Can you trust the US post office to forward your mail?

Once upon a time, I was a defender of the US post office. I figured it couldn’t be easy to deliver mail correctly as often as they do. Then I discovered the problem: when something does go wrong, especially if it’s their fault, they don’t care and don’t do anything to help you solve it.

Can you trust the US post office to forward your mail?

Forwarding? What’s that?

It started a few years ago when I moved across town from one zip code to another. I set up a forwarding order from Old Zip to New Zip and gave it to the carrier in advance of the date I wanted forwarding to start, as I had been instructed. Immediately – before I had even moved – I stopped getting mail altogether. It was all getting bounced back to senders – including important checks and bills. The carrier was useless. Calling them was useless, because the supervisors were never available. I spent a lot of time driving to the post office and talking to a supervisor to get it straightened out. It was like they’d never seen a forwarding order before. Before my very eyes they struggled to understand what their own form meant.

I spent a lot of time and energy calling everyone who regularly sent me bills or checks,  telling them both about my new address and  to expect the returned mail. Fortunately, they all took good care of me, but it was still a month before I had all my late checks and bills at the new place, because it took so long for the mail to be returned to sender. In the meantime, they bounced some mail back from my bank, causing the bank to close my ATM card for fear of fraud – yet another phone call and inconvenience for me to deal with.

But that’s not the worst of it. I thought everything was resolved until a few months later, when I bought something on Ebay for $18 altogether – vintage items that couldn’t be replaced. After a few weeks, I emailed the sender and asked what address she’d sent them to. She wrote back with my new address without a hair out of place, and gave me a tracking number, too. I checked the tracking number on the USPS website: it said my package had arrived on August 6th to my old zip code.

Get it? My new post office, for lack of a better term, anti-forwarded it back to my old one. Now how on earth does that happen? And the package mysteriously disappeared forever. They swore the carrier had delivered it, so they assumed the new tenants in my old apartment had opened the mail and kept it. I have my doubts about that. I’m sure it can happen, but I’ve never had anyone steal my mail like that – it’s a federal offense.

I asked the post office to investigate how this happened and get back to me. I was assured I’d receive a call within two days, which of course I didn’t. I never heard anything again, and never got so much as an apology for any part of this huge stupid mess.

Vacation replacement? Never heard of it

Since this incident, I’ve had an interesting situation every year around the winter holidays – my local postal carrier tends to take her vacation around that time, so guess who delivers parcels to my route? No one. They just mount up at the post office until they feel like delivering them. This is the sort of behavior that only a business that has a monopoly could get away with. I now use UPS whenever I have a choice – not that they’re a whole lot more reliable, but at least there’s always a tracking number, and they look on tracking as part of their job. The post office’s response tends to be more along the lines of, “Well, why don’t you give it a few more days? Oh, you did. Well, give it a few more!”

Well, you had a minor typo, and we were bored

Then there was the more recent incident where I sent someone a package via Priority Mail, and it bounced back (forcing me to pay to ship it again) because, according to the USPS, the address wasn’t precisely right. Okay, fine – people get confused about suite numbers and “care of” and “attention” and all that stuff. But this parcel was going to the only business in a particular building – how confusing could it really have been? I really think sometimes they look for excuses to return mail so you’ll have to pay shipping again. And in this particular incident, I honestly believed the worker at the post office had just tossed it down the sewer because she was one of the nastiest, rudest human beings I ever had the misfortune to have to deal with.

For outgoing mail…

For outgoing mail, I’ve found that another post office near me is far more reliable, and the staff is professional and courteous. By using them for deliveries, I’ve had no trouble getting things shipped. But I’m stuck with the post office for my zip code when it comes to receiving mail or getting my mail forwarded. And that post office is one of the crappiest I’ve ever encountered. I shudder to think what’ll happen when I move out of this zip code someday. I think I’ll just skip the forwarding and just be sure to notify people of my new address one by one.

US Postal Inspector

I’ve also had occasion to start an investigation of post office fraud when items just plain went missing, never to be seen again. I haven’t found this option very helpful – it feels to me more like a smokescreen to make you think they’re trying to do right by you, when really they’re doing nothing. But you can call 1-877-876-2455 and choose option 3 for mail theft. (Do not choose option 1 – they’ll tell you to call 1-800-ask-usps, which is perfectly useless.) I used the phone option, and they were very professional and courteous, but they never called me back as they promised, and I don’t think they really did anything.

What are your bad experiences with the post office?


  1. general.chaos says

    At least you didn’t get arrested over a Post Office error! They decided to “anti-forward” a court summons to me, which was over something small. So… a few days later I get a call saying I’m a fugitive and I have to come turn myself in!!! I spent 3 whole days/nights in COUNTRY PRISON because the postal service can’t do their fricken jobs!

  2. SnappyLiving says

    General Chaos, that’s appalling! Also, I’m a little surprised something that important was sent in the mail. I know if you’re suing someone, you have to have the summons delivered in person. It ought to be the same in a situation like yours.

    My sympathies on what you went through. Yeesh.

  3. Matt says

    I just had a problem similar to this when I moved a couple of weeks ago.

    I filled out the Change of Address form at the post office and dropped it in their box a few days before moving. Additionally, for the sake of redundancy, the day I moved I also filled out the online Change of Address form (for which the post office charged $1 to my credit card). The forms indicated that a confirmation would be sent to my new address within 7-10 days.

    I had been expecting some Netflix and Gamefly discs to be forwarded to the new address, but by the 11th day nothing had arrived at the new address; a change of address confirmation also had not been delivered to the new address. I had to drive 3 hours to the old address to try to retrieve my mail, but a new tenant had moved in and the discs I was expecting were missing (the old landlord allowed me to look for my mail).

    I called the Post Office and filed a complaint at the national call center and was told to expect a call within 24 hours. The next day a person from the old address post office called and said the mail should have been forwarded, but since it wasn’t it would begin today. The person acknowledged that the post office had been failing to forward the mail, but didn’t offer any regret or apology or accept any responsibility. The person expressed no concern for this problem.

    It was truly miserable customer service.

    • SnappyLiving says

      Wow. I was hoping it was just my local PO, but maybe it’s a systematic problem? How scary – they’ve gotten forwarding right so often for so long, and now they’re suddenly losing it?

  4. bud says

    I use bulk mail a lot in sending out solicitation to my customers. You ought to see some of the stuff they have done to my mail over the years. Theey found 300 pieces in a dumpster a couple years ago. I have had hundreds and hundreds of pieces returned to me stating incorrect address or not deliverable as addressed, and it turned out every single piece was addressed correctly. I went to the Post Office wanting immediate answers…to no avail. I was called several days later and found out it was being done by the carrier so it didn’t have to be delivered. hmmmmmmmmmmmmm go figure!

  5. Kamen says

    Yup, I’m being evicted from my apartment, so the first thing I did was pick up a PO box to forward to until I get a new address.

    I currently have a shipment coming to me from an online store. I was assured by the person who gave me the change of address form that this package would arrive at my doorstep. Well, its been 4 days since the online tracking for the package was updated, and it claims to be last scanned in my home city, somewhere.

    I went around to two post offices, got two stories. No one could tell me where my package is, or even if its still in the city. I was told it would either be forwarded to the PO box *additional postage due* or returned to sender. Hows that for ya, the want to charge me double for picking it up out of box in their office rather than driving it to my doorstep.

    They also told me that it was my own fault, that I should have known such package would not be forwarded. When I explained I asked specifically about this package and was told it would arrive, my response was “well he didnt know it was this class of mail.”

    So, the post office can break their own rules, tell you one thing and do another, extort you to recover your own property from them, and its all YOUR fault, not theirs. And you have no recourse. All shipments I make from now on will be UPS.

  6. says

    You can not trust a Govenment service to do the right thing, the system is broke and if you ever had to track a shipment you will know what I am talking about. For mail forwarding, I use a private firm in Boston that ships all my packages via their PO box rental system at great rates and very competitive. But to answer your question, no I would not trust my mail to usps.

  7. Skyamazon says

    I am employee of post office and in 07 I began to have major problems with my mail not delivered right , I am a city mail carrier on workers comp , and I was furious , I moved and had mail forwarding problems moved again and had more , the extremely important things returned to sender lack of response from supervisors and postmasters disgust me , they lay blame of carriers who are blamed for everything and as employee I know this is false , it is broken system I see worse and worse and needs major fixing obama want to fire someone leave auto alone and work on us post office !
    When employees have this much problems and no response time to fire people in charge and fix it, should work well if people mail less not worse !

  8. jean smith says

    I retired from the P.O. 2 years ago…finally!! They are cutting so many people and there aren’t enough folks to do the job right and give customer service…that is a thing of the past! Corrupt system…same old thing…if you are IN with the boss…you don’t have to do hardly any work…if you do your job, they just pile more work on you because you have to make up for the slackers….everyone is discouraged and can’t wait to retire….Im very thankful I made it 24 years and get a pension!!

  9. mm10 says

    i also have gone paperless as much as possible, but (while i do care for the environment), mostly because i hate the postal service! i’m sure some individual postal workers are lovely people, but far too many of them are incompetent, rude, and entirely inefficient. i can’t stand dealing with them in any fashion (by phone, or worse, at the actual post office). they’re still necessary, so i deal with them, but the less the better!!

  10. Jackie says

    I havent been able to get any mail that includes credit cards nor my kids. I have spoken to the Post office Manager in Miami and he promises he will take care of the issue and now its been 10 months, my federal income tax was returned, my triple AAA card was returned las week. I dont know what to do … can i SUE?


  11. Dudley Davis says

    On September 1st 2011 I moved to a new apartment in the same complex, the same building I lived in for a decade. I went from Apartment E to Apartment K ; one door over and up one flight. I filled out all the appropriate forwarding mail forms, spoke with postman directly and the result I am still not getting most of my mail forwarded. I have the key yet for the old apartment mail box till tomorrow September 30th. All month I keep receiving some mail at my new address and some mail at old address. Some days I have mail at both locations. I have visited the post office twice , filled out a complaint. I have called twice as late as yesterday afternoon. I was told the postal delivery person would be spoken to and the situation would be corrected. Last evening I placed a note on my old mailbox “Mr. Davis does not live here anymore mail is to be forwarded to Apartment K“. So would you believe I opened my new apartment mailbox today and no mail…I went to the old mail box and my mail with forwarding stickers on it were in the old box , one piece of important mail did not even have a forwarding sticker. I called the post office again and spoke with a gentleman and explained I called yesterday and the problem continues. His response was that “they are having problems with their budget shortfall.” No acceptance of any responsibility or an apology.

    On top of that I receive some mail each day from the person who moved out of 87 K on July 1st and asked his mail be forwarded to his new residence in North Carolina. I keep putting the old residents mail on top of the box with a notice he does not live here anymore and that mail has been taken back but on the same day I have some of his new mail again in my mailbox ;sometimes with part of my mail and then the balance of my mail in the old apartment E mailbox.

    This indicates to me a mail system that is in total failure and why so many do not use the US Postal service any longer. I do not use it for anything important. Anything important I send Fed Ex or UPS. If I so use the post office because I am sending to a PO box I send it certified. Bottom line is the US Postal Service demonstrates total incompetence and in my opinion needs to be dismantled and turned over to a private business service provider that would run the post office like a business as Fed Ex is run and UPS is run; that would operate providing good customer service to compete with Fed ex and UPS. The US Postal service is a shambles . Does anyone else face this problem?

  12. ridiculous says

    i have a forwarding request and i definitely am not getting my mail. luckily the person who moved into my old place has been getting them to me.

  13. amos says

    i had a new phone shipped to my shipping address. it was supposed to go fedex and be signed for. they sent it to a different address and fedex dropped it off at the post office who delivered it instead of fedex delivering. the post office delivered it and the guy kept it. the post office didnt check to see that any packages for me at that address are to be held there.

    • SnappyLiving says

      First, because they cost money, so I’d be financially rewarding the USPS for its incompetence (I know it’s not much, but the principle bugs me). Second, it would be VERY inconvenient to have to drop by their every day to get my mail. This is my personal mail, not business mail that I can just pick up once a week without missing anything important.

  14. Steve says

    The Bank told me I moved without giving a forwarding address. They charged a Statement Rehandling Fee for the returned item. The post office claims they don’t know what happened. The bank don’t know what happened. The US Postal Inspector don’t know what happened. No one knows what happened. I’m not able to hold those responsible accountable. But I haven’t moved. What the f***?

  15. M. Baldwin says

    Seems like someone with some type of position with the USPS would step up.
    They have some type of parking space . EARN YOUR WORTH!

    MARX sick of the. S—!

  16. says

    The worst thing you can do is complain to ANYONE in the Post Office. If you complain, they all get a laugh out of it and then start screwing with your mail. Then when you come in and complain more, they sound interested and then as soon as you leave, they all laugh and mess with your mail some more.

    It is impossible to get fired from the Post Office, so they screw with your mail with impunity.

    If you ever have problems with the mail, be calm, be patient, but NEVER NEVER complain.

  17. RosieRedd says

    I bought my daughter some boots from an online store.
    After anxiously waiting by the mailbox for 2-3 weeks. Regularly checking for emails and constantly tracking package. I decided to see what is going on at the PO. After several attempts to speak to a supervisor, one day I actually did (everytime I went they searched the package “room”) The Supervisor took my number and said they would call me when the carrier came in. Needless to say, they didn’t. Later that same day, I got an email that said package had arrived. Huh?!? So I take another trip to PO, again they “check”. I told them that it could be in my daughters name (I wanted to surprise her) No, no luck. A week passes by and I am boiling mad by now. No, again no. So I try! to call the main PO # to complain. Nothing again. I was endlessly harrassing our carrier. I call and call and call the PO for our zip code. I decided enough is enough. I went down there with my meanest face and demanded to speak to the highest manager on duty and low and behold here comes a man to the window with a battered box under his arm! !!! The box looked as if people were trying to peek at its contents, The durable cardboard was busted and the tape was CUT on another side. I was relieved and furious. When I tried to question its whereabouts, he exclaimed that it was in the international package bin. Welllllllllllll! Duh!!!!!!!

  18. Paul e says

    Hey, it is not just the Post Office that messes up, but they sure can make it worse. I am a snowbird and spend winter in Florida and well before traveling filled out proper form, spoke with carrier and all should be great this year as opposed to last year. Did get some mail at new address, although it trickled in. The real problem didn’t show itself until my cell phone broke. After spending almost 3 hours with Verizon tech support (as accurate as the “service” in USPS) it was determined that a new phone would be sent to me. I made it clear where to send it, but they chose to mail it to the other address. Tracking # showed it sitting in my other Post Office. Repeated calls to the wireless company produced from well practiced apologies, but no real help. So I called the Post Office to inquire. Woman on phone acted like it was a major imposition to look and told me it was my fault for having it shipped to wrong address. When I tried to explain it was not my mistake, but Verizon’s she told me she was going to hang up, and when i mentioned it was the job of the PO to deliver mail in timely way she hung up on me. Amazing though that after the next check of tracking # the package was on it’s way. I’m afraid to think what will happen to the rest of my “forwarded” mail.

  19. Yolanda gardner says

    The postal service lie so much they told me my tax return will be sent back to irs because of old address. I talk to irs and a representative told me it’s up to them if they wanna foward ed to new address.

  20. Mika Hakkinen says

    The observations above are all-too-accurate. I’ve never had the Postal Service forward a single item for any of the three moves I’ve had over the years. Once I made the mistake of complaining and they started throwing my mail away instead of delivering it to my old address.

    Lesson learned–stay on good terms with whomever you sell your house to and they’ll save your mail for you. Don’t ever try to address the issues with the Postal Service or they will take revenge on you.

    • SnappyLiving says

      That’s a good thought, but you don’t normally meet the people to whom you sell a house. And if you’re in an apartment, there’s almost no chance you’ll meet them. The Post Office has people over a barrel, and they know it.

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