Post Office Auctions $8 Million Worth of Mail Annually, Has No Idea What It’s Selling
In 2020, as part of our special project on the USPS, Motherboard filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the USPS for a list of items auctioned by the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia, the USPS’s “lost and found,” a facility where some 67 million pieces of undeliverable mail annually are sent to. If the items are deemed to have a value of greater than $25, sentimental value, or otherwise possess “some material value,” the items are stored in case the USPS receives an inquiry from the person who was supposed to get it. After a period ranging from 30 days to “indefinitely,” the USPS either recycles, destroys, or auctions the item.
But the USPS doesn’t auction the items individually. It contracts with GovDeals, a government surplus auction website, to sell them off in lots. Currently, the Atlanta Surplus Center has 645 lots on auction, with items ranging from gift cards to cell phones to laptops. But mostly the lots contain “general merchandise.” Ironically, the lots must be picked up at the Atlanta facility, as the mail will not mail the lost mail to the winner of an auction.