The 2013 Holidays were bad, really bad for shipping carriers…and in turn notoriously bad for retailers trying to meet customer shipping expectations.

Though UPS created a resourceful guide on when to order (and with what postage) to have a package arrive by Christmas, many gift givers woke up on December 25th last year without their gifts being delivered as expected.

UPS Holiday Shipping Schedule for 2013. Unfortunately, did not work as planned.

UPS Holiday Shipping Schedule for 2013 did not work as planned.

Of course, the holidays aren’t only about presents, yet shoppers were understandably upset. UPS’s love of logistics did little to thwart the unforeseen circumstances of this past winter shopping season. Shipping schedules were completely derailed…which sapped many shoppers of their Christmas spirit.

What contributed to the unfortunate UPS backlog that detained thousands of Christmas presents? According to UPS, things went astray when they underestimated the volume of air packages. For a company that advertises its love and understanding of logistics, miscalculating volume does seem a little short sighted, especially since overall holiday sales actually fell below expectations. To be fair, no one expected the mega storms that wreaked havoc on the country, causing major power outages and closed roads in areas that don’t usually anticipate heavy winter weather. Combine that with the missing week that disappeared when Thanksgiving was pushed back 7 days, the mega-deals toward the end of the season, and it’s easier to see how more problems could arise in a compressed time frame.

For online sellers, a poor shipping experience can threaten their seller ratings and sales revenue. Even though many sellers operate their ecommerce stores on major marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, they aren’t immune to the impact of major shipping issues. Though Amazon refunded shipping and provided gift cards to buyers who were affected by the 2013 shipping fiasco, there’s no stopping a buyer from attributing blame to the seller and lashing out with negative feedback.

Even though the perfect combination of apocalyptic weather and shorter time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is unlikely to repeat itself this year, sellers should take steps to protect themselves from issues with shipping. Though you can’t predict the weather, make sure you are very transparent with customers. Provide them with a shipping timetable of when they can expect their package to arrive, and keep them updated with any possible delays. If the weather is causing setbacks in your city (or wherever products are being shipped from), post a disclaimer on your site. If you are honest about the possibility of a lag in shipping and take responsibility from the get-go, you can prevent a disgruntled buyer later. Stay in close communications with your shipping carriers too! Better to be clear upfront and set expectations that you can meet and potentially beat – than get negative feedback down the line from something out of your control.

Were you affected by the major shipping delays last winter? How did you circumvent those issues? Since our shipping automation software provides shipping and postage with the USPS through Endicia,, and Pitney Bowes, we will be keeping a watchful eye on any shipping lags with the USPS and provide you with up important information along the way.

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