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 April 2013, the postal auctions have been held online and 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.
In popular culture
- 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."
- 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.
- The 2014 show Signed Sealed Delivered takes place in a fictional Dead Letter Office in Denver, Colorado
- Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Going Postal takes place in a post office. At one point, Moist von Lipwig, the novel's protagonist, takes it upon himself to track down the intended recipients of as many dead letters as possible.
- Episode 4, Season 7 of Bones (TV series) entitled "The Male in the Mail" featured a decomposed body turning up at the dead letter office in Washington D.C.
- "2006 Comprehensive Statement". USPS. 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-25.
- DMNEWS USPS Closes MRC Center in San Francisco (retrieved 10 May 2007)
- Malloy, Daniel (7 March 2013). "Post Office moving Atlanta unclaimed mail auction online". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
- "Letter Services for Personal Mail: Undeliverable Mail and Returns". Canada Post. 2011. 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. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- "Royal Mail - Keeping undelivered mail safe". Royal Mail. Retrieved 2011-05-26.
- "Pushing Paper". Lapham's Quarterly. 18 March 2011. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- Carr, Kevin (16 December 2013). "Could the U.S. Post Office Really Help Prove Santa Exists, Like in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’?". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "The Complete Clive Barker’s The Great and Secret Show". Literal Remains. 8 September 2010. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Script - Sunday, Cruddy Sunday". Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- Maslin, Janet (1 November 1996). "Movie Review: Dear God (1996) Where Do Dead Letters Go? Heaven". New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
- "Martha Williamson Begins a Highly Anticipated Return to Television with "Dead Letters," (Working Title) a Hallmark Channel Original Movie of the Week and Potential New Primetime Series". The Futon Critic. July 2, 2013. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
- "The Male in the Mail". TV.com. 1 December 2011. Retrieved 12 June 2014.