, though, you’ll want to make sure the package is lost.

That said, all you can do for this step is wait seven days for First-Class, First-Class Package, and Priority. Or, you should wait 14 days for Retail Ground, Parcel Select, and Media Mail.

The one outlier is Priority Mail Express, which is guaranteed upon purchase.

For Priority Express, if your parcel doesn’t arrive by 6 p.m. on the given guaranteed date, the sender can immediately file for a refund, and the recipient can file for a missing package.

Okay, so say you’ve waited out the week or two weeks, and nothing has arrived. You’ve checked USPS tracking, and the package is stuck in transit.

At this point, you can go ahead and file a missing mail claim on the USPS website.

Additionally, you can complete a Help Request form, which will get forwarded to your delivering Post Office so that it can work on your behalf to help locate the package.

For the Missing Mail Search Request, you will need to give the Postal Service as much information as possible about the missing mail piece.

For example, some of the information you should have ready to present to USPS include:

  • The sender and recipient address
  • Size and shape of the package
  • Tracking info;
  • What the package contains (as specific as possible)
  • Any applicable photos

If you’re the recipient in this instance, you may have to rope in the sender for help providing this information.

Who Pays If USPS Loses Package?

While the lost package might technically be the fault of the USPS, when it comes to item replacement or reimbursement, the seller is actually on the hook.

However, say the item was shipped with an Insurance add-on or was shipped via Priority Mail or Priority Express.

In the latter case, the shipment includes an automatic $50 and $100 worth of insurance (respectively).

With insurance, you can then file a claim for reimbursement.

How Do You Know If USPS Loses Package?

According to, you can start to think of your package as lost if it hasn’t shown up within seven days of mailing for First-Class services and Priority Mail.

Or, you can think of it as lost after 14 days with Retail Ground, Parcel Select, and Media Mail.

That said, the first set of services has an expected delivery estimate of one to five days from mailing. On the other hand, the latter three should deliver no later than eight days, max.

Moreover, I’ve found that Amazon shipments that are mailed out via USPS might update in the Amazon app under tracking with a “Package is Lost or Delayed.”

To know more, you can also read our related posts on why is USPS package not moving, how fast is USPS ground shipping, and if you can reroute a USPS package.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of

1 thought on “Does USPS Lose Packages? (You’ll Be Surprised)”

  1. When faced with a “lost package” inquiry, the default position for the USPS is that “it was scanned at the proper location and delivered”. When pressed, they claim that the scan includes GPS coordinates. Yet, their own automated system to which complaints are directed advises that automated delivery notifications can be in error; how is that possible? Attempting to navigate the USPS automated theft reporting system is arduous and profoundly frustrating – especially for seniors and the disabled. When a perfunctory follow-up is required by an actual postal worker, the USPS never admits error or takes responsibility for a missing package, rather they go to the default excuse that the package must have been “stolen”. Again, when pressed, they admit that the “missing package” may have been delivered to the house or business next door as the GPS scan is not as accurate as originally suggested. Truth be told, millions of “scanned” items go missing a year. In fact, the USPS itself claims that “there are as many as 1.7 million cases of mail thefts daily. Over a third (36%) of all Americans who deal with the postal service have once experienced a mail theft case.” Even when one employs Registered Mail, where a return receipt is required and purchased insurance is intended to cover all losses, the USPS tracking system is often unable to track the exact location of a package en-route – this in spite of the fact that every way station is required to sign for and scan the package before storing it in a predesignated “secure” location. Lastly, the USPS reports: “For Priority Mail Express items not requiring a signature, a delivered scan event constitutes a valid delivery, and no indemnity for loss is paid.” – thus the USPS has no incentive for, or interest in, pursuing a claim of a “missing package” as a “scan” is considered prima facia evidence of delivery.

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