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Why Your USPS Packages May Have Been Delayed

An OIG audit found USPS processing facilities in the Southern Area were not making sure that “Mail Transport Equipment” (MTEs) were empty before sending them to a Service Center (MTESC) in Dallas. The problem resulted in significant delays in delivery of mail, including Priority Mail and Express packages. See update below.

The USPS Office of Inspector General uncovered the troubling practices during an audit in November. The report included photos taken between November 17 through November 21, 2014 that revealed misdirected and damaged mail.

The OIG conducted its inspection at the Dallas MTESC (Mail Transport Equipment Service Center) located in the Postal Service’s Southern Area that services 27 associated processing facilities.

“During a 5-day site visit to the Dallas MTESC, we observed almost 3,000 instances of Express, Priority, First-Class, International mail, and Package Services and Standard Post being improperly sent from associated processing facilities in MTE,” the OIG stated in its report.

“The majority of the mail found was over 1 week old, although, there were some mailpieces that were much older including one international mailpiece with a postmark of February 2014.” (That would make it 9 months late.)

The report also said it found open and damaged mail at the facility – though it could not determine whether the mail had been damaged at the processing facilities or whether it was damaged once it arrived at the Dallas MTESC. “Examples found included damaged personal greeting cards, a passport and loose prescription medication.”

An excerpt from the OIG report states:

The Postal Service and its customers can be significantly impacted by delayed, undelivered, damaged, and unsecured mail. Specifically, delayed or undelivered mail:


  • Reflects poorly on the Postal Service’s brand and public image and leaves the agency open to customer complaints. Customers expect to receive their prescription drugs, passports, bills, Express/Priority Mail, and other mail timely. In addition, poor service and mail declines can also lead to future revenue declines, as mailers or recipients seek or demand alternative delivery services.


  • Results in possible refunds to customers using Express Mail that could negatively impact revenue. For example, the ten Express Mail pieces found were, on average, 14 days old. At an average cost of $20 per piece, the potential refund liability just for this one facility for one year could be $10,000.

The OIG is clearly concerned about the possible impact of poor practices on the USPS reputation and revenue.

The OIG said USPS management of the Southern Area Operation agreed with the finding and recommendations, re-issued its MTE Return Handling Standard Operating Procedures, and shared all OIG photos with senior leadership staff at the district, who in turn shared the photos with their managers and employees. “Communications with employees emphasized the need to ensure no “live mail” is left in containers and all sacks are “elbowed” or hand-checked for mail. All plants within the Southern Area have been made aware of the issues and will be monitored.”

Update 3/31/15: A spokesperson for the USPS Southern Area provided the following response to our inquiry about the OIG audit report on the Dallas, TX MTESC:

“You asked whether shippers or other customers should know anything about this matter. I would like to stress that this was a localized event, limited to the Dallas MTESC, and is not representative of the country as a whole.

“The leadership in Dallas took immediate steps to correct the issue and make sure another incident will not occur. Our customers can be confident that their mail is handled as efficiently as possible. The Postal Service’s goal is exceptional service, in Dallas and throughout the country.”

We also asked about USPS on-time delivery statistics. The spokesperson referred us to this report that shows First Class Mail and Standard Mail service performance. The slides show an improvement in the first quarter of fiscal year 2015 compared to the same period last year except for First Class Mail 3-5 day.

The OIG report and photographs are available on the USPS OIG website (pdf format).

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.