Shipment Exception

What is a shipment exception & how will this impact your packages? Read more below.

Have you ever checked the tracking information for a delivery that you are expecting and found that the package’s status has switched to “shipment exception” or “delivery exception” with little to no explanation? What does this status mean and how can you deal with it if it occurs? A shipment exception is more commonly known as a delivery exception, and it tends to occur when a package has been delayed in transit. Many of the main courier companies use this phrase, so you may see it (or some close variation) whether your package is being handled by FedEx, UPS, USPS, or one of the others.


shipment exception tracking notification


What Is A Shipment Exception?


A shipment exception is the notification you will see on your tracking information if your package has been unexpectedly delayed while it is in transit. This sort of delay can occur for a very wide range of reasons, including an issue with the carrier, a misdirected package, or a problem with the address. Unfortunately, the phrase “shipment exception” does not give you any information about what has caused the delay, which can be very frustrating. If you see this phrase on your tracking information, you may want to call the courier to get further information.


Will My Package Be Late?


There is a good chance that your package will be late if a shipment exception has occurred, because this essentially means that something has gone wrong with the package’s journey. This could range from minor to serious, and might result in a very short delay or a long one. However, the occurrence of a shipment exception does not guarantee that a package will be late; it is possible that the courier will manage to make up for lost time and get the package to the intended recipient for the original delivery date. If you are waiting for an urgent package, don’t despair if you see the phrase “shipment exception,” but do call USPS (or the relevant courier) for an update, as it’s good to get some more detailed information.


packages being delayed for delivery


How Long Will The Delay Be?


This will depend heavily on what has caused the delay. Often, a shipment exception will be resolved quickly and the package will be back on its normal route before you know it, but this doesn’t always happen. There is no way to predict how long the delay will be because different kinds of delays will have different impacts on the package. For example, if your package has been delayed because the address is incomplete or impossible to read, it may be returned to the sender – in which case it will be seriously delayed.


However, if the delay is simply due to the fact that your package has been caught up in holiday chaos or severe weather has caused a problem, the situation might be resolved very quickly. The best thing to do if you see this message is to wait a bit and see if the courier manages to sort it out within a reasonable amount of time. If the shipment exception remains in place, get in touch and find out what’s going on.


What Can Cause A Shipment Exception To Occur?


There are many things that can cause you to see the phrase “shipment exception,” as many couriers use this as a catch-all phrase for any instance in which there has been a problem while transporting your package. However, here are some of the commonest reasons for this issue to arise:


  • Severe weather:


Although most couriers are good at handling issues arising from bad weather, a flash flood, a bad storm, or any other weather that makes driving unsafe can result in a shipment exception. In most cases, severe weather problems should pass quickly, but if the bad weather causes damage to the roads, a shipment exception could be prolonged.


  • Holidays:


Although couriers do their best to plan for the chaos associated with major holidays like Christmas, it’s still very possible for shipment exceptions to occur at this time. Mail carriers often have to play catch-up after the holidays, and this can result in further delays.


  • Customs:


If packages are traveling internationally, customs can cause major delays, as they may hold packages for longer than anticipated. This is beyond the control of the shipping company, and might result in the “shipment exception” status staying in place for several days or even weeks while issues are resolved.


  • Illegible address label:


If an address label is badly written, incorrectly spelled, or has been damaged (e.g torn label or smudged ink), this can cause delays while the courier attempts to deal with the package. Often, if a machine cannot scan it, it will be passed to a human to handle, and this may slow things down, although you should still ultimately get the package if the address can be deciphered.


  • Missing address label:


If the address label gets torn off a package, this will cause a shipment exception as the carrier attempts to determine what the intended destination was. If they cannot determine the destination, it will usually be returned to the sender.


  • Recipient being unavailable:


Often, when couriers try to deliver packages and the person is not at home, the “shipment exception” phrase will be shown. The package will be sent back to the delivery center and re-delivery will be attempted the following day. The recipient should get a slip to indicate that this has happened. Other things can certainly cause shipment exceptions, but these are the major sources of delays among courier companies. All couriers are vulnerable to these issues, so don’t be surprised if you see “shipment exception” or a similar phrase regardless of which carrier you are using.


How Can I Prevent This Kind Of Delay From Occurring?


There is a minimal amount that you can do if you are the sender of the package, and even less if you are the recipient. However, both parties should ensure that the address has been conveyed correctly and that it is free from errors. It is always worth double-checking shipping information, and ensuring that the zip code is present, along with the house number.


Recipients can do little else besides keeping an eye on the tracking information and making sure that they are available on the delivery date if possible. They should also make sure that any dogs or other animals are contained when the carrier is expected, as this increases the chances of the item being delivered successfully.


Senders have a little more power to prevent certain kinds of shipment exceptions. If you are sending a package, it is a good idea to write the address on a second slip of paper and to put this inside the package. If the original address is lost, USPS can use this one to direct the package to your recipient. Senders should also familiarize themselves with any documentation that is needed in order to send the package, and provide this. If a customs form will be necessary, fill this in with full details. If your package will travel by ocean freight, be aware that complicated paperwork is often required. Similarly, senders should avoid shipping any hazardous or banned materials, whether nationally or internationally. This will almost certainly result in delays and possibly the confiscation of the package.


package showing a shipment exception


What Should I Do If My Package Shows A Shipment Exception?


If your package tracking information is showing a “shipment exception,” it is usually best to simply wait for a day or two to see whether this issue resolves itself. Often, if the delay is simply due to the weather or a backlog within the company, it will soon be sorted and the package may even arrive on time, or only a day or two behind schedule. However, if the package is urgent or the “shipment exception” has been showing up for a long time, you might want to call the customer service department for whichever company is handling your package. They may not be able to resolve the shipment exception, but they might be able to give you some more information.


In some cases, an employee will be able to tell you what has caused the delay, and possibly offer an estimate on when the package should arrive. This will depend on how quickly they think the company will be able to solve the problem and get the package back on track. Some employees may prefer not to give an estimate in case this proves inaccurate, so you might not gain much from the call, but it is still worth trying.


If you are a sender and you are aware that a package you have dispatched has been marked with a shipment exception, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the customer (or recipient) and let them know it may be delayed in case they aren’t keeping an eye on the tracking page. This will ensure they don’t waste time waiting in for a package they are expecting, and is generally considered good customer service. Apologize for the delay and offer them a refund if the issue cannot be resolved quickly.


Can I Get A Refund If My Package Has Been Delayed?


In some cases, the sender of an item might be able to get a refund for the shipping costs if the package is delayed. If you have purchased a guaranteed shipping option (such as Priority Mail) and it does not get delivered within the guaranteed period, you can claim your shipping costs back. You cannot do so before the guaranteed delivery window has passed, and if the item is delivered on time, you cannot get a refund even if a “shipment exception” has occurred.


To claim a refund on shipping costs for a delayed delivery, you will need to contact the courier. This can be done online, or you can call the customer services line and ask for a refund in this way. You will probably need to provide your tracking information. If your item gets lost, you may also be able to claim a refund for the cost of the item, but only if you shipped it with insurance. If you did not, you will not be able to claim compensation, although you should be able to recover your shipping costs.


Are Shipment Exceptions Common?


Yes, shipment exceptions are a relatively common occurrence, and it’s thought that around 10% of shipments will encounter this. This number is likely to have gone up during the pandemic, as more mail has been shipped than ever before. Because there are so many potential causes of shipping issues, it’s not uncommon to run into this problem, particularly if you ship a lot of items. You should be prepared for this if you are a business seller.  Even if you only send a few packages per year, you are quite likely to see a shipment exception occur eventually. If it does, the best thing to do is wait for the company to resolve it themselves, unless the item was extremely urgent – in which case, you should contact them.


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Shipment exceptions and mail delays are extremely frustrating for both senders and recipients, but they are often particularly annoying for the recipient, because the recipient will not know what day to expect a package. If you are having to wait at home for the package because it is important or requires a signature, delays can be highly disruptive.


Fortunately, although there isn’t much that you can do about shipment exceptions, you can make it easier to receive deliveries. The best way to do this is to get yourself a Virtual Mailbox from a company like US Global Mail.


This means that you have a physical and secure address that mail can be delivered to, allowing packages to be delivered whether you are at home or not. You can then collect these packages whenever it suits you to do so, and you don’t have to stay at home to sign for mail that has been delayed, making delays far less disruptive.

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