|Wed Dec 11 2013 21:49:57|
Avoiding Holiday Shipping Horror Stories
By: Ina Steiner
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."