Key Points:

  • A delivery exception is when a shipment encounters an unexpected event which can change its delivery date
  • Custom delays, extreme weather conditions, federal holidays, and damaged labels are all reasons why your order is delayed
  • The duration of a shipment exception depends on what caused the delay, but most are resolved in under 7 days

Timely delivery is one of the most important things to potential eCommerce customers. And so you do your best as an online merchant to meet shoppers’ expectations. But no matter how much thought and care you put into your delivery process, unexpected delays can result in a delivery exception.

A delivery exception is when a shipment encounters an unexpected event which can change its delivery date. Receiving a delay notice from carriers can frustrate your shoppers. In turn, customers turn to you for support.

This is why it's important to learn about delivery exceptions and how to handle them. Using Easyship will help you with shipment exceptions by automating these notifications, so you never miss a beat with concerned customers.

Read this article to learn how to handle delivery exceptions, why these exceptions happen, and how to smooth over the delivery process for customers.

Table of Contents

What is a Delivery Exception?

Most people wonder: “what is a delivery exception?” A delivery exception, or a shipment exception, is when a delivery date is changed due to an unforeseen circumstance.

Basically, a delivery exception is a notification that alerts the recipient to the fact that their package has encountered an issue during transit.

Even with sophisticated processes and shipping technology, courier services run into issues when your packages are in transit.

Regardless of these delays being unintentional, shipment exceptions can result in frustrated customers. This isn’t always the case, however. Some products do arrive on time, even after encountering a shipment exception.

4 Types of Delivery Exceptions

Not all delivery exceptions are created equal. There are several different types of shipment exceptions, and couriers handle these exceptions differently.

Incorrect Address and Label Damage

Incorrect shipping addresses or damaged labels result in delivery glitches. To avoid this, be sure to double check the recipient’s address before sending. Even one wrong number in a zip code or apartment number can cause problems. Carriers often return packages with the wrong address to the dispatch station or sender, which can lengthen delivery times.


Delivery exceptions commonly arise due to the increased volume of shipping around holidays. During peak seasons, make sure that all shipment information is correct, including the package weight, dimensions, and pick-up times. Being thorough is the best way to avoid delivery disruptions during these periods.

Pick-Ups and Deliveries

Pick-up exceptions occur when the carrier can't find the delivery address, or address for a scheduled pick-up. In this scenario, you should re-submit the pick-up request and provide another time for the carrier.

Delivery issues occur in several situations. For example, a delivery cannot be made due to an incorrect address, harsh weather conditions, damaged labels, or the recipient is not available to sign for the shipment.

Loss and Damage

Despite the safety measures of shipping companies, accidents happen. When accidents occur in transit, carriers often put the shipment on hold rather than proceed with delivery.

In these cases, damaged shipments are returned to the initial dispatch station with a damaged note attached. To minimize damage risks during transport, ensure that your products are packed carefully. Like damages, shipment losses can occur occasionally. If a shipping company realizes that a shipment has gone missing and can’t be delivered, you’ll receive a loss exception.

FedEx Delivery Exceptions

FedEx issues delivery exceptions for customs delays, holiday hangups, missing documentation, and if no one is home to receive the package.

The company states that “An exception occurs when a package is temporarily delayed while in transit,” but that “every effort is made to deliver every package as soon as possible, so an exception does not necessarily denote a late shipment.”

You might receive a notice using the code “PMX.” This simply means that the shipment couldn’t be delivered during the courier’s normal route, so it was returned to a delivery station for the night and delivery will be re-attempted the next day.

Learn more about FedEx delivery exceptions here.

USPS Delivery Exceptions

For USPS delivery exceptions, incorrect addresses and holidays are the most common reasons for delayed deliveries. If your package has been delayed, you will see an exception notice when you try to track your package.

UPS Delivery Exceptions

UPS delivery exceptions occur “When a package or shipment encounters an unforeseen event, which could result in a change to the expected delivery day.”

The company uses language like “address unknown, “damage to shipment, “ or “signature not received” to denote the different types of exceptions.

If you receive an exception notice from UPS, you'll see it when you log into your courier account, or try to track a package. The notice will usually include a reason for the exception and a new estimated delivery time.

DHL Delivery Exceptions

DHL customers may see a notice that reads: "Your DHL shipment is on hold." This is DHL's version of a shipment exception but it's the same as all the rest. The package has encountered a delay that should take less than a week to be resolved.

5 Reasons for Delivery Exceptions

Despite a significant number of online shoppers receiving their orders on time, below are some causes of exceptions.

1. Customs Delays

If you’re used to international shipping, you'll understand that challenges abound. Packages might be held at customs longer than expected, for example. To avoid this, eCommerce businesses should have the proper harmonized codes and documentation to facilitate seamless shipping.

2. Harsh Weather Conditions

Bad weather can cause problems, of course, but freak conditions like wildfire, floods, and tornadoes can render delivery routes totally impassable, causing significant delivery delays. These unpredictable instances, which are beyond human control, can result in courier companies issuing exception notes.

3. Federal Holidays

Shipments can also be delayed if the expected delivery date is on a national holiday. That’s because couriers sometimes don’t operate on holidays - like Christmas Day - so shipments can’t be delivered.

4. Damaged and Missing Labels

An exception can also occur if a shipment label is damaged or missing because the courier can’t find the delivery address or scan the barcode. This can cause significant delays.

5. Nobody to Receive the Package

Most carriers have guidelines dictating that clients should sign on delivery of a package. Therefore, if no one is around to receive the package and sign for it, an exception notice may have to be issued. In most situations, delivery is rescheduled for the next day. Additionally, clients are advised to leverage delivery management tools from their carriers to schedule where, when, and how their deliveries should be done.

How to Handle a Delivery Exception

Delivery exceptions happen, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a problem for your eCommerce business. If you handle shipment exceptions quickly, you can mitigate most customer complaints that may negatively impact your sales in the future. Here are three things you can do:

1. Contact the carrier immediately

You should contact your courier as soon as possible to find out where your package is. Ask them what the problem is, and what’s the best way to solve it; if the customer has the tracking information, they can do this, too.

2. Contact the customer

If the delivery address is wrong, you may need to contact the customer to get the right address. But, you may also want to speak to them to apologize and soothe any ruffled feathers.

3. Resend the package or issue refunds

If an exception led to the package not being delivered, negotiate with the customer to resend the package, or issue a full refund. Having good shipping insurance cover may provide compensation for goods damaged during transit.

How Easyship Helps With Delivery Exceptions

Easyship was designed to give you the easiest shipping process from start to finish. As such, the company has several measures in place that can help you handle a delivery exception:

  • Preventing exceptions: Easyship’s platform notifies you if there are any anticipated problems with deliveries, such as bad addresses. It also allows you to automatically generate shipping labels and pre-filled customs declarations to minimize these issues. You can also edit information - such as addresses - later in the fulfillment process
  • Insurance: Easyship allows you to insure your shipments for up to $10,000. Plus, the claims process is fast and easy. Perhaps more importantly, the platform offers flexible insurance settings so that you can get exactly the type of coverage you need for your shipments
  • Tracking: If you book a shipment with Easyship, both you and your customers will be able to track the package while it’s in transit. This will help you stay on top of any exceptions that might come into play
  • Swift responses: The Easyship customer service team can quickly respond to any concerns about exceptions. They can also handle claims for lost or damaged packages in transit

Avoiding Delivery Exceptions With Easyship

Some delivery exceptions can be avoided, while others – like inclement weather and federal holidays – cannot. This is why eCommerce businesses should have measures in place to deal with shipment exceptions in a way that results in happy customers. Checking addresses, labels, and customs forms, for example, will help, as will engaging the services of a reliable shipping solutions company, such as Easyship.

You can create a free Easyship account for instant access to discounted pre-negotiated carrier rates up to 91% off retail. Sign up for free here.

Delivery Exceptions FAQ

How long does a shipment exception last?

The duration of a shipment exception depends on what caused the delay, but most exceptions are resolved in less than seven days.

What does delivery exception damaged mean?

When a package has been damaged in transit, the label is missing, or the label has become unusable, carriers apply the label "damaged" to the delivery exception.

What does delivery exception no attempt made mean?

This notification appears when the carrier employee made no attempt to delivery the package. This could be for a variety of reasons, including inclement weather, vehicle problems, driver error, or personal issues on the part of the delivery driver.