How to Return a Package

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November 17, 2023

Imagine this scenario: You see an item you like while browsing on Amazon or your favorite eCommerce website. While it’s expensive, you bite the bullet and order it anyway because you believe you need it.

Days pass, and a package finally arrives at your doorstep. But when you open the parcel, you’re disappointed because the item arrived in less-than-stellar condition.

What do you do? Will you accept that you wasted your money or return the package? For some people, the latter is a hassle. Contrary to popular belief, however, navigating the return process is straightforward.

For one, you can use a variety of carriers to initiate a return, ranging from the traditional United States Postal Service to its competitors like UPS, DHL, and FedEx.

This article will walk you through the process of returning a package, covering everything from whether you can return a mailpiece via the post office to tips for making the procedure smoother.

Are you looking for a post office location in your area? Visit FindPostOffice.org and use the U.S. Postal Service facility locator tool to find the most convenient place to begin your return.

Can I Return a Package at the Post Office?

Several U.S. carriers offer package return services. Some of the most common include UPS (United Parcel Service), FedEx (Federal Express), and DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn).

How about post offices? Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), also called the U.S. Mail service, and its facilities provide return services.

Initiating the return process with USPS has advantages. Primarily, you receive several time-saving and economic return options, including the following:

  • Priority Mail Express Return: This option offers next- to 2-day return shipping for packages up to 70lbs, perfect if you’re trying to return an item before the warranty period expires.
  • Priority Mail Return: If you’re looking for a return option that’s relatively quick and economical, pick Priority Mail Return. It offers one- to three-business-day shipping.
  • USPS Ground Advantage Return: Use this return option if you require a reliable delivery option for mail items that can’t travel by air. Examples include HAZMAT (hazardous materials), such as perfumes and hand sanitizers, which are flammable liquids categorized under HAZMAT Class 3.
  • Bulk Parcel Return Service: For businesses looking to return high-volume purchases or opened packages to a vendor, the Bulk Parcel Return Service is an excellent option. However, it requires a minimum annual return volume of 10,000 mailpieces.
  • Parcel Return Service: This return shipping option is also viable if you’re a business returning many packages. It also offers preprinted, prepaid return labels to streamline the process.

Another benefit of pursuing a package return at your local post office is convenience. USPS has over 31,000 retail facilities across the country. With FindPostOffice.org, finding a location near you is made more accessible.

Other benefits of returning a package with USPS include Postal Service representatives’ assistance, the ability to track your return items, and cost-efficient solutions like flat rate packaging.

Reasons for “Return to Sender” May Vary

The apparent explanation why USPS will mark a package “Return to Sender” is when you receive it damaged and initiate the return process. However, parcels are often returned to the sender for various other reasons.

These motivations can include the following:

  • The delivery address isn’t legible: On rare occasions, USPS may deliver a parcel to the wrong address, especially if the recipient’s address is illegible or missing essential information, such as the house number.

Instead of risking the delivery of a package at a different location, postal workers will mark a parcel as “Return to Sender” and ship it back.

  • Multiple failed deliveries: Often, a mailpiece will be returned to the sender if USPS is unsuccessful in delivering it numerous times. This scenario typically occurs if the parcel requires signature confirmation, but no one at the delivery address is available.
  • The recipient refuses to receive the mail item: In some cases, receivers may not accept the delivery of a package, such as when there’s unpaid postage. USPS will mail the parcel to the sender’s address when this happens.

What Do I Do if My Package Was Returned to the Sender?

You can initiate the return process if you’re unsatisfied with the item you receive. However, USPS can mark your order as “Return to Sender” when an issue causes the package to be undeliverable.

If you didn’t initiate the return process, there are several steps you can take, including:

  • Check the tracking history: When you order an item from a vendor like Amazon or an individual on social media, they’ll typically give you a tracking number once they mail your item. You can use this number to monitor your parcel’s journey.

However, you can also use the tracking number to check the mailpiece’s tracking history to identify the probable causes of the return and your next steps to resolve the problem.

  • Contact the sender: If the package doesn’t include tracking capability or the tracking history doesn’t provide any relevant information regarding the return, you must contact the sender.

Doing so informs them that USPS is returning the parcel to them. The sender may also be able to help you with the return process or provide a refund or replacement.

  • Visit your local post office: USPS generally holds mail items marked as “Return to Sender” for around 15 days. This time frame may allow you to claim your package if the cause of the return is related to the delivery address.

How Do I Return Package Items?

Returning a package can be complex without proper instructions, especially considering the process can vary depending on the carrier. However, a package return is relatively straightforward.

Here’s a general step-by-step guide to returning a package:

Get Your Package Ready

Returning a parcel is like sending one. You should properly package your mailpiece to ensure it arrives safely at the original sender’s address. This step includes using appropriate padding and sturdy tape.

Remove previous markings and labels if you’re reusing the same box the mail item arrived in, which your parcel’s original sender may require you to do to qualify for a refund or replacement.

However, you cannot reuse service-specific packaging supplies when using a return option outside that service. 

For instance, USPS will charge you Priority Mail rates if you’re returning an item using a Priority Mail flat-rate box.

Help! I Don’t Know How to Weigh My Package

Many individuals avoid going through the return process because of the shipping costs. Factors like the weight and destination will influence the postage rate, which can sometimes be expensive when returning a parcel.

Eliminate unnecessary costs by accurately weighing your package. You can accomplish this task by weighing yourself, then weighing yourself while holding the mailpiece, and subtracting your weight.

Alternatively, consider purchasing a postal scale, which you can buy at various locations, such as a post office or an office supply store.

Most mail delivery providers, like USPS, UPS, and FedEx, offer flat-rate shipping. This mailing option allows you to send a package up to a specific weight limit to anywhere in the U.S. at the same price.

Get a Label

Attaching the return shipping label to your package is essential to the return process as it contains information that helps carriers deliver your mailpiece to the original shipper securely and promptly, such as trackable barcodes, relevant addresses, and contact details.

Sometimes, the parcel’s original sender may include a return label, a QR code return label, or provide you with instructions on how to print one. Fortunately, if you didn’t receive a return shipping label, you can create one.

How Do I Label a Return Package?

The U.S. Postal Service’s Click-N-Ship service allows you to print return labels. With the Enhanced Click-N-Ship service, USPS will print and deliver the shipping labels to you for more convenience at a $1.25 fee per label.

If you need help creating a return label for your package, you can visit a FedEx facility or UPS Store. Better yet, request the assistance of a Postal Service representative at a post office location. You can quickly find USPS facilities using FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool.

Help! I Don’t Have a Printer

You can email the label and print it elsewhere if you don’t have a personal printer. Note that most carriers offering return shipping also provide printing services, further streamlining the return process.

How Do I Return a Package I Ordered Online?

Whether you’re a small business returning items from an eCommerce wholesaler or an individual initiating your Amazon returns, online returns involve several crucial steps to ensure a smooth and hassle-free process.

Here’s what you must know:

Read the Store’s Return Policy

Before making an online purchase, you must read and understand the store’s return policy. Some eCommerce sites don’t offer returns, while others restrict it to specific items.

Many online stores only accept returns if you make them within a specific time frame. A store’s return guidelines also shed light on who shoulders the return shipping costs.

However, the most critical aspect of reading your eCommerce store’s return procedure is that it determines the necessary steps you must take to initiate the process.

Keep the Original Packaging

As mentioned, some vendors may require you to return your purchased item in its original packaging. Some online sellers may even mandate that you include all the materials, such as cardboard inserts or padding.

Therefore, you must maintain the original box or envelope your return item came in. Keeping these supporting documents safe is essential if your package includes a receipt, invoice, or return label. They may help cover the shipping expenses and aid in the return process.

Take Photos of Any Damage or Defects

Sometimes, eCommerce businesses may request proof of damage or defects before issuing a refund. Be proactive and take clear, well-documented photos when you notice any issues with the item.

Better yet, take a full video of the unboxing process, ensuring you also showcase the condition of your purchased item’s packaging when you receive it. Whether it’s a manufacturing defect or damage during transit, visual evidence can expedite the resolution process.

Start the Return Process ASAP

Regardless of your reason for returning the item- whether it didn’t meet your expectations, doesn’t fit, or has a defect or missing parts- you must initiate the return process as soon as possible.

Depending on the online retailer’s return policy, this window may only be a few days. If your parcel was damaged in transit, you also have a specific window to file a claim. For instance, you must file a claim within 60 days of receiving the damaged parcel with USPS. 

You can contact your carrier’s respective customer service hotline for more information on claim windows. 

You may also visit your local post office to inquire about returns. You can use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility finder to locate your area’s post offices.

Tips for a Stress-Free Return

From keeping the original packaging to proving that an item is damaged, you must meet strict requirements for a successful return process. Hence, many choose to forego the process to avoid the hassle.

Here are some tips for returning a package that can help you eliminate some of the complexities of the procedure:

Returning Items With a Prepaid Label

As cited, some vendors like Amazon will include prepaid return labels. As their name implies, these shipping labels cover the return shipping costs. In other words, you won’t shoulder any postage fees.

If your mailpiece comes with a prepaid label, all that’s left for you to do is attach it to the package and bring it to your carrier. You may also want to scan or take a snapshot of the label, as it may include a tracking barcode you can use to monitor your parcel’s progress.

Quick Tips for Returning Items Yourself

If the original shipper didn’t send a prepaid label, don’t worry. You can easily create and print return labels using major U.S. carriers’ various tools and services, like USPS’ Click-N-Ship and the UPS Stores’ printing solutions.

Get It to the Post Office

Once your package is ready and labeled for its return journey, take it to your local post office or USPS’ many drop-off locations. Alternatively, you can request USPS to pick up your return item from your home or office.

Skip long lines and receive immediate assistance from a Postal Service representative by visiting your area’s most convenient post office. You can do this process with FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator.

FAQs

  1. Why is USPS returning my package to the sender?

There can be various reasons USPS is returning a package to the sender. Reasons include an illegible or incorrect address or being unavailable at the delivery address after multiple attempts.

  1. How long does USPS return to sender?

The amount of time it takes USPS to return a package to the sender can vary wildly depending on the mail class used to ship the mailpiece. Note that USPS will return items using the original shipment’s mail class.

For instance, after USPS marks a mail item as “Return to Sender,” it will hold it for five days if shipped through Priority Mail Express. Afterward, the item will be returned using Priority Mail Express, reaching the original sender within one to two days.

  1. Do I get a refund if my USPS package is returned?

Whether you receive a refund depends on the original sender’s return policy. If you meet all their requirements, they may offer a refund. However, you must file a claim if your package was damaged during the USPS shipping process.

For more information on the U.S. Postal Service’s claims process and guidelines, visit the USPS website at USPS.com. 

You can also inquire about refunds at your local post office, which you can find using FindPostOffice.org’s facility finder.

  1. Can you track a package returned to the sender?

USPS, FedEx, UPS, and other carriers provide tracking tools that enable you to track items going through their respective mail streams. Note that some USPS services, such as First-Class Mail, don’t include tracking, and you must purchase this add-on to monitor your package.

  1. Can I resend a returned USPS package?

You can resend a returned package. Unfortunately, you must pay the postage costs again.

References

  1. How To Return a Package
    https://www.ups.com/us/en/support/shipping-support/
  2. How to return a package with FedEx
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/returns.html
  3. SEND YOUR PACKAGE BACK
    https://www.dhlexpress.nl/en/consumer/returns
  4. Managing Customer Returns
    https://www.usps.com/business/return-services.htm
  5. Domestic Shipping Prohibitions, Restrictions, & HAZMAT
    https://www.usps.com/ship/shipping-restrictions.htm
  6. SIZE AND SCOPE
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  7. USPS “Return To Sender” Message: 4 Main Reasons
    https://packagepatrols.com/index.php/usps-ups/
  8. What Happens if I Didn’t Put Enough Postage?
    https://legalbeagle.com/8450402-happens-didnt-put-enough-postage
  9. TOP FIVE REASONS FOR RETURNED MAIL
    https://runneredq.com/news/top-five-reasons-for-returned-mail/
  10. USPS Tracking®
    https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_input
  11. What are the Second and Final Notice and Return Dates for Redelivery?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-are-the-Second-and-Final-Notice
  12. How to Send a Package: Domestic
    https://www.usps.com/ship/packages.htm
  13. How do I Use or Reuse Boxes Properly?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/How-do-I-Use-or-Reuse-Boxes-Properly
  14. Priority Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
  15. FedEx One Rate®: predictable flat rate shipping
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/one-rate.html
  16. Flat Rate Shipping – UPS Simple Rate
    https://www.ups.com/us/en/support/shipping-support/
  17. Online return tips for a smooth return process (and fast refund)
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/returns/online-return-tips.html
  18. File a USPS Claim: Domestic
    https://www.usps.com/help/claims.htm
  19. Schedule a Pickup
    https://tools.usps.com/schedule-pickup-steps.htm
  20. Priority Mail Express
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-express.htm
  21. Tracking starts here
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/tracking.html
  22. UPS Tracking
    https://www.ups.com/track
  23. Insurance & Extra Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm
  24. What Does ”Return to Sender” Mean?
    https://httl.com.vn/en/usps-mail-returned-to-sender