The Mysterious Case of the Missing Post

Every day, vast numbers of people head to their local post-box to send letters to friends, relatives, companies and official authorities. For the majority of individuals, they never give the safe arrival of their letter a second thought, but the harsh reality is that a huge amount of mail goes missing on a weekly basis. The truth is that there’s no guarantee whatsoever that a delivery will leave Location A and arrive at Location B a day or two later.

In the UK, the mail system handles millions of items of post throughout the year, but statistics reveal a dramatic failure rate, with upwards of half a million items either reaching their destination more than two weeks later or, in many cases, not arriving at all. If you thought this issue was only a problem in Britain, however you’d be wrong. The success rates of postal services in many countries leave an awful lot to be desired.

The failed delivery of any specific item could be down to any one of a number of reasons, ranging from the dishonest to the downright bizarre. The revelation in 2012 that a letter-box in Birmingham wasn’t emptied for 23 years has brought home the realisation that a number of postal items could go missing purely because they didn’t even manage to make it as far as the local sorting office.

Always take care when addressing

It should be borne in mind that many letters, parcels and packages could be disappearing into the system purely because of the fault of the sender. If an item is incorrectly addressed, there may be no way of ascertaining where it should be sent to, or indeed who sent it in the first place. Because of the different systems when sending via a courier service, this is unlikely to occur with an international parcel delivery via a private company.

As well as poorly addressed items, there could be a problem if a letter or package contains a label with an address written on it. If the label falls off during the transit process – a distinct possibility given the amount of automation involved in the modern postal system – your consignment could end up being nothing more than a plain box with no to or from address attached to it.

We tend to be more cautious about sending valuable items (including cash) via the postal service, but the truth is that just about any item can go missing. Whether you’re despatching a sum of money to a nephew as a birthday present or a letter of complaint to the local water board, you want and expect that item to arrive safely and on time. In truth, there is a definite possibility that this won’t be the case.

Mail items that cannot be delivered or returned to sender are held for a period of time, so if this has happened to you there is a chance that you’ll be able to recover your letter. This may be a lengthy process, however, because the chances are the National Returns Centre, based in Belfast, will hold a huge number of items at any given time. In America, the US Postal service manages two such centres, one in Georgia and the other in Minnesota.

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