USPS Missent

USPS package missent? What does this tracking notification mean? Read more below.

Have you ever seen the “Missent” message on a package that you have shipped recently and wondered what this rather ominous message means? It isn’t instantly clear when you look at it whether it refers to an accident on the part of the shipping company or on the part of the sender, or what should be done to correct the accident.


The “Missent” message means that USPS has accidentally misdirected your package to the wrong post office or transfer station, and it is therefore going to be delayed because it has ended up in the wrong place. There are a few reasons that this can happen, and it usually results in a short delay before delivery will be achieved.


usps truck parked on the side of a road


What Does “Missent” Mean?


The message “missent” appearing on your tracking information means that the package has been sent in the wrong direction while being delivered. Usually, when USPS takes on a package, the company will send it from distribution center to distribution center, slowly working it toward its final destination.


It may not always take the most direct route because of the positioning of distribution centers, but this isn’t what “missent” means. A package could travel further from its destination and then back to it if it has to go to a central sorting office, and this is not being “missent.”


“Missent” means that the package has instead been directed toward a facility it should never have gone to. This could be a town over or a state over, and unfortunately, it’s going to cause a delay. It usually happens as a result of a poorly written label or a human or machine error.


What Happens If My Package Is Missent?


Usually, if your package is missent, it will be delayed, because it will have spent time traveling in the wrong direction and it will also have to spend time traveling back before it can get onto the route it should have been on. This will cause a delay, so you should not expect your package to arrive as quickly as it would otherwise have done.


How Can I Avoid Packages Being Missent?


There is a limited amount that you can do to avoid “missent” packages because it is often due to an error on USPS’s side. The company handles vast amounts of mail every day, so it is no surprise that items sometimes go missing or get briefly misdirected; there is a lot of scope for error. On the whole, this doesn’t happen, but USPS cannot always prevent it.


There are a few things that you can do to reduce the risk, but this is quite limited. You can:


  • Write addresses very clearly, in block capitals, or print them from a computer (preferable). Packages are generally sent according to the barcode that USPS applies, but it is still a good idea to ensure that the address is as legible as possible. Don’t scribble, because if postal workers cannot read it easily, it’s more likely to end up in the wrong pile.
  • Avoid taping over the barcode/label if possible. If you have used a non-smudge pen or ink, don’t add tape across the label. This makes the surface shiny, which can make it harder for machines to read it correctly. When this happens, it will need to be sorted manually, which increases the room for errors.
  • Use a high-quality printer if possible to ensure good legibility.


These do not guarantee that a package will not be missent, but a clearly written label that can be read by the machines is less likely to end up getting misdirected, so aim to produce this whenever possible.


package at a front door


Will My Package Be Lost?


Your package should not be lost just because it has been missent. The “missent” issue is usually identified because a worker has scanned the package and noticed that it is going in the wrong direction. This means it is in the hands of a USPS employee, and therefore it is not lost.


This should continue to be the case hopefully, as the package will soon be redirected to its original route and continue to travel as normal. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen; it is possible for a missent package to also get lost.


If a worker puts it in the wrong pile to be re-sorted or it ends up getting kicked under something or missed from a delivery area, it may eventually get lost. Equally, if the issue was caused by a poorly written label, it’s more likely not to reach its final destination because of further problems.


You certainly shouldn’t write “missent” packages off as lost, but be aware that this could be an issue.


How Soon Will My Package Arrive?


Of course, one of the first questions is how quickly the package will get back on track and reach the recipient as intended. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to estimate this because it depends on how far off track it got before the error was detected.


If it has only traveled to the next town before being noticed, it will probably only be delayed by a day or so, or possibly will not be delayed at all if USPS is able to quickly reroute it. However, if it has gone several states out of its way, it could take days to get back to where it should be.


It also depends on the original shipping method. Items that have been shipped with priority shipping will usually only be delayed by around one to three days at the most, but if your item was sent with low-priority shipping (such as media mail), it will take far longer to reach the recipient.


This is because USPS workers will prioritize high cost packages and not low cost ones, in accordance with the urgency that the package was sent.


compensation on a missent package


Will I Get Compensation?


The sender of the package may be able to claim compensation for a package that was delayed beyond the expected date, but it depends on how they sent it and what they paid for. Any guaranteed delivery options usually come with a refund if the package is late.


If you are the recipient, you are not likely to be able to get any compensation if the package is late, even if this causes inconvenience. Only the sender can get compensation, and only in certain circumstances.


If you have sent the package and you want to claim compensation, it’s best to get in touch with USPS’s customer services to discuss this and find out what you are entitled to. Usually, you will be able to get a refund for your shipping costs, but it does depend on the circumstances.


Why Do Packages Get Missent?


Packages get missent for a few different reasons, but it is usually due to human error. Given that USPS often handles somewhere around 500 million pieces of mail in a day, it’s not remotely surprising that packages end up going to the wrong places at times.


It is easy for workers to accidentally put a package in the wrong pile, and then it will get swept into the wrong stream of mail and misdirected until the next time that the package is scanned. It’s also easy for people to grab one more package than they mean to, or for mail to end up on the wrong conveyor belt.


It will then get put onto the wrong truck, head for the wrong facility, and will only be detected at the other end. At this point, the “missent” notification will be displayed, and the package will be put to one side so that it can be sent back the following day.


usps tracking notification


What Should I Do If I See “Missent” On My Tracking Information?


There is not very much that you can do if you see that your package has been missent. You will have to just wait for the package to arrive; it should be back on track pretty quickly after the error has been detected.


However, if the package does not appear and you still see the “missent” notification on the tracking, it is worth getting in touch with USPS. They should be able to open a case for you and attempt to track the package down.


With any luck, this will push it back onto the correct route, and ensure that you have it fairly soon. Although this is annoying, there isn’t much else you can do.


How Quickly Does USPS Notice When A Package Has Been Misdirected?


USPS usually notices fairly swiftly when packages get misdirected, because mail is scanned regularly throughout the journey. The barcode should let the employee scanning the package know straight away that the mail has ended up in the wrong place.


The employee can then set it aside and make sure that it goes back to where it should be. Often, the package will only travel one “leg” of its journey (although this could be a few miles or hundreds of miles) before the error is detected.


However, sometimes errors are not picked up on as quickly as they should be. If a package does not get scanned, it could continue on again, and it won’t be scanned until the next stop. A missent package can be undetected for several days, although this is fairly rare, even in USPS’s busiest seasons.


packages in front of a house


Will My Package End Up At The Wrong House?


Even if your package has been sent to the wrong area, it should not end up at the wrong address just because it was missent. It might get as far as being loaded onto the wrong truck, but the mail carrier will not be able to deliver it to the wrong house because your address will not exist in the wrong area.


If, for example, your package has gone one town over, the mail carrier will not simply put it through a random door. Instead, they will notice the error and will put the package aside to be returned to the facility.


At the end of the day, they will drive the package back to the local facility. It will then be picked up and returned to the correct route, and from there, it will be delivered to your address. It is very rare for missent mail to be delivered to the wrong place, even if it gets misdirected for a short period.


Usually, the workers will catch the mistake and stop the delivery, so don’t panic if you see the “missent” notification; it is extremely unlikely that someone else will end up with your mail.


What If It Does End Up At The Wrong House?


Although the odds are very slim, it is not completely impossible for mail to end up being delivered to the wrong property. If this happens, you should get in touch with USPS. They should be able to use their scanners to trace where the package was mistakenly delivered to, and from there, they can hopefully recover it.


If they cannot, the sender may be able to claim some compensation for the contents of the package, depending on the delivery option that they chose.


In general, however, this does not happen because it requires a lot of errors to take place in quick succession. You will usually find that the “missent” notification is corrected within a couple of days and your mail arrives as expected, or possibly a little late.


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Getting mail delivered can be a surprisingly complicated and frustrating process, and issues like the “missent” notification do not make it any easier because they alter the anticipated delivery date. If you are waiting in for something important, a “missent” notification is extremely annoying because it means you have very little idea about when to actually expect the package.


The best way to solve these problems is to get a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail. This is a physical and secure address where your mail can be delivered at any time, whether you are at home or not, and it’s the best way to accept deliveries and take all the stress out of waiting for them.

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