Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Dec 11 2013 21:49:57

Avoiding Holiday Shipping Horror Stories

By: Ina Steiner

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This time of year can be rough on sellers as frantic shoppers stress over getting their packages in time to wrap and give to friends and family. But even the best of sellers who do everything right can still be sidelined by Mother Nature - and that's what's happening to some packages bound for Texas, Arkansas and the Northeast.

Winter storms wreaked havoc on parts of the U.S. recently (and in Europe, by the way), and there continue to be some delays in delivering packages.

A seller wrote today to warn that things are dire thanks to a backlog at a UPS center in Mesquite, Texas, that suffered a two day power outage last week. The seller says not only has that delayed several hundred thousand orders that are still waiting to be sorted and delivered, but tracking on a good percentage of those packages are showing no scans on the original order. (We have not confirmed the number of orders impacted.)

"So when customers track their orders online or call in to UPS with a tracking number, UPS is telling them that the orders never shipped," the seller said. "We have packages there right now where we have confirmation from UPS management that the boxes are in Mesquite TX but when customers check UPS online or call UPS, show unshipped."

The seller already has customers accusing him of never having shipped the packages, and he pointed out that marketplaces use on-time delivery as a seller performance metric - "and one of the worst offences you can do is to upload tracking but not ship. But due to UPS's situation in Mesquite TX, this is exactly what is going to unfairly reflect on the sellers."

"This is turning into a huge cost and time drain and damaging our feedback and on-time delivery metrics. I think it is imperative to get this story out there not just for the sellers who may or may not realize they are being affected, but so 3P platform management (who I know read your site daily) are aware of the TX issue and don't ding (or worse) sellers for an issue that is solely on UPS."

UPS issued an update yesterday and acknowledged there may be service delays due to winter weather in the Northeast and the Dallas Metroplex area (Mesquite is near Dallas). In addition, there are some areas of Arkansas where UPS is not picking up or delivering packages.

FedEx issued an update today saying it has now resumed standard daily operations following the severe winter storms affecting the U.S. "Note that some isolated areas remain inaccessible and there may be on-going service delays due to local conditions."

David Utter wrote an article for Thursday's newsletter about shipping cutoff dates, and before being contacted about the weather-delays, I had prepared some notes for a blog post to accompany the article dealing with demanding holiday shoppers over the next 2 weeks.

First some pet peeves of holiday shipping and fulfillment:

- incomplete name and/or address of recipient;
- running out of shipping/packing supplies;
- concerns over requests to send packages to different address.

A doozy is when shoppers pick a cheap shipping method but expect to receive the package well in advance of Christmas. (Who hasn't read posts about overwrought parents and grandparents who goofed by ordering packages too late and then complain about the seller?)

Tips I've heard from sellers include:
- adding messaging to websites/listings about delivery dates;
- communicating with customers;
- shutting off cheap but slow delivery options in advance of the holiday;
- paying out-of-pocket to send last minute orders expedited to avoid the possibility of poor ratings.

Some sellers go to the extreme of actually shutting off all of their listings the week before Christmas to avoid any drama.

This time of year the stresses of the holidays can lead to frayed nerves on the part of both buyers and sellers. What are you doing to minimize the stress and avoid holiday-shipping horror stories?

Update 12/12/13: NBC in Dallas Ft Worth did a story today about the back up at UPS and how the carrier is coping. The biggest problem, a seller effected reminds us, is that UPS is displaying the packages: "many customers are just having their package show as unshipped (labels run only) and are blaming sellers."




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

Wed Dec 11 23:08:45 2013

The absurdity of the some of the punitive requirements ebay demands of its sellers couldn't be better illustrated than by this article.

What brick and mortar store would shut its doors a week before Christmas to avoid negative reviews?

Sellers shouldn't be punished either by ebay or the marketplace for buyer procrastination, bad weather, or shipping company logistical problems.

Ebay disingenuously pretends it doesn't understand the difference between brick and mortar sales and online sales in order to punish sellers/eliminate/reduce discounts for failing to meet the impossible requirements that exist only in the minds of some these immature buyers ebay recruits and enables to be absolute jerks.

True seller protection is non existent -- nothing more than ineffectual window dressing.

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This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Thu Dec 12 00:11:43 2013

To top it off ebay has another free listing auction promotion starting today and ending Christmas Eve. I would be hesitant to add a buy it now to auctions since certain buyers will have unrealistic expectations on getting their items. Also don't forget uploading tracking since ebay will probably count the 24th and 25th, Tues & Wed as business days. Not only snow will be falling but so will seller performance ratings.    

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by: tb This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 12 00:15:08 2013

Count me as one of those that vacation'd eBay before Christmas. Definitely too much drama for me. I would much rather get through the holidays without hearing some screaming housewife in Connecticut that ordered something 3 days before Christmas via 1st Class Mail and it didn't show up. Because eBay TELLS the customer when it will arrive, it's our fault when it doesn't.

I'll go maybe 3 or 4 more days and then shut her down.

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 12 09:54:58 2013

Selling on ebay is a NO win situation.
They are so desperate for buyers that they remove any common sense factor.
Instead of ebay pushing buy early, they just say FREE and 100% satisfaction or money back. Of course it is not their money. If it cost them anything, it would be a different story.
The best present you can give yourself is to make this the last year for selling and or buying on ebay.
How many sellers has ebay ticked off?? Now, is JD that dumb that he thinks those that he has ticked off  will continue to buy off ebay??
He doesn't care one way or the other. JD just looks at how he can make money off his stock options. He's sick and it has spread to the board members and others.

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by: Gina This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 12 12:06:46 2013

In years past, I closed my shop on the 20th.  No way was I knocking myself out finding, packaging some huge order, printing up Customs docments, driving to another country & shipping some idiot's package internationally, only to find out it never made it, for which I'd take anouther round of abuse and refund demands.  
I had one customer once that thought she had a "right" to place such demands on me because she was "such a good customer"!  I knew the package would never make it on time.  She used every nasty trick in the book even telling me that she needed my stock to produce products which she'd already sold!  And, of course, she wasn't going to pay the $35 overnight cost!!!  
In the end I told her that I couldn't help her & never heard from her again.  I don't miss customers like that, I don't want them!

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This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Thu Dec 12 12:32:55 2013

Obviously JD hasn't been listening to Uncle Griff's advice when it comes to matters such as this.

Actually, I've often commented that even though today's eBay disgusts me... during my time at eBay, I did learn a LOT that has contributed greatly to my off-eBay success.

One of the simplest concepts that I learned was something that Griff had once recommended: ''Under-promise and OVER-deliver!''

Easy!

When I ''under-promise'' (and avoid exaggerations, gilding, and hyperbole) that gives me some wiggle-room and leeway when it comes to fulfilling the customers order. --- I rarely need it, but it's good to know that I've allowed myself an extra 24-48 hours to complete processing.

Then, for the 99.9% of sales that I'm able to complete, ship, and have delivered in LESS TIME than was estimated... well, my customers are---in a word---DELIGHTED!

It works every time!

It's just common-sense wisdom of managing customers' expectations and then providing them with honest, prompt and competent service as well as quality merchandise.

This ain't rocket-science, folks. JD could do this if he wanted to.

The thing is, he doesn't want to.

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

Thu Dec 12 15:59:24 2013

Warning buyers won't matter, it doesn't do any good, the buyers looking to do seller harm take advantage of this. You'll hear a bunch of stories next week by sellers that either got shut down or were tormented over buyer demands. It doesn't matter if the sky was falling or if Yellow Stone goes up, buyers still expect sellers to make magic!

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

Thu Dec 12 16:04:26 2013

One way to stop buyers from fraudulently using ebay is too allow no more refunds through PayPal unless the packages is returned first. This is business 101 best practices not, refund buyer money before seller gets his photo of an XBOX One back.

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by: JustTheFacts This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 13 11:18:18 2013

These venues do not care that shipping delays are caused from the weather, ups, fedex, usps, EVERYTHING is ALWAYS the sellers fault even when the seller has ZERO control over it and did EVERYTHING humanly possible.

The same buyers who buy the day before xmas, refuse to pay for expedited shipping and demand it next day regardless, and DING your ratings and FB, are the same people who make thousands of EXCUSES for everything they do wrong and screw up in their own lives.  They are also the ones who BLAME everything wrong in their lives on someone else.

This is the type of people they are and no amount of reason, logic etc will change them, but this is also why things ALWAYS go WRONG for them and this too will never change for them as long as they are they way they are.

Remember, you can NEVER reason with an UNREASONABLE person.  But you can be reasonably sure of is that their life is a MISERABLE WRECK because they are a MISERABLE WRECK!

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This user has validated their user name. by: silent anarchy

Sat Dec 14 17:15:58 2013

just as a precaution i set all my lisings to end on dec 15, this is what ebay has become anymore, a mine field. Instead of me rushing to get a good mix of holiday items my first thoughts are not of profit but how will ebay screw me this time.  



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