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Yes, delivery carriers can auction undeliverable, unclaimed packages

While policies vary, it's true that delivery carriers like USPS and FedEx have policies in place allowing for the sale of unclaimed or undeliverable packages.

ATLANTA — It's the delivery day and age, and we've all had packages that never arrived for one reason or another. But posts online advertising unopened packages for sale sparked questions about where unclaimed packages end up. 


Can delivery carriers like the United States Postal Service sell packages that end up undeliverable or unclaimed?


  • The United States Postal Service
  • FedEx
  • Amazon
  • The Better Business Bureau


While policies vary, it's true that some delivery carriers like USPS and FedEx can auction or sell unclaimed or undeliverable packages.


While it's not possible to verify every individual seller online, the Verify team did reach out to delivery carriers including USPS, FedEx, UPS and Amazon regarding their policies for unclaimed and undeliverable packages.

Each company emphasized they make every effort to get the item delivered to the rightful owner, and the process varies when it comes to packages in limbo. 

According to the United States Postal Service, undeliverable and non-returnable mail goes to the agency's Mail Recovery Center, the equivalent of a lost and found. 

According to the USPS website, and confirmed by a spokesperson, "undeliverable mailpieces" (letters, flats or parcels that cannot be delivered as addressed nor returned to the sender) are scanned to determine if they contain items of value. The items are then opened to see if there's any forwarding info or identifying information.  

Items of value are held for 30 to 60 days but ultimately, can be auctioned on GovDeals, a site contracted by USPS, according to its website. 

"Occasionally, the MRC will auction off the items held," the USPS website reads. "More information on upcoming auctions, including locations and directions, can be found at United States Postal Service® auctions. Auctions usually start at 10:00 a.m., with the viewing of the available merchandise beginning at 8:30 a.m. Merchandise is sold in lots, not by individual item, and catalogs may be purchased for a nominal fee on the day of the auction."

FedEx also released a statement confirming that if they've exhausted all options to find a recipient, the company indeed has the option to sell items in some circumstances. 

"FedEx makes every effort to return the item to its rightful owner by using advanced technologies and exhaustive customer research," a statement from the company said. "If we are still unable to match the shipment to a recipient, these items are handled in a variety of ways including disposal per regulatory policies and shipper instructions, which could include the sale of items in some circumstances."

A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed that while the company does have a liquidation process, that process pertains to select returned items, not undeliverable packages. 

Ultimately, our sources verified it's true that some delivery carriers have procedures in place to auction or sell unclaimed or undeliverable packages after a period of time. But before skimming sales online advertising such sales or 'surprise' packages for purchase, the Better Business Bureau of Atlanta recommends doing your research before sharing any personal or credit card information: 

  • Research auctions and auctioneers before participating. If an auction claims to be a “government” auction, reach out to the branch of government hosting the event to make sure it’s legitimate. If it’s a private auction or an auction run by a private company, look into the auctioneer ahead of time. Look carefully at reviews from previous buyers. Does the auctioneer have a good reputation? Do they have the appropriate licensing to conduct the auction? If the answers are no, or there is no information available about the auctioneer, it may be best not to participate.
  • Check the seller’s contact information. The same goes for the seller or auctioneer. Check out their website and look for valid contact information. If you can’t reach anyone or speak with someone who is uncomfortable answering your questions, don’t participate in their auctions.
  • Be careful with your personal information. Before divulging personal information, be sure you trust a website, company, or auctioneer. Once your information is in the hands of a scammer, you won’t be able to get it back.

If you do suspect a scam, you can also report it to the BBB Scam Tracker.

This was on marketplace...lol. Unclaimed packages for sale. I don't know why this is so funny to me.

Posted by Sharon Weis on Thursday, November 25, 2021

UPS did not address the Verify team's questions regarding the process for undeliverable or unclaimed packages, but released the following statement: 

Reliable delivery service to our customers is our top priority, but when we discover a package that has a missing label or an item became separated from its carton, we go to great lengths to reunite the lost package with its owner. Here are some helpful packaging tips we’ve developed over years of research to ensure safe package deliveries.

  • Not all boxes are created equal – find a rigid box that has all its flaps intact and make sure you’re using strong shipping tape. Boxes lose their strength with use, which could lead to damaged packaging. Avoid string or wrapping paper, and remove or thoroughly cover any old labels or shipment markings.
  • It’s what’s inside that counts – take time to wrap all items separately and use plenty of cushioning materials to protect your precious cargo.
  • The final touch: your label – Make sure to use a label that has clear and concise delivery information, as well as return details. Leave a duplicate address label inside the package as well for safe measure.


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