Dead letter office
The United States Postal Service started a dead letter office in 1825 to deal with undeliverable mail. In 2006 approximately 90 million undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) items ended up in this office; where the rightful owners cannot be identified, the correspondence is destroyed to protect customer privacy, and enclosed items of value are removed. Items of value that cannot be returned are sold at auction, except for pornography and firearms. The auctions also occasionally include items seized by postal inspectors and property being retired from postal service.
These facilities are now known as mail recovery centers (MRC). Other former names include dead letter branch and dead parcel branch. These facilities are not unique to the US Postal Service, and go by different names in other countries. The USPS mail recovery centers are located in Atlanta, Georgia and Saint Paul, Minnesota. An MRC in San Francisco, California was closed on September 13, 2002. Since 2004, the postal auctions have been held only in Atlanta. These auctions include not only material lost in the U.S. but also material from other national postal authorities who consign them to the USPS for auction.
- One famous fictional alleged employee of the dead letter office is Bartleby, the eponymous character of Herman Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street".
- Alternative rock band R.E.M. released a compilation of B-sides and rarities entitled Dead Letter Office.
- In the 1947 film Miracle on 34th Street, two mail sorters handle a letter addressed to "Kris Kringle" at the New York City courthouse, and decide to deliver all the Santa Claus mail now in the dead letter office to the courthouse, where a man calling himself Kris Kringle is facing a mental competency hearing. The man's attorney uses the huge volume of mail as evidence that the federal government recognizes his client as "the one-and-only Santa Claus."
- The term "dead letter office" may be used in non-postal offices, in reference to any room of disused materials resembling a dead letter office.
- Horror writer Clive Barker's book The Great and Secret Show features segments centered around the dead letter office at Omaha, Nebraska.
- In The Simpsons episode "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday", Springfield Elementary School visits their local Post Office and are treated to a piece of undeliverable mail from the dead letter office as a souvenir.
- In the 1996 comedy film Dear God, a character played by Greg Kinnear, who works in the dead letter office at Los Angeles, CA, responds to letters written to God.
- In Australia, the postal authority (Australia Post) has renamed the "Dead Letter Office" the "Mail Redirection Centre" although documentation as recent as September 2007 still refers to it as the "Dead Letter Office".
- In Terry Pratchett's book Making Money, the Postmaster Moist finds Lord Vetinari, the Patrician and ruler of the city, wandering around the Blind Letter office of the Ankh-Morpork post office. Vetinari is able to work out that a letter addressed "Duzbuns Hopsit pfarmerrsc" is intended for a baker opposite a pharmacy on Pigsty Hill who "does those rather good curly buns".
- In an episode of the show "Bones", human remains were found at a dead letter office.
- "2006 Comprehensive Statement". USPS. 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- DMNEWS USPS Closes MRC Center in San Francisco (retrieved 10 May 2007)
- "Letter Services for Personal Mail: Undeliverable Mail and Returns". Canada Post. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 2011-05-26. ,
- "Ever lose anything in the mail? Here's where it all ends up." Toronto Star. 2001. Retrieved 2012-08-28.
- "Royal Mail Customer Service: What happens to the 25,000 letters a week that are incorrectly addressed?". Royal Mail. 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- "Royal Mail - Keeping undelivered mail safe". Royal Mail. Retrieved 2011-05-26.