USPS Package Tracking Leaves A Lot To Be Desired

Several months ago I signed up My USPS notifications so that I get tracking update on packages sent to my home address. I loved the idea as it should not require any manual entry from my behalf: I would just get automatically notified when a piece of mail is heading to my address. I actually requested status updates for all activity, which was probably a bad idea as you can see below.

I have always felt that the service was somewhat half-baked. One serious complaint with the e-mail notifications is that the service does not reveal the sender of the package. Without that information the 22-digit tracking number alone is pretty useless. I often have multiple shipments on the fly and even though the notification e-mail tracks where a package is coming from, I usually have no idea where the merchants I am ordering from are located. Once you login to the My USPS website, you get to see the sender, but I prefer not to login. (The USPS mobile app has a dismal 1.5 star rating in the App Store, so I was not trying to venture there either).

Another major flaw with this service is the reason why I am writing this post and highlights a disconnect between the My USPS notification service and the actual mail delivery mechanism.

Act 1 - Item out for delivery
I was anxiously waiting for this piece of mail to arrive and I was quite excited to see it coming to my house later that day:


The mail did not actually arrived.

Act 2 - Undeliverable as Addressed
My hopes were ruined with a later status update:


I could not believe my eyes. How is it possible that the My USPS notification service tracks a package to my address, the mailman picks it up in the morning, but later somebody decides that the package cannot be delivered as addressed? What is going on?!?

Act 3 - Return To Sender - Not So Quickly!
The next set of updates made me think that USPS returned the package to the sender:


Act 4 - Back to Austin?!?
I was expecting the package to be shipped back to the sender, but to my surprise the next update from My USPS said something else:


Alright. I was excited for a moment. Maybe USPS would deliver my package this time.

Act 5 - Return to Sender
No such luck.


They finally returned the mail to the sender.

At the end of the day I unsubscribed from the service. I will just go back to the old-fashioned way and track shipments based on the tracking number when I think a delivery may be delayed.

Below is the entire tracking history for your amusement: