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What is a delivery exception?

Delivery Exception

We live in a society where you, as online shoppers, expect to get what you want when you need it. Maybe you’ve even checked your tracking status before and saw that it was marked as an exception with an impacted delivery date.

While shipping carriers will make every effort possible to ensure that packages meet their delivery dates, there are many instances where the ability to deliver on time is outside of everyone’s control. It happens — that is life, after all.

But let us understand the "delivery exception" basics and see how we can resolve it.


What does delivery exception mean?

A delivery exception is when a package is temporarily stalled in transit for an unforeseen reason and could affect when it arrives at its destination.

Note: A delivery exception does not mean a late shipment, but there was a roadblock (sometimes literally) that halted progression or required attention somewhere along the journey.

5 common causes of delivery exceptions

While the overwhelming majority of online shoppers receive their packages on time, it’s still likely that you will encounter delivery exceptions. Here are the typical culprits.

  • Customs delays - International shipping does not come without its challenges. A shipment may encounter delay if the customs flag a package. It may include package reviews, port delays, incorrect tariff codes, and others. Packages often get held up at customs longer than expected, which can result in missed delivery dates.

  • Federal holidays - Packages may be delivered late if a national holiday occurs — either in the country of origin or the destination country — while a package is in transit. If it is a federal holiday, shipping carriers will not be operating. Because of the day off, it is not uncommon for carriers to be further delayed from needing to play catch up due to a backlog of shipments.

  • Weather conditions - If there is a weather issue or natural disaster (e.g., hurricane, tornado, wildfire, or flood) that renders a delivery route unpassable, the package will likely be delayed. These types of unpredictable delays beyond anyone’s control, known as “acts of God,” are usually regional.

    Many carriers will have contingency plans in place and the shipment will arrive as soon as it can be resumed in the affected area.

  • Loss and damage - Despite all the safety measures of shipping carriers, accidents can happen. If an accident happens during transit, carriers usually put the shipment on hold instead of going ahead with the delivery. Subsequently, they return the damaged shipment to the initial dispatch station after attaching a damaged note. Other than damages, instances of shipment losses happen occasionally.

  • No one was home to receive the packagePackages may be delayed if they require a signature upon reception and no one was home to accept the package. When a recipient is unavailable, delivery is re-attempted the next day in most cases.


3 outcomes of a delivery exception

Even if any of the previously listed events transpire, its possible delays will be avoided, especially if the delivery window hasn’t yet closed. Here’s what may happen.

  1. The package is delivered on time anyway
    Sometimes a delivery exception is just a proactive notice that your package may be delayed for a variety of reasons (like inclement weather), but it shows up on time anyway.

  2. The package is delivered late
    Delivery exception delays are usually relatively short; Oftentimes, delivery exceptions arrive the next day (for instance, if no one was home on the first delivery attempt, the carrier will try again the next day).

  3. The package is returned
    If the carrier cannot deliver the package (e.g., because of an incorrect address or label damage), then it may have to be returned to the sender.


How should you respond to delivery exceptions?

Depending on the cause of a delivery exception, you may need to take certain actions. Here’s what to do if you notice an exception while a package is in transit.

Contact the local carrier

Contact your carrier to determine what exactly is going on. You need to know if the package is simply going to be late or if it’s lost and may never arrive. Make sure you have your tracking information handy.

  • International tracking number - tracking number stated on your shipment notification email is the international tracking number 

  • Local tracking number - If the parcel has arrived in the designated countries, it will be handed over to the local carrier (i.e., USPS or OnTrac). You will need the local tracking number in order to communicate with the local carrier. You can also find the local tracking number at the bottom of our tracking page after inputting your order details.

Here’s how to speak to a person at the local carrier:

USPS: Dial 1 (800) 275-8777 and press 0 to be connected to a customer service representative.

OnTrac: Dial 1 (800) 334-5000 and connect with the customer service representative


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