It happens. You drop off a package at the post office in the afternoon, and later realize you sent the wrong item or shipped it to the wrong address. Even after the package has left your hands and started towards its destination, it might not be too late to correct the mistake. If your package has a tracking barcode attached, the post office may be able to intercept it and return it to you or forward it to the right address.
The U.S. Postal Service's USPS Package Intercept service lets you recover your errant shipment if it hasn’t been delivered yet. You can use the services for packages and letters. The only mail not eligible for the service is Standard Mail and periodicals. However, the service works only if you have a tracking barcode or other extra services barcode attached to the package. This allows postal workers to discover if the package has already been delivered. If it hasn’t, the barcode lets the workers know where the package is and stop its delivery.
The Postal Service does not guarantee the service will successfully stop delivery, so the sooner you request the intercept, the better chance you have. Priority Mail Express guarantees overnight delivery to most U.S. addresses overnight. To intercept an Priority Express successfully, you'd have to request the intercept at the post office the same day you sent it, or online that day or night. Regular Priority Mail may give you an extra day. First Class mail can be delivered in 1 to 3 days, as does Parcel Select.
Using the bar code tracking number, you can go to the post office to check if a package has been delivered, or go to USPS.com to search online for the package location. A package cannot be intercepted if it has been delivered or released for delivery from the destination's post office. If it hasn't been delivered, you can use the tracking number to see the expected delivery date for the package.
Return It, Forward It, Hold It
If you have a USPS.com account, you can make an intercept request online. Otherwise, you need to make the request at a post office using the tracking number from the barcode service to identify the package. When you request a package intercept, you request the package be forwarded to a different address -- such as the one you were supposed to send it to in the first place -- have it held at a post office or return it to the sender.
Once you submit a Package Intercept request, the post office will give you an estimated cost, which includes an intercept fee plus estimated postage to deliver the package where you instructed. When making an online intercept request, you will be asked to include credit card information. The post office redirects all intercepted items as Priority Mail. You have to pay the Priority Mail postage unless the item was originally sent using Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail or First-Class Mail. The post office will charge your credit card if it successfully intercepts your item. There’s no charge if the intercept failed and the package reached the original address.