The High (and Pesky) Cost of Undeliverable Mail

Meet the writer: Karen Pieper

Hi, I'm Karen! I've been in the industry for 21 years and can't wait to share my perspective on all things direct mail. I'm currently the Digital Marketing Manager at Letter Jacket Envelopes and deal with tasks from managing the website, facilitating conversations with customers, and much more!

One of the major benefits of direct mail is its physical rather than digital nature. Humans love engaging with the material, and for business, ink and paper are better than ever.But in the physical world, bounceback for letters and mailings come at a higher cost. With undeliverable email, you may pay a few hours’ worth of database adjustments and resends. But with undeliverable mail, you can rack up a quite a sum. Would you guess that for each undeliverable letter or parcel you send, you can end up spending up to $25 in reprocessing, reprinting, new postage, and lost business? That is $25 per mislaid memo. And in 2015, the amount of Undeliverable as Addressed mail (UAA) processed by USPS totaled a staggering 1.4 billion.

All this wayward paper can add up to a significant hidden line in your budget. Is there any way to prevent this issue? And, how might you minimize the cost when mistakes do happen?

Preventing the Problem

Mail gets marked “undeliverable” when the address is incorrect, non-existent, illegible, when the recipient doesn’t want it, or when postage is unpaid. Assuming you’ve paid your postage, let’s focus on addresses.

In terms of prevention, here are the facts: 40 percent of people in the U.S. who move houses are not going to fill out a forwarding address form. But it’s difficult to assign fault because regulations regarding mailing addresses are not always consistent across types of mailings. For instance, if you’re in insurance or finance–which rely heavily on deadlines–you’re legally required to send only to the last known address, not necessarily the most recent, even if USPS already has the new address in the hopper.

And yet we all know that feeling of moving houses, getting a bill late, getting charged a fee, and then being annoyed with the company who sent it, rather than at ourselves for not filing a forwarding address. (Oh, the humanity!)

Here’s the point: Having and keeping your addresses on file as accurate as possible is incredibly important. The wrong information can look sloppy or leave recipients with a feeling of distaste, or even cost you business. But coordinating and centralizing your efforts to reduce undeliverable mail can reduce associated costs by 70 percent.

Try regularly asking for changes of address from existing customers, for example. And make sure it’s quick and easy for them to do. Or consider an address validation service, or investing in a Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS), or even a postal consultant. You might not always get it right, but if you think strategically and go the extra mile, you are guaranteed to save overhead.

Leveraging Your Mistakes

So now that we’ve heard about the prevention, what about the cure?

There’s really one piece of advice to give in the aftermath of undeliverables, and that’s this: Leverage returned mail to fix your records. Again, it’s all about squeaky clean data and finding your own company’s path to getting there.

And there are a lot of good and developing technologies to help you. In fact, the high cost of undeliverable mail has become something of a hot topic in recent years, and large, influential organizations like Pitney Bowes and the U.S. Postal Service are blogging, innovating, and conferencing their hearts out to try and get the problem solved. This means a constant stream of new and improving solutions. Everyone wants their mail sent properly, and everyone wants to receive it, and no one wants to be in charge of 1.6 billion poor little-lost envelopes. So there are a lot of folks on your side to help handle that returned mail and fix the problem that caused it. A very brief web browse will turn over a lot of quality results.

Knowing It’s Worth It

Information collection and processing can seem tedious and daunting. So, is all this trouble worth it? No question. To marketers, paper companies, and the postal service alike, it’s obvious. Paper and envelopes aren’t going anywhere–except, hopefully, only where they’re meant to.

And now that you’re ready to tackle your new strategy, why not shine up your presentation? Check out Letter Jacket’s inventory of crisp, clean, customizable envelopes, with online orders ready to ship in three days or less. Prefer analog? (We thought some of you might.) Call us.

But beware! If you send one of our envelopes out with a wrong address, we can’t guarantee you’ll get it back. They’re really nice envelopes. You never know who might decide not to Return to Sender after all…

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