“Return to sender” carries very little meaning to the sender:

  • Who returned it? The postal service, the intended recipient, or some other person?
  • Why was it returned? Was it considered spam, was the address wrong or incomplete, or was there some other reason?

Are there norms, rules or laws associated with what is entered on the item when returning? For example, if marked as “spam”, can I assume that the company will behave, or is it rather like email, where trying to unsubscribe will result in even more spam (since now the address has been verified as active)?

closed as off-topic by Erik Kowal, tchrist, choster, Drew, andy256 Jan 4 '15 at 13:06

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 4
    This question is off-topic, because it is about the procedures connected with undeliverable mail and not about the English language. – Erik Kowal Dec 30 '14 at 10:05
  • @Erik I've interpreted it as "what is 'Return to sender'?" which is answerable. – Andrew Leach Dec 30 '14 at 10:08

In the UK, Royal Mail returns an item, and they still use labels like this (as I've seen one within the last couple of weeks):

Royal Mail undeliverable item label [Royal Mail via consumerdeals.co.uk]

However, where an item has "Return to sender" written on it and is simply reposted for Royal Mail to deal with, "Return to sender" is an instruction to them to do that. There is no implication of whether the addressee actually exists or not, or whether the person named on the envelope is the person who issued the instruction. There is an implication that delivery should not be re-attempted.

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