Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
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by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Dec 23 2013 20:36:20

Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

By: Ina Steiner

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SEE UPDATE BELOW. Some report the U.S. Postal Service has been slower in delivering mail this holiday season, and some sellers - as well as the American Postal Workers Union - are blaming it on postal cost-cutting measures.

The APWU's Debby Szeredy said, "Much of the delayed mail is in areas where plants and post offices have been consolidated or closed or where hours at post offices have been reduced," according to PostalNews.com

The Union is urging customers who have complaints about delayed mail to let the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) know. See this EcommerceBytes interview with PRC Chairman Ruth Goldway in which she explain how her agency has the authority to mediate complaints about service and serve as an advocate for mailers.

As for sellers, when an eBay seller started a thread recently on the discussion boards called "Really Disappointed in the USPS this year," some other sellers joined in echoing that sentiment. "It seems like the Post Office has really dropped the ball this year. I've had more trouble in the last 4 weeks than I've had the last 10 years," the original poster wrote.

Another agreed, writing, "This is the first holiday season with all cut backs, closures, consolidations, staffing reductions, and service standard lowering in place. And yes it shows. Items that used to take 2-3 days are taking 4-6-or longer. Across the board."

Not everyone agreed, however. "Given all of the closures and cutbacks, I'd say USPS has done well this year. There are no more delays than usual, considering the season and recent bad weather."

Another problem sellers are contending with is the problem of theft. Some criminals are following UPS delivery trucks and are stealing packages from recipients' doorsteps. It's difficult to know how often this happens, but there are certainly a lot more media reports about the problem this year.

In fact, one police department came up with a Twitter hashtag for the practice: #FrontPorchShopping



Above: The Anne Arundel County Police Department say this man is a suspect in #FrontPorchShopping

Unfortunately when the thieves are caught, it seems law enforcement is challenged in figuring out who the items belong to, since the crooks destroy the packaging.

Have you experienced any shipping delays or reports of stolen packages? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE 12/24/13: UPS is also having problems delivering mail on time. The PostalNews.com noticed an announcement on the UPS website updated on Christmas Eve:

Service Update - Updated Tuesday, December 24, 2013
UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments. All of our drivers are out making deliveries throughout the day and into the evening. The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network as demand was much greater than the forecast, resulting in some shipments being delayed. We expect a vast majority of these packages will be delivered the day after Christmas. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. For the most-up-to date information, click here to track your specific shipment's progress on UPS.com.


That means some customers will not be receiving their packages until the day after Christmas - bad news for online merchants who use UPS!!

It's important for sellers who use UPS and receive complaints from customers to point them to this message.

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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: arrjay This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 02:03:09 2013

I have nothing but great things to say about USPS. I rarely have problems - can't even remember the last time a package went missing or was terribly late.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 02:34:55 2013

Yeah... big issue. Things that typically take 2-3 days took 8-9 days.  Hopefully things start to speed up again.



Then you have this kind of guy... Asked a question about an item 10:45pm on the 21st. I answer 20 minutes later.

I get a message at 3pm on the 23rd... "Can you overnight this?".

I hate when buyers will ask questions, take a bunch of time...or make an offer on an item and then takes a day before they get back to me.... THEN THEY NEED IT OVERNIGHT.

I was able to squeeze the one on the 23rd and get it delivered on the 24th....but I had to extract extra payment from the guy, and I almost didn't have enough time to pack my orders I already had before the PO closed.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: digger This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 05:35:35 2013

Sent a book by Media Mail from NC to NJ on 11/29. It scanned leaving the Greensboro sorting facility 0n 12/1 and then stopped dead. Still nothing as of today 12/26. Customer opened a PayPal case and I had to refund his money. No movement on the package since 12/1 !!

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: cosqueen This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 06:40:43 2013

This is the worst year in 10 years of on-line selling.  Not only are things moving painfully slow, but things seem to be just stranded at sorting centers where capacity is reached. My carrier and the entire office know me well as during the holidays I make drops sometimes 3 times per day. This year an entire bin of mail dropped off by me personally on 12/17 did NOT scan accepted until 12/23.  This makes me look really bad, even though I printed the label on 12/17, dropped it off 12/17 and sent a personalized email to my customers telling them shipped 12/17.  I had one angry customer promise a negative in a message Christmas Eve.  I am expecting the worst and to lose my ''badge'' over this.  Especially frustrating is the fact I  will get zero sympathy from Ebay.  I wait in silence for the negatives to pile up.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 07:32:49 2013

Possible that some from USPS and UPS are intentionally slow or screw up as a way of getting back for the low minimum wages and lousy next to none retirement package???  :-)  
I am sure there are some that actually believe this..................
I was at a garage sale last summer where I mentioned that maybe she should put some of the items on line instead of the garage sale? Her response '' It's not worth my time unless I am guaranteed at least $60.00/hr.-I am worth that much''. Why she was doing a garage sale is beyond me.  Mentality of some.............

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: savingmom This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 07:54:51 2013

I too had numerous problems with slow and missed deliveries -- all with the USPS.  Any package I shipped after December 5 took anywhere from 1 to 7 days longer, and one package that I sent on December 13, going from PA to NJ,  is still undelivered (actually it just left the sorting facility yesterday).  As a result, my feedback and DSRs have suffered so I have no doubt a restriction and/or suspension is in my future.  I've been selling for 10 years and this is the first time I've seen the USPS perform so badly for so long.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: tawhite This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 07:59:58 2013

Yes! Yes! and Yes! #FrontPorchShopping is definitely real. And USPS is not what it once was.

I had a mens English tweed coat (valued at $300) stolen from my front porch about a month ago.

To make this even odder, this was a Scheduled Pick-up and the next morning, I received an email notice from the USPS confirming the package pick-up! This came even though the ripped open and empty Priority Mail box had been left at the curb by the thief.

Even more suspicious, my usual mail carrier left the route early that day and another carrier took over. I got this info from the substitute carrier, who when I asked, told me he had no notice for a Scheduled Pick-up at my address. This carrier apparently did not notice the ripped-open, Large Flat Rate Priority Mail box at my curb either.

Seem strange to you?

Well, this was just the beginning of what has turned into total distrust for the USPS.

I had many small First Class mail packages sitting in my mailbox that were never picked-up by the carrier. This went on for weeks. I'd have to pull them out of the mailbox and drive down to the local station and hand deliver them.

Then about two weeks ago, I scheduled another Priority Mail pick-up, and kept a watch for the carrier just to make sure it wasn't stolen. The moment I left my watch, the carrier came by.

I checked to see that all was well and low and behold! my package is still there. But the carrier had left her notice of the Scheduled Pick-up in my mailbox.

I grab my package, and the notice and am heading for my car when the carrier drives by.

''Why didn't you pick up my package?, I ask her.

''Oh,'' she says, ''I didn't know that was for me.''

YES, she really said that. I was floored. We had a chat and she said she was new and didn't understand what the Scheduled Pick-up notice meant.

So I went down to the local USPS station and spoke with the fellow who was the ''supervisor'' of mail carriers. I explained what had just happened, and the first thing he did was take the Scheduled Pick-up notice and keep it. Then he explained that yes, the carrier was new to the route, and yes, she should have known to pick-up, and then wondered aloud why she had been sent on the route because she doesn't usually deliver mail, she has some other job at the USPS.

The supervisor and I had quite a conversation, and the gist of it was that I had the wrong type of mailbox and that I have to leave notice when I want mail picked up because ''carriers are too busy to go searching'': for mail. His words. I ask him a few hypotheticals. ''So if I have my electric bill sitting in my mailbox in plain sight, then that is not 'notice' enough?''

He doubled-down in his claim that EVERY piece of mail REQUIRES a pick-up notice, even First Class letters!

Of course, even with a Scheduled Pick-up Notice, the USPS mail carrier may be too ignorant or too illiterate to know what the hell it means or the package could be stolen off the front porch, perhaps by a carrier who CAN read the contents!

I am totally disgusted with USPS and have been hand-delivering all my mail and packages since that day.

Thanks for giving me a place to rant about what is a serious problem with USPS. As far as I'm concerned, it is going down river because it hires untrustworthy and stupid employees. Not all, of course. But enough to poison the well.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: KathleenJohnson This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Dec 26 08:45:38 2013

1. My preferred method of shipping is the United States Post Office.

2. Its "Christmas", you have to assume there are going to be issues and I warn my Customers that they, also, have to expect issues despite our best efforts.

3. Never sell on eBay during Christmas - that way you can avoid the insufferable inflexible, and draconian rules of eBay. If you do sell on eBay at Christmas - assume there are probably going to be issues with "making the deadline" and insufferable inflexible buyers who are just itching to use that "Neg" button no matter the Season.
So, if you get one - its a "so what", and to be expected.

4. USPS handled all my packages in a timely manner. Delivered them all safely. My customers are all happy campers.

5. I did not ship at the cut-off dates - I know that, in the final rush, issues will arise. Gave myself a weeks grace. Anything shipped after that - they were told there was no way it would make it by Christmas. If it did, then good for me. If it didnt - they were told in advance.

When gambling - the house, in the end, always wins.

Moral of the story: you cant push the envelope........  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Thu Dec 26 08:46:41 2013

Apparently, these shipping delays are regional in nature.

As a buyer, I placed an order late Saturday evening and had zero expectation of receiving the item by Christmas even though the seller was located less than 150 miles from my home. By some miracle, the item arrived via UPS on Tuesday morning which I absolutely did not expect.

All our other holiday purchases were delivered within seemingly normal time frames.



As a seller, the only delays we saw were with USPS First Class and Priority Mail which were destined for the west coast.

All other orders shipped USPS before the holidays arrived in their normal time frames.

One thing I did notice was that eBay apparently made no allowances for their estimated delivery time frames which are displayed on seller listings even though high volume could and should have been anticipated and there was bad weather in the mid west, New England and Canada.

Just like eBay to string sellers up to be slaughtered by buyers who have had expectations of delivery set by eBay which were unrealistic given the standard high holiday volume and poor weather conditions in parts of the country.

Shamefully, all eBay cares about is setting artificially high buyer expectation with regard to delivery dates and then leave the seller to deal with the mess eBay created.

I would expect that when holiday transaction DSR's begin coming in for affected sellers, there will be another large purge of sellers from eBay based on poor performance ratings.

Nothing like having your so called trading partner set you up for failure the way eBay sets their sellers up for failure by establishing unrealistic buyer expectations.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Bonanza Bound This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 10:24:13 2013

I recently shipped a jukebox popcorn popper and I always use Delivery Confirmation.  The bidder opened a case, saying that even though the Delivery Confirmation showed that the package was delivered, the guy said "I did not receive it".  After a review, Ebay sided with the buyer and refunded the full amount.  I think that stinks and I told Ebay that this will be a new scam for any bidder who is a little dishonest.  It will force me to require signature, at my own expense.  I believe the recipient should provide a safe place for packages that are dropped off!  But again, Ebay sided with the bidder.  Boo Hiss!!

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Dec 26 11:28:29 2013

I must be the rarity. I shipped non-gift type items right up through the 22nd and haven't had any complaints of non-arrival.

I ordered most of my Christmas gifts on line from Amazon and all arrived on time or early, including the last thing I had ordered that had promised a 24th delivery--it showed up on the 21st!

My USPS mail man is terrific and leaves packages inside if needed, while other service people still ignore the sign on the door to open the door and put things inside. Generally on rainy/snowy days, they choose to ignore it and put things down on the spot where the rain pours over the roof. Apparently no common sense.

We have a new propane driver this year. The old one knew to open the door and put the lightweight receipt/bill inside. This one, I noticed tracks to the tank so I knew he had come so I actively went hunting the receipt. Found it on the ground outside. It didn't blow away only because it was so saturated with the rain that was pouring down! Where did common sense go? No driver is so busy that they can't take a moment to open a door and tuck or throw something inside.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Dragonfyree This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 12:02:03 2013

I haven't had any problems with USPS (knock on wood).  I think it may be that I live in Nebraska - sort of the middle of the country, so I don't have huge distances in either directions.

I almost always use Media Mail and they usually arrive in 3-4 days.

I'm also one of those awful people who was ordering right up to the last day and I want to give Kudo's to Fed Ex who got my last two packages here on 12/24.

The only problem I have is with UPS which leaves the package on the front porch, but doesn't ring the doorbell anymore. I open my front door to check how cold it is outside and there's a package sitting there.  Someone is always home at my house.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Mr. Me This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 13:37:21 2013

I learned a long time ago, that one can not promise that another person will do something ... thats exactly what eBarf is trying to do. eBay promising that sellers will deliver cheaply and by christmas, sure, go ahead and order items from the other side of the country on dec 23, regardless of the weather.
and of course it will be your size ......  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: thebobman This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 13:54:54 2013

>>>Possible that some from USPS and UPS are intentionally slow or screw up as a way of getting back for the low minimum wages and lousy next to none retirement package???  :-)  <<<


The lady behind the counter at my post office gets like $30/hr.... I'd say thats a fine wage...

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Dragonfyree This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 13:56:16 2013

I don't know why Ebay even has the delivery time on it.  They have nothing to do with mailing or delivery a package.  

I order late, but am prepared for them not to show up.  I print out pictures of the gifts and wrap them up, just in case.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 22:46:25 2013

I have to give props to our tiny rural Post Office--which is sadly not always the case!  A relative had a family member die and so their two huge boxes did not get posted on time.  We knew this and did not expect that these would get to us before Christmas and discussed what to tell the kids.

On the 23rd we got--but somehow did not see---the PICK UP AT POST OFFICE notice--mail was picked out of box after dark so it was missed.  We noticed this  on the 24th after the noon closing time for the PO and figured we would just get the boxes on the 26th.

Imagine our SURPRISE when we got home late on the 24th to find two HUGE boxes in the living room!  Apparently it had been too wet for the boxes to be left on the 23rd--apart from their size!!!!--and our regular (and much loved)  Rural Route Carrier took them back to the PO for safe keeping.  

On the 24th the Post Mistress noticed them and decided--on her OWN as far as we know!!!--to try and get the boxes to us at home-ON HER OWN TIME!!!!  

Fortunately a kid was home and awake (works nights)  and helped her wrangle the HUGE boxes out of her car---her personal vehicle!!!----and into the house.

We will def be stopping by to say THANK YOU---I might just have the little kids do this as it was their gifts in the packages!  

So---I agree that on the whole--and even at this PO at other times--things are way out of control.  But this ONE TIME----this was a very nice and un-looked for thing to do.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Dec 27 01:14:44 2013

Ebay lies to both buyers and sellers about many things for the express purpose of convincing Wall Street they're keeping up with Amazon which anyone with a lick of sense and two licks of working knowledge about ebay knows is far from the truth.

In this case, the lies also serve a secondary purpose of giving permission to buyers to ding the shipping related stars where applicable so that ebay can eventually purge them.

I support USPS though I've had two serious problems this years with carriers delivering packages to the wrong address and failing to scan or misplacing pick up packages.

The window crew at the Post Office are great, and I couldn't ask for better service from them.

Congressional intransigence, however, has forced the Postal Service to hire part time contract carriers who receive few if any benefits, and they're a mixed bag.



Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: Ebay's Slow Death This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 27 03:10:20 2013

Packages seem to get stalled. I mailed a First-Class package in early November. It was scanned as leaving our little Post Office, and then just disappeared. Three weeks later, the Buyer starts asking what happened to it. I asked at the Post Office and the Postmaster checked and said she scanned it out herself. After another week and a half, it reappeared at a sorting center and then was delivered.

Also, about a week ago, an Ebay Buyer said they didn't get their envelope with their postcard, and I had to refund. This is happening more frequently lately.

I think the efficiency of the Post Office has declined, and packages get stuck in a backlog, because there aren't enough people to process them anymore.

The women at our Post Office are great!  However, I had problems in the past with a Post Office in a nearby town, that I use to call the ''Post Office from Hell.''  They loved to cause problems. It wasn't just one person, but several. I just stopped going there.

I have an awful feeling this is just the beginning, with all the cost cutting at the Post Office and the Federal level. There are some services that just shouldn't be privatized. But, it's what our Congressmen are paid to do-make money for their rich donors, and screw everybody else.

The Post Office is so vital to so many businesses. Let's keep our fingers crossed that it might get better.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: salisburytracy This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 27 20:13:43 2013

I have sold a few things on ebay, starting out they hold your money for a while, which makes sense. My package was sent the day it was paid for but now it seems to be lost at some facility. I did not include insurance, hindsite says I should have. My hope after reading all of these posts is that eventually it will arrive at the buyers address intact. What is the possibility that it is in the ''dead mail'' facility and they will actually help me locate it? I really would love an opinion that would give me some hope. I would hate to think I am out $172 for a hockey jersey that was sent in good faith.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages   Online Sellers Contend with Slow Mail and Snatched Packages

by: SparklyEyes7 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 27 23:11:45 2013

Bonanza Bound

I had a similar situation.  Buyer said they never received it but it was scanned delivered by the USPS.  eBay sided with me and closed the case in my favor.

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