Why Do Packages Get Returned to Sender?

Why Do Packages Get Returned to Sender? While postal and courier companies these days are pretty reliable and deliver more than 90% of all shipments on time, a small percentage of packages may be returned to senders as undeliverable. Why exactly can packages get returned to sender and are there any ways to prevent this? Let’s figure it out together.

There is a number of reasons why a package can be returned to the sender. The most common ones are: the delivery address is incomplete or erroneous, the address on the shipping label does not match the information in the system, multiple delivery attempts have failed, the package was refused by the addressee, the shipping label was damaged. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Incomplete or Erroneous Delivery Address

Even a small typo in the recipient’s address may result in your package being declared undeliverable and getting returned to you. It is especially important to get the ZIP code right because it determines the route of your package, but the rest of the address is important as well during the final leg of delivery. So to make sure your package gets delivered without a hitch you should double-check the information you provide to the carrier, especially if you print shipping labels yourself and there is no one to help you spot typos and errors. The good news is, most shipping label printing services have a built-in ZIP code validator, so you will be notified if the ZIP code you’ve submitted doesn’t match the rest of the address.

The Address on the Shipping Label Does Not Match the Information in the System

When a shipping label is created, the package information is stored in the carrier’s system and encoded in the barcode on the shipping label. During most of the delivery process, the barcode is repeatedly scanned at sorting facilities to determine where the package should travel next. Normally, the information in the system matches the information on the shipping label, but sometimes it doesn’t – for example, if the sender has tried to fix an error on the label manually. In such a case, the package is considered undeliverable and returned to the sender. To prevent this, you shouldn’t try to fix typos or errors in the address manually. The right thing to do is cancel the erroneous label and create a new one.

Multiple Delivery Attempts Have Failed

Delivery attempts can fail for a number of reasons:

  • The addressee does not live there anymore and has not submitted a mail forwarding request.
  • The mailbox was full or the package was too large to fit in the mailbox.
  • The mail carrier/delivery driver could not access the property and leave the package in a secure place due to a security gate, aggressive animal in the yard, etc.
  • The package requires a signature/payment on delivery, and the addressee was not home very time a delivery attempt was made.

Typically, the mail carrier/delivery driver leaves a special notice after the first failed delivery attempt, informing the addressee of the opportunity to schedule another delivery attempt or pick up the package from their local post office. After several failed delivery attempts, the package is returned to the sender. If the recipient was supposed to pick up the package from their local carrier’s location, but didn’t do it within the allotted time window, the package will also be returned to the sender.

The Package Is Refused by the Addressee

Recipients may actively refuse shipments, both personal and commercial, for a variety of reasons: the package was damaged, they no longer want what’s inside, there are fees or other expenses associated with the package that they are not willing to pay, the package is unsolicited and they are uncomfortable accepting a package from the sender, etc. If the recipient declines a shipment, it is returned to the sender.

The Package or Shipping Label Was Damaged

The shipment will most likely be returned to the sender if the shipping label is underadable/unscannable due to damage or being too light/blurry, as long as the return address is still legible.

It should be noted that in most cases the sender won’t be charged any additional fees when their package is returned, but neither are they eligible for a shipping cost refund.