With less than a week to go before December 25, the shipping disaster is continuing at an unprecedented pace. According to the latest data from Shipmatrix, over 6 million packages are stuck on warehouse docks and shipping centers awaiting pickup. Nearly 3.5 million packages are picked up every day but are not arriving on time.
The US Postal Service is struggling the most during this holiday season to manage the volume of parcels that are hitting their system. Shipmatrix data shows a severe decline in on-time delivery by the USPS in the second week of December, which coincides with many local media reports (such as this one from WBAL-TV in Baltimore) of long lines of trucks waiting at USPS shipping centers around the country.
With data showing USPS is performing the worst during this holiday season, and media reports elevating the issue to the public, there is no shortage of complaints on social media about the postal service. People are venting, sometimes with political spins, but often with real problems.
Small online merchants are hit hardest by USPS delays as the postal service is often the choice for many small businesses, including on marketplaces such as eBay and Etsy.
eBay this week, while not pointing fingers directly at USPS, expanded its seller performance protection further to help eBay sellers impacted by this problem to maintain their good ratings as long as they shipped their orders in the time required.
“We’re managing estimated delivery dates, continuing to give sellers credit for meeting their stated handling time, and advising buyers to anticipate potential delays,” said eBay in its note to sellers.
This was the marketplace’s second time in one week addressing the widespread shipping delay problem, showing just how widespread the delays are.
But are UPS and FedEx really better?
Both UPS and FedEx are trying to capitalize on the problems at the postal service. UPS for a second time this month issued a press release praising its performance.
“UPS is running one of the most successful peak holiday shipping seasons ever,” said UPS CEO Carol Tomé. “With great discipline and precision, we are delivering industry-leading on-time delivery performance – all part of our focus on ensuring we maintain a reliable delivery network that all of our customers can depend on.”
And Henry Maier, President and CEO, FedEx Ground said in the company’s earnings call this week, “FedEx Ground is delivering 25% to 30% of the volume a day early, and the average package spends about 2.4 days in the network in terms of transit, which is faster than last year, in spite of the volume and the challenges I outlined.”
But the reality may be that UPS and FedEx are making themselves look better because they throttling the intake of packages to avoid overloading their network capacities. Small and large retailers have reported that both companies have refused to take in all their packages, with some scrambling to find alternative solutions, which often is the US Postal Service.
And while UPS and FedEx celebrate their on-time performance, the USPS is getting hit harder with more packages being dumped into their network that it is unable to handle. Unlike UPS and FedEx, they must take all packages.
The last week before Christmas
It’s now getting to crunch time with less than one week to go before Christmas. This will be a time that will challenge sellers and shoppers with frustrations likely to mount. Patience will be a premium.
The winter storm that hit the northeastern US a few days ago is not helping either. But as this tweet from an Acting Post Master shows, the individuals at the USPS are trying, it’s not their fault.
Many sellers have started to ask customers for patience and understanding, the emails trying to explain this situation are now mounting in buyer’s inboxes.
Discussing the possibility that a package may not arrive in time is not something online merchants like to do as it makes them look bad. But this year, it may be a necessary pro-active measure to lessen disappointments and keep customers from returning items that didn’t make it on time.
“Some of our customers are printing out pictures of their gifts and wrapping them or emailing them so their recipient has something to open on Christmas day, or anticipate receiving,” was the suggestion in an email by Serrv International this week. Creative… but will it help?
Nothing about 2020 is normal and the holiday season is no exception. Patience will be needed by all!
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