Bummer: your USPS package is stuck in transit. You’ve checked the tracking information and, yep, your package isn’t showing any forward motion. If you’re an eCommerce merchant, the customer has likely noticed too and that’s its own headache. What can you do?
Once USPS initiates the process of delivering your package, it’s labelled “in transit.” For domestic shipments, a USPS package stuck in transit in a USPS sorting depot. For international shipments, it could be stuck with USPS or at customs.
Your package could be stuck in transit for many reasons: loss, damage, or even a USPS tracking system failure. More likely, though, the short-staffed US Post Office has misplaced, mislabelled, or simply overlooked your package. This means it can be located easily enough once you call attention to its absence.
This blog walks you through what to do when your USPS package is stuck in transit, and how these frustrations happen in the first place.
What Does “Stuck In Transit” Mean?
The tracking information says your USPS shipment is stuck in transit. Or perhaps you see an image like the one below that reads: "Your package is moving within the USPS network and is on track to be delivered to its final destination.”
This notification is how USPS tells you that your package is still en route to be delivered. However, it doesn’t mean that anyone at USPS actually knows where your package is at this time.
This message is meant to reassure, yet it reveals nothing – especially if it's been upwards of a few days. To understand how this happens, it helps to understand how USPS moves packages to their destination.
The life of a USPS package begins with USPS accepting your package at the local post office. Next, your package is picked up from the Post Office by a USPS freight driver who transports your package toward the end destination. Your package is scanned before being loaded onto the departing truck, and now appears as “in transit” in the USPS tracking system.
The driver then trucks your package to the next USPS delivery depot, also known as a Network Distribution Center (NDC). An NDC is a large regional hub that routes mail out in different directions. Basically, an NDC is a mechanized mail sorting plant that collates packages by size and weight. Sorted packages are then ready to be trucked to the next depot, or go out for final delivery in the surrounding region.
Whenever your package reaches the next distribution center, the shipping label is scanned and the tracking information updates with its new location. Except...when it doesn’t.
Basically, a “stuck in transit” message means that your shipment hasn’t been scanned at any distribution depot in the last 24 hours. You know it arrived at the last location, but what happened next...well...it’s anybody’s guess.
Why Is Your USPS Shipment Stuck In Transit?
USPS ships upwards of 129 billion pieces of mail every year. As you might expect, amidst all the moving pieces, things can go amiss.
Here’s a list of potential reasons why your USPS package is stuck in transit:
- Wrong/incomplete address: The most common reason shipments aren’t delivered. If this is the issue, you simply need to contact USPS to fix the address and your package will continue on its merry way.
- Mis-sorted: Thousands of packages flow through USPS sorting facilities every day, and sometimes packages land in the wrong area.
- Lost: It happens, unfortunately. Your best recourse is to file a claim and ask for a refund if possible.
- International Customs: Cross-border shipments can get stuck at customs for many reasons, including errors in customs documents, unpaid duty or taxes, or the package contents are prohibited.
- Environmental forces: From traffic to bad weather, packages can get slowed en route by physical conditions that impede trucks from carrying your package.
- Weight/size issues: If a depot realizes that your package is overly large or heavy for the shipping label, it can halt progress on the shipment until you pay the difference.
- Improper packaging: Couriers reserve the right to halt delivery if a package is perceived as unstable or dangerous to move. If your package has come apart due to poor packaging, this could be the cause.
Whatever the cause, it’s best not to panic or overreact. Most mail lost in the USPS system is found. Plus, most USPS packages are automatically insured for $50-$100.
Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you try to figure out why your USPS shipment is stuck in transit:
- Tracking statuses may take 24-48 hours to update.
- Refer to your estimated delivery time. If you’ve shipped via Overnight and it's a day late, maybe wait a day. But if it’s been four days, something is most definitely amiss.
- Distance between distribution centers can be hundreds of miles. Meaning, it can take a couple days in some cases for the tracking information to update, especially with slower USPS delivery services. If you shipped Priority Mail or First Class, though, it shouldn’t take more than a day to update.
What To Do If Your USPS Shipment Is Stuck In Transit
It’s impossible to know what your “USPS shipment is stuck in transit” message means. Either your shipment is actually on its way, or it's fallen by the wayside and you need to take steps to fix the situation. Here’s what Easyship recommends:
1. Contact The Recipient Immediately
Being proactive is the best remedy to the blowback that results from package delays. Contact the recipient to let them know you’re on top of it. Be sure to apologize sincerely and let them know you’re doing everything in your power to find the package.
Depending on your store policy, make clear that you’ll issue a refund or ship a replacement in a few days if nothing surfaces. Bad shipping experiences are a primary reason that costumers abandon online merchants, so it’s best to act quickly on customers’ behalf.
2. Contact Your Local Post Office
Bring your tracking information and ask staff at the local Post Office to help you. Or call and ask to speak with the post office supervisor. Either way, get someone to look into what’s wrong. Being friendly and patient with the postal employees is the best way to get a quick and thorough response.
3. Submit a Search Query Online
If the postal service employee can’t help you – or you just prefer to do things online – submit a customer service request via the online portal on UPS.com.
USPS will launch an inquiry into where your package is and email you the findings. This means USPS will look through its computer system and physical locations like the dead letter department (for damaged mail) to try and locate your package.
4. Follow Up
Hopefully, USPS will be able to locate your stuck shipment and get it moving again. You should hear back within a day on any developments from your online query.
If your shipment isn’t found, make sure to update the recipient as soon as possible. Then, do what you can to make amends. Many shoppers are agreeable to a replacement item shipped post-haste.
If your shipment was insured, and most are to some amount, file a claim online. It could take a couple of weeks to receive your compensation, but it’s better than nothing.
Your USPS Shipment Is Stuck In Transit
USPS shipments get stuck in transit every now and again. Whenever a package is stuck in transit with USPS, it’s best to wait a tick to see if it moves.
If a day passes to no avail, get in touch with your local Post Office or file a query online. Make sure to contact the package recipient to mitigate the bad feelings from a delayed package. Then, just cross your fingers and hope your package turns up. If not, you can file for an insurance claim – but this may be too little too late.
If you want to ship with a more reliable courier but still pay cheap USPS prices, you can create a free account with Easyship. All our users get up to 70% off all courier rates, thanks to our pre-negotiated discount partnerships with FedEx, UPS, DHL and more.
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