A deluge of mail and online vacation purchases is overwhelming the US shipping system. Every day, an estimated 6 million packages are stranded, idle in retailers’ warehouses or shipping centers, awaiting collection from FedEx, UPS, Amazon, US Postal Service and other shippers.
That’s according to estimates by ShipMatrix, a software company that helps retailers and others track shipments and collects data on millions of packages shipped from more than 100,000 locations in the U.S. An additional 2.5 million packages are picked up daily. but these do not reach their destination in time. , show the data.
“Our entire industry is under water because of demand,” said Satish Jindel, president of ShipMatrix. Friday is likely the last day consumers can send things by regular mail so they arrive at Christmas, he said.
The stalemate is curtailing the Christmas shopping season, frustrating shoppers and retailers, and potentially hurting the economy as well as the recovery of theseems to sputter. Some experts warn that packages not yet shipped will not reach their destination before the Christmas holidays with standard shipping.
Another industry insider with access to internal data from a major shipping company told CBS MoneyWatch that the number of parcels not picked up every day this holiday season is much higher than in previous years. A big winter stormcould mean more delays.
Both FedEx and UPS declined to disclose how many packages are delayed in transit. A UPS spokesperson said 96% of shipments arrived on time this holiday season. But that figure includes only the packages that UPS picked up, not the packages it missed.
“This is one of the most successful shipping seasons during the holiday season as we focus on maintaining a reliable delivery network that all our customers can rely on,” a UPS spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch in an emailed statement.
“Data provided by outside consultants can vary widely based on the specific markets, customers and shipping routes they choose for their analysis,” a FedEx spokesperson said by email. She also said the company’s role in helping distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will not affect regular shipments, noting that the company uses a separate fleet of trucks and aircraft for that purpose.
“As mentioned earlier, we continue to work closely with our customers to manage their volume and ensure we provide the best possible service,” said the FedEx spokesperson.
‘Waiting for the refund request’
A number of retailers say they are experiencing shipping delays. Earlier this month, Victoria’s Secret owner L Brands warned investors in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that “additional restrictions” in shipping capacity during the holiday season could hurt sales. On Tuesday, Etsy also updated its retailers’ shipping deadlines and asked them to add the dates to their product description pages.
Arlene Marie Mathews, a Milford, Pennsylvania-based seller who sells bath and aromatherapy lotions on Etsy and generally ships through the US Postal Service, said customers have been delayed since late November and some orders have been delayed by as much as two weeks . On Wednesday, she updated her product page on Etsy to warn that orders can arrive up to 10 business days late.
“I’m currently inundated with messages from customers asking where their packages are. Some are understanding, some aren’t,” Mathews told CBS MoneyWatch. “I’m waiting for the refund request messages to flood my inbox at any time.”
Etsy said it allows sellers to flag negative reviews from customers who only complain about shipping issues for removal. A spokesperson for the e-commerce company said it has “dynamically adjusted estimated delivery dates” on its website to provide buyers with the latest information.
“We know the holidays are an incredibly important time for the 3.7 million creative entrepreneurs who sell on Etsy,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “To address shipping delays in the US, we focus on supporting merchants by making the latest information available to us.”
Olive & Cocoa, an online gift basket retailer in Salt Lake City, Utah, is warning customers of potential delays and shipping slots running low. Wednesday was the last day the website said it could ship orders with standard shipping for delivery by Christmas. Subsequent orders will not arrive until December 29. Two-day shipping is not available on the website until January, although slots remain for faster – and more expensive – deliveries.
“Olive & Cocoa recognizes that the entire shipping system is overloaded,” an Olive & Cocoa spokesman said in an emailed statement to CBS MoneyWatch. “We work closely with our shipping partners to provide our customers with the best possible information on shipping availability and timelines, and to ensure that Christmas gifts ordered from Olive & Cocoa are delivered in a manner consistent with our high customer service. . “
The delays during the holidays give consumers a headache. Christine and Bruce Merevick from Chicago cannot see their family in Alabama for Christmas because he is undergoing chemotherapy and is considered to be at high risk for COVID-19. The Merevicks’ holiday package, which they had sent priority and insured in early December, has still not arrived. They filed a claim but were told to return in two weeks.
“It’s just very frustrating,” Christine told CBS Chicago’s Tara Molina. “They have no idea where it is.”
CBS News correspondent Janet Shamlian reported this week that FedEx and UPS have told some retailers that they will not pick up additional packages beyond their previous commitments before retailers saw a spike in orders. That has led to more orders being pushed to the USPS, adding to the mail delays that started this summer. Earlier this week, the USPS in a public statement encouraged customers to send their Christmas gifts and cards “as soon as possible.”
Even for the holidays,during the pandemic, which prompted some consumers to order more online and avoid in-person shopping. FedEx and UPS began hiring as early as November to be ready for the projected increase in shipments, with a total of 170,000 employees for the season. But those problems are now pervading many people’s holidays.
“It was not possible for shippers to be ready,” said ShipMatrix’s Jindel. “It would have taken two or three years to get ready for this year’s high demand.”