Return to Sender, Address Unknown – Does that make you want to sing?
By Michele Stilwell, Director of Marketing and Accounting at MEDiAHEAD.
The lyrics from the song by Elvis:
I gave a letter to the postman, he put it in his sack. Bright and early next morning, he brought my letter back. She wrote upon it: return to sender, address unknown. No such number, no such zone.
Well, I can’t count the number of times we receive mail at our office with names of people who have not been with the company for YEARS. It’s crazy!
Did you know?
Simply put, First-Class Mail is more expensive, but it will be delivered faster and comes with additional services like return service. First-Class Mail is intended for personal or business communication. Standard Mail is used more for advertisements and mass communication. Both qualify for discounted, bulk mail rates.
First-Class Mail is delivered faster by the USPS than Bulk or Standard Mail. Also, First-Class Mail is generally delivered in 1-3 days locally and 3-5 days nationally by the USPS. First-Class Mail is also more expensive than Bulk Rate Mail. Rates are based on size and weight — you can mail up to one ounce at the lowest postage rate.
Certain types of mail must be sent via First-Class Mail, such as invoices, statements, and other personalized mail. First-Class Mail is also forwarded automatically or returned to the sender if it isn’t deliverable.
First-Class Mail is generally perceived to be of higher importance by the recipient, so it generally gets looked at more closely by the recipient. First-Class Mail can be pre-sorted to qualify for discounted bulk mail rates, but a minimum of 500 pieces are required.
Bulk (Standard) Mail is generally delivered by the USPS in 2-5 days locally, and 1 – 4 weeks nationally.
Many companies use Standard Mail because it is less expensive than First-Class Mail. Bulk mail is not automatically forwarded or returned to the sender if it is undeliverable (though you can pay extra to receive these services.)
Rates for Bulk Mail are also based on the size and weight of the mail piece; in general, you can mail up to 3.3 ounces at the lowest Standard Mail rate. There’s a minimum quantity of 200 pieces in order to mail at bulk rates.
Non-Profit organizations qualify for discounted bulk postage rates.
Non-Profit Mail is treated as Standard Bulk Mail and is usually delivered in 2-5 days locally, and 1-4 weeks nationally. Authorization by the US Postal Service is required to receive Non-Profit mailing rates, and only applies to Agricultural, Educational, Fraternal, Labor, Philanthropic, Religious, Scientific, Veteran organizations, as well as some political committees.
Ref: Action Mail Marketing and Direct Mail Services.
So back to Returned Mail…
Why do we get returned mail? Here are a couple reasons.
- Missing forwarding information. If the addressee on the mail piece no longer resides at that address and USPS does not have a current forwarding (change-of-address) on file, the mail piece will most likely be returned.
- Missing secondary information (apartment, suite, number, etc.) is invalid or missing, the mail piece may be returned.
If you get returned mail with both the address and the yellow non-delivery sticker, you can usually find out why it wasn’t delivered. The sticker has a code on it. You can find the official definitions of all the message on the USPS site, but here are a few of the common one’s for you:
Not Deliverable as Addressed – Unable to Forward
Somebody moved but didn’t tell the USPS to forward their mail or forwarding period ended.
Attempted Not Known
This means the letter, as it was addressed, was delivered (or attempted) but then put back into the mail stream because the recipient didn’t match the one currently at the address.
Addresses marked as “Vacant” reached the destination but were then returned as undeliverable because the mail carrier marked the address as vacant. The USPS can sometimes take up to 90 days to get a vacant status into their system.
This means the address is just plain bad. You should verify your address.
As our lives become more and more consumed by digital media (especially now that we’ve been ordered to stay at home) we give less time and attention to the messages we receive. The average lifespan of an email is 2 seconds. Brand recall after seeing a digital ad is just 44%. Direct mail on the other hand has a brand recall of 75%.
Mailing is perceived as a more trusted, personal form of communication. Think about who in your life would love to get a letter from you. Make sure you have a good address for them!
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