Reasons for Returned Mail

One of the challenges every business faces with direct mail marketing is returned or undelivered mail. It’s costly to send out mail that doesn’t reach the intended recipient. However, when you understand why mail is returned, it can help you take steps to prevent wasting money in your future direct mail marketing campaigns.

Tip: Returned mail is ONLY sent back to you if you are sending mail with first class postage. If you send with standard class postage you will not get any of these mailers returned to you.

Invalid Delivery Address

One of the most common reasons mail is returned is the address isn’t valid. It may contain the wrong numbers or street names or part of the address may be missing. You can prevent this problem with list scrubbing which updates forwarding addresses, and adds missing apartment numbers onto your list before you go through the process of sending out mail.


Sometimes a person will refuse the mail when they receive something. If this is the case, the mail will be labeled as “refused” and sent back to the sender if a return address is listed. If no return address is included, it will be labeled as a “Dead Letter” because it can’t be returned anywhere.

Return to Sender

An item can be returned to sender for multiple reasons. For instance, it may have the wrong address or be refused by the recipient. The address may not exist at all or part of the address may be missing or incorrect. For example, there may be two houses labeled as 1600 and 1620 with no 1610 in between. If the sender accidentally put 1610 in the address, it can’t be delivered to the intended recipient.

If the recipient moved from the address on the mailing but left no forwarding address, the mail will be returned. The same situation will occur if they left a forwarding address that has expired. If the address if vacant or the person is deceased, the mail can sometimes be marked as Return to Sender.


Speaking of vacant and deceased. These may come back as return to sender or they will be categorized more specifically as Vac or Dec. This is common with investor leads. The housing scene is always shifting. People are moving, changing addresses, inheriting house, leaving houses etc, so returned mail is inevitable but You can always skip trace your list to get different/better addresses to mail to. 

Tip: One thing to keep in mind is that every post office operates a little differently, so one post office may be very specific in their return mail labels, while others may use the “Return to sender” as a blanket label. For that reason, be sure to take your return mail labels with a grain of salt. 

It costs a lot of money to send out mail that is never received by the recipient, especially if you are sending a multi touch campaign. That is one reason it’s important to take the time to scrub your lists on a regular basis to ensure more of your mailers are getting where they need to go. Check out this link to the USPS website to find out more return mail codes to help you figure out why your mail is bouncing back to you.

Open Letter Marketing can help you improve your success rate with skip tracing and list scrubbing. If you want to know more about our services, give us a call at (978) 269-0245.

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