Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
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.




Comments (42) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

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: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Dec 23 22:13:25 2013

I've only had one problem with delivery. I mailed an item (First Class Package) on November 27th (the day before Thanksgiving), going from California to New York. The usps.com projected delivery date was November 30th, which seemed unreasonable since there was a holiday the day after mailing. The tracking number showed it left the sort facility in California, and then it disappeared. It showed up again on December 9th when it arrived at the sort facility in New York and was delivered two days later.  

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

by: NetWatch This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 23 23:31:12 2013

Part of this problem is created, aided, and abetted by ebay having created and promoted unrealistically fast shipping expectations on the part of buyers and unrealistically fast delivery times imposed upon small sellers under pain of DSR penalties from the buyers with all the subsequent penalties which that triggers. When I was growing up if your ordered a STAR WARS movie or figure from the back of a magazine, you sent a money order and the ad/coupon you clipped out of the magazine told you up front ALLOW 4-6 WEEKS delivery. So you were jazzed and thrilled when you came home form school one day 2 or 3 weeks later it actually had arrived, because that seemed FAST to you. Why? Because you had not been fed unrealistic expectations.

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

Tue Dec 24 02:14:11 2013

Combine ebay created product renters, buyers who believe sellers should have Star Trek transporters and replicators, USPS contract carriers failing to scan pick up packages, and slow International 1st Class Mail, this has unquestionably been the most problematic holiday buying season I've ever experienced on ebay.

Nest year, I'm going to shut down ten days before Christmas unless ebay gets real and that's as likely as The Ho acquiring a conscience.

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

by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 24 07:26:02 2013

No problem what so ever. Closed up the store until January and are enjoying the sun in Florida away from the snow in Michigan and the nuts on Ebay

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: permacrisis

Tue Dec 24 09:22:39 2013

This should be two seperate articles. Wow-- Where do I start.

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: Anonymous Annie

Tue Dec 24 12:47:40 2013

This is why we have attached an professionally-made sign to our front door that says ''ALL DELIVERIES SIDE DOOR ONLY''

Even though our suburbia neighborhood is safe and pleasant, there have been isolated incidents of porch theft.

Our front door faces the street, and there is no way to conceal any deliveries. But our side-door entrance cannot be seen from the street..

Of course, leaving a package at the side door is no guarantee of safety. A bold thief can easily prowl around to check our side door. But, fortunately, we've had no problems ever since we started directing everyone to make deliveries at our side door. (''Out of sight, out of mind'' is our hope.)

Well... I take that back. We have had *ONE* problem. --- That would be the *USPS* drivers who cannot read a BIG (12'' x 12'') PROFESSIONALLY ENGRAVED, bright red plastic sign, with BOLD letters and an arrow pointing in the direction of our side door.

Our delivery route is a ''training route'' of some sort... so we rarely have a regular USPS driver for longer than a couple of months. --- Just as we get one trained to the point where they are competent and know the quirks and needs of the area, they're gone, and an inexperienced newbie takes their place.

FedEx, UPS and all other couriers are able to read it and kindly deliver to the back door. (Even the seasonal/temp drivers who have never delivered to our home are able to read and give us the courtesy of a safe side-door delivery.)

I'm not sure what USPS's problem is.

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: Puck

Tue Dec 24 16:47:30 2013

Sent a boxed USPS Express Mail shipment to Philadelphia yesterday afternoon (12/23).

eBay showed estimated delivery date as 12/24 and the USPS showed it as 12/26.

For once, the Bay got it right.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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: Puck

Tue Dec 24 17:32:46 2013

"Well... I take that back. We have had *ONE* problem. --- That would be the *USPS* drivers who cannot read a BIG (12'' x 12'') PROFESSIONALLY ENGRAVED, bright red plastic sign, with BOLD letters and an arrow pointing in the direction of our side door."

USPS employees dedicate so much conscious brain power to mulling over their benefits and retirement packages, they have little left to devote to more pedestrian pursuits like reading a sign.

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

by: Patricia This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 24 17:42:38 2013

Haven't had any problem with deliveries...even last minute buys where the buyer is willing to pay for overnight deliver....but then...I'm not selling on Ebay so my customer is still mine!  Its nice to deal directly with your customer...both generally come out of the transaction happy.

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: Anonymous Annie

Tue Dec 24 18:24:54 2013

Similar to my experience, Patricia! I was TOTALLY and BRUTALLY honest on my website's estimated delivery dates. Perhaps it cost me some business and lost customers... but in EVERY instance I never promised (or even *hinted*) that a customer could get their late, last-minute purchases to arrive before Xmas.

Yes... I want money. I want to be profitable... but not at the expense of lying and deceiving customers. --- For me, I'd rather not make the sale then have to deal with an unhappy, disappointed and angry customer after the fact.

An unhappy customer is a customer that I'll never see again.

A customer that chose to not buy today (because I wouldn't make empty promises) MAY come back and be a repeat customer throughout the rest of the year!

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: Rexford

Tue Dec 24 19:23:29 2013

And today USPS announced a 6% increase.

Free shipping anyone?

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: ebayisajoke
Web Site

Tue Dec 24 19:42:45 2013

I stopped all my drop shipping over a week ago to let my auctions end, I won't start back up until Jan 1st. eBay lost about 1000 item listings from me because of the shit they pull on sellers. I just stuck it to eBay for the holidays. Merry Christmas eBay Inc.

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.

Wed Dec 25 06:35:01 2013

This was on the news - actually happened.
''UPS driver left a package in the trash can out front to protect it from the weather as the porch was exposed.= something like that anyway. At any rate - the garbage truck came by and you can guess what happened........The driver still has his/her job.

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: Basset

Wed Dec 25 17:47:46 2013

Probably one of the most interesting aspects of this storyline is the comment sections of what I consider mainstream media.

Glancing at a couple media outlets (outside this one) carrying the UPS (and Fedex) stories about the delays:

The majority of comments are showing NO sympathy to the buyers waiting to the last minute to order an item but expecting nothing to go wrong with delivery. I'm glad to see that common sense still exists.

Also, interesting commentary coming in from UPS workers (or their families) - about stretched deadlines for last minute ordering (through Amazon & the like) resulting in the shipper getting slammed with last minute deliveries. It is interesting to hear their take on what led to this.

Then there are the ''want it now'' buyers demanding blood over a delay in delivery of their ''stuff''. Good thing the shippers with the delays don't get DSRs. Unfortunately, some of the sellers probably do.


ecommerce has brought this ''gotta have it now'' baby to birth. On Christmas no less. Crazy parallel.

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: TheUglySweaterShop
Web Site

Thu Dec 26 00:28:53 2013

13 years selling online and this was by far the worst experience I've had with shipping.

I wish USPS didn't show things like "Priority 2-day" and "estimated Shipping Date" on the tracking web pages when customers look up their packages to track. That sets a false expectation that a significant number of times this season they've failed to meet.

UPS is not much better--took them from 12-6 to 12-23 to deliver a package to me.

So glad I don't sell on eBay. Of my 700+ customers this season, only one was a bit unreasonable about USPS not getting their package in time (she was not happy with the option I offered to Express Mail a replacement sweater at no extra charge to arrive the next day in time for a party, which I felt was a very generous offer which would have solved her dilemma at no cost to her).

Had it been eBay, I could only imagine how many disgruntled customers I'd encounter, since the culture there encourages buyers to abuse sellers.  

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

by: blaumann2 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 00:34:56 2013

Yes, USPS had a bad holiday season.
I sent one package from PA to IL. It was just scanned in Denver CO.

System is just peachy......

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

by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 00:38:31 2013

Yep, blame the cutbacks and closures,NOT the employees themselves.  Maybe if Hustle was in the vocabulary of more USPS employees then things would run a little smoother.

Maybe if taking a little pride in your work was part of the USPS mantra things would be better.

That is not to say that there are not THOUSANDS of terrific, caring, loyal and hustling postal workers on the streets and in the neighborhoods but there is a bit of internal sabotage going on in order to aggravate the mailing public.

Maybe if the union allowed supervisors and regional postmasters and management to cull the heard of the employees that do not perform or that perform at the rate of a thirsty snail things could improve.  Maybe if some of those poorly performing, un-customer service types (managers included) were required to do the job or step aside then things would improve.

In the military we called them the old brown shoes... I challenge you postal workers for 2014: step out of those brown shoe and put on a pair of sneakers and hop-to and act like you care about your job and the customers that you serve!

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

by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 26 00:41:26 2013

Oh, and as for those THOUSANDS of fantastic postal workers... the ones that DO perform... the ones that DO care... the ones that DO make a difference... I APPLAUD YOU AND THANK YOU.


Now, as for the rest that do not, either step out of the job and quit or retire so someone that will,  CAN have and do it right or step up to the plate and DO it right!

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: Siobhan

Thu Dec 26 01:07:45 2013

Not having to do with my business but with gifts sent to friends and relatives, I used a USPS Click and Ship Flat Rate Priority Mail Envelope to send a package to my son in PA (cross country to him from me) and he said it didn't arrive as of 12/24. But yet a package sent from Amazon: bought on the site and I used ship to, bill to, promised to arrive 12/31/13 - 1/16/14 arrived 12/24/13... to Norway.

It's anyone's guess why a domestic package wasn't received yet and an international package made it in record speed. Both packages I'm sure were flown to their respective destinations because I've had many customers claim how fast they have received their packages, since I reside near a international airport. Why this worked out this way is anyone's guess.

I've received international packages via USPS in pristine condition and domestic packages stomped on and roughed up.

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: Siobhan

Thu Dec 26 01:11:31 2013

@Deltamaster, Entirely agree with you. My postman who delivers to me gives me stellar service. Can't say enough good things about him. The rest, don't even get me started.

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