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When Orders Go Missing

Package and Clip Board

So we’ve gone through all the work to get our orders out, well packaged and on time.  Then a message comes from a customer saying that they didn’t get their order.  Ugh!

Though likely useful for other options, this post is specifically about domestic packages sent with tracking via the United States Postal Service.  I specify tracked because regardless of how much cheaper it can be, it is not in our best interest to send out an order without tracking its delivery.  I can appreciate that there may be an exception to this, however this post is intended for products that aren’t easily replaced due to value or time.

Sellers, have you ever sent an order to a customer and even though it’s marked “Delivered”, your customer tells you that it just isn’t there?  Wait.  What?  That’s awful and if it hasn’t happened to you, sooner or later, it just might!

I hear about this happening to sellers (and obviously buyers) far more often than anyone would like.  A package you sent says that it has been delivered, yet the customer says otherwise.  Or maybe tracking has stopped all together and it’s just missing.  Fantastic.  So now what?

Your once sweet, happy customer has changed.  Now your customer is mean, upset and demanding a refund or replacement “right now!”.  Well, no one wants an upset customer and we certainly don’t want a bad review and/or a case open against us.  Though there are worse things.  For instance; word of mouth can be pretty powerful, both positive and negative.

This missing order really could be ruining your customers event, or at very least, their mood.

When Orders Go Missing

First, tensions may be high, but don’t panic.  Odds are pretty good that your amazing, one of a kind product will turn up.  Sooner or later.  Somewhere.

Missing package

It Wasn't Me!

Before responding to your customer, I recommend that you see if you can do a quick check to confirm that the address on the label (you can see this via the order) is exactly as the Post Office has it.  Knowing this can avoid an unnecessary part of the conversation.  You would have seen this when you purchased the label, but ultimately the customer entered the information.  If it doesn’t say “Verified”, you should confirm with the customer and go from there.

No matter how upset your customer is; when you compose your response, try to do so with understanding and compassion.  Try not to get flustered.  If your customer is being particularly nasty, I find that taking a moment, and a short walk away, helps remove emotion.  Be nice, but try not to apologize.  You don’t want to give the impression that you could be at fault.  A simple and sincere “Oh no!  I’m really sorry to hear this.  Let’s see what we can do.” should work fine.

Some sellers worry that the customer is not being completely honest. I’d like to believe that everyone is basically honest, especially when dealing with small business.  I also realize that this is not always the case, but it does no good to be suspicious.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind, that if the USPS tracked the shipment as delivered, and you used the customer provided address, you are typically covered as far as Etsy and Paypal are concerned.

However, your poor customer!

The following is along the lines of what I tell a customer when their product doesn’t arrive as stated.  The first message I respond with touches on the following:

Please check with your family and neighbors.  Call your local PO asap, give them your tracking number and have them check with the driver.  Mail theft is a serious offense.  The PO will do everything in their power to find your package before they ask you to file a police report.

Yes, I’m asking THEM to call the PO.  Why?  Not necessarily to file a claim, but to track the package from its last know whereabouts.  Then (in some cases) they will need to call the police and fill out a report.  Then with that report, you can file a claim.  Note that just by mentioning mail theft and police reports, you may weed out the potential for dishonesty.

When your customer puts in a trace, between the tracking and the delivery person, the PO should be able to tell them where their package was delivered.  And sometimes it just shows up!

Tips to Give Your Customer

Truck losing packages

If no one else in the house has brought it in and put it somewhere, then even though tracking may say mailbox, maybe check the front door, back door, behind the bushes, etc.  Describe the package as best you can: “It’s in a white or blue small padded envelope and should fit in a standard mailbox” …but if it’s not there, sometimes looking around is in order.

If you still don’t find it, asking your local post office to check with your carrier could help.  Sometimes an item may be delivered to a neighboring address, etc.  If it’s only been a day, hopefully the mail person will have some idea.

Attitudes and Outlooks

Take Away SackGood forward facing shop policies go a long way, and different sellers handle missing orders in different ways.  “Once it is in the shippers hands, it is out of my control.”  This is true and of course they need to know this.  But since we’re the business owners, we’re the professionals.  No, we’re certainly not big players who can afford to just refund or replace, but we can try to help the people who liked our products enough to purchase them.  At bare minimum; empathize.  If an order is just missing, there really isn’t a lot either of you can do.

I’ve found that most customers will follow your lead.  If you are upset and unsure of how to handle the situation, that could come across to your customer and you may get those same emotions mirrored back at you, or worse yet, cause your customer to try to take charge.  Many times if your response is confident, factual, and puts them at ease, they should feel and act less offensive. Since finding shipments is time sensitive (currently 60 days to file an insurance claim), it’s important because you need each others cooperation.

Trying not to accuse the customer of not looking hard enough, not telling the truth, etc. is also in order.  Especially if they refuse.  Still, things happen.  Something just did, now we do our best to fix it.

This link can be used by you and your customer to begin your investigation.

Ultimately The Decision Is Yours

Let me also say that if the package isn’t delivered, is delayed, sent to another far off land …that is unfortunate, but you’re both going to have to wait to see when, if, and where it finally lands.  In any case, you’re going to have to decide.

Consider if it has really been very long.  Is it a busy holiday season?  Were there non-delivery days since mailing?  Is it vital that the customer receive this right now?  Was it expensive?  And so on.

Basically you’ll need to make a judgement call.  For the most part, they should wait a couple of weeks.  If you want to offer a replacement discount, that is nice, and if you can, maybe you should.

When the shipment does arrive, I would probably even refund the shipping charge.  Why?  Did I lose the package and make them wait 3 weeks?  Nope.  I’m the business and they are going to turn around and tell their friends that I suck.  lol  No, seriously, I like to think about how I would feel.  No, I can’t afford to eat the loss, but my customer shouldn’t have to feel unappreciated either.  I see it as a cost of doing business.

If you decide to refund/replace, try to wait 10 business days.  First class can take 2-10 business days. Your customer needs to be patient.  Tell them that you have set-up alerts and you will not forget them.

Be sure to do that!  Go on the USPS website, track the package and see if it will still allow you to request notifications on the movement of the package.  I’ve noticed that for some reason, when orders are lost or stalled, if I request notifications they tend to get moving again.

When all else fails, you may end up deciding it best to refund and file a claim.  Whatever you decide, you should also request that the customer either refuse delivery, or keep the original order should it show up later.

Because most parts take time and several things go on at the same time, it’s hard to create a list, but I’ll give it a shot.

I hope that you found this post useful and I wish you the best!

Continue through if you’d like to see my post about USPS services.

Care to share?