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Sellers Beware as Holiday Shipping Deadlines Approach

Many ecommerce pros have turned to free shipping as an enticement to customers to shop online. That perk has become popular with shoppers and at this point in time it’s practically expected by them.

For online sellers, taking best advantage of offering free shipping means sending items in the most economical fashion that will still allow them to meet deadlines and customer expectations. During the holiday shopping season such deadlines are critically important.

Fortunately major package shippers understand this and make available holiday schedules listing the cutoff dates for delivery by Christmas, depending on the service level of the shipment. As we enter the second week of December, deadlines for the most cost effective shipping methods are coming up fast.

The US Postal Service noted its domestic mail cutoff date for Standard Post will be December 14, and the cutoff for First Class Mail service is December 20th. Holiday shipments by Priority Mail should be sent by December 21, while Priority Mail Express has a cutoff of Monday, December 23rd.

FedEx has some flexibility for shippers using Ground or Home Delivery. Both of those services have a cutoff date of December 17. Express Saver shipments should be sent by Dec. 19th to make it on time, while Express 2Day has a cutoff of Dec. 21. All of FedEx’s overnight services will need shipments by Dec. 23rd while SameDay delivery service will be available on December 25th.

The UPS calendar said Dec. 21 will be the last day to ship via 2nd Day Air to have a delivery arrive in time for Christmas. Next Day shipments can be made on Dec. 23rd to arrive before Christmas; standard UPS pickup and delivery won’t be available on Christmas Day.

Holiday shipping itself can pose a challenge for sellers beyond simple fulfillment though. For those working through marketplaces like ones operated by Amazon or eBay, that company’s terms of service may create some unexpected situations.

One Amazon seller found their seller performance stats were negatively impacted after what appeared to be a proactive resolution for a duplicate order. The seller claimed to have contacted the customer, determined duplicate, unwanted orders had been placed, and refunded the canceled duplicates.

“Can Amazon be counting this act of good customer service on our behalf against our ratings?” the seller asked. As of publication time an answer hadn’t been made on the forum for this question.

Another seller groaned to colleagues that a customer had picked the slowest, cheapest shipping method and then asked if their package would arrive before Christmas.

In response, another Amazon seller said they routinely suspend all listings except for Amazon-fulfilled (FBA) listings the week or so before Christmas to avoid such issues.

How do you cope with frantic shoppers?

Comment on the EcommerceBytes Blog.

David A Utter on LinkedinDavid A Utter on Twitter
David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.