We've shown you how certain courier companies handle their packages and give you some updates on last year's upswing in porch piracy. While these problems persist, there's another issue impacting distribution networks across the globe: parcel delays. These aren't strictly USPS package delays, either. Most major courier companies are struggling to bounce back in the wake of a global pandemic fully.
Though many existing COVID-19 restrictions are already lifted, global shipments are still trying to bounce back. With ongoing USPS delivery delays, backed up shipments, and late deliveries, many of us miss the days when Amazon Prime could still guarantee two-day shipping.
Even though shipment delays might not seem to be quite as serious as parcel damage and shipment theft, they still impact millions of Americans every day. For example, if you depend on regular medication deliveries or send important documents through the post office, you want to know that the shipper or courier will do their best to deliver your shipment on time and in an acceptable condition.
However, there are always exceptions. Maybe you're waiting for a package that someone shipped during a busy holiday season. Maybe the delivery process is held up by manufacturing or component shortages. There are plenty of common reasons why your packages show up past the scheduled delivery date. What's important is that you know what to do when your package is delayed.
See if there was a delivery attempt.
A common cause of delivery exceptions is the failed attempt. If you have to sign for a package and you're not home or the courier driver can't access your property or package drop, they may leave you a memo noting the delivery exception and the reason behind it. While this seems straightforward, delivery exceptions can happen even when you're at home anticipating a package's arrival. Courier drivers are only humans, too, and occasionally make mistakes. Incorrect attempts, mixups, and other delivery exceptions happen all the time. If you've received a delivery exception memo, you should check what it says.
If it's the first delivery exception, most couriers will attempt to redeliver the package on one of the following business days. If it's your second (or possibly your third) delivery exception, some brands will hold the package for a limited time. Past a certain point, brands like USPS, UPS, and FedEx may even return your package to the original sender. While it's rare that there are ongoing receiving issues, it's a good idea to see if anything on your end is backing up a package.
Start with the sender.
In some cases, your sender is the primary holdup. Due to delays, life events, and shortages, it may be impossible for a sender to guarantee a specific delivery window or commit to any particular delivery estimate. For instance, global component shortages delayed Microsoft and Sony's new console releases and impeded delivery estimates worldwide. If you're having an issue with a specific product, it's easiest to contact the original retailer.
At that point, you can discuss delivery exceptions and refund options. Keep in mind that some retailers are inflexible and won't offer a full refund, especially if the delay doesn't have internal causes. If you didn't buy or sell a product directly and used a marketplace like Etsy, eBay, or Amazon Prime, you may have to reach out to a retail representative to resolve the shipping delay or request a refund.
Check the weather.
Global weather conditions impact couriers and shoppers in every corner of the world. In the event of hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, it's often impossible to stick to a delivery guarantee. This can cause package delivery to go into overtime which impacts couriers at both local and international levels. This past winter, many states, including Ohio, saw an uptick in late shipments due to inclement weather, local post office backlogs, and delivery exceptions.
Weather delays aren't uncommon between major shipping players like the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx. All types of weather conditions can impact on-time delivery. In fact, weather can even impact same-day delivery depending on your local courier company and the staff's backlog.
Look up your tracking number.
If you want to better grasp your delivery timeframe, use the provided courier tracking number. Though this looks a bit different between FedEx, USPS, and the like, these trackers often display similar information. When you're looking at a general tracking screen, you'll probably see the current delivery estimate. You can also see if a courier driver made a delivery attempt, the package's current location, and timestamp data for any delivery milestones. Depending on the delivery service, these include label creation, shipment acceptance, the delivery address, and more. Online shopping makes it that much easier to track packages.
Certain shippers also allow you to edit your delivery directly through their website. For example, if you sign up for UPS MyChoice, you're able to specify where the courier driver should leave the package, view your delivery window, track real-time updates, or even request that the courier driver holds your package at a nearby post office or UPS store. This gives customers greater flexibility to determine when and where they pick up their packages.
Beyond that, there are even delivery options like Amazon lockers, P.O. boxes, commercial delivery spots. This tech seems to be bleeding over into retail as well as brands like Home Depot incorporate Amazon-Esque storage lockers for their in-store pickups.
Use courier-specific solutions.
Depending on your chosen delivery service, you'll have some options. For instance, most delivery brands allow you to purchase parcel insurance when buying certain items and shipping others. If there's a delivery exception or your package is well past the guaranteed delivery date, you may be able to file an insurance claim with the seller or the courier. There are also more specific options depending on your chosen service.
Say you ordered something through Amazon Prime. The item shipped via USPS, and it was supposed to show up several business days ago. While you can directly contact Amazon or the seller, it's often easier to cut out the extra step and go to USPS directly. While the postal workers may not be able to tell you precisely where your mailpiece is at a given moment, they can set a memo for your package, and you can request further delivery updates.
Account for technical hiccups.
While it would be nice if all of our techs worked properly 100% of the time, it doesn't always happen. In fact, increased pressure on a supply chain can even strain shipping technology. Sometimes, this delays arrival dates causes inaccurate delivery exceptions, or even alerts buyers that their packages have arrived when they're actually still in transit. Since most major couriers service millions upon millions of people around the planet, high demand and site activity can cause the occasional technical blip. Often, if you directly contact the courier, they'll inform you of any known glitches, bugs, or site issues that may cause shipping delays.
Fill out a missing mail search request.
The USPS also has a missing mail search request function, though you have to ensure you qualify. If you have a package's delivery guarantee, but the item in question is late or missing for more than seven days, you can file a missing mail search request. While you can do this through the postal service's website, you can also visit your local post office to have a representative help you fill the form. USPS asks that, before you fill out the form, you double-check USPS tracking and determine your mail type.
This may be priority mail express, standard mail, or even USPS retail ground. Depending on how delinquent your USPS package is, you'll also likely qualify for a shipping fee refund. While the USPS missing mail search request isn't a perfect tool, it's one of many modern amenities designed to help streamline global distribution networks, enhance shipping speeds, and increase customer satisfaction.
Try your best to be patient.
As modern consumers, we expect quality, speed, and convenience. As more and more of us shop online each day, we need to remember to cut integral brands like the postal service a bit of slack. Though it's frustrating (and sometimes harmful) when your packages aren't delivered on time, there are often uncontrollable factors behind the delay. Sometimes, in the shipping and distribution industry, a package's arrival is truly out of your hands. Unforeseen delays, inclement weather, traffic, and high-volume shipments all have a way of impacting the overall supply chain.
As the world continues to recover from COVID-19, it appears that supply chains must still continue to adapt. Though we can try to forecast how retail shipping behaviors will change as more and more stores resume in-person operations, it's difficult to surmise which customers will stick to a primarily digital shopping experience and which will return to brick-and-mortar shops. What the past year has shown us, however, is that buyers, sellers, couriers, and packagers need to have scalable solutions in place to ensure their distribution networks aren't halted by global events. It's likely that the pandemic has already inspired the next wave of shipping milestones and it'll be fascinating to see how this affects all parties moving forward.