What To Do About A Damaged, Stolen, or Lost Package

Published on March 24, 2022
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Filed under Shipping Basics
Read time 12 Minutes

Shipping is not without its share of unknowns. Lost and damaged products are something any ecommerce business has to worry about and will eventually confront. Dealing with this process with customers that may live on the other side of the planet can be challenging, but there are (luckily!) ways to make it simpler. 

Why Packages May Not Get Delivered

There are a few reasons why a parcel does not make final delivery. Let’s take a look at the most common scenarios. 

A Package Was Lost in Transit

If a package’s tracking has not been updated in a few days, it is possible that the package has gone missing while in transit. It could also have been misplaced at a sorting facility. Whatever the case may be, when a customer reaches out for answers, you should submit an inquiry with the carrier. 

For FedEx and UPS, the sender of the parcel will need to submit a standard claims form. The postal service, however, has an additional option for missing USPS mail. Note that the USPS will begin searching for a missing parcel after a parcel has not had movement/been delivered 7 days after you submit the initial request. So you may need to advise your anxious customers to be patient for a few more days. 

Does the Service Have Tracking? 

Simply because a tracking number was created does not mean that the shipment will have tracking. Some services like First Class Flat Envelope don’t have tracking. It is possible that the tracking has not updated because the tracking number is more of a reference number. 

There Was Not a Mail Receptacle at the Address

This is an issue with USPS specifically. A parcel can be returned if there was no receptacle (mailbox) at the address provided or the receptacle was damaged too much for delivery to be made. 

It Was Delivered To The Wrong Address

If the tracking information shows the package was delivered but your customer hasn’t seen it, the first thing to check is if it l was delivered to the wrong address. To confirm, double-check the address on the label against your shipping platform. If the address on the label was that of the intended recipient, the claims process will be much simpler. However, if the address was entered incorrectly by the customer, it could be more complicated. 

Another option could be that the carrier’s address verification system didn’t have the customer’s address logged the same way the customer does. For example, some carriers only update their address databases every quarter. So, it could be possible that the carrier changed the address provided to match another address in their system. Follow the claims process as usual in this situation. 

A Package Was Stolen

Theft is, unfortunately, a common reason packages go missing. Even if the parcel was marked as delivered, carriers like UPS and FedEx require the sender of the parcel to file the complaint. In these cases, ask the customer to file a police report if they want to, but you will need to file the claim. 

How to File a claim with the Carrier

To file a claim, you need to know what the process is for each carrier. Each carrier has different turnaround times and requirements. Follow the links in each article to fill out a claim with a carrier directly. 


USPS can be more time-consuming than other carriers when it comes to filing a claim. This is in part because the USPS is so large. They deal with everything from missing letters to large parcels. As noted on the USPS claims page, COVID has also slowed its response times on claims. The USPS also has a separate international claims page


FedEx has a very detailed claims process that, while thorough, is usually pretty clear-cut. You can file a claim for a missing parcel up to 9 months after the shipping date. And their claims portal allows you to file a claim on the shipments of up to 200 unique tracking numbers at a time. 


Amazon has long been championed by customers for approving claims of lost or damaged merchandise. This has sometimes come at the expense of merchants’ profit margins. But Amazon’s claim process for merchants is also pretty straightforward. 


For account holders, UPS requires senders to file the claim. If you use ShipStation Carrier Services, please note that the claims form is within ShipStation

Tips to Avoid Missing or Stolen Packages

Signature Confirmation

Signature confirmation may be more expensive, but it is the best way to ensure that packages are delivered correctly. There is virtually no chance of theft and it allows merchants and customers to rest easy. Of course, this added expense makes it less likely that signature confirmation will be used on lower-cost items. But if you sell expensive items such as cellular phones or jewelry, signature confirmation has become standard. 

Hide Parcel/Use Back Door

Encourage your customers to leave specific instructions about where to hide packages upon delivery. 

Consider Shipping Insurance

Shipping insurance is a great way to ensure that any lost or damaged parcels get their full refund. While some services have limits on what is covered, you can always purchase additional insurance to cover high-value items.  

Shipping insurance covers theft or lost packages, but it’s important to know an insurer’s terms and conditions. For instance, some insurance providers will reject a claim if you have any identifiers as to the valuable content inside. For instance, they may reject a claim if the package has any logos on it. This is especially true for high-dollar items like jewelry or parcels going to international addresses. 

Helping Customers with Lost or Damaged Merchandise

You want to keep your customers happy and returning to you in the future. As a result, you will need to cater to them and their lost or damaged merchandise. 

Note: If they can return a damaged item, ask them to complete that process. ShipStation also is a big help for dealing with customers’ returned merchandise

Replace Item

While dealing with the claims process from the carrier or marketplace, don’t wait to begin reconciling the issue with your customer. If you’re able to replace the item, go on and do so. 

Offer Store Credit

If an item is not able to be replaced within the customer’s preferred timeframe, offering store credit may be an alternative. An added incentive can be to include coupon codes as part of the reimbursement. 

Give the Customer a Refund

Keep in mind that 85% of consumers believe it’s the retailer’s responsibility to ensure products are delivered as expected. Offering complete refunds is never a desirable outcome, but doing so when it’s in the customer’s best interest will protect your brand in the long run.

How ShipStation Helps Prevent Lost or Stolen Merchandise

Branded Tracking Updates

ShipStation’s branded tracking feature allows merchants and customers to track parcels as they are delivered. We automatically reflect tracking events after the carrier updates them. Whether viewing statuses within the shipments grid or through tracking or delivery emails, you and your customers can always stay in the loop on a given parcel’s status. 

If you are a customer and your package was not delivered or has not made tracking updates in a few days, reach out to the merchant you bought it from for the best next steps.

Easy-to-Apply Shipping Insurance

ShipStation makes it simple to use automation processes to apply either carrier or third-party insurance to any orders that you ship. 

Simplified Returns

ShipStation makes the returns process simple. Whether you send return labels with outbound parcels or you need to manage returns after a parcel is delivered, we can help support your workflow. Customers expect a seamless ordering process, and this is true of any returns or dealing with damaged merchandise. ShipStation’s Branded Returns Portal can help. 


Having a good strategy for lost, damaged, and stolen shipments is crucial for ecommerce businesses. While it’s impossible to rule out the possibility of lost or damaged products, having a plan in place for what to do in such situations helps protect your profit margins, your customers’ purchases, and your brand image. ShipStation can help streamline your shipping and keep your shipments moving smoothly. To see how we can help you ship, track, and manage the returns of your packages, try ShipStation free for 30 days

Written by

James Messer

James Messer is a copywriter specializing in shipping, logistics, and ecommerce.

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