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Everything You Need to Know About USPS Certified Mail

Certified Mail requires a signature from the recipient to complete the delivery. This could be the person who ordered the mail, or any recipient authorized by the sender or receiver beforehand. 

For the majority of e-commerce stores, using USPS Certified Mail is unjustifiably costly. Leaving the package in the mailbox or on the doorstep is far more affordable. Even given unlimited funding, certified mail would have downsides since requiring customers to sign for deliveries can cause delivery exceptions and delay fulfillment.

However, some types of packages or important letters make in-person delivery confirmation necessary, which is why many eCommerce stores could benefit from understanding how to use USPS Certified Mail.

In this article, we discuss:

  •  What is USPS Certified Mail
  •  Issues related to completing certified deliveries
  •  Options for eCommerce businesses to use certified mail
  •  How a 3PL can streamline the process

A Brief Summary of USPS Certified Mail

Certified mail, which is always delivered first class, requires the recipient or their representative (such as a receptionist) to sign for the package. Businesses can specify who must sign for it if the contents are sensitive.

This is how USPS Certified delivery works:

  •       You take the package to the post office in person, either printing the Form 3800 Certified Mail receipt from the USPS website or receiving one at the PO.
  • USPS ships your item and sends your business a mailing receipt for the item.
    •  This receipt can be viewed on the USPS website by entering the tracking number.
  • USPS provides digital verification that the item was delivered or if a delivery was attempted.
  • The record of delivery, including the signature of the receiver, is stored at the post office for two years to be used for company confirmation or any legal matters.
    • The delivery record is not emailed or mailed to the sender, however, it can be checked by buying Return Receipt Service from USPS.
  •  If the package was not delivered due to the signee’s absence at the time of delivery, the item is returned to the post office.
  •  If no one claims the package in 15 days, it is returned to the sender.

USPS Certified Mail can confirm a sensitive delivery as well as keep expensive packages safe from being misdelivered. However, the need for a delivery signature leads to issues with delivery exceptions when customers are not there to receive the package. Rather than being able to leave the package in the mailbox, the carrier must keep the delivery. This complicates matters for both the business and the recipient.

Additionally, USPS Certified Mail can be used in tandem with other USPS services if an eCommerce business wants to more closely regulate the delivery authorization on their order. These include:

  • Certified Mail Adult Signature Required – Only a recipient 21 years or older can sign for the package
  • Certified Mail Restricted Delivery – Only the recipient can confirm the delivery (not a family member or receptionist)
  • Certified Adult Mail Restricted Delivery – Only a specific recipient or an adult can confirm the delivery
  • Shipping Insurance USPS offers added insurance to protect against lost items, including on Certified Mail deliveries.

Since you must send USPS certified mail from the post office in person, it cannot be picked up from a warehouse or delivery hub. This costs time and resources. The Certified Mail labels can be printed online ahead of time, but the proof of mailing must be presented and confirmed at the post office.

Options for Certified Delivery Services

Certified mail is a USPS-only feature. Despite this, other major mail carriers like UPS and FedEx offer options to require signatures on delivery as a proof of receipt, which serves a similar purpose.

FedEx can put a signature requirement on their deliveries. They will post a photo of the signature on the tracking page of your business’s FedEx dashboard. Likewise, UPS can mail you receipts for orders that needed delivery confirmation.

This does not mean that the other carriers are equivalent to USPS, however. Certified Mail is both more meticulous and more established. Many agencies, legal and governmental, will only accept USPS Certified Mail as admissible delivery confirmation.

When Certified Deliveries Fail

Certified Mail cannot be left unattended at the delivery location. If a valid recipient cannot confirm the delivery, the carrier will leave a note and keep the package. USPS Certified Mail, unlike delivery exceptions for normal mail, will not return to retry the delivery.

In the case of a delivery exception, the carrier takes the delivery back to the post office. It will stay at the post office for 15 days, allowing an authorized recipient time to use a valid ID to pick up the package from there. Only recipients pre-determined by the sender can retrieve the package.

After 15 days, the post office returns these deliveries to the business that sent them.

How to Track Certified Mail

A USPS certified mail delivery can be checked online for its delivery status, as well as by phone. Businesses responsible for many certified mail deliveries can also opt to receive confirmations from USPS in bulk.

Certified Mail Receipts are available when the order is sent and can be obtained through USPS as a Form 3800. Electronic verification for both successful and attempted deliveries can also be requested.

The Cost of USPS Certified Mail

USPS Certified Mail costs a flat rate of $3.55. This does not include the postage or receipt. Businesses that opt to receive return receipts can choose between paper or digital.

For paper receipts, USPS charges $2.85. For email, it costs $1.70.

As you can imagine, paying upcharges on Certified Mail for every order would severely cut into a business’s profit margins. It is therefore important to know how and when to use USPS Certified Mail in your fulfillment process.

How a 3PL Can Help

3PL services like eWorld Fulfillment offer businesses expertise in navigating the best shipping options for their needs. This includes knowing when to use USPS Certified Mail to confirm deliveries without accruing unnecessary costs.

Since the labels and receipts cost money, as well as the time to take the delivery to the post office and the complications resulting from delivery exceptions, Certified Mail should only be used when necessary.

A 3PL can assess a business’s needs and determine the best shipping options for their merchandise.

The Takeaway

USPS Certified Mail is an exclusive service that provides senders with the ability to verify deliveries from specific recipients. For any legal or business forms, this service is a necessity. However, for eCommerce businesses, the question of when Certified Mail is economically viable is an important one.

A 3PL has experience navigating the ins and outs of the USPS system and can use this information to optimize your fulfillment process with Certified Mail.