The USPS phrase “insufficient address” is a somewhat cryptic way of telling you that there is something wrong with the address written on your package. This is a fundamental error that means USPS cannot deliver the package to its intended recipient. When this occurs, the package will be returned to the sender, who will have to ship it again.
This phrase is frustrating if you think you have sent everything off correctly, but it is a sign that something has gone wrong when the address label was written. If you are the sender, it may be that you forgot to add the house number, or perhaps the zip code. The person trying to deliver the mail does not have enough information to get it to the correct house.
What Does “Insufficient Address” Mean?
The message “Insufficient Address” means that some crucial information has been missed off the address label of your parcel. This may be because your parcel’s label has got smudged or damaged, or because it was not written correctly in the first place.
Although USPS is good at overcoming many issues with labels, they are not able to do this if something fundamental is missing. Unless the package contains information about which house or apartment it is intended for, for example, they cannot deliver it to the correct place.
Why Does This Message Occur?
This message usually occurs due to an error on either the recipient’s part or the sender’s part. If the recipient has sent their address incorrectly or the sender has missed something or written it badly, the USPS worker may not be able to get the package to the right property.
It is always a good idea for a sender to double-check an address, and senders should use printed labels or take the time to write them out carefully and legibly. This reduces the risks of this happening, and can save time and expense.
It is also a good idea to cover the label with clear tape in order to prevent any smudging if the package gets wet. Although USPS workers do their best to keep packages dry, if the weather is bad, they are quite likely to get at least damp, and this can make the ink of the address label run.
A bit of clear tape will protect the writing and ensure that it cannot get smudged. It will also decrease the chances of it getting ripped or damaged, helping to ensure the package gets where it is supposed to go.
Where Might I See This Message?
Usually, you will see this message if you check the tracking information after the postal service has realized they cannot deliver the parcel. This could happen at any point during delivery, but it tends to be on the last leg, because this is the point at which the package’s destination starts to get narrowed down, and all the information becomes crucial.
For example, if you are shipping a package to Maine and you miss the state off, it may still get to the right state based on the other information. If, however, you miss something like the apartment number off, USPS cannot do much about this, and have no choice but to return it to the sender.
They cannot just guess a number and deliver it there, so unless the postal worker recognizes the name on the package – unlikely – they have no way of getting it to the correct place.
That means your package will often seem to be doing fine for the first few parts of its journey, and it is only when it is almost with you that this message appears. It is very frustrating, but there isn’t anything USPS can do to avoid this.
What Will Happen To The Package Next?
Usually, USPS will simply return the package to the sender. This is because they do not have many other options, as they don’t have the intended address. They can only ship the item back to where it came from, allowing the sender to correct the address and ship it back out to the intended recipient.
This is frustrating, of course. It means that the shipping will take twice as long, or possibly even more time. It means that the sender has to ship it out again, and has to pay for the shipping a second time.
If it costs more to return the package than the sender originally paid postage for, they will also be charged this difference when the package is returned. This may happen if it has traveled a long distance. Senders may be required to pay this difference before they can get the package back.
This scenario means that the recipient is left waiting for a package that has not come, and they may have scheduled time off work or canceled other activities in order to wait at home for it.
However, annoying as it is, there is nothing else that USPS can do with the package, except send it to their lost mail center – which we will discuss shortly.
How Soon Will I See This Message?
How soon you see the message depends upon how serious the omission is. If you see the message very quickly, it means there was a very important piece of information missing. However, this is slightly less likely to occur, because the postal worker who helped to ship the package is more likely to notice this and ask the sender to correct it.
It is quite common for a package to get near the end of its journey before this message appears. This is because the postal workers have only noticed at this stage that something they need to know in order to deliver the item has been missed off the package.
It is very frustrating that this happens, because it takes more time than if the mistake was noticed early on – especially if the package has traveled a long way. A package that has traveled from one end of the United States to the other will have to go all the way back again, just because a piece of information is missing.
Unfortunately, this is the only option that USPS has, because they cannot deliver a package if they don’t have a full address for it.
What Can I Do About It?
If you have seen this message, the very first thing you should do is check where the package has gone to. If it is your local post office, get in touch with them immediately. There is often a short delay before the package is sent back to the sender.
The message that it cannot be delivered will appear as soon as the postal worker realizes, but the package will not be picked up for its return journey until later. Later could mean a few hours or a few days, but you have a window in which to act.
You should use this window to contact your local post office as quickly as possible, because they will probably be able to hold onto the package for you instead of returning it to the sender if you explain what has happened.
You may then be able to collect the package in person, saving the whole hassle and expense of it being returned to the sender, and the sender having to correct the address and ship it out again.
If your package has not yet reached a local distribution center, it is still worth calling the center it has got to and finding out whether they can hold the package or amend the address for you. This will save the time and money of having it returned to the sender and re-shipped.
Some centers will not be able to do this, but it is still worth trying just in case.
How Can I Avoid This Happening In Future?
The best way to avoid this occurring is for both senders and recipients to double-check addresses. An error on either party’s part will result in the package not arriving, so it’s crucial to ensure that addresses are given correctly and written out correctly.
Having your address stored in a file on your computer so that you can easily copy it is a good way to minimize mistakes. For senders, copying the address and printing it should also help. This way, it is harder for information to accidentally get missed.
Senders can also minimize the risk of mistakes by researching the address they have been given online and making sure it is valid. They should read all addresses back to themselves at least once and check that they contain the basics, such as:
- Recipient name
- House name/number
- A street/road
- An area
- A two-letter abbreviation for the state
- A zip code
Although not all addresses will follow this exact format, most will, and if any of these pieces of information are missing, USPS may not be able to correctly deliver a package. Compare any address that you write to the information above, and if in doubt, check with your recipient.
It is better to delay mailing by one day in order to ensure the address is correct and complete than to mail out a badly addressed package that will not arrive. Remember, if it gets returned, it may incur extra charges, and the shipping will have to be paid for a second time.
If you cannot print an address, make sure that you write in capital letters to maximize the readability. Write slowly and clearly, spacing out the letters so that they are easy to read. Do not write the address in small lettering, and do not try to write over a mistake. Cross it out clearly and write next to it, or make a new label.
Whether you have written your label by hand or printed it, cover it with plastic tape to ensure it is waterproof and reduce the risk of it falling off or getting torn. All of these things will help to ensure that a package arrives intact and gets to the correct place.
What If There Is No Return Address On The Package?
You might be wondering what USPS will do if the sender does not put a return address on the package. A return address is not a condition of mailing, and some people neglect to add these.
Unfortunately, if the recipient’s address is also unusable, this means the package cannot go either forward or backward. USPS will usually then send it to their Mail Recovery Center, formerly known as the Dead Letter Center.
This is located in Atlanta, and it is where all mail that cannot be delivered gets sent to. Here, packages will be opened and staff will attempt to identify their intended address. If the sender places a secondary address slip inside the package, this can help to ensure that it reaches the correct destination.
Packages that are under the value of $25 will usually be disposed of. If your item is worth more than that and has gone missing, it is best to open a Mail Recovery Center Search Request. Here, you can describe your package and any identifying features in as much detail as possible, and postal workers will attempt to locate it so that it can be delivered to you.
Sending and receiving mail can be a headache, and if you have taken time off work only to find that your mail has been returned due to “insufficient address,” you might be feeling very fed up. Fortunately, you can take the complexity out of mail delivery by using a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail.
This service ensures that you are always available to have packages delivered, even when you are not at home. It makes it far easier for people to get their mail delivered securely, without the hassle of having to wait in for it.
If you’re having problems with packages that get sent back to the sender because of an insufficient address problem, this is a great way to make your life easier.