Is USPS Tracking Useless?

Back in March, I ordered an Abraham Lincoln Commemorative Silver Dollar from U.S. Mint. After some lengthy delays (the product was on back order), the coin was finally shipped out on April 2 and a USPS tracking number was provided. As I usually do with all the packages sending to me, I went to USPS and used the tracking number to check when the package will arrive.  The search came out empty as no record was found for the item I was looking for.

USPS tracking useless

Yesterday, four days after I received the tracking number, I searched again and once again nothing was found. I remember when I send mails with tracking numbers at a post office, they always scan the bar codes. So it seems that they have the tracking number in the system, but just don’t update the Track & Confirm website so people have no idea about where their packages are.

Then, today, at my third attempt, the search finally showed something: The package has already been delivered!

Well, it looks like the tracking part is useless because, with the tracking number, I got no information on when the package was shipped, where it is on the road, and when it will be delivered. Only a confirmation after the package is actually delivered. Maybe they should call the site Confirm instead of Track & Confirm.

BTW, this isn’t the first time I used USPS. I really don’t recall any success in tracking a package with them, though.

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17 Responses to “Is USPS Tracking Useless?”

  1. Aziz |  Apr 07, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    It isn’t really “tracking.” It’s more or less just “delivery confirmation.” It just indicates whether or not the parcel was delivered. They do not provide real-time tracking. So the track and confirm title is a little misleading.

    Very rarely, on a few packages, I’ve seen actual updates where a parcel was scanned at some location. This is very rare, and is hardly considered real-time tracking. Usually the scan is at the arrival city post office immediately before delivery to the final address.

  2. Carl |  Apr 07, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    We order some plants mail order this spring and they came via USPS but they had a UPS looking label on them with the tracking number starting “1Z” UPS ground service. To find out UPS and USPS partner for some shipping clients that UPS actual ships the package to a local post office for the post office to deliver the last mile. I suspect these packages would have the tracking you are accustomed to. I for fun just tracked it via google with the tracking number in the search box so it found the UPS tracking + the final delivery by the post office.

  3. Sun |  Apr 08, 2009 at 8:19 am

    @Aziz Yes, it does look like more of a “delivery confirmation.” The part that I don’t understand is they do scan the bar code at the time when you hand over the package to them at a post office. How come they don’t put the information in the system so at least people know it has been shipped?

    @Carl I never used Google to track packages. I always use the carrier’s website for tracking. I may try that :)

  4. Kisses Mocha |  Apr 08, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    I cannot wait until the USPS totally disappears to have UPS and FED to take over the rest of their business. The time I use USPS is when I have to mail a simple and plain letter! I cut all my business from the USPS: PACKAGES, OVERSEES DELIVERIES ETC ETC. The USPS IS PATHETIC! AND useless when you need such services. I’m glad I do all my billing on line. Save a lot money every month. I believe other Companies should have the change to have regular home mail delivery OPPORTUNITIES , and then you’ll see how BAD really THEY (USPS)ARE!!

  5. Nathan |  Apr 09, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Sun that does not look like any kind of USPS tracking number (delivery confirmation, signature confirmation, insurance, registered or certified mail). It looks like a reference number for DHL smart mail or Fedex smart post. If that is how your order was shipped it generally takes 2-6 weeks (it is incredibly slow and companies use it to save some money on shipping but you have to bee a really high volume shipper to see real savings).

    As for delivery confirmation it does provide actual tracking a lot of the time. I ship hundreds of packages a week as part of my business and receive scans at the local sorting facility on most of my packages (west Sacramento or Marysville). USPS is supposed to be installing automated scanners at most of their sorting facilities so if your local sorting facility has the scanners you should see scans on most of your packages.

  6. JOE MILLER |  May 05, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    USPS gets double or even triple the packages UPS and FEDEX gets daily they would have to pull off every single package off the pallets and scan them that means it would take that much longer to get your package. That’s why USPS don’t do real time tracking.

    • Rene |  Jan 13, 2010 at 4:42 pm

      This is what we pay for. Most central postal service work on shift. I recently had a packet whose delivery status was delivered but the recipient never got the packet. Is it worthwhile to use USPS! better pay more and have reliable service.

  7. Tom |  Aug 11, 2009 at 10:13 am

    We see a lot of extreme comments. As usual, both extreme sides are wrong.

    The USPS delivers excellent value in general. The sorting and transport network is top-notch, and the delivery network is also reasonably good. The biggest problem is poor customer service at the retail level. This also happens to be where many consumers interact with them, and really stains their overall reputation.

    The USPS gets far greater volume of *mail* than UPS or Fedex, but it gets fewer *packages* than even just UPS alone. It’s more a matter of the infrastructure not having been designed for tracking. It’s always harder to retrofit something onto a proces than to have it built in.

    As one commenter mentioned, this is changing. They now have automated scanning and sorting machines for parcels as well as letters and flats. (Incidentally, this is why the electronic DC barcodes recently had the ZIP code prepended — so that the machine can sort by reading the DC barcode, rather than having to use the POSTNET barcode.)

    When this is rolled out nationwide, we will get sort-level intermediate progress reports. This means at least three scans: at the induction sort center, at the destination sort center, and (hopefully) by the mail carrier at the end. I already get this on about 80% of my packages, because I live in a metropolitan area and because most shipping warehouses are also located near big USPS sort centers.

    UPS-style tracking (“my package just passed through some small town in Nebraska!”) will have to wait until the postal service can get better visibility into the transportation process, which is contracted out.

  8. contractor bob |  Aug 13, 2009 at 7:12 am

    its usps’s network and scanners, i work at one of their stc’s sorting centers as a contractor and postal is always complaning about our scanning numbers, i work on the dock and unload big boxes full of bubble packs and priority boxes and usps fill the boxes and then scans each package into a placard say its going to california zip range 900-904 but a majority of packages and letter trays come in not placard assign wich renders tracking useless as per one of the postal reps they are planning on fixing this to where tracking will be better to keep up with ups and fedex. as for our side postal has tested this so they know we can unload a box of priority mail unload scan it, stage scan and load scan onto the departing truck and check the status of the conainer and it will say no status so when you order something and get a tracking number know that it is moving, all priority mail makes it onto the truck truck loads as follows registered mail, express, priority, first class dated, first class non dated, then hazmat, if you order batterys or something else hazmat qualified it can get bump of a truck and wait for the next trip to make room for other mail types. usually no package stops anywhere unless something happens to the contractor truck or when they switch out trailers with other drivers to complete the trip, imo they need to ditch the scanner system they have now and find a more reliable one

  9. Jai |  Oct 13, 2009 at 2:32 am

    It’s not the USPS “track & confirm” site, it’s the workers, who have to scan the items. Anyways, a lot of the time it does work, as I ALWAYS ship my packages with them (& usually receive), it’s always been cheaper and faster for me. I hope weekend deliveries never stop.

  10. safal |  Nov 07, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Label/Receipt Number: *******

    Delivery status information is not available for your item via this web site.

    what does this mean

  11. James R. Sullivan |  Feb 01, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Short and simple “USELESS”
    I would like to know when to be home to accept a package. Not to be notified that it is sitting on my front porch waiting to be stolen!!!!!!!Which has happened in the past.

  12. Jai |  Feb 02, 2010 at 3:34 am

    UPS & Fed-Ex notifies you when the package was left on your porch too. It’s really funny when USPS/UPS/Fed-Ex will leave a box under your rug out front…oh yeah, that big lump’s not gonna catch any attention. lmao. But some guys are smart and will leave it behind the bushes.

  13. Kevin |  Dec 11, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    After reading through 3 different websites, and hundreds of different complaints about US{S, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. My mother likes to send me little care packages every now and again, and ironically, the last 8 out of 27 ‘gifts’ (not cash) she sent me via USPS all wound up missing. The track and confirm on the USPS website stated that it was picked up and in transit. When we would call and question the postal service about our concerns about the missing cards, they would throw up defense after defense about how it wasn’t them, it was a fault of our own. They said, ‘any and all delivery updates will be posted when they reach their sorting facilities.’ Due to the lack of service, help, accountability, and reliability, we opened an account with FedEx. I will admit that even though it is more expensive, the outcome was night and day. You cannot rely on a government run agency to do anything properly. Let alone, take responsibility for their mistakes. If they ever revise their system, I can still say that my choices for delivering packages or letters will remain with FedEx. When a package is misplaced, they will do what they can to locate it, and take it even a step further. Once it is located, they change the parameters to a next day morning delivery at no charge, and refund our account for the cost of the delivery. Also, when it comes to talking with someone, you always get through to someone, and they treat the loss of the package as a true concern.

    So, points that have been made:
    1) don’t rely on any government run agency to do things right.
    2) USPS = no accountability
    3) Although more expensive, FedEx/UPS is well worth the difference in pay.
    4) Would you prefer accurate, updated tracking (FedEx/UPS), or a vague it was picked up (possibility), it was delivered (possibility) style tracking (USPS)?
    5) Would you prefer good customer service (FedEx/UPS) or would you prefer to be treated as though every mistake made is your personal fault (USPS)

    Hands down, the answer is right there… choose FedEx/UPS for your shipping needs, and you will be a satisfied customer, or, save a few dollars, and be a crabby patty because you will never know if the package will arrive to the address on the label you filled out.

    Another point to add… if USPS makes that many deliveries per day, you’d think that they would be smarter in figuring out the best manageable way to provide their customers with a tracking service they can ‘rely’ on. More volume means more money. FedEx, while they may not send out as much, provide their customers with a tracking service that far surpasses the governments. (USPS… HERE’S YOUR SIGN)

  14. TJ Bernard |  Dec 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I agree with the comments about not updating tracking. If UPS/FedEx can give me real time updates, then why can’t USPS? There have been times my package was delivered and still no update 2 months after delivery. Why not just change the title to package accepted and leave it at that? I prefer UPS/FEDEX just for that reason and they both offer competitive delivery times in my opinion. I also only use it for snail mail anymore.

  15. Carlos Roberto Figueroa |  Dec 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    I need to verify the itinerary of two packets sended from Amazon, to Miami Florida.
    I can’t see mi orders.
    The trackings are:

    could you give me some tips in order to can see my ships by email?


  16. Christa |  Mar 07, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I have had a package that was verified sent out by the Israeli mail service to the US by airmail on 2/27/11. I know it has been shipped out to the US but I have no way of knowing if it even arrived at the US because whenever I use my tracking number (it’s been seven days now) it reports back with the same “no record of item”. I called USPS and they told me to file an investigation with the post office in Israel. Why do that? Their tracking service seems to be working fine and according to them it’s not even there anymore. USPS was no help to me over the phone and didn’t even seem like they wanted to investigate it. I am fed up with no tracking now I am really regretting not paying the little extra to get it mailed out FedEx. I have 70 dollars just floating around somewhere and have no idea how to track it. BS if you ask me. I am NEVER using usps ever again.