USPS never ceases to amaze me. Yes, they do handle a lot of packages daily that get to their destinations with no problems – I’ll give them that. But they do have a lot of lost packages and it’s something we have to deal with occasionally. As online sellers, it is our responsibility to get the purchase to the buyer. We are liable for the package until it’s marked as delivered, even when in USPS’ hands. Even if you have some type of disclaimer on the policies page, you are still the responsible party according to any of the marketplaces and Paypal.
As a seller, what do you do for lost packages?
- Communicate with your buyer. Educate them that delivery estimates are not always accurate especially during inclement weather and holidays. Ask your buyer to be patient and give it a few days to a week. This is for shipments within the United States. For international packages, delivery can take 6 to 8 weeks, sometimes more for first class international especially if there are customs delays. Make sure to educate your international buyer regarding this. Once tracking shows that it has entered the receiving country and cleared customs, delivery only takes a few days normally following this. Keep a calm, cool, and level head about yourself and don’t respond to messages in anger – even if their message to you is.
- File a Missing Mail Search Request. You will need your tracking number, both your address and the buyers, the contents, and shipping container description. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t but occasionally it does get lost packages moving to their destinations.
- Contact your local carrier and if possible, have your buyer do the same. If the package was sent with insurance and/or Priority mail (includes $100 of insurance), you are more likely to get help finding the missing shipment.
- If the lost package was insured or included insurance, file a claim. If it was insured with a 3rd party insurance, follow the directions for filing a claim with them. Insurance benefits the seller, not the buyer. It is your responsibility to purchase the insurance if you deem it necessary. I would recommend this on fragile and high priced items. Unfortunately, if your shipment does not include insurance, you have no other recourse.
- Once it’s known if the package is completely lost with no hope of recovery, it is up to you what happens next – either refunding your buyer in full or reshipping out their order if possible.
Tracking shows delivered but buyer says they never received it, what to do next?
Well luckily if the tracking shows delivered, you are no longer responsible for the package. If a buyer files a claim on Etsy for nondelivery, the claim will be immediately closed. Ask your buyer to check with neighbors, their spouse, children, or roommates. Maybe they accepted the package without telling the recipient. Have the buyer talk with their postal delivery person and visit their post office. Sometimes USPS can track the GPS coordinates of the location where the package was scanned as delivered and track down the package. It’s worthy to note that occasionally packages are scanned delivered before they are actually out for delivery. I have seen it many times in small towns. Something to be aware of.
Most people are honest, good people and are telling the truth; however, there are a handful of people that are liars and are trying to get free product. You have to assess the situation and decide for yourself whether to believe them or not and how far to take customer service. Don’t replace the item and take a chance on negative reviews or reship (if you can) and lose the money. That is a decision that every seller has to make.
What I did that reduced the number of lost packages
I ship out on average over 300 packages a month. Some months there would be no lost packages and some months more than a few would come up missing. I would say 90% of my packages ship in poly bubble mailers.
On a whim, I decided to purchase colored bubble mailers instead of the standard off-white poly bubble mailers. My customers really liked getting pretty pink and purple mailers in the mailbox and it was better for my branding. It wasn’t until about 6 months into using the colorful mailers that I started to notice I hadn’t had any missing packages. Not a one! I made note of it and thought it was a fluke. Month after month, still no missing packages. In nearly 2 years time, less than 5 packages have come up as totally lost packages and every single one lost shipped in something other than a colored mailer.
You’re probably saying to yourself that is crazy. I thought so to until I really thought about it. If I had to guess, a lot of shipments are lost because they get dropped on the floor, rolled under something, shoved in the corner, or fell out somewhere whether it be at a sorting facility or in a mail truck. The off-white mailers just sort of blend in with their surroundings. The ones I used were actually the same color as the flooring in my local post office. I can totally see how it can get dropped and be unseen. Being a bit more unique and a loud color, postal workers can’t help but notice them.
The packaging is also a lot more memorable to customers. In the world we live in, everyone has a ton of packages delivered regularly. A bright pink bubble mailer stands out against a sea of off-white, Kraft, and white – packaging that everyone is used to.
They help immensely with the buyers that said tracking said delivered but they didn’t have the package. When I would ask them to check with neighbors and family members and described the package to them, most would come back with “oh ya, my husband says it is in his truck” or “I totally remember getting that” or something similar.
This is not fool-proof but I am a believer. Try it out for yourself and see if you notice any difference. I would love to hear from you if you do.
If you’re wondering where I purchase my mailers, the cheapest I have found is Value Mailers on eBay. They are a bit more pricey than standard mailers, but in the long run a lot less hassle than missing packages.