Lost packages can be a significant issue for merchants and customers in the e-commerce era.
Any company shipping packages has experienced lost or damaged shipments. Before companies ship products, due diligence is essential. Larger corporations have automated systems to weigh, measure, and cross-check shipped packages. Smaller companies with less automated systems must double-check delivery addresses to ensure products are packed safely for transportation.
Even with extra safeguards, lost and damaged packages are a significant problem, whether it is due to a packaging error or the carrier’s neglect. Almost every online business will confront this problem in some form, which begs the question: is it the obligation of a business owner to track down missing merchandise, or is it the customer’s responsibility?
When Is a Package Considered Lost?
- Is the package out for delivery?
- Has the online tracking been updated within three days?
- Are there weather delays?
The tracking number is the key to determining if the package is lost. There is the possibility the shipper did not ship it yet. With the tracking details, you can confirm the product is in transit. The tracking progress should update until marked out for delivery.
There are times when the tracking status will not update. The package’s progress is stalled on ‘a label created’ or at a specific terminal without moving. If there are no updates to the shipping progress after three days, the buyer should contact the shipping company. View the details of the shipment if possible to see how long the package has been stalled.
Of course, this does change in inclement weather. During periods of bad weather, major carriers do not guarantee deliveries. Products may sit at checkpoint terminals for weeks until the weather clears. In these instances, be patient and continue to check tracking and weather. The package may not be lost, only held up at a terminal.
Who Is Responsible For a Lost Package?
The seller, or company that sold the products, is the short answer. Suppose the seller printed the incorrect address on the shipping label, failed to include a return address, or improperly wrapped the goods. In that case, the consumer is entitled to a replacement or a refund, no questions asked.
When it comes to other aspects of the shipping procedure out of the seller’s control, they are still ultimately accountable for the product(s). Savvy sellers ship with insurance to cover sent packages. The insurance is great but not as simple as it sounds for the selling company.
Once the package is reported as missing, the claim can begin. Occasionally the carrier can do an internal investigation to determine the shipment is lost. The majority of times, though, a more detailed investigation follows. If showing delivered and the customer did not receive the package, a phone call is placed to the customer and the delivery driver. The questioning helps determine who may be at fault. Claims can take weeks to pay out or be denied entirely after waiting. Many customers do not have the time to wait for the insurance claim to settle.
This is the part that ultimately comes down to the seller. Will the seller: have the customer wait, ship a replacement, or cancel the order? Each scenario and seller is different.
What To Do About It
Once the package is lost or not moving from a destination, contact the seller. You should first contact them via email or something in written, recordable form. This record prevents talking to someone via phone and not having a history of the request. Keep in mind that many times it is not the shipper’s fault for your package’s loss. The contact should initiate the claim to get the ball rolling.
Many large retailers will send you a replacement quickly. Mega e-commerce businesses often rely on independent sellers. It’s not a big deal for mega-retailers to ship replacements, but the cost is felt by independent companies more. Many smaller companies and independent sellers often wait until the initial part of the claim begins. The seller initiates a claim with the carrier and waits to ship another package until determined fraud is not a factor in the lost package. This is especially true when shipping insurance is purchased.
If you are in a rush, contact the seller. When your parcel goes missing, they usually can assist you. One solution for a quick replacement is paying for a new order, and once the claim is finished, the first order can be refunded. If an existing customer, remind the seller of the business relationship and how bad the items are needed. You could request a refund or file a fraudulent charge if a credit card was used as a final option. With respectable companies, this is not too common unless fraud is evident early on. Many companies become hesitant on some orders due to suspicious activity or signals the order may be a fraud. Researching the order and the shipment is part of the process, especially if the package progress show to be delivered.
There are many major online retail players in today’s market, and each of them differs in how they handle the responsibility of lost packages. Here are a few examples:
Many Amazon orders are fulfilled by independent resellers, who are required to mail replacement packages. When a claim is made, the seller has limited time to respond to the claim and reship the package or refund the order. Orders for products stocked by Amazon are quickly reshipped with minimal questions. Many Amazon fulfilled packages are delivered with Amazon delivery with a picture taken of where the box is left. Leaving little to dispute, unless an unwanted porch pirate snatched the delivery. Amazon recommends waiting 48 hours after a package shows as delivered before assuming it is lost.
The majority of items sold on walmart.com come from Walmart, but they have independent merchants selling and shipping packages as well. Walmart encourages buyers to wait two days and check surrounding houses before submitting a claim. After the two days have passed, Walmart does require an investigation before completing the lost package request. For independent sellers, they must wait for Walmart to make a decision and re-ship the package even if tracking indicates the package was delivered.
Smaller Online Retailers
When items are lost, most smaller online vendors are held liable for shipping replacements. Before new products are shipped, it is common to have a claim process. It’s best to read through any shipping policies before ordering from a website that you have not shopped with before. Each company has different approaches based on the items shipped and the level of service offered.
How To File Damaged Package Claims
Delivery of a damaged package is different than one gone missing. How you file a damaged package claim will vary slightly depending on the carrier and where you purchased the products. We recommend reaching out to the seller before filing anything directly with the shipping company. If you do ultimately need to provide a claim carrier, below is the general process:
Step One: Provide Details
Reach out to the carrier and give as much information as you can about your package. This info comprises of contact information for the consignee, the pickup date, package weight, and tracking or reference numbers. Also, be prepared to give a detailed description of the problem. These actions will begin the claims process.
Step Two: Identify Role
The courier will need to know your relationship to the product. For instance, are you the shipper or receiver? Most companies will want the shipper to file the claim and ask the receiver/consignee to contact the company that shipped the product.
When other parties or factors are included in the shipment, determining who files the claim can be difficult. Such as a third-party connection to the shipment or shipping collect. Below are a few scenarios detailing who would file the claim for a lost or damaged package.
Shipper to Receiver on Shippers Account – Most e-commerce purchases ship on the selling company’s account to the buyer/receiver. Claims will need to be filed by the shipping company under whose account the orders shipped. UPS states that a receiver may initiate a claim but recommends the shipper file the request.
Shipper to Receiver on Third-Party Account – Third-party shipping is standard for drop shipping or companies with multiple locations. This happens when someone uses a shipping account not billed to the shipping or receiving address. The account holder should contact the carrier, but the seller’s cooperation will be needed to progress the claim.
Shipper to Receiver on Own Account Collect – Collect shipments are standard in B2B transactions. Companies often want to ship on their account. For these shipments, the receiver can initiate the claim and will be mailed the claim if accepted. The seller/shipper will still be needed to complete the claim along with an investigation.
Step Three: Detailed Package Information
Additional supporting documentation is essential to have on hand. Evidence and documentation are crucial for damaged packages. Photo documentation can expedite the process of receiving reimbursement, noting where the damaged package delivered on the premises can help if not placed in an appropriate location. Delivery location is decisive when packages become soaked because the driver left the item in the rain.
Step Four: Wait
This part is tricky, and the reason for stating the seller/shipper is ultimately liable. The average indicated wait time is ten days for claims to be processed. Most customers do not want to wait until a claim finishes. They want a replacement as soon as possible. Be sure the company you purchase from is willing to send out replacements once a package is reported as lost. Each has its procedures in place for handling missing and damaged shipments.
As a customer, there are limits to what can be done with a damaged or lost package. If a tracking number isn’t updated after three days, contact the seller. They will be an essential part of the claims process.
Be sure when purchasing products online to be sure the company is easy to contact. Look for documentation for shipping and returns in the case of lost or damaged packages. Lastly, keep all details of the information you have for the shipment. If damaged, pictures and specifics on where the package was delivered and the condition of the item. If there is a signature required, mark damages before signing anything.