If you get registered with the post office you can get a number called an MID or mailer ID.
It's something that you should be able to have in encoded in the tick marks on first class letters and flats. It allows people to see where they are in the post office system without having first class tracking.
For those who ship a lot of letters and flats, allowing us to use our own MID's instead of stamps.com's would allow us to provide better service to our customers.
@mcconnon12Yeah, the whole thing is silly. It has taken every "actor" involved making what seem to be obviously not great decisions to land where things are at now.
As I mentioned above, the USPS should just allow people to track this stuff like a regular package, perhaps with the disclaimer that the tracking isn't as in depth or detailed as with packages. I can guess why they ostensibly don't. One, the previous system they used wasn't really sufficient for that, so when they came up with the "new and improved" version they kept it to themselves too, just because that's how the old system was. Because it is ever so slightly less detailed they think it might be a bad customer experience, which people can easily understand that's it's not as in depth, and something is better than nothing. So that's not a good argument. Beyond that, it's just government incompetence I suspect, because there are no GOOD arguments for why the USPS doesn't just freely give this info. I've been shipping stuff for a long time, and back in the olden days when they first came out with tracking for packages it was much the same. They tracked stuff internally, but made customers pay to get the info. When one paid they upped the level of tracking IIRC, but they could have given the more basic level to everybody back then too, as they already had the data. This is the same situation. They too may just wise up and change this someday, as expectations are higher.
Shipping providers... I don't even know. Again no GOOD reason exists. I imagine the number of people who send all/most of their items this way is small-ish. Thousands to be sure, maybe 10s or 100s of thousands, but not millions like ship stuff more regular ways. So they maybe look and say "who cares, not many people do this anyway" BUT whatever the number of people this would be SUPER useful for, this would be useful to almost everybody that ships stuff for SOME of their items.
I guess it's just one of those things that is painfully obvious to customers of these companies, but still never gets done. There are a ton of features like that with all these shipping providers. It's just never at the top of the list to do, even though it'd be really simple. It'd probably be all of a few days of a programmers time, maybe a week or two. Maybe.
To answer your question, there is not a standalone place to just look this stuff up. I read up a lot, including the official USPS documentation on the program. This is partially because of the way the USPS has it setup as a weird business only system that you have to register for. This is off the top of my head, but pretty accurate, but I may get something slightly off...
Basically the USPS makes you sign up for a special business account and get a Mailer ID. This is more or less an account number specific to your mailings. You can then either directly download data and put it into a system you design to put it into a useful format, OR you can delegate that by officially allowing access to data associated with your mailer ID to a third party. You could just look stuff up in their system and get relevant data, but it's not a very user friendly layout, and there is definitely no way to allow a customer access to it.
So even if you have access to the backend database with all this info (Informed Visibility), you can't access data from a Mailer ID that isn't yours or one officially delegated to your account. So nobody can just make an app that accesses ALL IMB shipping info and have a general "track a letter" lookup.
As I understand it Stamps.com/ShipStation use the Stamps.com Mailer ID for all the stuff you print through them. So they DO have access to all THEIR data, hence could have a Stamps.com/Shipstation tracking page. Easily! Like no effort at all. But they don't for whatever reasons above. Stamps.com even has the ability to add your Mailer ID if you have one to their system so it will print with your info, which they should also be able to track as it is "delegated" to them.
As I said Pitney Bowes seems to have a system where at least the sender can look stuff up. I think they designed this for bulk mailers like marketing companies etc. They seem to be the ones that really use all this data most. But I don't think they have a page where a customer can look that info up. I am trying to confirm.
Letter Track Pro has a system whereby you can slap a regular stamp on a letter, apply an IMB with their Mailer ID to it, send it, and then track it with their publicly available tracking page. Customers CAN access this. The problem with their setup is it's all manual. It can't just automatically suck in sales from saaay Shopify, let you print the postage with their IMB, and send it on it's way. I can't be manually entering stuff into their system outside of ShipStation or marketplaces and so on. It's too laborious. For some that may work, but it's just not automated enough for me.
eBay integrated this ability into their system, supposedly because they use PB as their backend for USPS stuff. Somebody said in passing Etsy recently did too, but I haven't confirmed. That's because they see the obvious value of being able to track things WHILE still sending them cheaply. All I want is for a serious shipping services company to see the same obvious value. It'll probably happen eventually, but it's frustrating given that 90%+ of my orders are practical to send this way.
I will end the rant there for now 🙂 I will update this if I hear anything useful from PB or anybody else.