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Missing a few things you ordered online? Yeah, so is everyone else.
It wasn’t just your dumb luck. Thanks to foul weather and a shortened Christmas shopping season that saw a record number of customers purchasing online, there has been an unusually high number of packages that failed to arrive in time for Christmas.
Retailers and carriers are already offering refunds and apology gifts, but if you’re one of the affected customers, you may have a lot of questions that need to be answered. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Why did this happen?
The Great 2013 Christmas Delivery Debacle (alternate title: The Year Without a Christmas) is the result of a confluence of events. With Thanksgiving occurring so late in November, the official Christmas shopping season was just 26 days this year, shorter than usual. Obviously this isn’t the first year Thanksgiving has fallen on Nov. 28, but the abbreviated shopping season was compounded by a record number of online shoppers, further straining delivery companies being pushed to their breaking points.
Online Black Friday sales were up 15 percent over last year to generate $1.2 billion. Amazon reported 36.8 million global Cyber Monday orders, a record amount of traffic that averaged out to 426 orders a second that day.
All this meant that going into the week before Christmas, UPS was expecting to process nearly 132 million deliveries. A UPS spokeswoman told the New York Times that orders exceeded even those expectations. Throw in a winter storm in the northeast and the fallout of major storms in Texas at the start of the month and it’s not surprising carriers found themselves overwhelmed this year.
2. How do I track my Amazon package?
Despite the high volume of delays, tracking on Amazon remains the same. Customers should receive regular email notifications from Amazon about their delivery’s progress. They can also check order status on the site directly by logging in and looking under “Your Orders.” There they can get the most up-to-date information on their packages, including carrier information and tracking IDs.
3. What numbers should I call? Amazon or the carrier?
It’s unlikely that either will be able to provide you with any more information than what Amazon already sends via email. But an Amazon spokesperson told The Daily Dot that all Christmas orders were “processed and tendered” to delivery carriers on time, shifting the blame to the carriers. The same spokesperson said Amazon is “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”
A spokesperson for UPS said that most orders would be “cleared out” today, but couldn’t guarantee that all orders would be at their intended destinations today.
UPS packages can be tracked here. For further inquiries, customers can contact UPS customer service 1-800-742-5877. FedEx packages can be tracked here. Their customer service number is 1-800-463-3339.
4. Are there refunds? How do I get them?
Amazon was one of the first retailers to step forward and try to smooth things over with customers. On Christmas, the company was already offering to refund impacted customers their shipping and handling fees for orders that were guaranteed to arrive by Christmas. The world’s largest online retailer was also offering $20 gift cards to affected customers to make up for the delay. Applicable customers should receive an email with the details on how to redeem these offers.
UPS will also be offering refunds on air and international shipping guarantees. However ground shipping guarantees have been suspended during the holidays, as is customary for the company. More information about UPS’s refund policies can be found here.
5. What about Prime customers?
Impacted embers of Amazon Prime, a premium program in which customers pay $79 a year to receive free two-day-shipping, are being offered a free month of service in exchange for these shipping difficulties. Again, customers can expect to be contacted with more information if they are eligible.
6. A lot of Etsy orders are also late. Do I get in touch with Etsy, the seller, or UPS?
This can be a tricky one, given the patchwork nature of the Etsy marketplace. If one has confirmation that a package is en route with a tracking number, then they should contact the carrier. If not, customers are encouraged to contact the seller to get more information and negotiate refunds. If customers are unsatisfied with their seller or unable to reach them, they can file a claim with Etsy. More information on that process available here.
Photo by Raj Alagumalai/Flickr
Tim Sampson is a reporter who focused on the technology, business, and politics beats. He's also an established comedy writer, with work on Comedy Central and in The Onion and ClickHole.