What Happens to Undelivered Mail?

Posted on by Dominic Poznanski

Every once in a while, a story is published about lost letters and undelivered mail. As an example, a letter was delivered to an address in Crystal Palace, London in 2021, which had been sent from Bath in 1916. It took 105 years to travel 120 miles!

Royal Mail employs 90,000 postmen and women to ensure that our letters and packages get delivered through our letterboxes. In addition, there are 17,677 courier companies in the UK (Bold Data March 23) with delivery drivers knocking on the doors of properties in every city, town and village. This indicates the scale of mailbox deliveries, so it is no wonder that some letters and parcels never make it to their intended destination. However, what happens to undelivered mail?

Sorry We Missed You: Mail Undelivered

It’s frustrating to return home to a ‘Sorry we missed you’ card, but what other option does the postie have? If you are not in and the mail is too large to fit through your letterbox, they could:

  • Leave it on the doorstep, but then it is exposed to the British weather and risks being stolen
  • Leave it with a neighbour, but what if they aren’t in or you don’t have a good relationship with them?
  • Leave it in your safe space, but is it really that safe?
  • Throw it over the back gate, but we don’t all have one of those!

When we consider these alternatives, taking it back to the depot for collection seems like the best scenario. That is unless you have a parcel box for home use. With a wider opening than a standard letterbox, a secure hold and anti theft features, parcel boxes are a safe and convenient place for posties to leave your mail when you aren’t home.

Return to Sender

Assuming that your packages are taken back to the depot, it is up to you to collect them or arrange for redelivery. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen. So, then what?

In the case of Royal Mail deliveries, the packages will be returned to the sender, however, this isn’t always written on the parcel. Those with no return address are sent to the National Return Centre in Belfast. The public cannot directly contact the Centre. However, their staff use tracking numbers and any other available information to trace the sender.

Around 20 million packages are processed by the National Return Centre, with around a fifth being successfully returned.

How to Improve the Chances of Mail Delivery Success

When sending mail:

  • Double check that the recipient’s name and address are correct and clear
  • Add your details on the reverse, so it can be easily returned if there are delivery issues
  • For items of value, use signed for or tracked services, which provide insurance against losses

For mail recipients:

If you receive a high volume of mail or are often out when deliveries are made, consider investing in a secure parcel box. This alternative to the standard letterbox provides a safe place for your mail until you arrive home and unlock the hold.

Parcel Boxes for Home

Letterbox4You is a UK supplier of quality, European parcel boxes and exterior letterboxes. With a wide range of styles, you can find a secure post box for your deliveries and reduce the risk of undelivered mail.