Although the vast majority of communication is now accomplished through electronic means, shipping remains the only means to get many items from one place to another. Often, the object, product, or document that is shipped is valuable — either in terms of actual monetary value or in terms of personal value. As a result, companies generally provide means to track shipping throughout the journey. Whether a letter or package is being sent to the other side of the city or to the other side of the world, the ability to track shipping is important and can usually be accomplished online or via telephone.
Postal systems throughout the world can vary dramatically with regard to the services they offer and how reliable their service is. Consequently, the ability to track shipping when a letter or package is sent through a nation's postal system may also vary. Not all countries offer the option to track a letter or package sent through the standard mail; however, many countries do offer a variety of options for tracking.
In the United States, for example, a letter or package sent through the standard mail cannot be tracked. The sender, however, has the option to pay a small fee for the ability to track shipping and know exactly where the letter or package is at all times. At the time the letter or package is mailed, the sender will receive a tracking number. With the tracking number, the sender may follow the letter or package through each stop it makes until it reaches its destination by simply inputting the tracking number on the United States Postal Service's website under the "Track and Confirm" option.
For letters or packages that are being sent to an international destination, or that are being sent within a country with a less-than-reliable postal service, there are a number of reputable companies that offer shipping. If the sender chooses to use one of these companies, the option to track shipping is automatically included with the cost of the shipping. The sender will be given a tracking number when the shipment is scheduled and may track the shipment online or through calling a toll-free number at any time during the letter or package's journey.
Regardless of the service used to send a letter or package, the tracking number is crucial. In addition, a sender may wish to consider purchasing insurance for a package if the contents are valuable. Although a shipping company may be able to determine if a package has been lost in shipment with the tracking number, reimbursement may be limited if the sender declined to purchase insurance.