How To Be Awesome When A Package Goes Missing

It’s every eBay seller’s worst nightmare: after carefully packing up your sweet thrift find that sold for big bucks and sending it on its way to your buyer, it inexplicably goes missing. Your buyer is not happy and contacts you wanting to know where their stuff is. This happened to me a couple weeks ago for the first time, and it wasn’t a pleasant predicament to have on my hands.

However, once you’re in that situation you have two choices–makes things better, or make them worse. You can make things worse by ignoring your buyer and hoping the situation will magically resolve itself. (Hint: It probably won’t.) If you choose that route, you’re setting yourself up for defects and negative feedback. I don’t suggest doing that.

Here’s what I would do instead:

How To Be Awesome (1)

Step One: Call Your Local Post Office

Call the post office that initially received your package. Sometimes, they have more information than you can see online. For example, when I was waiting on something that I had purchased on eBay to arrive at my house, the tracking information said that it had been delivered when it actually hadn’t. I called the post office, and they were able to tell me that the seller had actually printed out two of the same labels and attached them to two separate packages. I’m assuming this was an honest mistake on the seller’s part, but the post office wasn’t happy about someone mailing two packages for the price of one. (Go figure.) Anyway, the moral of the story is that sometimes the postmaster knows what’s going on when you’re still clueless. It never hurts to ask. (And, as always, make sure you’re super polite on the phone with whomever you speak. That definitely never hurts–and usually helps quite a bit.)

Step Two: Contact Your Buyer

Use eBay’s messaging system to respond to your buyer. Open your message with an apology for the fact that there has been a problem with their order. If the post office was able to tell you anything from Step One, relay that information to your buyer. If not, still let them know that you did contact the post office and that you will continue monitoring the situation for new information. This shows your buyer that you do actually give a flip about the package and should help smooth over any upset feelings they may have. Ask the seller if it’s okay to wait ___ number of days to see if the package gets scanned again, and that if that doesn’t happen, you will refund their money. (The number of days is up to you and your buyer. My buyer agreed to wait one week past the expected delivery date.)

Step Three: Keep Checking For Tracking Updates

You’ll want to keep an eye on the tracking information at this point. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for email updates on the carrier’s website. Here’s how to do it with USPS: Do a Google Search for the tracking number. The first result should be from USPS’s website. Click on that link and you’ll see the page below:

tracking email updatesClick on “Email Updates” (where the pink arrow is pointing) and you’ll be able to sign up for email updates whenever the package is scanned. That way, you don’t have to manually check for updates!

Step Four: (If It Never Arrives) Refund

If the pre-determined date arrives and the package is still MIA, it’s time to refund your buyer. This part is not fun. However, if the package was insured, you should be able to recoup your money. Mine was not insured since it was a pretty low-value item ($20 + $8 shipping to Canada), but it’s still never a pleasant experience to flat out lose money. That being said, you are taking action to keep your buyer happy and hopefully to prevent negative feedback. That’s worth something.

Step Five: Get Your Fees Back

Call eBay and let them know what happened and that you refunded your buyer. They will be able to credit your account within a few days.

Step Six: File An Insurance Claim (If Your Package Is Insured)

Anytime I’m mailing out an item, I ask myself “Would it ruin my day if this package were to be lost?” If the answer is yes, I insure it. (I usually insure anything over $50.) Priority mail is automatically insured over $50, but you may need to add additional insurance. I use Inkfrog/Shipsaver insurance. It’s available under the “Applications” tab on My eBay. I’ve never actually had to file a claim, so I can’t speak from personal experience of the claims process, but you can do some Googling and read reviews to decide which kind of insurance you’d like to buy.

If you sell on eBay for a long time, you’ll almost certainly find yourself in this situation at least once. Do your best to stay positive and keep things in perspective. Focus on providing great customer service and move on once the situation is resolved. Onward and upward!


10 thoughts on “How To Be Awesome When A Package Goes Missing

  1. Man!! That is a fear of mine but these are really good steps to follow. I am mailing a chicks necklace today and a tad nervous because I don’t want it to break in the package…. I guess I’ll use some tissue paper too.

    School got canceled for us in Hopkinsville and I am flying out Thursday so in order not to get stuck in the snow I am spending the night at a hotel airport. Any “must check out” thrift stores while I am in town for the afternoon?


    • Gosh, I’ve had over 500 packages sent out in the last year, and this is the only one that’s been a problem. The odds of any one package getting lost is super, super low. Don’t let it worry you!

      Hmm… close to the airport? I’d say Southern Thrift would be a good choice. It’s off Lebanon Pk. If you can get go about 20 minutes north, I’d recommend the Rivergate Goodwill. It’s huge and a weekly stop for me!


  2. Great stuff! I find that if I’m worrying about this kind of stuff then I’m doing something wrong. A lot of sellers forget that a buyer shelled out their money for something! If they didn’t get what they expected (or anything in this case), they have every right to be mad. They aren’t blaming you though, they’re just mad at the situation. We all need to be reminded of this sometimes though!


  3. Very good tips, Erica! I recently sent a pkg. first class, and I did not buy the tracking (bought for $14.) When the buyer paid, I immediately mailed it off with the address given. However, right after I did that, the buyer changed their address online to their winter address, and that is where they were located for the season. It was in limbo for over 20 days! I kept in touch with the buyer and suggested he call his PO in Minnesota from Arizona and check if it was sitting there. I was ready to refund, even though in this case, I did not feel I was at fault. After all, I used the address given, but the PO came through and forwarded it.


    • Oh no! I’ve never had that happen before. You were certainly prepared to go above and beyond by being willing to refund. (I’m glad it didn’t come to that, though!) Ebay needs more sellers like you! 🙂


  4. I’m so glad you just posted this. I just had one of my biggest sales (a Tory Burch bag for $168!). I always drop my packages off at the USPS station in Office Max and they get picked up from there. I’m constantly checking each listing to make sure the item has been checked into the post office, and the Tory Burch bag has been in limbo for over two days! All the other packages I dropped off that same day have already been checked in and are on their way to delivery. But your tips are helpful. I’ll call the post office if it has not been checked in by Monday. Thanks!!


    • Oh, goodness! I know how stressful that is. I will say that I’ve had lots and lots of packages not get scanned until some random point in the shipping process (and a couple items not at all!) that have all arrived just fine. Try not to worry about it, but it’s good to be proactive. Congrats on the big sale!!


  5. Hi Erica,
    I just had the unfortunate experience of a package gone missing. Thanks for your helpful post, I remembered it from awhile back and was able to refer to it yesterday/today while dealing with this situation!
    (Sonya @ Hookedonthrifting Instagram)


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