upsDidn’t get what you expected under the tree? It’s probably marooned in a package delivery center.

Following widespread complaints about absent packages, Amazon says it is refunding shipping charges and offering $20 gift cards to customers whose gifts weren’t delivered in time for Christmas Day.

UPS and FedEx are conceding that they were overwhelmed by last-minute orders and bad weather, causing unexpected delays in the delivery of some packages. The overall volume of online orders for the holidays appears to have exceeded expectations. That’s a good trend for Amazon in the long run, but problematic in the short term.

Amazon says it is “reviewing the performance” of the delivery companies. Amazon “processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery,” the company says in a statement.

Follow-up: How the Christmas shipping debacle will alter online retail

UPS offered this explanation in a Christmas Day service update: “UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments. UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination; however, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed. UPS is not making pickups or deliveries on Christmas Day and will resume normally scheduled service on December 26.”

The situation turned an otherwise innocuous Christmas message from UPS on Facebook into an open forum for customer complaints, with some UPS employees jumping in to defend the company. Wrote one, “I’m a driver, got off at 1010 last night, 60hr weeks, I’m tired, Mother Nature, a booming economy and no one visiting malls any more cause this… reason 4 anyone to be mad…Merry Christmas.”

A UPS spokeswoman told CNN that the company decided not to ask drivers to work on Christmas, after giving it “much thought and consideration.” She explained, “They’ve pulled in extra hours. We did a lot of Sunday deliveries, which we normally don’t do. It wasn’t a decision that we came to lightly.”

Amazon has increasingly shown its willingness to take over elements of delivery, as evidenced by initiatives including Amazon Fresh and its “Prime Air” drone delivery plan. This incident is the type of thing that could push the company further into the delivery business, by creating a motivation to control more of the end-to-end customer experience.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • swattz101

    Amazon may be moving more toward instant gratification, but someone still needs to ship between distribution centers and to Amazon Lockers. I’m not familiar with Amazon’s internal logistics, but at least some of it is probably still outsourced.

  • Mike S

    I had a package from Amazon scheduled for delivery Tuesday that still hasn’t come, and I haven’t been issued a credit. I’ll see if contacting them get any results.

  • Kartik Rishi

    It appears that they are not honoring the gift card offer for individuals that had their packages with Fedex.

  • BrianELP

    I just read all of the articles about online retailers like Amazon offering credits or promos as an apology for shipping delays and contacted Amazon about one package that is taking 13 days to arrive… here is the chat transcript, you be the judge :

    Initial Question: Order #XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX was originally placed on 12/18 and at the time of checkout showed that expected arrival would be by 12/24. After the order was placed the delivery date changed to a vague 12/24-12/30. After the item shipped out on 12/19 the date on tracking now shows expected delivery on 1/2. This is not what I would expect from my Amazon Prime shipping speeds regardless of weather or other conditions. Two weeks is an extreme time to wait when I expect arrival in two days. Can you explain?

    09:35 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA):

    Hello my name is Vigneshwaran. I’ll be happy to help you.

    I’ll check that for you, Brian.

    May I have the order number please?

    09:37 PM(GMT) BrianELP: Order #XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX

    09:37 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): Thanks for the order number.

    I checked and see that this item is not readily available when the order is placed.

    I’m so sorry,Brian.

    09:39 PM(GMT) BrianELP: that’s not much consolation for this order taking 2 weeks. i could have bought it locally for less trouble.

    it said in stock when i placed the order… i should be able to trust that it would arrive in time

    09:40 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): I understand, Brian. I’m really sorry.

    09:41 PM(GMT) BrianELP: i have an email that says the item shipped on December 19th… how was it shipped? camel, horse, burro, bicycle? you blame availability but I still see this as taking 13 days to arrive… please explain

    09:41 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): I’m really sorry, we didn’t expect this delay. I understand how bad you feel.

    09:42 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): To compensate the delay, I’ll add $5.00 promo to your account.

    09:44 PM(GMT) BrianELP: 5 dollars? that would be an insult… i had to run out at the last minute and purchase an additional gift for the intended recipient and you want to offer 5 bucks as an apology… and no other explanation than that you didn’t expect the delay. can you look at how long i have been a prime customer and how much i have purchased on prime during my years as a prime member? this is outrageous

    09:44 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): I’m really sorry, Brian.

    09:46 PM(GMT) BrianELP: wow, im sorry too… i guess i will have to save my chat transcript and reflect on whether or not my subscription matters… 5 bucks… perhaps I should have talked with someone else today

    09:47 PM(GMT) BrianELP: even Walmart would offer more… sad

    09:47 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): May I issue you $10.00 promo?

    09:49 PM(GMT) BrianELP: unfortunately what i am reading online is that walmart and other retailers that had shipments delayed by UPS are offering at least $25 for the inconvenience. one article reads that Amazon is offering one month of Prime for free as an apology for delayed shipments that do not arrive in the expected Prime shipping standards… at 13 days, what do you think would be appropriate?

    09:50 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): I’m sorry, Brian. The delivery date for your order is January 2.

    I’m unable to issue delay refund in this case.

    09:51 PM(GMT) BrianELP: and that delivery date was changed from the date specified at the time of order… that qualifies as a delay… sorry

    09:52 PM(GMT) BrianELP: i have the emails to back that up

    09:52 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): The delivery date we provide you while placing the order is December 30.

    09:52 PM(GMT) BrianELP: and january 2nd is three days later

    09:52 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): I understand, Brian. I’m really sorry.

    09:53 PM(GMT) BrianELP: i’d like to speak now with a supervisor

    09:53 PM(GMT) Vigneshwaran S.(CSA): Sure, Brian.

    Please give me a minute.

    I’ll transfer this chat to my supervisor.

    09:54 PM(GMT) BrianELP: thank you

    09:54 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): Hello, Brian.

    This is Praveen, part of Amazon CS leadership team.

    How are you today?

    09:54 PM(GMT) BrianELP: a bit upset with my delayed purchase

    09:55 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): I’m sorry about that, Brian.

    I see the estimated delivery dates for your shipment were revised after you placed your order.

    09:55 PM(GMT) BrianELP: yes they were

    09:57 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): Your order will be delivered to you on January 2. We certainly didn’t expect that this would happen. Also, to compensate for the delay, I will add $5.00 credit to your account. Please accept this as an apology from our end.

    If you feel that the delivery date doesn’t meet the need of items, I can have UPS to return the item back to us for a full refund.

    10:01 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): I hope we are still connected.

    We’ve been idle for 3 minutes, and I want to make sure our chat’s still connected. If you aren’t able to respond in 2 minutes, this chat will close.

    10:01 PM(GMT) BrianELP: Keep the $5. I believe I am due more as an apology. I will have to reconsider my continued Prime membership. I will certainly share my experience in an effort to keep anyone else from having the same bad experience. You obviously did not read the earlier chat and I am very disappointed in Amazon. 13 days for any delivery as a prime member is utterly unacceptable and a meager $5 is more of a slap in the face than an apology. Walmart is taking better care of their customers that were disappointed by UPS delays.

    10:02 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): Brian, I understand $5.00 doesn’t make up for late arrival of the order. In addition to our large selection, one of the benefits we try very hard to offer our customers is convenience. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience you experienced in this case.

    10:03 PM(GMT) BrianELP: This has been a very bad experience with Amazon and I will draft a letter to express my disappointment. You have done very little to support customer retention in this issue. In my opinion, you have failed.

    10:03 PM(GMT) Praveen(CSA): I’m sorry to not help you with this to your satisfaction.

    10:04 PM(GMT) BrianELP: as am I

    • john

      You need to calm down and bought earlier.

      • BrianELP

        That’s what the Prime membership is supposed to prevent. 2 day shipping and overnight for a few dollars more. 13 days is a bit beyond that and excessive. All I wanted was a fair explanation and at least the same consideration offered by other online retailers. I am calm but I still feel as a paid subscriber, I deserve an explanation.

        • Allen

          My experience with Amazon is very similar to Brian’s.

          What’s worse— something I ordered on the 24th– knowing full well it would not be here until after Christmas, I received a “shipment delayed” email from Amazon on the 25th, and then it was delivered today.

          Yet I’m still waiting for stuff that was ordered on or before the 22nd.

          Amazon’s offer to me, have a free month of prime membership. Yeah, no thanks. I set mine to not auto-renew for a reason.

  • zengphoo

    Sounds like some pretty serious business. I like it.

  • Halo9x

    People need to get a life! Transporters only exist in Star Trek fiction. No doubt UPS and Fedex were doing their best under difficult circumstances. What do you tell tour kids? Start teaching them what’s important in life and it isn’t things!

    • Mark Turrell

      You’re right, what i tell my kids is if you say you’re going to do something by a certain time/date, do it. Teaches them personal responsibility.

  • Halo9x

    Also, try shopping earlier and stop waiting till the last possible moment.

  • Kelsonus

    UPS and FEDEX were warned in July by employees what was coming
    How is Amazon to blame?

    • wmhjr

      Here is exactly how Amazon is to blame. Amazon offers “Prime Memberships” which include as a perk, free TWO DAY SHIPPING. The problem is, Amazon does not PAY for two day shipping. Instead, Amazon ships by Smartpost or UPS Ground in most cases, where most likely under normal circumstances, their network of distribution centers allows them to get the package there within 2 days. However, when the distribution systems are under pressure, such as during holiday seasons, those SmartPost or Ground packages have low priority, and will be superseded by actual ups blue or Fedex 2 day shipments. That is a decision that Amazon made, knowing full well of the likely repercussions. Neither UPS nor USPS are under any possible obligation to deliver those packages in two days. Frankly, they have absolutely zero contractual obligation to deliver said packages within ANY stated time period. It’s best effort. The problem here is most certainly, and with zero doubt, Amazon.

  • ARoark

    This article is incorrect. I was one of the shoppers effected by this. No email from Amazon. I had to contact them and argue to get my shipping costs refunded. No $20 credit. Someone needs to fact check their news a little better and not rely on Amazon press releases.

  • Gandhi

    I am a hardcore libertarian and to the right of almost everyone on domestic policy…and I have to say that THESE COMPANIES are 100% responsible for their failures and should be held accountable. Or is accountability only for the 99%? It is NOT the consumer’s fault for poor planning if they had an Amazon Prime account that they paid for, and if they expected their guarantee to be honored. FedEx, UPS, and Amazon did everything they could to corner the market and drive out the little guy – now they rightfully deserve to be crucified by the judiciary branch.

  • Lily

    Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
    “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
    Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

    • Mark Turrell

      Your point is fallacious and irrelevant to this article. If a company says it is guaranteeing a delivery date it should stick to it. What if it was for a birthday or anniversary?? What does the Grinch have to say about those?

      • swattz101

        If a company guarantees a certain delevery date, they should do almost everything within their power to meet it. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work, sometimes there are legal and moral implications. Legal, such as drivers only allowed to drive a certain amount of hours per day. Moral, do they make their employees work on Christmas day…and yes, some employees did work Christmas day.

        If something was late for Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary or whatever else, most people can deal with it. It is the thought that counts. Unfortunately the gimme gimme entitlement generation doesn’t seem to get it.

        Hopefully UPS, FedEx, Amazon and all the other companies have learned something from this and will plan better next year. Unfortunately, as corporate margins grow ever thinner and stock holders grow more demanding, I think we are going to see more problems instead of less. :-(

  • dave

    I just contacted Amazon and they refused me the $20 credit even though it was due to be delivered by UPS on 12/23 (paid overnight) and I didn’t receive until 12/26. They said my order “didn’t qualify”. Not sure how that happened.

  • P H

    I placed an order for a Kindle Fire HDX 7 on Friday, Dec 20 with two day shipping. Four days later I’m informed that I would not get it. On the phone they told me it was “out of stock” and they didn’t know when it would ship. Hell, if I had known that as late as Sunday, I could have ordered the thing without spending the extra $100 for 4G and had it for Christmas! They said they would overnight it at no charge when ever it became available, and give me a $5 gift.

    That really pissed me off, and still does.

    What rubs salt into a sore wound is the fact that wile Amazon throws me a little $5 token (not worth much is it?) for a mistake that Amazon made, and is now giving everyone who didn’t get their crap because of shipping issues (these fortunate people most likely have their stuff now) a $20 gift?
    It’s now the evening of the 27th. Not a word.

    Really gives me a bad feeling that Amazon would basically give me the ole “F-You” for kind of screwing me over like this. Especially considering how much $$ I’ve blown on their site.

  • S363

    I was a UPS driver for 32 years. What I know is that they always try to cheap out and don’t hire enough Peak Season (as they call it) help, then when something unexpected happens they’re screwed. They then pass that screwing on to the employees. That being said, UPS service is still the best. Read the various comments by Californians afflicted by On Trac (whoever they are).

  • chucklaluv

    I spoke to an Amazon rep.(Kenneth) and he said the $20 credit was just a rumor and all I could get was refund on pick-up & delivery. was anyone else told this?

  • wmhjr

    Folks, this is an Amazon issue – pure and simple. It’s not UPS, not Fedex, not USPS. It’s Amazon. Period.

    When Amazon sells a “Prime Membership”, they sell it via marketing of certain benefits. One of the biggest (perhaps the very largest) benefit is the promise that if you are a Prime Member, and purchase a “Prime Qualified” item, then you get free two day delivery. Even during the checkout process (frankly, even when you’re just browsing the item) you are reminded of how soon you need to order in order to get next day or two day delivery.

    Here’s where it’s Totally Amazons fault. Amazon tried to accomplish this not by actually shipping packages via two day delivery. Instead, Amazon has created a network of distribution that allows for “normal” two day delivery under reasonable circumstances. In other words, there are a reasonably large number of distribution centers strategically located such that most delivery addresses are within the normal “two day” overlay. But, they ship via UPS Ground – and frankly, even Smartpost. Here’s a news flash. The shippers (UPS, Fedex, USPS) have zero obligation to deliver those packages within two days. They have zero obligation to deliver them within 10 days for that matter. So, when things get busy, or weather gets hairy, guess what? Those packages ALL are prioritized lower than ACTUAL next day or two day deliveries.

    In this case, UPS and Fedex did know they were going to get hammered. Probably, so did Amazon. However, Amazon did nothing whatsoever to account for this. Nothing. They informed no customers. Nothing. They never EVER stopped promising two day delivery. And my guess? Very few customers really notice that their packages are actually being delivered via Ground – not 2 day.

    I’m not saying that UPS or Fedex are without blame this year. However, in the case of Amazon, they are to blame 365 days out of the year. They are promising services that they can in no way back up. Their contract with UPS, etc – are totally without any service level. But they don’t want you to know that.

    IMHO, this is a serious breach of terms of service with Amazon Prime. It’s serious enough that I just got a credit for one item that missed delivery that makes the item free. Every single customer should be calling Amazon and pushing this issue. Run your tracking number, verify it’s ground, and tell them to stop blaming UPS. I told them that I have zero interest in even hearing them say UPS – that the issue is that they shipped with a method that provides no quality of service, and it’s AMAZONs fault.

Job Listings on GeekWork