If you have found the words “arrived at parcel sorting center” on your online tracking information, you may be wondering what that message means and what the next step is. How soon will you see your parcel? Where is this “sorting center” and how long will your parcel stay there for? It’s frustrating when you get an unclear tracking message like this and you aren’t sure what’s going on.
A “parcel sorting center” is an area where parcels are sent in order to be categorized and shipped off to the correct places. Depending on how busy the center is when your parcel arrives, it could be there for several days before it gets processed on to the next stage of its journey.
What Is A Parcel Sorting Center?
A parcel sorting center is usually a huge building that is not open to the public. Mail that needs to be sorted into the right areas is delivered here en masse, and then the workers at the center will categorize and sort according to the last few lines of the address – e.g. country, state, area, etc.
You may find that your parcel that is only going a few streets away is still delivered to a sorting center first. This might seem unintuitive to you, but it is often the best way for postal services to make sure that their routes are efficient.
They don’t have a way to decide “well this isn’t traveling far, so let’s just drop it off” when they collect the mail, and so everything is sent to huge centers, and then distributed from there. That might be annoying, but it’s the best way for these systems to work and ensure that their service remains efficient for everyone.
Not all parcels will go to a sorting center, but many will. Some will be sorted at local offices and shipped straight to their destinations. If your parcel is going further, however, it is more likely to be sent to a sorting center.
What Happens At A Parcel Sorting Center?
So, what does this process look like?
Your Parcel Gets Sorted
Your parcel will arrive at the sorting center and will usually sit on a cart of some sort until it is that cart’s turn to be distributed. Workers and conveyor systems will then unload the cart and start to organize the parcels. Sometimes automated systems are used, but often people will be physically handling the parcel.
They will read the address and put it in the correct pile to go on the next leg of its journey. This may be to the destination area, or it may be to another sorting center.
If, for example, you are sending your parcel to another state, it will quite often end up in a sorting center in that state, which will then categorize it using the next few lines of the address to get it to the right area.
Sometimes parcels can go through multiple sorting centers before they get to the right place. This is nothing to worry about; it’s just how the system works to get everyone’s mail to the right places efficiently.
After all, handling mail is a complex process, and it’s mind-boggling when you sit and think about all the parcels crossing paths and getting sent to all the corners of the world.
Once your parcel is in the right place, it will wait (along with all the other parcels and letters for that place) until the correct mail carrier comes to pick it up.
Your Parcel Gets Picked Up
After a while, the parcel will be passed onto the next carrier. This might be the final courier of its journey, or may just be transporting it to the next sorting center. Either way, they will collect all the mail for a particular area, load it into a vehicle, and transport it away from the center.
At this point, your parcel tracking information should update to “in transit” or something like that, because the mail carrier should scan the parcel as they load it onto their vehicle, and this ought to update the shipping information.
This does not always happen correctly, however, and there won’t be a further update until it either arrives or is logged into another facility. Don’t worry too much, though. Your parcel might go from saying “arrived at parcel sorting center” to “delivered,” or may not – the tracking information isn’t always accurate.
What Should I Do If My Parcel Is At A Parcel Sorting Center?
There is not really much you can do at this point. Your parcel is on its way, but you will just have to wait until it arrives or the shipping information updates. Try not to worry about it, as the parcel may still have quite a while before it gets to its destination, and the only thing you can do is forget about it and wait for a while.
How Long Will My Parcel Stay At A Parcel Sorting Center?
There isn’t any simple way to answer this. It depends on how busy the center is, what kind of shipping was paid for, how soon the workers get to that particular cart, and how soon the carrier comes to collect it. The information you see online will also depend on the courier correctly scanning it when they collect it.
That means your parcel could appear as “arrived at shipping center” for quite a long time, even if it has actually moved on to the next stage of its journey. It is best not to put too much faith in this message; it is informative, but not particularly helpful, especially as you may not know where the shipping center is.
Unfortunately, sometimes parcels do get stuck at shipping centers. They are large, chaotic places, and we all know that couriers make mistakes, lose things, and end up delaying parcels. It’s just part of the very complex process of delivering parcels internationally.
What Should I Do If I Think My Parcel Is Stuck At A Parcel Sorting Center?
So, if the unfortunate happens to you, what action should you take? Well, it depends on how urgently you need the parcel to arrive. If you are not in any particular hurry, the best course of action is to just leave it for a few days.
Usually, the delay is either due to a fault with the tracking or will get rectified reasonably fast as workers find a cart that has been missed or a lost parcel on the floor. It may be a few days before the courier collects the next batch, but your parcel will hopefully be moving again before too much longer has passed.
However, that isn’t much good if you’re in a hurry, or if the parcel remains stuck on this message with no sign of changing for days or even weeks.
Your best course of action at this stage is to try and contact the shipping center. However, be warned that many shipping centers are difficult to contact and do not make it easy to find out what has happened to your mail. After all, they are huge places, and if your mail is stuck, it’s likely because it has been misplaced.
You should still get in touch, as they may be able to provide you with an update or make an effort to look for your parcel. Depending on the size of the sorting center, however, this may be infeasible, in which case you will have to wait or consider replacing the item.
This should not happen often, but no system is infallible, and parcels do get lost, both at sorting centers and in transit. If it occurs, try to be patient in case the parcel resurfaces, but don’t wait forever.
How Do I Contact A Parcel Sorting Center?
If you think your parcel is stuck, damaged, or lost, you might decide you need to get in touch with the parcel sorting center. However, this can be easier said than done, and contact methods will vary.
It depends quite a lot on who your parcel has been shipped with. You probably need to get in touch with the company as a whole, rather than an individual center. These rarely offer easy-to-find contact information because if everyone was phoning or emailing asking where their parcel was, they wouldn’t ever get any sorting done.
Instead, get in touch with whoever is shipping your parcel and explain the problem to them. They will advise you on the next steps. This might be just to wait, or they may provide contact details or other solutions.
You might also want to get in touch with the person or company who has shipped the item (if that isn’t you) and let them know about the issue. A company may send a replacement or chase up the courier themselves.
What Will Happen Next?
This depends on what stage of its journey the parcel has reached. Sorting centers can be for both shipping parcels to their final destinations and to other sorting centers.
If, for example, you live in Florida and your parcel has reached a parcel sorting center in South Carolina, it will probably be put into a pile marked “Florida.” This will then be collected by the appropriate courier who is traveling to Florida.
Once it reaches Florida, though, this person cannot deliver all their parcels to every individual address in a timely manner, so they will be taking it to another parcel sorting center, where parcels will again be divided up according to area.
This may lead to final destination deliveries, or there might be a further parcel sorting center for your parcel to travel through, narrowing the area down even more. Eventually, however, your parcel should reach a place where a local courier collects it and starts deliveries in your area. At this point, it is nearly with you!
Do Parcels Ever Backtrack?
Yes, sometimes your parcel will take a pretty indirect route on its journey to you, and you might be puzzled when you see the location data. Don’t assume they have got something wrong with the address, however.
Often, the most efficient shipping method involves sending parcels to places that seem out of the way, simply because this is where the next courier will be collecting from. Sorting hubs do not always seem to be logically positioned, but that is because they serve wide areas.
They are actually usually very efficiently placed, when looking at the whole country, so don’t worry if your parcel’s journey seems unintuitive and it gets further away before it gets closer. As long as it is moving, it should be with you pretty soon, so don’t get too concerned when your parcel seems to be making negative progress.
What Does “At Destination Parcel Sorting Center” Mean?
You may have seen this message or a close variation of it, and this should mean that your parcel is at its last sorting center before coming to you. All that is needed at this stage is for your local courier to pick it up in their vehicle, and then it will be at your door as its next step.
This message indicates you won’t have long to wait now, so expect a delivery soon. Depending on your shipping priority, it could still be a couple of days before it is collected and delivered, but usually, it will be within a day. Of course, things can still go wrong even at this stage!
Your courier may miss the parcel when loading up their vehicle, or might not deliver because you are out or they miss your home. This message isn’t a guarantee that the parcel will turn up within a few hours, but it does mean that it’s close and you should have it soon.
Parcel sorting centers are simply huge warehouses where people and machines sort parcels to go to their final destinations. Your parcel may travel through several, just one, or none at all, depending on where it is heading and the courier company’s network of centers.
If you are struggling with the issue of sorting centers and where your parcel is, you might want to set up a virtual mailbox to take the headache out of deliveries. This kind of mailbox means your mail can be delivered at any time, and you don’t need to pay attention to your tracking info!