Badger Q&A: What Does the Yellow Label on Returned Mail Mean?

Badger Q&A: What Does the Yellow Label on Returned Mail Mean?

Question: What does the yellow label on returned mail mean?

Answer: Yellow NIXIE labels provide information for Undeliverable As Addressed mail.

Mail gets returned to senders for a variety of reasons, and much of it comes back with a yellow label on it from the USPS. Have you ever wondered what this yellow label means?

The yellow “NIXIE” label marks Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail (for reasons other than a move). These yellow labels are full of information that you must decode to understand why your mail piece was returned.

Why You Get Returned Mail

Mail can be undeliverable for a number of reasons:

  • No postage
  • Incomplete, illegible, or incorrect address
  • Addressee is not at the address (unknown, moved, or deceased)
  • Mail is unclaimed
  • Mail is refused by the addressee at time of delivery
  • Mail is refused by the addressee after delivery when permitted
  • Minimum criteria for mailability is not met

Mail that is undeliverable as addressed is forwarded, returned to the sender, or treated as dead mail. If you have returned mail pieces with both the address and the yellow non-delivery label affixed, you can find out why it wasn’t delivered thanks to the information (i.e. code) on the yellow Nixie label.

Here are definitions for some of the common messages you might see on the yellow label:

Endorsement Reason for Non-Delivery
Attempted – Not KnownDelivery attempted, but the recipient didn’t match the one currently at the address
Insufficient Address Address information is missing
Not Deliverable as Addressed – Unable to Forward Someone moved and didn’t tell the USPS to forward their mail or the forwarding period ended
VacantHouse, apartment, office, or building is not occupied

Find the full list of undeliverable mail message definitions from the USPS.

What Can You Do With Returned Mail?

For years, mailers used “nixie” to identify records as undeliverable and they would eliminate them from future mailings. However, the codes on these yellow labels hold the key to deciding the best action for records associated with returned mail.

You can improve deliverability of your future mailings (and reduce costs in the long run) by cleaning your list. This includes removing duplicate records, correcting street and city spelling, and formatting addresses to meet USPS standards.

Whether you have an active mailing you are working on or not, you can still benefit from having correct and up-to-date addresses.


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