UPS may have planned for 132 million deliveries in the week before Christmas, but a shorter than usual shopping season, an unprecedented number of last minute free shipping offers driving increased demand, and ice storms in various parts of the United States all combined to overwhelm both UPS and rival FedEx. “It is unfortunate for this to happen at this time of year, but we’re working around the clock to fix it,” said UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black. “We had our peak projections, and the volume has exceeded our projection. We are sorry.”
Black also noted that UPS would be honoring their air and international shipping guarantees, which promises a refund of shipping charges "to the payer only". For online shoppers, that means that shipping charges will be refunded to retailers, and it will be up to those retailers to issue shipping refunds to their customers in turn. However, the fine print of the guarantee specifically excludes certain deliveries in the week leading up to Christmas, stating that "The guarantee does not apply to UPS 2nd Day Air or UPS 2nd Day Air A.M. shipments that are scheduled to be delivered between December 12 and December 25." (Look for the "UPS Air Services Service Guarantee" section for all of the fine print.)
If you were impacted by holiday shipping delays, you may have a few options for getting your money refunded. Several major retailers have announced refunds along further compensation to apologize for the embarrassing inconvenience. If a retailer you purchased from isn't listed below, we strongly suggest calling their customer service line to ask about getting a refund on any shipping charges.
A few tips for contacting retailers:
- Calling is better than emailing. It's much easier to negotiate compensation with a real person than with an email response bot that might not get back to you for several days.
- Be patient. Retailers are very likely to be experiencing a high volume of calls from others who are looking for information about their own missing orders.
- Be nice to the person who answers the phone. The folks who work in the customer service call centers are hearing from a lot of angry, frustrated customers right now. Be pleasant and you're much more likely to get a good outcome than if you are blaming them for ruining your Christmas. Besides, the chances are excellent that the retailer did everything right in getting your order to the shipper on time, so it's probably not even really their fault.
Amazon was quick to offer some consolation to its customers in the form of a $20 gift card and a refund of any shipping charges for packages that fell victim to the shipping delays. However, Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako also threw UPS under the bus noting that, "Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery. We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers." NBC Bay Area posted an excerpt from the email. "We’ve refunded any shipping charges associated with your shipment," the Amazon email says. "We’d also like to provide you with a $20 gift card to compensate for this inconvenience."
For Amazon Prime members, free 2-day shipping is one of the perks of the $79 annual membership fee, making a refund of shipping charges problematic. However, Amazon's own fine print indicates that Prime members may be eligible for a free 1-month extension of their membership. You can read all of the details here: Guaranteed Accelerated Delivery Fine Print
Amazon says that affected customers should already have received an email offering compensation, though a look through Amazon's general help forums indicates that may not be the case. If you believe your order was impacted, check your email for a message from Amazon. If it's not there, reach out to Amazon Customer Service. For orders fulfilled by a third party seller, you may need to contact that seller for more information.
The New York Times reports that Walmart spokeswoman Jaeme Laczkowski extended the company's "deepest apologies" to customers, and also announced that Walmart also is planning to offer gift cards to affected customers. No details or amounts were mentioned, so our advice is to call Walmart Customer Service if you were affected by the shipping delays.
Kohl's customers impacted by shipping delays probably are getting the best consolation package of those we know about so far. Kohl's spokeswoman Jen Johnson told the The Washington Post via email that Kohl's will "fully cover the cost of all items" that missed the delivery deadline. “We’re deeply sorry for disappointing our customers expecting delivery in time for Christmas,” Johnson said. “Although a limited number were impacted, we take each customer experience seriously.” Kohl's is generally very on the ball with keeping customers informed, and is known to automatically credit customers with $25 gift cards when they change a projected delivery date - even when the item still arrives within the original delivery window.
When deliveries were not made as promised this week, Groupon emailed impacted customers a $25 gift certificate. "We know it doesn't make up for the disappointment of not getting your item in time for the holidays," the email said, quoted in the Wall Street Journal. The email also suggested printing out a picture of the gift as a placeholder for the real thing.
If you know of any other retailers offering refunds or additional compensation, we'd love to hear about it. Share your experience in the comments!