‘Addressee Unknown’ More Common Than I Thought


Last Updated on December 2, 2013

It is still consistently one of the top keyword search phrases that bring people to my blog: “Addressee Unknown.”

I originally did a post about constantly receiving a neighbor’s credit card statements. I hand-delivered them for a while, but when the neighbor moved, that was no longer an option.

What made the situation worse was an error in the address that the credit card company had on file.

In the example I gave back in 2008, I listed my address as “523 Charleston Avenue.” My neighbor, John, lived at “522 Charleston Avenue.”

But the credit card company listed the address as “522 Charleston Avenue #523.”

That should have looked wrong to anyone who bothered to look at the account information, but the credit card company still refused to take my word for the error. (And they refused to contact John through email or phone to confirm that what I was saying was true.)

The real problem was that if I simply marked off the address and stamped it with an “Addressee Unknown” message, the mail would occasionally come back to me anyway, as if no one had even noticed that I had pointed out the fact that there was no such person at my address.

That’s because no one was looking at my note. Or that fancy rubber stamp imprint.

A computer was only looking at the barcode above the address. And the computer saw that it needed to go to the non-existent #523 at 522 Charleston Avenue, which the carrier misdelivered to 523 Charleston Avenue.

The key lesson? Perform one more bit of graffiti on such a letter: cross out the barcode itself. That irritates the postal service’s computer system, requiring a human being to actually get into the mix.

Oh, the horror!

The human, theoretically, has enough good sense to see that the inconsistency in the address, along with the “addressee unknown” message, might just mean that they need to send it to a different address.

Otherwise, you’re going to keep getting the same wrong mail month after month.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.


  • @psalm23 Thanks, Cat. Hadn’t thought of that. Those scanners are getting better and better, so one has to be that much more vigilant to prevent a barcode from being read! 🙂

  • @james_holloway Give the barcode thing a try…it couldn’t hurt. The post office is supposed to forward mail for 6 months or so (if memory serves), but if the recipient never lets the sender know about the new address, at the end of the 6 months, you might get it instead.

    Crossing out the barcode should at least keep the same piece of mail from returning when you mark it as an incorrect address and put it back in the mailbox.

  • So THAT explains it. LOL. We’ve been here 5 years and still occasionally get mail addressed to the previous owner (although the address is correct not a misdirect like your situation).

  • Speaking as someone who deals with barcodes all day…when you mark out a code, you need to mark through it VERTICALLY (as well as horizontally); blacking out the whole thing is best. If you don’t catch the entire bar when you do it horizontally, the code can still be read, so use a Sharpie or heavy-duty marker of some kind to completely mark out at least 2-3 of the bars.Also, I’ve found that the p.o. pays a little more attention to red ink when writing (or stamping) commentary on envelopes. 🙂

Comments are closed.