What Are Delivery Exceptions and How to Handle Them

Delivery Exceptions

In the current marketplace, purchasing goods that get delivered to our doorstep is the new normal. And in that market, there is a natural desire and heightened expectation for quick and efficient delivery times. As an eCommerce business, providing consistent delivery rates and times is a part of running efficiently, but delivery delays and complications are an unfortunately natural part of any business. Delivery exceptions occur when shipments experience an unwanted concern or event that influences the delivery date and time. 

Consumers as well as business operators receive notices of these shipping delays and exceptions, which can easily lead to issues down the line if merchants don’t know how to properly anticipate delivery exceptions. In this article we’ll answer the question of “What is a delivery exception?”, as well as explore:

What is a Delivery Exception

In simplest terms, a delivery exception is an exception being made in a quoted delivery date’s expectations. For example, If you purchase items from an online business and for some reason inclement weather affects the transit routes to cause a delay, this would be considered a delivery exception. Consumers receive a notification for these types of delivery delays, and will often contact the merchant for clarification or consolation.

Delivery exceptions occur for a wide variety of reasons but are generally avoided by online eCommerce businesses and merchants for the sake of proper customer service and consistent supply chain management. If a company has a large reputation for delivery exceptions, it’s less likely for consumers to be drawn to purchase goods from that business. This is why it’s crucial as a business owner to stay on top of any of these shipping complications to properly meet customer needs and ensure products arrive as close to when they were intended.

Causes of Delivery Exceptions

While the cause of a specific delivery exception will vary based on each shipment, there are certain common causes for delivery exceptions that can help businesses specifically target problem areas that may cause these delivery complications. Some of the most common causes of delivery exceptions include:

  1. Missing Documentation
  2. Customs and Clearance Delays
  3. Bad Weather 
  4. Unreadable Label – Can be from damage occurring damage or can be missing entirely
  5. Holidays – If not properly accommodated, holidays can cas
  6. Recipient Not Available – If the recipient has chosen to sign for the parcel, unavailability upon delivery can cause delivery exceptions
  7. Shipping Violations – This can be by shipping hazardous materials illegally
  8. Safety Issues – Can be either the safety of the delivery location being in a compromising state for the shipping personnel, usually due to issues with stray animals or hazardous living conditions

Delivery Exception Outcomes

So now that we have a proper answer to “What does a delivery exception mean?” Let’s explore what needs to happen after this unfortunate situation occurs. As a business owner, it’s important to always address consumer needs and find a swift solution in the case of a delivery exception occurring. Ultimately, there are only a few outcomes to a delivery exception which include:

  • The package is delivered on time
  • The package is delivered late
  • The package is returned to the sender

Naturally, the last thing a business owner should want is for the product to never reach the consumer, as this does nothing for generating revenue and positive brand awareness. If a delivery exception occurs, it’s crucial to stay in healthy communication both with the carrier and the customer. Verify that the customer’s information is all correct, and contact the carrier as soon as you receive a delivery exception notice to troubleshoot the specific issue. Smoothing over matters with the customer should be a top priority, and resending the item or issuing a refund is highly suggested, especially for items that advertise quick and consistent shipping.

Carrier Specific Delivery Exceptions

Delivery exceptions are virtually always caused by an event that takes place during the shipping process, and each shipping carrier will have specific delivery exceptions clauses that should be anticipated when choosing to ship items through these services. Some of the most popular carriers and their delivery exception policies include:


When UPS experiences a delivery exception, consumers can expect a very straightforward process. Some of the most common notifications to receive are “address unknown”, “signature not received”, and “address unknown”. Consumers and merchants will receive updates within their tracking information to learn about company shipping processes as well as new shipping delivery dates. The most common issue experienced in “Exception: Action Required” as a notification, as this indicates that the merchant hasn’t provided an efficient amount of information regarding the shipping address.


FedEx experiences its delivery exceptions most frequently in cases of customs delays, documentation errors or omissions, recipient complications, and holiday delivery delays. Any temporary delay that occurs within transit is considered a delivery delay, but the company takes extra measures to ensure that this doesn’t mean that the delivery will necessarily be late. This is why they will usually call delivery exceptions a “status exception” and will give a surplus of information to learn more about the status of the shipment to both the merchant and consumer.


The USPS is one of the largest and most popular used carrier services in the United States as it serves an expansive region of territories for delivery. That being said, USPS is still likely to experience issues and delivery exceptions can happen. When a USPS delivery exception occurs, it’s most likely due to an incorrect address or a federal holiday affecting the delivery time. Delivery exceptions can be seen when the consumer or merchant tracks their package, but delivery notifications can be signed up for to get these notices quicker. 


DHL is a carrier service that deals with many international shipments, which are especially vulnerable to delivery exceptions caused by custom clearance complications. When experiencing a delivery exception through DHL the merchant and customer will receive a notification that indicated the “DHL Shipment is on Hold”. This indicates that an error or issue has occurred within the shipping process and that it should take a week or less to find a solution.

Let ShipCalm Help You Avoid Shipping Exceptions!

ShipCalm seeks to streamline and simplify supply chain management processes, whether that’s in supply management or delivery exceptions that occur during the transit process. We can help identify areas in which your business is vulnerable to delivery exceptions and find quick solutions to a multitude of common obstacles when first developing a business’s revenue and success. While delivery exceptions may be an unfortunately common instance within the shipping industry, Ship Calm can help make these issues minimal and minuscule in the grand scheme of a business’s success. Get a custom price from ShipCalm today to learn more about how ShipCalm can make delivery exceptions an issue of the past!