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What to Do If a Package Arrives Damaged—or Not at All

One surefire way to zap the joy out of the holiday season is to receive a package that's been damaged—or not to get it at all. Here's how to remedy the situation ASAP.

Hand holding credit card and using laptop. Online shopping concept

When deliveries go wrong

With the holidays right around the corner, consumers are getting ready to buy the perfect presents for everyone on their list at the touch of a button. Online shopping has made things exponentially easier for most people, since they can shop from the comfort of their couches and have everything delivered within a day or two. But as we all know, things don’t always go quite that smoothly. Sometimes a package arrives on your doorstep in less-than-perfect condition, and sometimes it doesn’t get there at all. How can you fix this problem—fast? Different shipping companies and retailers have different policies regarding lost, damaged, or stolen packages. To save you time and energy, we rounded up the policies from the biggest companies so you’ll know what to do if you find yourself in this unfortunate situation.

FedEx Truck


FedEx makes it easy to deal with lost and damaged packages with their online claims filing system. For claims on packages worth $100 or more, you’ll need to provide documentation of the issue. That may include photos of the damaged package, a serial number of the damaged merchandise, or something to prove the value of the items in the package.

For damaged packages, you must file your claim within 21 days of delivery. This can be done via mail, fax, or e-mail. Once this is filed, you’ll be able to track the status of your claim online. FedEx provides no such timeline for filing lost package claims, but it is probably best to file your claim as soon as you realize the package has been truly lost. That said, if you ever receive this package from FedEx, throw it out—it’s a scam.

UPS delivery truck
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If a package that was due for delivery hasn’t yet arrived from UPS, check your package’s tracking status to determine where the package may have been left. When signatures are required, it’s possible that a neighbor or other resident of your household signed for the package. If you’re still unable to find it after looking where your tracking status indicates, contact the sender of your package to begin a trace process with UPS. The sender should then communicate with you about its progress. For damaged packages, you can file a claim online to report your losses. While this isn’t how you ever hope things will go, it’s always good to know your options, including how to get a refund on almost anything.

USPS trucks
Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

United States Postal Service (USPS)

If the USPS tracking system shows that your package has been delivered but you haven’t actually received it, you can file a help request form here. That will be forwarded to your local post office, where they will search for the missing item. Seven days after submitting the help request, you should file a Missing Mail Search Request (found in the same location). You’ll include information like the sender’s mailing address, the recipient’s mailing address, and the size and type of container or envelope the package was sent in. You’ll receive a confirmation of receipt for your request, as well as periodic updates on the status of the search.

For insured, registered, or priority packages delivered by USPS, whether lost or damaged, you can then file an insurance claim online or via mail. (Call 800-ASK-USPS for details on how to do this.) By the way, this is what happens to lost mail.

amazon packages
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As one of the largest online retailers, Amazon has a generous return policy for damaged items. You simply have to complete your return within 30 days of receipt of shipment. And you can choose to either get a refund or have a replacement item sent.

For lost items, Amazon requests that you wait until 36 hours after the expected delivery, as packages can sometimes show as delivered up to 36 hours prior to arrival. If your package still doesn’t show up, Amazon suggests that you contact the shipping carrier for further details about what to do. (This information can be found by going into your orders and selecting “Track Package.”) After you sort out these issues, take a look at these 30 brilliant buys on Amazon with practically perfect reviews.

ebay packages
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eBay has a money back guarantee for when purchased items fail to arrive or even aren’t as originally described. The company wants you to start by contacting your seller (select the item in your purchase history and then message the seller) and giving them three days to resolve the issue. If they haven’t taken care of the problem after those three days, you can contact eBay directly. They promise to help you get the item you ordered or to get you a refund fast.

apple store
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock


Since Apple is an electronics retailer, lost or damaged packages can potentially mean big money down the drain. Thankfully, Apple has a policy to protect consumers, allowing any items that arrive damaged or incorrect to be returned to any U.S. Apple Store or by contacting customer service at 1-800-676-2775 for a full refund. The Apple website doesn’t address lost or missing packages, so in that case, you might want to start by contacting Apple directly and then contacting the shipping company responsible for delivering your package to you. What else should you know about Apple? These 13 things Apple employees won’t tell you.

walmart truck
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When you’re expecting a package that hasn’t arrived from Walmart, first track your order through your account and double check that it was indeed sent and delivered. Walmart suggests you wait until the evening of the last possible delivery date before becoming concerned that your package may have been lost, and reminds consumers that some orders may be shipped in multiple packages and arrive on different dates. But if your order is truly late, or if it does arrive but has missing or damaged items, you can start a return. “Missing parts” is one of the reasons you can select for filing your return. Once you’re done with that, check out 15 things you’re not buying from Walmart—but should.

Courier Knocking On Door Of House To Deliver Package
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

No matter where the package is from…

Regardless of which online retailer or shipper you’re dealing with, there are a few steps you should take every time you deal with a missing or damaged package. Make sure to always:

  • Check the policy regarding lost or damaged items for both the shipping company and the company you ordered from
  • Take photos of the damaged packaging and any damaged items
  • File claims to ensure you get the items you originally ordered or your money back

When you’re the one shipping a package, you may want to consider adding additional insurance on items of value. And if the package that failed to arrive or arrived damaged was a present you were planning on giving soon, print a photo of what your ordered and wrap that for your recipient. That way, they’ll at least have something to open, and you can hopefully tell them when they can expect the replacement package. But if you’d rather swap the missing present for something else, try one of these last-minute Christmas gifts with free overnight shipping.

Leah Campbell
Leah Campbell covers technology for Reader’s Digest as well as sites including Reviewed.com. She has a degree in developmental psychology and has written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. A single mother by choice after a serendipitous series of events led to the adoption of her daughter, Leah is also author of the book Single Infertile Female. She lives in Alaska.