If you’re sending Certified Mail as a way to protect the value of your mail should the Post Office lose it, then you are probably using it for the wrong reason, and should instead be insuring your mail. With insurance the Post Office will reimburse you a set amount if your mail is lost. The amount is determined by the actual value of the lost item and how much insurance you purchased.
The purpose of Certified Mail is to prove that the recipient received the item. For example, if you are concerned that the recipient might deny receiving the mail--a warning to pay a bill by a certain time, for example--sending it certified will give you proof that someone at the address received the item. Certified Mail is available for first class letters, envelopes and small packages weighing 13 oz. or less. It can also be used when sending Priority Mail.
The Certified Mail charge is an additional fee on top of the regular postage cost. When you send Certified Mail, you receive a stamped receipt noting the mailing date. A unique article number is assigned to the package or letter. With the article number, you can track the delivery of the item by going to the USPS website or calling the Post Office at (800) 222-1811.
After the item is delivered the Post Office keeps a record of the delivery. If you need a copy of the recipient’s delivery signature an additional fee is required. But, if the mail is lost there is really nothing to do, for the Post Office has not guaranteed safe delivery of the item--it has only agreed to provide proof of delivery. If you have kept the mailing receipt, it can be used to prove to the recipient that the item was mailed. The receipt can also be used to get a refund from the Post Office for the Certified Mail fees. They will normally want you to wait about 30 days after the letter was mailed before they will issue a refund.
Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.