amazon-fullJust how bad were this week’s Christmas shipping delays? Online retail rating firm StellaService conducted its own test of last-minute package delivery, placing 75 orders from 25 retailers prior to each online store’s holiday cut-off date.

The firm reports on its blog: “Eight retailers – or 32% – failed to deliver at least one order by Christmas. Of all 75 orders, 12% did not arrive by the estimated date. And, all but one failed delivery was shipped using UPS.”

UPS, which blames the situation a confluence of bad weather and a shortened holiday season, says it expects to finish delivering delayed Christmas packages by today. However, the impact of the shipping problems could stretch into the next holiday season, altering online retailers’ approach to the peak shopping period.

Last-minute shoppers may face earlier deadlines for ordering packages next year. At the same time, retailers will need to be more careful about promising “guaranteed” delivery by Christmas, a StellaService executive tells the Dallas Morning News. And smaller shipping companies, rivals to FedEx and UPS, could also get a boost as a result, reports Reuters.

Amazon informed media outlets yesterday that it was offering $20 gift cards and shipping refunds to customers impacted by the delays. However, in the comments on our previous story, some GeekWire readers report that they have struggled to get the refund or the gift card from the company. We’ve contacted Amazon to find out more about the criteria the company is using.

Seattle-based Nordstrom was among the retailers that got out in front of the problem, warning customers in an email earlier in the week that overcapacity at UPS would cause some packages to be delayed, according to CNBC.

Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom’s digital operations, also apologized to customers in a post-Christmas message.

“While we are dependent on our shipping partners to hold up their end of the bargain on getting your orders to you, we also realize that we are accountable for meeting your expectations and take responsibility for what happened here,” he wrote in the message, according to USA Today. “Unfortunately, as you may have heard, the UPS delivery network was overwhelmed, and they were not able to meet their commitment.”

Meanwhile a company owned by Amazon — — is getting high marks for ensuring on-time deliveries.

Recapping its last-minute delivery test, StellaService explains on its blog, “It’s no surprise that customer service obsessed gave customers the latest cutoff time – December 23 – and delivered by Christmas in all three regions. StellaService Analysts found that actually upgraded the shipping option to make sure the orders arrived on time.”

Of course, complimentary shipping upgrades cut into the bottom line, which makes Zappos’ strategy more of a temporary fix than an actual solution to the problem. Look for retailers to be much more careful next year — and get ready to do your “last-minute” online shopping a little earlier.

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  • Guest

    I ordered a GoPro for my husband via Amazon Prime. Not only did I have to contact them to find out when it would ship/why it had not shipped-they responded on Christmas Eve to say the item was out-of-stock! It just showed, estimated delivery of 12/24 and “not yet shipped” in the comments/notes.

    I explained the situation, that it was guaranteed by Christmas and how disappointed I was to have to purchase it from BestBuy instead. I was given a canned explanation from someone in an overseas call center, and only a $10 gift card.

    Felt like, and still feels like, a slap in the face. I’m still so disappointed. This isn’t the Amazon we all know.

    Instead of focusing on drones, they should “really” focus on the customer like Bezos claims that they do. Communication saves reputations. Lack of it? Creates doubt.

  • Amy

    At 8:30pm PT on Christmas Eve, my last gifts for my husband, ordered from Amazon, hadn’t arrived via Prime shipping (UPS), which has never before failed us since we signed up for the service two years ago. I connected with someone on Amazon chat, very polite and apologetic, who said that due to a “failure in the UPS transportation network”, the package wouldn’t come on 12/24. Without any prompting from me, she offered a full refund of the entire purchase (there are no shipping charges for Prime members on most products), and a promise that the package would arrive on Thursday. We ended the conversation with me slightly bemused at the refund, but accepting because we’re adults and a delay in gifting wasn’t a huge deal, like it might be if a child was involved.
    Fast forward almost two hours to 10:20pm and there’s a knock on the door. UPS delivered my package at that crazy hour on Christmas Eve, despite the fact that their system showed it as still in the destination center, not even out on a truck. So the two driver guys must have been manually figuring out how to get things to people. I shouted a very loud “Thank you!” at them because seriously, that was above and beyond, and started wrapping.
    I’m guessing I am one of the lucky few with a scenario like this, because I got all my money back AND the package arrived in time for Christmas, albeit after the guaranteed delivery time. My guess is that the customer service rep shouldn’t have issued me that refund, but it never got canceled and the money was back in my account in less than 48 hrs.
    I share because at least in my case, both Amazon and UPS (or at the least their employees) made the situation right, and you almost never get to hear those stories :)

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