What Is a FedEx® Shipping Exception?

By February 14, 2019 FedEx, News, Shipping Knowledge

A customer checks the status of a package via FedEx tracking, but instead of viewing the expected shipping details, the customer sees an “exception.” As a result, they get worried, especially if that shipment is time-sensitive, and reaches out to the retailer to ask about the exception code and how it affects the package.

Retailers that ship frequently may experience the occasional exception message. If you haven’t yet experienced this, you might have questions. For example, will the package be late, and if so, can you expect a refund from FedEx?

The good news is that shipping exceptions don’t always translate to late packages. There are many situations that trigger this code, and understanding each potential situation assists with explaining the details to customers and communicating what to expect.

Shipping exceptions: understanding the basics

The majority of FedEx customers receive packages on time. In fact, packages are delivered when promised over 98 percent of the time. As a result, receiving an exception message is rare. Regardless, this message triggers worries about the package and its potential delivery date. The following FedEx explanation provides details about the exception code.

An exception occurs when a package is temporarily delayed while in transit. Every effort is made to deliver every package as soon as possible, so an exception does not necessarily denote a late shipment. The status exception explains the most recent exception in the scan activity section.

The term “PMX” refers to a p.m. exception, when a shipment is returned to a delivery station for the night because it was undeliverable during the courier’s route. Such a delivery exception may occur because the package was incorrectly addressed, a recipient was unavailable, etc. In many cases, delivery is re-attempted the next day.

Exception codes can also be triggered by other situations, some of which are beyond the control of FedEx; for example, a hurricane strikes an area in the path of delivery, temporarily stopping or delaying shipment of a package; a wildfire closes down a major highway, disrupting normal delivery routes and slowing the movement of packages; or a flood occurs in the delivery zone, making it impossible to deliver a package on the date promised.

One person checking the status of a package was surprised to view the exception code online, so the customer checked his email and had received the following message explaining the situation:

Heavy rainfall and flooding are causing hazardous conditions in the areas of Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. Our top priority is the safety and well-being of our team members, as well as providing the highest level of service to our customers. Although contingency plans are in place, some service delays and disruptions can be anticipated for inbound and outbound shipments in these areas. FedEx is committed to providing service to the best of our ability in areas that can be safely accessed.

In this instance, the package arrived as soon as delivery could safely resume in the area.

Another possible exception is when the barcode becomes unreadable. For example, one customer dropped off the package as usual, and the bar code and important details were attached to the package. However, somewhere along the route, that barcode became damaged, generating an exception code. When checking the status online, the customer noted the following exception.

Dec 10, 2014 7:31 PM Shipment exception FORT WORTH, TX Barcode label unreadable and replaced.

This type of exception sometimes results in a small delay, depending on the shipping service and details. It’s also possible that the label was quickly replaced, and the package was routed back into the normal delivery route with minimal delay. Regardless, when a customer receives an exception notice, the next question is typically “What do I do now?”


What to do if you notice an exception code

Whether it’s a natural disaster or another unforeseen circumstance that affects package delivery, you might wonder what to do when an exception occurs. After receiving an exception message, check the “shipment” or “package progress” section in Tracking to find specific details about changes in the delivery schedule. For example, if a weather event has occurred, you might find an adjusted delivery date.

You may also find more detailed information about the exception, such as the cause of the event. As mentioned previously, it’s not always something big that triggers an exception; it can be something relatively small. Here are a few additional scenarios that may trigger an exception.

The address is unknown. Sometimes customers make mistakes when entering address details. When this occurs, the carrier might contact the retailer to check the accuracy of the mailing address and make any needed corrections. If the information matches what you have on file, you might have to get in touch with the customer to confirm.

Damage to the shipment. In rare cases, FedEx may note damage to the shipment during transit. FedEx typically covers the first $100 in damages, and provides additional coverage that can be purchased when setting up shipping. Third-party companies also provide insurance options, some of which are less expensive than policies offered directly through the carriers. If you get an exception message that relates to damage, keep all original packing materials once the item is delivered.

If you make a claim for damages, FedEx may need to examine these materials to ensure the item was properly packed. FedEx provides full packing guidelines online, but a few suggestions include:

  • Use double-wall boxes for heavier items.
  • Place small packages inside a larger outer box.
  • Double-box fragile items with 3″ of cushioning in and around the smaller box.
  • Wrap items individually with cushioning material and center them in boxes away from other items and away from the sides, corners, top, and bottom of the box.
  • Place items that might be damaged by normal handling, such as soiling, marking, or application of adhesive labels, in a protective outer box.
  • Position bottles that contain liquids upright. Use an inner seal and perforated breakaway cap. The inner packaging must be able to contain leaks.
  • or odd- or irregular-shaped items, at a minimum you should wrap and tape all sharp edges or protrusions.

If FedEx determines the package wasn’t packed correctly, such as in a box that has flimsy integrity or inadequate packing materials, they might not pay the claim.

Signature was not received. FedEx offers various levels of service for shippers that require a signature. If you purchase the signature required service for $3.75, the person at the receiving address will be required to sign for the package. The carrier also offers a service for $4.75 that requires an adult to sign for the package. An exception is triggered if FedEx cannot obtain a signature.

If you receive an exception, get in touch with FedEx to learn more details. Beyond what is provided on the status tracking, FedEx may share other information, such as what is holding up the package and when you can expect its arrival.


Understanding the FedEx® money-back guarantee

In most cases, FedEx packages are delivered on time without exception or delay. But at times, problems do occur, and FedEx has a money-back guarantee. According to FedEx:

We offer a money-back guarantee for every U.S. shipment. You may request a refund or credit of your shipping charges if we miss our published (or quoted, as in the case of FedEx SameDay®) delivery time by even 60 seconds.

However, exceptions might not be covered under the money-back guarantee, depending on the situation. If the exception is the result of the following, a refund may not be provided:

  • Illegible label
  • Improper address
  • Inclement weather
  • Air traffic control problems

Additionally, the refund is not available in several other situations, which are highlighted in the company’s terms of service, including:

  • An incorrect address is provided.
  • FedEx receives a request to redirect a shipment from a delivery address to hold at a FedEx location.
  • There was an unexpected large release of packages from your shipping location.

If you think you qualify for a refund, reach out to FedEx to start the process. Even if the package qualifies, refunds aren’t automatic: You must request the refund directly.

Shipping exceptions aren’t always a major problem

FedEx exceptions aren’t always a reason for concern. For example, let’s say that FedEx has trouble delivering a package. The address is incorrect, so the company issues an exception and gets in touch with the shipper. Once they reach out, you can contact the customer and verify shipping details. You quickly verify those details and get back to FedEx the same day. It’s possible the package will have very little delay.

In some situations, an exception is more like a notification, with no action required on your part. For example, if the label needs to be replaced due to damage, no action is required on your part. And in other cases, the exception can be an opportunity for you to reach out to customers. Maybe many shipments were delayed due to a snowstorm. As a result, you can send out an email to those affected, notifying them of the issue and thanking them for their patience.

An exception is simply information; as a shipper, it is up to you to take that information and figure out the best way to move forward and ensure a positive experience for the customer.  

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