Nothing is more frustrating than when a package sent through the Postal Service goes missing, and the agency makes every attempt to get it back to the sender or recipient, but are unable to access the necessary information to do so.
At that point, the package heads to the USPS Mail Recovery Center, and after a certain period, it may be auctioned off. What are USPS auctions, you ask? Keep reading if you’d like to find out!
What Are USPS Auctions In 2022?
Auctions held by the United States Postal Service consist of lost and unclaimed mail that has sat in the agency’s Mail Recovery Center for at least 90 days. Once a value of at least $25 has been confirmed, with no Missing Mail searches active, items may be put up for auction on the GovDeals.com site as of 2022.
To learn more about how USPS auctions work, where they’re held and how to receive the winnings, who can bid on auctions and more, keep reading for more facts!
Does USPS Auction Lost Mail?
The United States Postal Service does auction lost mail, but only after it has sat in the Mail Recovery Center (MRC) for at least 90 days.
Additionally, items must have an estimated value of $25 or higher for them to be eligible for USPS auctions.
The MRC is in Atlanta, Georgia, in a nondescript building with considerable security and limited access, so not a lot is known about the inner workings of the USPS auction process.
How Do USPS Auctions Work?
USPS auctions would not be possible without the mishaps of lost packages in the USPS system.
However, it’s important to note that the Postal Service makes every attempt to get mail to its intended recipient (or back to the original sender).
How Packages Arrive to the Auction Site:
For example, if you purchased an Amazon Echo Dot and you’re mailing it to your family for Christmas, and the label falls off in a truck or in a sorting machine without a barcode, the parcel can go no further.
This means that there’s no address written on the parcel itself. Therefore, a mail clerk is given the go-ahead to open it and look for clues, such as a card addressed to the recipient.
However, if the clerk is unable to figure out where the package was going or where it originated, it gets sent to the Atlanta, Georgia USPS Mail Recovery Center (or MRC).
Once the package arrives, the MRC staff checks again for any clues within the package that indicate a destination or origin.
Unfortunately, if there’s no indication of who the package belongs to, and the item has about a $40 value, it’s eligible for auction.
At this point, you have a few months to file a Missing Mail claim (people unfamiliar with the process might not realize it’s even an option).
However, if your description isn’t quite specific enough and they can’t locate your item, USPS is within their rights to put up the item for auction after 90 days.
USPS is less likely to auction off a package on an individual basis and is more likely to add it to a lot listing. It could form part of a listing for an electronics pallet, where the starting bid is $2,500.
How You Can Bid:
Now, if you’re interested in making bids and purchases from USPS, you can go to GovDeals.com.
GovDeals is the government-contracted site that runs auctions for any/all government agencies that might have eligible items. Everything is categorized by the type of item, as well as the location.
You can tell USPS MRC items by the location – Atlanta Surplus Center, GA.
To bid, you have to sign up for an account, and you can pay for your winning bid with Paypal, any major credit card or, if the total comes to more than $5,000, you must do a wire transfer. Payment must be made in a timely fashion, generally within five days.
If you win, you must schedule a pick-up appointment and arrange for all the transport of the winnings.
This is particularly important, because USPS auctions tend to come in big lots, sometimes trailer-fulls, and you’ll need a large truck (and heavy-lifters) to cart it away.
GovDeals emphasizes that there are no returns or refunds, meaning you’re agreeing to purchase the items “as is” and any loss incurred through the sale is yours.
Where Are USPS Auctions Held?
USPS auctions are held online, via the website GovDeals.com. This site actually handles auctions for any/all government agencies that have items to move, and if you browse a bit, you can see everything sorted by type.
You can also search by location, since you have to pick up the items, so you’ll want to make sure they’re located somewhere accessible to you.
How Much Does USPS Make From Auctions?
The Postal Service is tight-lipped about what kind of profits they make off the auctions for lost mail.
One news station tried to penetrate the veil of secrecy and came away empty-handed, with a firm statement: “the information requested is being withheld in its entirety.”
The station then went on to say that in the previous year (2018) USPS made about $11 million off the sales (and in 2013 it was $8 million).
It likely ebbs and flows each year, but it’s not unreasonable to suppose USPS makes millions in profit every year (though it’s a drop in the bucket, budget-wise).
Can Anyone Bid On USPS Auctions?
Anyone in the U.S. who is over the age of 18 and has the necessary funds can bid on a USPS auction.
You must create an account to place a bid, and then you’ll either pay via credit card (which you can’t have unless you’re 18) or wire transfer.
The only exceptions to the 18-and-over rule are USPS employees and their immediate families.
The United States Postal Service auctions off lost packages online after ensuring their lack of deliverability using the website GovDeals.
While the independent agency does pocket a profit from these sales, they are also keeping items from ending up in landfills.