It’s hard to imagine a postal system that didn’t offer tracking technology.
We are so used to being able to track down our packages at any time, day or night, no matter where they are along their journey to their ultimate destination. All we have to do is jump online, punching out tracking code, and we are able to spot – instantly – where our packages are and when they are expected to be delivered.
Prior to 1993, however, online tracking was pretty much nonexistent.
The USPS was a little bit late to the game – UPS really emphasized being able to track packages, but even they didn’t aggressively market the service until 1995.
That year 600 packages a day – 600! – were tracked somewhere along their journey.
By 1999 that number had ballooned to 3.3 million per day, and today it’s impossible to know exactly how many people track their packages each day (sometimes even multiple times per day).
It’s a big part of the mail experience.
But what happens if you lose your tracking number?
Are you just kind of out of luck, sitting there waiting like it’s pre-1993 again with no real way to look up your package?
Are there things you can do to track down your tracking number, spot your package along its journey, and better time its delivery?
Let’s find out right now!
I Lost My USPS Tracking Number – Now What?
Losing your tracking number is a bit of a pain in the neck, especially since the USPS (particularly through local post office is and through the USPS Care Center) aren’t going to have a lot of tools available to help you recover that.
You see, tracking numbers are generated on the spot the moment that a package or mailer that requires a tracking number is entered into the USPS system.
That number is attached to a couple of different spots (some we highlight in just a moment), giving you a good chance of recovering the number all on your own. But if you do not have that number it’s not going to be something that can be easily recovered via the USPS.
Below we run through a couple of things you want to think about if you’ve lost your number and are trying to track it down, though.
You might still be able to get that number, get the tracking info backup, and figure out where your package is and when it is going to arrive.
Double Check Everywhere You Tracking Info is Provided
The very first thing you’ll want to do when you feel you’ve lost your tracking info is search for any other spots the information might have been provided.
There are a handful of different places that your tracking information can show up that you might not have considered looking at just yet.
When you pay for your postage or pay to have your package delivered you are going to be given a receipt directly from the post office themselves.
This receipt is going to include a whole bunch of information, including the amount of money that you paid, the date and time for your transaction, and the kind of USPS services you chose as well.
But it’s also going to include your tracking number!
Finding where that tracking information is on your receipt can be a bit of a hassle, as different services will have that tracking info popping up in different places on your receipt.
At the end of the day, though, you should be able to track that number down without too much headache or hassle.
Every receipt from the USPS (for tracking eligible packages and mailers, anyway) will include this information, even if your receipt is from:
- A traditional sales receipt direct from the post office counter
- A self service kiosk receipt
- A mailing receipt
- An online label record (if you’ve purchased your postage online, for example)
- Barcode receipts that are printed by the USPS
No matter what, the receipt should be the first thing you do double check to see if you can find your missing tracking info.
Did Your USPS Piece Include a Tracking Code?
It’s also important that you think about whether or not your USPS package or mailer had a tracking number in the first place.
A lot of people assume that every single piece of mail and every single package going through the USPS is going to have tracking info attached. That’s not necessarily the case.
It’s possible that your package is not going to have a tracking code at all, and that’s the reason that the tracking is missing!
For example, the following pieces of mail moving through the USPS system are almost never going to have tracking information associated with them:
- First-class pieces of mail, including all letters and flat envelopes
- Periodicals, including magazines and newspapers
- Most USPS marketing Mail pieces
Even some packages aren’t going to have tracking information attached to them.
Before you start scrambling for a missing tracking number just make sure that the information is missing in the first place. It’ll save you a lot of headache and a lot of hassle!
Of course, it’s also important to remember that you can almost always attach tracking information to a letter, a piece of mail, or a package that wouldn’t normally have tracking in the first place.
You’ll pay a premium for the service (but it’s not very expensive). But a lot of people feel that the peace of mind it offers is well worth the extra expense.
I Really Lost My USPS Tracking Number
Now that you have confirmed that your tracking information really is missing, it’s time to run through a couple of other spots to hopefully find details that will point you in the right direction.
Check Informed Delivery
Informed Delivery is a fantastic service from the USPS, letting you know what kind of mail pieces are going to be delivered that day by providing you with a photographic scan of the envelope or package itself.
If you have lost tracking information for a piece of mail or package that is being sent to you then this service is going to be really beneficial.
You might not know ahead of time (days in advance, anyway) when your mail or package will arrive with Informed Delivery. But you’ll know the morning of the delivery day that your package is incoming.
It isn’t exactly like being able to track your package, to be fair. But it’s certainly better than never knowing what (or when) things are going to start piling up in your mailbox.
This service doesn’t really help without going mail or packages, though.
Only the recipient of a piece of mail or a package through the USPS will be able to count on Informed Delivery giving them a heads up.
As we highlighted earlier, your mailing receipt is really your best shot for finding missing tracking information.
A lot of people just don’t think about checking their receipt, figuring that it’s only going to have information about the transaction and not necessarily the tracking information itself.
That would be a major mistake.
Plenty of people keep these receipts just to be sure that they have a record of paying for postage, and that makes tracking down this information really easy. If you have your receipt on hand it’s worth hunting for it, scanning the receipt for the tracking information that you can’t find anywhere else.
Look for a code that’s anywhere between 20 and 22 digits long with absolutely zero letters and it and you’ll have found your tracking information!
Visit the USPS Location Near You for More Help
If you are still having a tough time finding your tracking information it might be a good idea to pop down to your local post office or USPS facility and see if there is anything they can help you with.
Most of the time this is going to be a bit of a wild goose chase, but sometimes you’ll be able to provide information (like the date and time of your transaction from your receipt) that helps USPS officials track down your package.
At the very worst, these experts are going to be able to give you a ballpark idea of when your package or piece of mail will arrive at its ultimate destination.
They might not be able to tell you the exact date and time the way that tracking info would. But they’ll definitely be able to give you a good idea and a solid estimate of when your recipient can anticipate that package showing up.
Contact the Recipient
If you have sent a package to someone you know and provided them with tracking information it might not be a bad idea to reach out to them for those details.
Drop them a line, let them know that you have lost your copy of the tracking information, and see if they can send those details back to you.
You might also be able to get this information directly from the text message, email, or other form of communication you used to send that tracking information to them.
It’s always worth a shot!
Snap a Picture on Your Phone to Prevent Losing a Tracking Number Again
The easiest way to guarantee that you never lose your tracking number again is to simply snap a picture of the tracking details on your phone right when you are in the post office.
This whole process takes about 2 to 3 seconds (at the most), but it guarantees that you have a digital copy of your tracking information that can’t be lost the way that a scrap of paper or a physical receipt can be.
Best of all, if you’re like most people, you’ll always have your phone on hand. You’ll be able to pull that information of pretty much on demand, pull that tracking information from the picture, and then punch it into the USPS tracking tool.
A lot of phone photo services also provide instant digital backups of the pictures that we take.
This is great news, as it guarantees that you will have your tracking info even if something happens to your phone.
The photo will still be uploaded to the cloud, you’ll still have access to the picture, and you’ll be able to find that tracking information with little headache or hassle even if something goes sideways with your mobile device.
With US Global Mail’s Virtual Mailbox You Don’t Need Tracking Info to Know When Mail Arrives
Of course, there’s another way that you can forget completely about losing tracking information – all while keeping a very close eye on your incoming packages and pieces of mail.
The Virtual Mailbox service from US Global Mail is famous for offering digital scanning and instant, real-time notification about every package, every envelope, and every piece of mail that hits a client mailbox.
As soon as you receive mail through your Virtual Mailbox account (using your private, secure street address provided from US Global Mail) it’ll go through the scanning and photographing process.
At that same time, copies of that image are going to be uploaded to your client dashboard so that you know exactly what is sitting in your US Global Mail mailbox. There’s no more guesswork, there’s no more wondering, and there’s no need for tracking information since you are updated in real time.
Of course, there are a whole host of other benefits clients enjoy when taking advantage of a Virtual Mailbox account from US Global Mail.
We are talking about digital check depositing features, special security and anonymity features, and the ability to forward mail (packages and envelopes alike) anywhere in the world at up to 80% off of traditional retail prices.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
If you are thinking about upgrading to a more modern mailbox experience, check out all of the options available from US Global Mail (the industry leader for more than 20+ years).
Visit their website today for more information or reach out to customer service with any questions you might have.