Retrieving Lost or Stolen Property with EDDM

Stolen mountain bike on trail


Have you ever had something stolen off your porch?  A bike, chainsaw, a kayak, a lawnmower, etc.?  Damn, right?  What to do?  How about having your cat away and not come back?  Sad right?  What to do?

Most people would, as a first step, file a police report and provide all the relevant details:  for a lost or stolen possession, you give the officer the item model, identifying marks, color, unique decals, possible photos (or photos of similar items), where was it last seen, who might have taken it, and so forth.  For a dog or a cat, you provide pictures, the name, collar color, and similar descriptive details. Then, you might put up flyers in the neighborhood and wait…. and wait… hoping that someone will call.

This approach might not feel very satisfactory because of its passive nature.  You are relying on hope, and as the old Yiddish proverb goes, “hope for miracles, but don’t rely on one.”  Aside from lighting a candle or offering prayers to Saint Anthony of Padua, the Catholic Saint of Lost Things, it’s difficult to sit back and wait.

Example EDDM Mailing for a Stolen Bike or Lost Dog

There is a way to use EDDM as a proactive tactic, with some mild precision, to target areas to bring awareness, buttressing your efforts, if you don’t delay too long in the response.  And, the good news is that the approach could also be reasonably affordable.  Let’s look at an actual example of the implementation and strategy to locate a probable stolen bike in New Paltz, NY 12561.  

Step 1:  File the police report

 In this instance, we advised the student who had her bike stolen to go to the local police station and file a formal report.  This step is very important because it brings legitimacy to subsequent steps in the public direct mail process.  Assuming you have descriptive information and potentially any images, you’ll need these anyway for printing a qualifying EDDM card [internal link to a page regarding EDDM physical standards].

Step 2:  Create an Online USPS account or Seek Professional Guidance

You have two options here: 

  • From the internet, create a USPS account to do the EDDM mailing yourself, or
  • Contact a local professional print shop, printer or mailing house such as Cornerstone Services, Inc. to help you do design, printing and mailing fulfillment.  Given the need for a swift response, it might make more sense to solicit professional help. 

Step 3:  Design Your Card

To keep this EDDM mailing fast and simple — and also allow the reader potentially to do this sort of affordable Every Door Direct Mailing himself or herself — we’re just going to recommend you design, print and mail a 4 ¼” x 11” qualifying EDDM mailpiece.  Please click here again for USPS Design requirements. For quick reference, here are two possible ways in which you could design a qualifying 4 ¼” x 11” EDDM card:

Part of designing your card – or having it designed for you – is to ensure that you make the most of your outreach.  Here is our suggested “To Do” List for you for EDDM Card content assuming that you don’t mind the transparency of putting some personal contact info. In the the public realm:

  • Police Report Case #
  • Police Phone Number
  • Your Phone & Email
  • Descriptive Info for the Lost Pet or Stolen Item
  • Reward Details 

You might not have thought about offering a reward, but here’s the logic behind it:  a mild reward for a “no questions asked” returned pet or item both incentivizes a finder to make contact and many good citizens will refuse it anyway. We also suggest a larger reward for “arrest & conviction”; here, in all probability, it is highly unlikely that there will be both an arrest and conviction, so offering this larger reward is probably a safe bet.  The benefit of showing a larger reward is that it makes a stolen item “hot”.  Further, having the police case number and phone number here also highlights the seriousness of the possible crime.  Especially for a lost or stolen bicycle, any theft or finder is going to want to get rid of the bike immediately.

For a lost pet, you’ve demonstrated how valuable the dog or cat is to you and placed significant seriousness to alert the ZIP Code to the importance of the disappearance and need for the pet’s return.  Again, time is of the essence here, so you’ll need a good image and you could include a small Google map (as long as you give credit to Google for doing so).

Lastly here, it’s very important not to clutter the card:  keep the copy simple and use perhaps just one very good image.  If, for some reason, you don’t have an exact image of a stolen bike or lost dog, then you might be able to find a suitable image replacement which gives the EDDM recipient a good example of what he or she should be looking for to help you.  An image is invaluable, and even in black & white (if you don’t have a color photo), we strongly suggest you use it. (Black & White will also keep your printing costs down).

Step 4:  Picking Your Routes

As noted, we had an actual example of helping a recent college graduate find her lost or stolen bicycle in New Paltz NY 12561.  By going to the USPS’s online EDDM tool we selected two (2) routes for mailing.  Naturally, the routes were selected based upon the probable proximity of the lost or stolen bike, but we also relied on some demographic information 

Map# 1

Here is a snapshot of the Village of New Paltz NY near the State University of New York campus, via the USPS EDDM Tool after typing in the “12561” ZIP Code.  The blue “X” was added by us to show you the approximate location of the lost or stolen bike.  No routes have been selected yet. 


Map# 2

We selected two (2) city carrier routes here:  C001 and C004 (City Route# 1 and City Route# 4) which, for residential only destinations, tallied to an approximate 1,275 count.  For reasons of proximity to the lost/stolen item, concentration of student housing and affordability, we didn’t expand further.  Note that the USPS postage alone here will be around $250… not cheap.  The cost might be negligible for the return of a cherished pet, but if you are trying to recover a lost or stolen bike, kayak, chainsaw, lawn mower, etc., you need to start calculating the final viability of putting such funds towards a Craigslist, eBay or Facebook Marketplace purchase of a similar item.



Step 5:  Print Your Card

You can print your qualifying 4 ¼” x 11” EDDM mailpiece card yourself as long as you have designed it correctly, used cardstock and cut it exactly to size.  These essential requirements along with the importance of timing, should once again have you reflect on whether a professional printer or mailer ought to be involved.  But as long as your home printer can handle the volume and cardstock (and ink – you will be using a lot of ink or toner here), you should be able to do this yourself – just be sure that your home printer can handle 8 ½” x 11” cardstock sheets and that you have a paper trimmer which can reliably card these cards into exact 4 ¼” x 11” sizes.   An affordable paper option might be to source your cardstock from by selecting 8 ½” x 11” sized 67 lb.white cardstock ; at 250ct sheets to a ream, this would yield 500ct 4 ¼” x 11” EDDM cards that meet the USPS physical standards requirement.  You only need to print one side — and we recommend only one side — so hopefully printing would be swift.

Step 6:  Preparing & Presenting  Your Mailing

You can turn to the USPS EDDM website page here once again for further guidance on preparing your mailing.  In short, these are the simple steps:

  • Print required Postal Service™ paperwork along with the proper EDDM facing slips to attach to your mailing bundles.
  • Bundle your EDDM Cards in stacks of 50 to 100ct. Note that the USPS encourages people to use #64 rubber bands to keep these stacks sturdy for handling. The largest sized stack should be able to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand between your thumb and ring finger
  • Attach an EDDM facing slip to the front of every bundle after filling out required info onto the facing slip along with the number of pieces in each bundle.

Once you have everything ready, you’ll take it to the local post office which oversees delivery to the carrier routes you selected.  Here, for our example of a lost or stolen bike, we presented this mailing to the USPS New Paltz NY 12561 post office.  It also bears mention that for whatever delays are accredited to the U.S. Postal Service, the New Paltz Post Office delivered these cards in under 24 hours to all residential postal customers. 

Step 7:  Trying Combining the EDDM Mailing with a Facebook Ad or Listing

Many Villages, Towns, Communities, Churches, Social Groups, and others have Facebook pages that would accept an awareness listing — you don’t necessarily have to rely on only direct mail, or, even have to buy an ad listing from Facebook.  The key here is to muster all familiar and affordable resources to work with you and for you.  In the case of a lost of stolen bike, or even a missing family dog or lost cat, you could take the same artwork used for the mailing (with permission) and post it online in such groups.

Conclusion:  Getting A Successful Result

This is a gamble, but if Saint Anthony has favored you, and you were conscious and diligent in your EDDM set-up, then you’ve got a shot at a positive outcome. 

Looking again at the actual 4.25×11 EDDM card that we did, printed B/W one side only on 100 lb. index cardstock, two positive outcomes resulted:

  1. Several good citizens of New Paltz NY called and offered to donate or lend the recent graduate a new or used bike. This was quite unexpected.  Certainly, in a philanthropically minded community with a sense of social awareness, a beneficent display of goodwill is perhaps not surprising.  Interestingly, one Italian resident called not only with an offer to lend the young lady a spare bike that he had, but also with the offer to put a “Sicilian Curse” on the thief (assuming there was a thief) with the assurances that “it always works… never fails!”  (The missing bike’s owner did not inquire further about details of the curse, but a thank you note for the combined offer was nonetheless sent).
  2. The missing bike was returned about 9 days after the mailing went out.  Behind a local town business, the missing bike was discarded, found either by the police or a local resident who lived nearby.  The bike was perhaps moved there from somewhere else –we suspect that it became too “hot” to handle.  We should point out that we have used the term “lost or stolen” because once possession such as this is found and returned to its owner, the owner must first decide whether a further investigation is needed; if so, the object would likely be impounded (not sure what happens to a found pet).  Here, the owner decided (reasonably) that it was more important to get the bike back rather than pursue the matter via criminal investigation.  Since there is no crime upon which to follow up, the item is technically categorized as “lost” and not stolen.


With awareness garnered through this targeted EDDM mailing, and through the keen eyes and cooperation of the New Paltz Police Department as well as a Facebook posting (using the same artwork for the mailing) — and maybe the graces of Saint Anthony — a successful end result was achieved.  The client moved quickly here and all forces came together, demonstrating the power of immediate action via a multi-tiered approach. 

If you elect to try an EDDM card for your missing pet or lost or stolen item, we wish you the best of luck.  A small but effective EDDM campaign is better than relying upon just hope and certainly more genial than invoking “Sicilian Curses” on members of the community.