Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Dead Letter office to Mail Recovery Center

In the early history of the Post Office, how to handle letters that were undeliverable as addressed became a vexing problem. They couldnt just be thrown away, becuae it would damage the advertised integrity and security of the mail.

In 1825, the Postal Department designated "dead letter offices" where clerks were authorized to open mail and try to determine where it should be redirected.

By the end of the 19th century, it wasn't uncommon for dead letter offices to handle as many as 23,000 pieces of mail a day.

About 40 percent of the mysterious pieces of mail were reunited with a sender or a recipient.

Later, as more valuables were coming to the dead letter offices, some hiring preferences were put in place. Retired clergymen were hired for their honesty and more women were added as they were thought to be better an analyzing complex and complicated addresses.

Today, with the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, the volume is much larger and the process much more complex.

Last year, about 82 million items were processed by the MRC. Of that total, 57 percent of items were determined to be of "possible value" and were returned or forwarded.

What is your experience with the Mail Recovery Center? Did they ever find something that has surprised you?  Comment here.

Read the Smithsonian article here.


Anonymous said...

I had a customer who had taken a family trip across the country. All the ladies involved had purchased matching denim jackets with the pink ribbon decoration for Breast Cancer awareness. My customer decided to return her jacket for a smaller size, and mailed it back. Apparently the packaging didn't hold the jacket, because she never received her new jacket.

When she reported to me that her jacket was lost, I was quite worried for her considering the sentimental value. She had not insured the jacket. I submitted a search form to the Mail Recovery center, and it wasn't long before my customer had her new smaller size jacket! I love happy endings! Thanks MRC!

Anonymous said...

Despite our best efforts is seems we can't get the message across that proper packaging, legible correct addresses & return addresses would prevent a lot of "dead mail" problems. I have a customer who mails cards frequently & never uses her return address. When I've suggested it she says she "knows the address is right." Well, every holiday we have a number of cards that are addressed to customers who moved or even passed away years ago. The mail recovery centers do a great job of reuniting valuable items with senders or receipients but there are probably lots of cards & letters that contain no valuable items that we are blamed for "losing" when it's a customer address error.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully I have never had to do a search for a lost item but I did have the opportunity to visit the MRC many many years ago and was amazed at all of the things people mail that don't reach their destination. I loved getting to see how it all worked and would love to go back again.

Anonymous said...

who could tell me a phone # from the recovery center to call and to recover my computer that strangely was sent to the recovery center.