Unclaimed mail and packages can help you save money shopping by offering big bargains on great stuff. These are items that no one received for one reason or another.
The senders or mail delivery service don’t want these items sitting around, so they'll let you purchase them, often in bulk.
Here’s what you need to know about unclaimed mail and packages and some tips about what you can do with them.
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What are unclaimed mail and packages?
Whether it's the United States Postal Service (USPS), Amazon, or another company, it's not uncommon for packages or mail to go unclaimed. When this happens, the items often are auctioned off in bulk.
It's legal for these organizations to auction off unclaimed mail and packages, and doing so gives those companies a bit of money back to make up for lost costs associated with delivering the items.
Some of these mail and package items are unopened, so you won't know exactly what you are getting if you bid on them. However, you'll know exactly what you are bidding on in other cases.
Why packages go unclaimed
The USPS says it processes and delivers 23.8 million packages every day from its facilities. About 6,600 carriers deliver the packages.
In addition, the USPS processes 421.4 million pieces of mail daily. FedEx, Amazon, UPS, and other carriers also deliver packages daily.
Some of these packages and mail items will inevitably get lost or somehow not delivered.
How unclaimed packages get to auction sites
While most delivery organizations do their best to get lost packages to the people who purchased them, sometimes it doesn’t happen.
If an unclaimed package isn’t picked up within a given period — say, 90 days — it’s likely to be auctioned off.
Consider the USPS: It lists unclaimed packages on GovDeals.com, a type of auction-based online marketplace that many government organizations use.
Here, you will be able to bid on items in categories ranging from computer monitors to kitchen equipment and televisions.
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Other sites that auction unclaimed mail and packages
Other auction websites work directly with specific retailers or shippers to unload unclaimed boxes and returned packages.
For example, Liquidation allows you to select the retailer from which you want to purchase packages. Again, in some cases, you'll see the items you are bidding on. In other situations, you will only see images of unopened boxes or pallets of boxes.
If you win the auction, Liquidation will send the item or items to you. In addition to paying the purchase price, you will typically owe a shipping fee.
How to make a purchase
Each website that allows you to buy unclaimed mail and packages has its own rules for purchasing.
However, you can generally expect to sign up for an account through these websites. Once you do, carefully read the rules of the auction house. Make sure you understand the fees and shipping costs you might owe. Read any other disclaimers before you start bidding.
You can then scroll through what's available, find what interests you, and bid. Remember, sometimes you'll have no idea what's in the box. Bidding cautiously is wise.
After all, there is always a chance you could bid $50 on a box and another $50 to ship it, only to discover you have purchased party decorations for a 2-year-old's birthday.
Purchasing packages from others who bought them first
If you don’t want to pay hefty shipping fees, you might search for local vendors who have purchased boxes already and are trying to sell some or all of the contents inside them.
While many of these vendors open the boxes and sell items individually, others sell unclaimed packages and bundles of unopened goods. They know that some people will pay up just to satisfy their curiosity or in hopes of making a big score.
One way to find local vendors is to check out Facebook Marketplace for your area. Or, use a website like Swap Madness to find local swap meets.
How to avoid scams when buying unclaimed mail and packages
As with buying from any website, be cautious about your actions. Use only trusted, verifiable websites if you plan to purchase unclaimed packages.
As with any other venture, you must guard against scams. Don’t just hand over your credit card number to anyone.
Look for reviews of companies and websites, research local organizations near you, and use sites like Reddit to get honest feedback before purchasing these items from a website or vendor.
Getting rid of items you don’t want
You might find that some boxes contain good stuff but not items you need or want. What should you do? One option is to give the items to a friend or a charity.
You might also consider listing the individual items for sale on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or other platforms. That way, you can get back some of the money you’ve invested.
Should you purchase unclaimed mail and packages?
If you purchase unclaimed and unopened mail or packages, you might find some big boxes that look intriguing, buy them, and find something fabulous inside. After all, someone paid money for this item in the first place.
On the other hand, you could wind up with something that's of no interest to you.
So, use caution when purchasing these items, and decide whether you want to take the risk. Shipping fees for larger boxes are expensive, so avoid throwing money away on too many packages.
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Buying unclaimed packages and returned items can be thrilling, and it could offer a good way to make extra money through reselling items.
However, some purchases will likely fall flat, and you might be stuck paying for items you don’t want or need. So, buyer beware.