Have you recently checked your tracking on Fedex, only to see a message similar to the following:
‘Shipment Exception. Barcode label unreadable and replaced.’
Although this message is rare, it has a pretty simple cause and meaning behind it.
In this article, I’ll be going over what this message means, whether or not it will delay your package, and how to prevent it in the future!
What Does It Mean If Fedex Says ‘Barcode Label Unreadable And Replaced?’
If Fedex tracking is stating that the barcode label was unreadable and has been replaced, this means that they have removed the old tracking label, and replaced it with a new one.
This typically happens because Fedex’s automated scanners were unable to read the barcode on the tracking label without running into issues, which is most commonly caused by ink smears or smudges, along with Fedex’s conveyer belts tearing the labels by mistake.
So, Fedex replaces the labels so it can be automatically scanned as it continues its journey to other Fedex facilities, to prevent future delays as your package moves on its way to you.
Does This Mean The Package Is Lost?
No – just because a package has stated that the barcode was replaced does not mean that it’s been lost.
In fact, Fedex specifically sets these packages aside so a Fedex employee can manually relabel them.
Although relabeling can cause a brief delay in your package being delivered, Fedex is still safely in possession of the item.
So, you shouldn’t worry if this is the most recent message that you see on your tracking, even if it’s been stuck there for several days.
How Much Of A Delay Will This Add?
Now that we know your package isn’t lost, it’s natural to wonder – where there be an additional delay if the barcode has to be replaced?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes.
Large parts of Fedex are automated, as you can see through the video below:
Because an unreadable barcode has to be manually pulled aside and relabeled, this can add a delay to the final delivery time.
The exact amount however depends on the speed and workload of the individual Fedex facility that is replacing it.
If you’re lucky, the damage label will be replaced and the package will be returned to its place that same day.
Most commonly however, a damaged label ends up resulting in a delay of 1-2 days. Of course, Fedex wants to get your package to you as quickly as possible, so they’ll do what they can to make that happen. Having extra packages piled up isn’t in anyone’s best interest!
The best thing you can do is keep paying attention to Fedex’s estimated delivery date, which will always have the most accurate delivery estimate based on all of the information Fedex knows about your shipment.
Sometimes however, shipment exceptions like this one cause the tracking to simply state ‘Pending.’ In these instances, you should expect it to arrive 1-2 days after the original estimated delivery date if the label needs to be replaced.
Is My Package Damaged?
If you see that your label needed to be replaced, it’s natural to worry about the state the rest of your package is in!
Thankfully, just because a label needed to be removed and replaced does not mean that your package is damaged in any way.
Labels most commonly become unreadable due to ink smearing or smudging, which can sometimes be caused by rain or poor weather conditions.
Crinkled barcodes, scraping from Fedex’s conveyer belts, and other non-serious issues may cause the label to tear or otherwise become unreadable. The overwhelming majority of the time, this has nothing to do with how your package was handled, or the state of the outer box.
While you should certainly inspect your item once it arrives (or have the recipient do it, if you’re sending a package to someone else,) it’s unlikely that there is damage to the item just because you see this message in tracking.
Does Fedex Open The Package When Replacing The Barcode?
No. Fedex does not open up your package when the barcode needs to be replaced, as the barcode will always be placed on the outside of the box.
Therefore, Fedex has no need to actually open your package up in any way – nor would they want to take the time to do so!
The only time that the package will need to be opened up is if it needs to be moved to another box, due to extreme damage to the box itself.
How To Prevent A ‘Barcode Label Unreadable And Replaced’ Shipment Exception In The Future
Now that we’ve covered a lot about what happens when Fedex has to replace a barcode, let’s talk about how to prevent it in the first place!
First, it’s important to understand why labels need to be replaced in the first place. We’ve talked about it a bit already, but here are some of the most common reasons:
- The ink on the label comes smeared, often due to rain hitting it.
- The label gets teared off, either due to poor placement of it, or Fedex’s conveyer belt.
- Fedex’s conveyer belts get the label too dirty to be read.
- The label is crinkled or crumbled, making it difficult to scan.
- The label is not fully visible from one side, and wraps around the side of the package.
So, how can we prevent this?
The first thing to do is to use a thermal printer (such as the Dymo LabelWriter 4XL) if you are an eCommerce merchant, and are shipping a lot of packages.
Thermal printers do not use ink, and are therefore less susceptible to ink smudges. You can also buy 4×6 shipping labels for them that you just peel off and stick on, preventing the need for extra tape that can sometimes get snagged.
If you are using paper and ink, it is NOT recommended to place clear tape over the barcode, contrary to popular belief. Unfortunately, the reflections can make the barcode even harder to scan.
Anyhow, to prevent shipment exceptions, make sure the label is securely fastened on just one side of the package, and does not have any bubbles or crinkles where the bar code is. The full barcode needs to be able to be scanned in its entirely, horizontally.
Additionally, make sure to cover the package as you take it to Fedex if it’s raining outside!
Finally, even if you do everything right, sometimes the label can still become damaged to no fault of your own. Your package gets handled a lot while it’s in transit, so accidents happen!
If Fedex is showing an shipping exception stating that the barcode was unreadable and replaced, don’t worry.
Your package is not lost and damaged, and at most it will simply be delayed by 1-2 days.
By following the advice laid out in this article, you can also prevent this issue from popping up as frequently in the future!
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any other questions about shipping with Fedex, please ask them using the comment form below!
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister