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Christmas Cheer Transportation News

Surge In Online Orders Overwhelms UPS Christmas Deliveries 378

Posted by timothy
from the coordinating-unknowns-is-hard dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that the high volume of online orders of holiday packages overwhelmed shipping and logistics company UPS delaying the arrival of Christmas presents around the globe and sending angry consumers to social media to vent. The company projected 132 million deliveries last week "and obviously we exceeded that," said UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black without disclosing how many packages had been sent. "For now, UPS is really focused on delivering the remaining packages. You might not see trucks, but people are working." Asked why the company underestimated the volume of air packages it would receive, Black noted that previous severe weather in the Dallas area had already created a backlog. Then came "excess holiday volume" during a compressed time frame, since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was shorter than usual this year. Amazon.com responded with an email to affected customers offering shipping refunds and $20 gift cards to compensate. Packages shipped via UPS for Amazon.com by Prime customers, who pay $79 a year for two-day shipping, may be eligible for additional refunds. Amazon's stated policy for missed deliveries is to offer a free one-month extension of Prime. Frustrated consumers took to social media, with some complaining that gifts purchased for their children would not arrive in time to make it under the tree by Christmas morning. '"A lot of these employees keep saying 'It's the weather' or 'It's some kind of a backlog,' said Barry Tesh. 'Well then why, all the way up until the 23rd, were they offering next-day delivery? That guaranteed delivery was 80% of my decision to buy the gift."' However, others on social media urged shoppers to be more appreciative of the delivery company's work during the holiday season. 'While others take vacation and time off in December, remember we aren't allowed ever to be off in December. Ever,' said a 20-year veteran UPS driver on the UPS Facebook page. 'So when you see your family and complain that your package is held up, everyone who moves your package is working and doesn't get the Xmas experience you get, Be thankful for that.'"
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Surge In Online Orders Overwhelms UPS Christmas Deliveries

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  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:06PM (#45788321)

    I can understand that UPS / Fedex failed to predict their full load. It's too bad, but part of life.

    What really surprises me is that they didn't have a system in place that (a) detected when they were at risk of having too many order to keep their QoS commitments, and (b) warning prospective customers that they might not get a prospective order delivered by Christmas.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:18PM (#45788427)

      Actually, they did.

      My wife works for a relatively well-known shoe/clothing manufacturer that also does direct sales (website, catalog, etc.) FedEx was warning them several days before Christmas that they predicted a delivery problem due to late orders rising faster than they predicted. Her company has an overflow agreement with UPS, so they started witching some orders to them, but then both companies hit a wall in terms of delivery capacity.

      It sounds like this was one of those problems where they both saw it coming, but couldn't do anything about it. There have been more than a few articles about FedEx in particular cutting back its container plane fleet due to fuel costs and the overall drop in package deliveries relative to a few years ago. I can only assume UPS has done the same -- when you cut back capacity in order to remain profitable, it stands to reason that a sudden, unexpected and massive surge of packages in your system is going to cause problems. And because both UPS and FedEx are for-profit, public companies, it's ultimately probably cheeper for them to suffer the ill-will and make-goods required of an event like this than to have a lot of excess capacity sitting aorund unused.

      • by plopez (54068)

        Part of what you are talking about is mean capacity covering 90% ish of the cases and surge capacity which covers the unusual volume or weather cases. Surge capacity is expensive and hard to prove of value. So the bean counters don't like it. But they could have I think, for a nominal fee, booked more charter flights, contractors etc. on stand by in case of need. This is a management failure, surges happen and storms happen. Where was the fall back plan?

        On a side note, a friend of mine is an ER worker. She

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @02:10PM (#45788891)

          Surge capacity is expensive and hard to prove of value. So the bean counters don't like it. But they could have I think, for a nominal fee, booked more charter flights, contractors etc. on stand by in case of need.

          Oh hey guys, look, another armchair quarterback on the internet who is absolutely certain that FedEx and UPS, with their multi-billion dollar operations, missed some obvious, easy, and cheap solution to this problem! Color me shocked.

          The reason bean counters don't like paying for "surge capacity" is because "surge capacity" is often left unused, because it is insurance for the rare-to-never case where things completely shit the bed. FedEx and UPS *have* surge capacity built in - what happened this year is that their surge capacity wasn't able to keep up with the actual volume of packages funneling through their systems. Three days before Christmas is a bit too late to begin arranging 'surge capacity' for the holiday season - there's not much volume available for hire at that point, and the planes are frequently not where you want them to be, too, which means they'd have to scramble to fly pilots around to the planes all over the country (or world) where they're parked, fly them to their destination to pick up their cargo, and do this in the space of 12-24 hours in order to get the capacity in place to make a difference for holiday shipments. Then they also need the capacity on the ground in their receiving facilities and delivery trucks to be able to ship everything on time, as well.

          When your business is built-on "just in time" delivery, a late surge and weather-based delays can really fuck up your transportation chain no matter how hard you plan. In most cases, it's better to eat some penalties and freebies to angry customers receiving late packages than it is to spend millions or billions scrambling at the last minute to get every last package there on time.

        • by torkus (1133985) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @02:31PM (#45789049)

          So just to use your own point...if emergency rooms (i.e. critically necessary medical services largely funded by the gov't) can't provide capacity necessary for the exception-circumstance...how is it reasonable to expect FedEx or UPS to do even more? Getting a beanie boo before xmas isn't quite as important as pushing saline for a trauma victim with low BP. (though if you read the FB page for FedEx or UPS you might get the impression otherwise)

          I think the vendors deserve much of the blame here if the delivery companies were communicating with them. Heck, if Amazon posted that orders are surging this year and deliveries may be delayed for last second orders...so order RIGHT NOW. just like they do with the silly (but effective) timer for when you can last order something to get it by X day.

          What I find truly ironic - people are blaming FedEx and UPS for 'failing to plan ahead properly' when *they're* the ones ordering things at the very last second. UPS should include a small, complimentary mirror with each of these delayed packages when they're delivered.

          • by ultranova (717540) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:16PM (#45789357)

            So just to use your own point...if emergency rooms (i.e. critically necessary medical services largely funded by the gov't) can't provide capacity necessary for the exception-circumstance...how is it reasonable to expect FedEx or UPS to do even more?

            It seems unlikely that half of FedEx and UPS board of directors are actively trying to sabotage their company for ideological reasons. The same is not true of federal government - and sadly, this sickness seems to be spreading as well as the rest of American culture.

          • What I find truly ironic - people are blaming FedEx and UPS for 'failing to plan ahead properly' when *they're* the ones ordering things at the very last second. UPS should include a small, complimentary mirror with each of these delayed packages when they're delivered.

            Well from the stories I've read and anecdotally, not everyone was "very last second". I know of at least two people whose packages were shipped two weeks before Christmas and still have not gotten them yet. There's also stories [upi.com] that the packages have sat in UPS facilities for a week without being moved or delivered.

    • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:37PM (#45788589)
      I've been seeing commercials about a company that has solutions for this sort of thing... can't recall their name but they keep yammering on about "logistics'.
      • by plover (150551)

        "Brown stands for the quality of our service".

        Actually, this is all part of Jeff Bezos' master plan. They wanted to place a lot of blame on the couriers today, so that the FAA will have no choice but to approve Amazon's request to fly drones next year.

        It's a conspiracy, I tell you! Soylent Brown is slow people!! ;-)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:37PM (#45788591)

      If anyone would have bothered to read either UPS's or FedEx's website, they would have seen around the 19th of December they had NO guarenteed delivery date deals. Those promises were purely from the retailers at that point. It's a shame though of course the curriers are the ones who catch the flack.
      Not to mention if people WOULDN'T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST DAMN MINUTE or get out of the house and VISIT A STORE, much of this could have been avoided. I'll admit, I ordered a few small things on the 23rd with the gift wrap and next day option from Amazon more as a test.. and all 4 items arrived by noon on the 24th. (They were shipped from an amazon DC in the same state so that surely helped).

      Hell my wife's gift from my brother didn't arrive before Chrismast (and he didn't expect it to).. no big deal. For the people who waited to order *everything* in the last few days before christmas and all of it via online.. well maybe you should have grabbed a few from the store or have done the "Ship to store" or "instore pickup" option instead. Or at the very least do what we've done before and print a picture and wrap that and just tell the person it wasn't going to arrive in time.

      Maybe I'm getting more bitter as I age but this 'I wanted it tomorrow and it didn't make it, I don't give a shit about the massive volume of items from other procrastinators like myself or the ice storms and other weather, I WANT MY SHIT IT'S THE CARRIERS FAULT!' mentality is just so damn annoying.

      Lastly, it's not always as it appears either. Over the summer I ordered an RC heliocopter for my son and did 1 day delivery so it would arrive in time for our trip to the beach. All indications on Amazon were it was in UPS's hands later that night. It didn't arrive the next day, and I kept checking the tracking info and it still appeared to be stuck in the intial location in the hands of UPS. After 3 days I called Amazon to find out what was going on, and the agent figured out UPS never had the item as THEY didn't have it either. Here the 3rd party seller or whatever that Amazon did the fulfillment and what not for (for prime and all) hadn't sent them any stock or something along those lines (could have been a complete BS store and Amazon just never packed my stuff). Either way, while the tracking info made it look like it was UPS holding up the show, it was in fact the retailer Amazon that had fucked up. It makes me wonder how many other online retailers didn't have the capacity to fill orders fast enough or were out of stock while the website still listed stock so they had to wait for more before they could box and ship, YET the shipping information was already entered into the system creating a tracking number for UPS or FedEx, which made it LOOK like the delay was on the shipping company used.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:47PM (#45788667)

        "'I wanted it tomorrow and it didn't make it, I don't give a shit about the massive volume of items from other procrastinators like myself or the ice storms and other weather, I WANT MY SHIT IT'S THE CARRIERS FAULT!' mentality is just so damn annoying."

        Society is increasingly narcissistic. The person to whom this is a reply is correct in the statement quoted above as he explains the instant-gratification mentality he observes.

    • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:39PM (#45788605) Homepage Journal

      At least part of the problem is, not that UPS or other delivery companies promise you, the customer, delivery on time for Christmas. It is Amazon* and other bulk suppliers who are making these promises.

      As AC states below, UPS and Fedex were making warnings to those retail suppliers. Amazon, or whoever, didn't pass those warnings on to you, the end user.

      Do we expect that Amazon is going to make a public apology to all those children who had to wait until the day after Christmas for their presents? I don't think so. Amazon has your money, and they are going to keep as much of it as they think they can. They'll pass out a few gift certificates, and refund some shipping fees, but they are going to keep as much money as possible.

      All of my shipments came in on time.

      There IS a shipment which UPS intends to deliver today. Comparing notes, no one in the family seems to have any outstanding orders. Maybe it's a gift from one of the grandparents from several years ago? A gift from the afterlife? Oooohhh - a supernatural gift! More importantly, UPS is going a little extra to deliver whatever the package might be, by calling the house to see if anyone will be available to receive it. We have never before been contacted prior to delivery.

      Bottom line here - if you wait until the last minute to place an order, you can expect to be disappointed. Any adult should understand that. Any adult should be ready to explain it to a child. Life is life, and stuff happens. I've had late deliveries in off-peak seasons, after all.

      * I am using Amazon here as an example - replace Amazon with your motor sports supplier, or whatever.

      • by SOOPRcow (1279010)
        Amazon is responding by offering some affected customers refunded shipping costs and provide gift cards. http://nation.time.com/2013/12/26/ups-blames-bad-weather-more-packages-and-online-shopping-for-delays/ [time.com]
        • That is perfectly true. I could have pointed that out, because I already knew that. But, it sort of side steps the point I was trying to make. The retailer should be smart enough to understand that stuff happens during the Christmas season. They shouldn't be encouraging these last minute purchases. It should be the retailer's goal to have all Christmas purchases out the door, and aboard trucks on or before the 20th of December. Any purchases made after midnight of the 20th should have a disclaimer att

        • by jedinite (33877)

          I was one of these customers.

          I ordered a mSata SSD that via Prime 2-day was scheduled for delivery on xmas eve. I got a notification that day (from Amazon) that UPS was overwhelmed and the package wouldn't be delivered on the "guaranteed" date.

          On xmas day I received a (totally unsolicited) $20 gift card credit email from Amazon, that let me know $20 would be waiting in my Amazon account, no code necessary.

          On xmas +1 the SSD arrived (and I ordered something else, taking full advantage of the gift card).

          Resu

    • by stonebit (2776195)
      They do warn, but the wholesellers decide whether to pass on the communication or not. UPS store and the Customer Service Centers will tell you. The risk of not keeping TnT (Time In Transit) is always there. There are frequent surges, depending on where you are... conventions, rodeos, tech shows, college students ordering books at large unis in small towns, bad weather, fires (like the ones we have every summer in many states in the west), and general accidents such as train derailments and hub fires. There
    • by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:56PM (#45788767) Journal
      If you ordered a gift at the last possible second, the problem is not UPS. It's you.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How about you don't wait until the 22nd or 23rd to order your gift and expect there to be 0 shipping/fulfillment issues? Yes, this is a service that has a "guaranteed" delivery date, but any common sense will tell you it's a best guess. Yes, it may be right 99% of the time, but obviously no one can predict weather, plane/truck issues, wrong inventory counts (Only 1 left in Stock!), etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:11PM (#45788357)

    It seems to me, they worship physical objects, and not their Creator. Give the U.S.P.S. a break if there's a snowstorm. I can't believe that a holiday these folks allege to be a Religious one can be "ruined" because stuff they want (that has nothing to do with the religious observance) is a day late.

  • Fucking WAAAA. (Score:2, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY (1672858)

    'While others take vacation and time off in December, remember we aren't allowed ever to be off in December. Ever,' said a 20-year veteran UPS driver on the UPS Facebook page. 'So when you see your family and complain that your package is held up, everyone who moves your package is working and doesn't get the Xmas experience you get, Be thankful for that.'"

    Hey, fuck you, buddy. They told you that shit about not taking time off during the busiest shipping season of the year when you took the job 20 fucking years ago, and probably reminded you every year since, so don't try to play the fucking victim here. Plus, "Dur, I had to work" is a really, really piss-poor excuse for failing to meet your work obligations, now isn't it?

    I don't really get to take a lot of time off, period, but you don't see me using that as an excuse to suck at my job.

    Side note: My wife ord

    • Side note: My wife ordered me a new watch on Dec. 4, shipped via UPS.

      The current arrival date is sometime after Jan. 4.

      Something tells me this has something to do with the fulfillment and not the shipper. You don't want to/can't wait for a package? Go to the store.

      • Side note: My wife ordered me a new watch on Dec. 4, shipped via UPS.

        The current arrival date is sometime after Jan. 4.

        Something tells me this has something to do with the fulfillment and not the shipper. You don't want to/can't wait for a package? Go to the store.

        It was shipped Dec. 6.

        Yes, I actually understand how to use a tracking number.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          That's because it was destroyed. A bunch of thieves broke into a UPS factory and destroyed it. The UPS workers fought with their lives to protect your package and others, and 32 workers fell in the battle. How many lives must be lost before you are satisfied? You're still getting your watch, but remember who died to get it to you.

    • I don't know how in hell you got that "insightful" moderation. Oh - the title of your post? "Fucking WAAAA" That's how I see you and the million or more Americans crying about your late deliveries.

      Over the course of my own driving career, I seldom made a late delivery. But, when I did, there was a good reason for it. Reason number one, "I'm out of hours on my log book." Reason number two, "It's unsafe to drive in this weather."

      If some cry baby at the other end cried to damned hard after being given on

    • by BLKMGK (34057)

      Wow aren't you the entitled little prick? These guys are working their asses off well over a normal work week full of hours to try and fulfill a larger than predicted volume of demand doing physical work and THIS is your attitude? This doesn't sound to me like the guy is sucking at his job but rather being asked to do a good bit more than should be expected. It's a Christmas holiday, a time for people to be together with loved ones, and you're angry at people who gave that up to deliver packages for everyon

    • by krakelohm (830589)
      Woah.... Who shit your Cheerios? Chill out man.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858)

        Woah.... Who shit your Cheerios? Chill out man.

        You know, that sort of attitude is why our economy is so fucked, and why corporations get away with murder.

        A company took people's money in exchange for a promise of service, and subsequently failed to provide the service those people paid for. Why wouldn't we be pissed? Corporate America is sticking it to us again, and people are making fucking excuses for it!

        Idiots advocating against their own best interest just sticks in my craw, I guess.

  • I get that there can be high load during holidays, and I'm not upset that I didn't get my purchase by the 25th (I wasn't expecting to), but when they miss my delivery date by as much as they're predicting they're going to, I should be compensated to some degree. I paid for 3-5 day shipping and it doesn't look like it's going to be 3-5 business days (I ordered Thursday and the estimate was this Thursday, they're now estimating it won't get here until next week). It has nothing to do with procrastination, the
    • I would go with the flip side of that. They shouldn't be advertising 3-5 business day shipping this close to Christmas. Instead of making empty promises for fast shipping, they should be stressing the fact that the longer you wait to order, the more likely it is to be late.

  • I had packages delivered both by UPS and FedEx last week. All were right on time. In fact, one of the FedEx packages was sent 2-day air, and actually arrived at its destination, 1500 miles away, a mere 19 hours after being sent.

  • 'Well then why, all the way up until the 23rd, were they offering next-day delivery?

    Well they why, if it was so important, did you wait all the way up until the 23rd to place your order or ship your package?

    In any case, UPS was not guaranteeing on-time delivery well before the 23rd. I sent a package through the local UPS store where they made it clear that they couldn't and wouldn't guarantee delivery by Christmas even though it was shipped in time.

  • Not surprised at all. To digress a bit, many of the packages delayed were sent well in advance of the Christmas holiday - many reports mention packages sitting for over a week in trailers.

    With that out of the way, UPS drivers are expected to make many more delivery stops than they used to. These days, 200+ is common with upwards of 300+ during holidays...

    UPS drivers are still well paid, but are worked far harder. More specifically, in regards to the holidays, an ever increasing reliance on seasonal "driver

  • (sarcasm).

  • Meh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mythosaz (572040) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @01:55PM (#45788765)

    First, The UPS "guaranteed on-schedule delivery" already includes the following:

    The guarantee does not apply to UPS shipments that are delayed due to causes beyond UPS's control, including, but not limited to, the following:
    [SNIPPED some basic things, strikes, acts of god, government, customs, etc.]
    disruptions in air or ground transportation networks, such as weather phenomena; and natural disasters.
    The guarantee does not apply to UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 3 Day Select, and UPS Ground shipments that are picked up or scheduled to be delivered between December 12 and December 25.

    http://www.ups.com/media/en/terms_service_us.pdf [ups.com]

    Can you read that? Christmas is excluded. The whole Christmas season is excluded. ...and they're still offering compensation.

    Good guy UPS.

  • All this revenue that could be pulled by the one time largest shipper in the US, but for some reason, they keep losing billions a year.

    • by unitron (5733)

      I'm gathering you haven't heard about the "Murder the Post Office in Slow Motion" law passed in 2006?

    • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:29PM (#45789493) Homepage Journal

      All this revenue that could be pulled by the one time largest shipper in the US, but for some reason, they keep losing billions a year.

      No, they aren't "losing billions a year."

      It just looks that way, because the USPS is the only government body that's required (thanks to Congressional legislation) to fund ALL retirements and pensions through the next decade.

      If it were allowed to be ran like any other government agency, the Post Office would actually be doing OK.

  • I ordered something on the 12th of Dec. for scheduled delivery of the 17th and was seeing the warning on both FedEx and UPS saying weather was preventing delivery in many cases even though neither the product origin or my home were affected by the weather in question. Can only assume planes were grounded in those places preventing them from reaching other sites. I think it reached a head on Christmas Eve since a package I was expecting that day was at the depot but lost in their pile of orders. Says I shoul
  • For what its worth, all of my orders came in before Xmas. Some that were actually projected for the vague "December 20-January 3" range ended up being delivered on the 23rd, and the one order that did end up being late was projected for Dec 16 (arriving on the 20th).

    So while this issue may be widespread (one anecdote doesn't prove them all wrong), it may be localized to certain regions.

  • You're foolish or lazy enough to cut ordering gifts that close and have the unmitigated gall to whine when the dice you rolled came up snake-eyes? Eff right off.
    • You're foolish or lazy enough to cut ordering gifts that close and have the unmitigated gall to whine when the dice you rolled came up snake-eyes? Eff right off.

      I've read reports of people who ordered stuff on Black Friday and are still waiting on UPS to find and deliver their packages.

      Where are you folks getting the idea that this fiasco only affected last-minute orders?

  • by ThePhilips (752041) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @02:24PM (#45789009) Homepage Journal

    Logistic is complicated. That's why for so many years now I have a rule: never order any shipment in three last weeks of December and first two weeks of January.

    I had anecdotal experience when a parcel from Amazon ordered first week of January came to me sooner than a parcel I have ordered a week before Xmas.

    So for the sake of the inner calm, I have simply stopped ordering on-line during this time.

  • by _Ludwig (86077) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:07PM (#45789283) Journal

    In the early 20th century there was a movement encouraging people to shop early, so as to be considerate of retail and delivery employees’ health and sanity.

    Core to "Shop Early" was the notion that "the crowding of the shops by late purchasers of Christmas gifts is a crude and obvious denial of the Christmas spirit," as a 1913 editorial in the The Outlook magazine put it. "It is dishonoring the day to cause thousands upon thousands of girls and women to dread its approach."

    The "Shop Early" ethos was around for decades, though it faded along with the political star of the progressives who popularized it. Today, some people still try to shop early, but the ethos is dead. Every opportunity for consumer convenience is extolled.

    Source article. [theatlantic.com]

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Thursday December 26, 2013 @03:08PM (#45789293)

    The real war on Christmas.

    The day after the birthday of the Savior what do we have as news? UPS couldn't deliver packages full of meaningless crap.

    This is so wrong.

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