How Postal Workers Handle DPV Invalid Addresses

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Recently, an artist in the UK named Harriet Russell sent out 130 letters… to herself. While this may at first sound like narcissism, it was actually an artistic test of the Royal Mail service. Not satisfied to state plainly her address, she instead left cryptic visual puzzles, clues, and diagrams for the delivery staff to solve. Take this “address”, for example:

Remarkably, only 10 such letters failed to get delivered! With the modern increase in email usage, automated customer service lines, and online web forms, it’s easy to forget that our physical mail is still handled by real people, who can often make sense of… unorthodox address standards.

Obviously in practice, businesses can’t send mail to invalid addresses and expect them to be delivered. This is where Delivery Point Validation or “DPV” comes in. Addresses that are not DPV valid are basically just addresses that have not been registered with the United States Postal Service “USPS”.

What often causes confusion with Service Objects’ clients is that sometimes a mailbox can physically exist, but if it is not registered with the USPS, it is not considered “deliverable”. More often than not, the issue isn’t a completely bogus address, but rather an address that simply doesn’t fit USPS expectations. For example:

Line 1: 123 Anywhere Street

Line 2: Around back of the building

City: Springfield


This address might be flagged as a valid street location, but since Line 2 is clearly an unofficial location, it will probably be flagged as having an invalid mailbox or unit number and is therefore not DPV valid.

Luckily, as Harriet Russell demonstrated, this doesn’t necessarily make the letter undeliverable in a practical sense. The postal worker will still deliver to the correct street address, and will probably even try to deliver the package “around the back of the building”. If the unofficial Line 2 item can’t be found, then the package will be left at the main address.

In conclusion, always keep in mind that a human is behind every delivery. As a general rule, although this very much depends on if and how you are using a Service Objects’ DOTS Web Service, we recommend a “customer knows best” policy. If you are provided with a mailbox that is technically not DPV valid, include it anyway! It’s likely that the package will just get delivered to the main mailing address if it really is incorrect.

Thank you for reading this week’s post!

-Donnie K.

Questions for Donnie K.? Email him at


  1. […] 99% of the time the answer is that the USPS simply doesn’t have this address registered, or the address has too many incorrect elements to validate. Note that just because an address doesn’t pass DPV doesn’t mean nothing can be delivered there. In fact, we have a blog entry (written by yours truly) on this very topic. See: “How Postal Workers Handle ‘DPV-Invalid’ Addresses” […]

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