Package Missent By USPS? What It Means & What You Can Do

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Having a package not delivered where or when it is supposed to be is one of the major headaches that can come with shipping. We ship hundreds of items a month through our eBay business and, more months than not, we have packages lost in the mail, damaged, end up at zip code 01153, etc.

More uncommon, but not rare by any means, is the dreaded “missent” message in USPS tracking. Is there anything to do be done when you get that message? What does missent even mean?

If your package has been missent by USPS it means that they sent it to the wrong post office or transfer station. Missent items are typically rerouted by USPS and show up at the intended address within a couple of days.

For most sellers, lost or missent mail is just part of doing business. You do your best to find it and, when you can’t you either refund or resend it. If you’re sending something personal, however, you probably want a bit more information about how to address this frustrating situation.

USPS tracking showing package missent

What Does It Mean If USPS Missent Your Letter Or Package?

Simply put, missent mean that USPS sent your mail or package to the wrong place.

This is usually a simple problem such as your package being thrown into the wrong bin or placed on the wrong conveyer belt.

Whatever happened, your package ended up at the wrong truck headed to the wrong post office. When it was scanned in, USPS’s tracking system noticed that it was headed in the wrong direction and flagged it as missent.

If you are waiting for a missent package, it’s worth noting that it is not the seller’s fault and there is nothing they can do to get you your package faster.

Luckily, USPS packages typically make pretty short hops so, if your mail was missent it probably won’t have gone far before they noticed it.

Are Missent Items Ever Found?

If your item has been missent, take heart, it’s almost certainly not lost. In fact, it being marked as missent is a good sign because it means that they know exactly where it is (even though it’s not in the right spot).

USPS has different tracking updates for lost mail although many times you have to call them if your tracking hasn’t been updated in several days.

So what’s happens to your missent package?

It is simply rerouted and sent to the correct shipping address.

Now, because packages that have “problems” are manually sorted it can take a bit of extra time. Missent packages have been known to show up even 10 days after the original delivery date.

How long it takes depends on the distance off-track the package went. In most cases, it will add 1-3 days if you have a priority mail package missent but much longer for something like media mail.

There are also cases of missent items showing up as “delivered” on the tracking but still being in transit. If your package was “delivered” but it’s not where it’s supposed to be, give USPS a call and they can tell you more. Just be aware that, if you call too soon, they’ll probably tell you to wait 24 hours and see if it shows up.

What You Can Do About It If Your Item’s Tracking Says “Missent”?

Whenever we have had a USPS missent package, we just wait it out. 90% of the time the tracking will be updated in 1-2 days and we’ll know where it is and how soon it will be delivered.

If it has been longer than that, calling the post office is a good idea. Your local post office can look your package up by the tracking number and tell you where it is and give you a timeframe. It is not, however, impossible for the package to be delayed or even lost so, if it’s been a week or two, it may be time to file a lost package report.

If you are the sender of the package, contacting the recipient and letting them know that the package is still on its way will help them feel at ease (and let them know that you’re on top of things.

Is There Anything You Can Do To Avoid Missent Packages?

In short, no, you cannot prevent missent packages if you ship with USPS in volume. However, following these 3 best practices set out by USPS can minimize the chances of it happening:

  • Make sure that the address is legible. This is especially important if your address is handwritten. While your package is routed automatically by the barcode, the chances of them being missent increases if things are hard to read.
  • Use a quality label printer. If you print your own labels, having a printer that doesn’t print at sufficient quality can be extremely detrimental. When we had a low-quality printer, USPS would have to reprint almost the label for every package that we dropped off. (Even if you need the best label printer for home shipping, check out this review)
  • Don’t tape over the label. I’ll admit it, I have this bad habit. However, the reflection can obscure the label which means it has to be sorted manually or could even be missent.

While nothing can totally prevent USPS missent or lost packages, more experience will mean that you won’t have to worry when seeing a disruption in your package’s tracking.

So wait for a bit, contact the recipient and call USPS if necessary. Best of luck!

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