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What Does "Return Receipt Requested" Mean?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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The phrase “return receipt requested” means that the sender of a communication wants a confirmation that it arrived at the recipient's address. This proves that the communication arrived, which may be important if a dispute arises later or the sender has concerns about the contents. Post offices have forms senders can use to request a return receipt, and many email programs offer this as a feature as well. In the case of mail, usually an extra fee is necessary to cover the administrative costs of handling the return receipt.

Letters can be mailed with a simple return receipt or sent by registered mail, which costs slightly more and includes a confirmation to let the sender know it arrived. Sending mail return receipt requested is advisable when it is time sensitive or contains important legal information. A demand letter sent to a debtor, for example, should have a return receipt so the creditor knows it arrived. Likewise, legal letters with a deadline need a return receipt requested to eliminate confusion about when the lawyer got them. Applications may also be sent via this method so applicants know they arrived intact and within the deadline.

For mail, there are several ways a sender can get a return receipt. One option is a simple postcard. When the mail carrier delivers the mail, the recipient signs the postcard and the mail carrier detaches it and returns it to the sender. Another option is electronic tracking, where the sender can look up a code online to see if and when a package arrived. Post office workers will not scan the letter to indicate delivery without personally handing it to the recipient.

In email programs, the return receipt requested option forces a prompt to come up on the recipient's computer when she opens the email. She must click the prompt to indicate that it arrived before she can view the email. This assures the sender that the email did not end up in spam, and will also note the recipient's address so the sender can confirm the email went to the right person. This option can be popular with business communications, where it is important to know that messages arrive in the right spot at the right time.

Couriers can also take materials return receipt requested. The individual courier firm may have a specific form to use, or the sender can fill out a generic return receipt. In this situation, the courier takes the package for delivery, and has the recipient sign for it. The receipt goes back to the sender with information about the delivery date, location, and time.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Nov 06, 2014

@Grivusangel -- Good Lord. That's everyone's worst nightmare, and well worth the extra couple of bucks to send something like that registered mail, return receipt requested. Either that or Fed Ex. I'd definitely send it by some method that provides a way to track the letter or get receipt confirmation.

If wiring money didn't cost so much, I'd be tempted to do that. Wiring it would be nearly as expensive as the ticket!

For some things -- especially legal documents -- you cannot be too careful. Anything can happen, and usually does.

By Grivusangel — On Nov 06, 2014

I got a speeding ticket out of state, and when I sent the payment, I sent it return receipt requested so I would have a confirmation the police department received it.

Turns out, I actually did get a letter saying a warrant for failure to appear had been issued against me. What? So, I just sent the clerk of court a copy of the return receipt, proving I'd sent the check, and a copy of the canceled cashier's check, proving the department had cashed it.

About a week later, I got a letter saying the warrant had been rescinded. I should hope so. So I'm definitely glad I had that receipt and proof of the canceled check, even if I did have to go to the bank to get it!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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