Thousands of holiday gifts failed to arrive by Christmas day due to shipping problems at UPS. Many online stores, which guaranteed arrival, took at least some of the blame.
UPS last week indicated that ice storms had caused delays in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, resulting in a heavy backlog before the final week. But UPS officials also underestimated the volume of air packages caused by this year's short shopping period — just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Finally, last-minute orders and robust e-commerce spending throughout the holiday spending period taxed resources.
"All of this culminated to become the perfect storm, so to speak," UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black told CNN.
UPS did not make pickups or deliveries on Christmas Day although packages were sorted in hubs to assure they arrived Thursday or Friday. Those paying for delivery guarantees will receive appropriate refunds.
To a lesser degree, FedEx also incurred delivery delays, although some customers were able to pick up packages on Christmas Day at their local FedEx Express centers. Neither company said how many packages were delayed.
Furious customers took to UPS's Facebook and Twitter pages to blast the shipper. Amazon also took some heat, especially from Amazon Prime customers who pay $79 a year for two-day guaranteed shipping.
One wrote on Amazon's Facebook page, "Don't say you guarantee Christmas delivery if you can't!"
Speaking to the Associated Press, Prime member Eric Swanson, who didn't receive a doll for his five-year old daughter, said, "Next time, if I need to get a gift and cut it that close, I will just have to enter the fray and go to mall."
In apology e-mails to affected customers, Amazon cited "a failure in the UPS transportation network" and provided an automatic credit of $20 "to compensate for this inconvenience."
Amazon's stated policy for missed deliveries also offers a free one-month extension of Prime. UPS plans to coordinate with Amazon and other retailers around restitutions.
"We have a relationship with Amazon. We will definitely work with all of our retailers," Ms. Black told CNN. "We're going to make good on our service commitments. What that exactly entails, I don't know, but we'll work with them to maintain that relationship."
Walmart and Kohl's also said a small percentage of packages missed their before Christmas targets. Kohl's said it would pay the full cost of all items not delivered in time. Walmart plans to send out $25 gift cards.
What's the likelihood that some customers will be apprehensive about shopping last-minute online come the 2014 holiday season?