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Audit Finds USPS Package Tracking Inaccurate and Inadequate

Audit Finds USPS Package Tracking Inaccurate and Inadequate

The postal Inspector General (IG) found that 64% of tracking messages for packages it examined in a recent audit were inaccurate and recommended the USPS do a better job of communicating when providing delivery status notices. That’s significant for online sellers who must appease customers anxiously awaiting their orders.

The USPS IG explained that customers can track the status of their packages online and see messages such as “Arrived at USPS Facility”; “In Transit to Next Facility”; “Departed USPS Facility”; or “Out for Delivery.”

As part of its audit conducted from August 2022 through May 2023, it reviewed tracking messages displayed on USPS.com for 500 judgmentally selected packages, from 25 states, pulled from various points throughout the facilities. Here’s what it found:

  • Messages for 318 of 500 packages (64 percent) did not accurately reflect the location, time, and/or date of the packages observed.
  • Messages for 163 packages indicated “Out for Delivery” when they were still at the post office.
  • 46 packages lacked a status message for the facility it observed.
  • Messages for 497 of 500 packages displayed at least one “nondescriptive” facility name or location (e.g., “Arrived at USPS Facility”).

The USPS IG said the issues resulted from a combination of factors, including missing package scans, which can occur if a barcode is unreadable, or scans not being completed as required.

“Also, the Postal Service’s programming logic reports anticipated package movement through the network rather than describing the actual package location. In other words, a system-generated message is utilized to identify the next step in a sequence of events. For example, a package’s messaging may show “Out for Delivery” or “In Transit”, but the package could still be at a facility. Lastly, officials stated that certain locations/facilities are purposely nondescriptive for security-related reasons.”

The IG said that, “While we recognize the Postal Service’s challenges with scanning accuracy and preference for anticipated movement or nondescriptive messaging to address efficiency and operational concerns, clearly defining the status of packages on USPS.com will enhance understanding, transparency, and improve customer experience.”

Its recommendation:

“We recommended management develop package status descriptions that explain missing scan events and enhance explanations for messages such as for “Out for Delivery”, “In Transit”, or nondescriptive facility names on its tracking websites.”

Postal management partially agreed with the finding and recommendation: “Regarding the finding, management did not agree that messaging is unreliable and facility names are vague. Management stated that event messaging is informative, reflects statuses similar to major carriers in the industry, and provides city, state, and ZIP Code information when most major carriers provide only city and state.”

The full report is available on the USPSOIG.gov website.

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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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

3 thoughts on “Audit Finds USPS Package Tracking Inaccurate and Inadequate”

  1. The one I dislike strongly is that the item has been delivered and it shows up the next day. This one happens often and I have to babysit a customer through their justified anxiety to wait till the next day. It has happened to me too.

  2. I wonder what it cost USPS to conduct that survey? Online sellers could have given them the same information in exchange for shipping a couple packages for free!

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