Help Center - A book I sent is lost in the mail!

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If your book is not marked received by the 26th day (the 35th day if the sender or requestor is outside the contiguous US) after you marked it mailed, it will be declared lost in the mail at PBS.  This does not mean that the book is actually lost; it may simply be delayed en route.  Also, the requestor may be away from home and unaware if the book has arrived.  If so, he or she can mark it received from his or her Transaction Archive when he or she returns home, and credit will be granted when she or he does that.

A book sent to an active member at PBS will not earn credit until the requestor marks it received, unless PBS Printable Postage is used to send the book (and the sender has a good sending record).  

If a book you sent is declared Lost in the Mail at PBS:

  • First, contact the requestor (using the PM button on the "lost" transaction in your Transaction Archive) to confirm that the book was not received.

    • Sometimes the requestor just forgot to mark it received
    • Sometimes the requestor was away from home when the book arrived
    • If you don't hear back from the requestor within a week of sending a PM asking about the book, you should contact us to look into the situation.
    • You can contact the requestor using the PM button on the "lost" transaction in your transaction archive.
  • If the requestor confirms that the book was not received:

    • As the sender (information from the USPS site): " should obtain information by calling 1-800-222-1811. If fourteen (14) or more postal business days have passed since the date of mailing, and the recipient has confirmed that the item has not arrived, you may call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) to request documentation of your issue." 
    • You can submit a request for a USPS search for your parcel on the site at

  • We used to give the Postal Inspection Service's website URL here, with a link to the Mail Theft/loss form, but that link is not reliable!  Google United States Postal Inspection Services and try to follow the links, or go to
    • If it is working, the direct link to the Mail Theft form online is (the Postal Inspection Service's website) - you can input the information online there . This will help USPS try to recover your book if it truly has been lost in the mail. If the link above does not work, here are directions to find the proper page: go to the website or and then select "Investigations > Mail Theft > File a Mail Theft Complaint" from the menus.
      • This form at USPS is titled "Mail Theft"
      • This does  not mean only theft of mail.  USPS categorizes any mail that does not arrive or that is tampered with as "mail theft".
      • The choice that should be made under "Class" if Media Mail was used is "Parcel Post"
  • You can get the information about the transaction from the Transaction Archive:
    • Click "Transaction Archive" in the menu under My Account in the toolbar at the top of the site
    • Click the Request Details link on the right of the "lost in mail" transaction
    • If you need more information (such as requestor address) you can ask the requestor in a Personal Message for that information.
      • We are unable to provide member address information outside of the duration of an active transaction, due to the PBS Privacy Policy.
      • You can use the button on the transaction to contact the requestor.
  • If USPS does return your book to you, and it is undamaged:
    • You should ask the requestor (using the button on the Lost transaction in your Transaction Archive) if she still wants it. 
    • If she does, you can re-send it.  If she does not, you can repost it.
    • If she does not respond to your PM, you should repost the book.

If you sent the book with Printable Postage and the tracking shows it has been recorded as delivered by USPS but hasn't been marked received yet:

  • Remember that the book could have been scanned as "delivered" at the local PO, before it went to the requestor's mailbox--the actual delivery can be a few days later  Also, the book could have been misdelivered.
  • You should FIRST contact the requestor using the button on the transaction on the Books I've Mailed tab in My Account when a few days have passed after delivery.
  • If the requestor does not respond to your PM within a week, and has not marked the book received by a week after the delivery scan, contact us.  We will look into it.
  • If you used PBS Printed Postage and you are eligible for Instant Credit, you will already have gotten your credit for sending the book.

If you sent the book with tracking purchased elsewhere (not from PaperBackSwap) and it has been recorded as delivered by USPS but hasn't been marked received yet:

  • First, contact the requestor from the active transaction (in the Books I've Mailed tab in My Account), or from the "lost" transaction in your Transaction Archive if the book has been declared Lost in the Mail by PBS.
  • If the requestor does not respond to your PM within a few days, contact us and we will look into it.
  • We cannot grant Book Credit for tracking or postage purchased outside PBS, but we can check if this requestor has become inactive.
  • If this requestor is inactive, your book should be marked received by the system.

If you have a high proportion of outgoing loss (books you marked mailed that were never received) on your account, this bears looking into:

The most common causes of a high outgoing loss rate are: late mailing, inadequate Wrapping, and non-sending.

  • If you are mailing late, you can easily correct this. 
  • If your wrapping is inadequate, the books could be getting lost en route, and you should read the Help items about wrapping books in All Help documents about bookwrapping - in short, the book(s) need to be entirely enclosed, use shipping tape (NOT Scotch, or duct tape, or masking tape), tape the corners and seams, and don't have any loose flaps on your package.
  • If you are hand-copying the addresses onto your packages, be sure that you copy accurately.
  • Note that in damp weather, printer ink can run and make printed addresses illegible. It is a good idea to put a single layer of clear shipping tape over the addresses on the label, to make sure the ink does not run en route.
  • Check Current Postal Rates to be sure you are using enough postage for the weight of your package.
  • If there is some other issue affecting your sending, this needs to be identified and addressed.

If a high loss rate persists on any account after we have discussed this with a member, this will jeopardize membership.  Books need to get where they are going on PBS, and the USPS rate of package loss is really low--a high outgoing (or incoming) loss rate can almost never be blamed solely on USPS.  If a sender wraps well, uses the correct address and amount of postage and mails promptly, more than 99% of her packages will arrive at their destinations.

If you are just mailing the book now, and it has already been declared Lost, you need to read Can I send a book later (later than the available dates OR after the date I said that I would mail)? and follow the instructions in there.

Related Links:

USPS lost the book I sent! (including: they sent me a notice/the empty wrapping)
How to Wrap a Book
I received a book that was 'lost in the mail'
How to Use the Transaction Archive