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Delayed Deliveries and Sluggish Sales Make it a Not So Merry Christmas for Retailers




fedex SantaI was expecting one last gift to show up before Christmas but it didn’t get here. No big deal. I ordered the item late on Amazon and I wasn’t sure it would arrive. Besides, we had more than enough under the tree, so it will be a nice surprise for my son a week from now when all the excitement is over.

Then I checked my email and found a curious message from my sister. She got not one, but two gifts from me. Both identical in two different boxes from the same retailer. Oops! I placed the two orders only minutes apart. Did I actually, accidentally choose the same shipping address for both? Turns out I didn’t. According to my confirmation emails, I sent one box to NJ and one to NY. They both ended up in NY and I ended up being one of those complaining customers on the phone the day after Christmas. Next problem – they’re sold out of the item. Solution? The customer service person suggested that my sister re-mail the package (which was damaged because the delivery person left in in the snow – but then, what other option did he have) to our mutual sister.

Sorry. No. This was not my mistake.

I’m a buyer and a seller so I understand that mistakes happen but when a retailer does make a mistake, they need to make it right and then some. Asking a customer to jump through hoops to claim what’s owed them is simply bad business.

On the other hand, I understand that if you buy things online on December 23rd, they might not show up in time for the celebration. That’s not stopping hundreds of people from crying all over their social media pages about how UPS and Fedex ruined Christmas. #UPSFail is running rampant on Twitter with comments from both sides – people who are angry and people who are angry at those who are angry.

Both delivery companies say they were waylaid by bad weather (not their fault) and an overwhelming number of last minute online orders (not their fault.) Maybe online retailers shouldn’t have been so generous with their promises. I saw dozens of big names promising holiday delivery as last as 5 pm on December 23.

The larger issue here is the trust factor. A customer who bought and expected a promise to be kept will be angry when it doesn’t happen. They’re likely to think twice before visiting that online retailer again. No one can afford to lose even one customer.

Christmas 2013 wasn’t a blockbuster for anyone. Says ABC News:

ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail shopper traffic, reported that for the week ending Dec. 22, in-store general merchandise sales decreased by 3.1 percent compared to the same week in 2012, while retail brick-and-mortar traffic decreased by 21.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

Retailers are now hoping to make up the loss with huge after Christmas sales. The deals are insane and we’re not just talking about discounts on Christmas lights, gift sets and sweaters. I’ve seen coupons for 40% off your entire order – regular price, full price, any price – you save. I’ll be heading out to do some shopping as soon as I’m done here!

But let’s get back to the loyalty factor. Luring customers back with deep discounts will help, but retailers really need to work on regaining lost trust. If your company made a mistake, fix it and then some. Giving a customer an additional $20 item for their trouble will return $100 in additional sales dollars throughout the year. I promise. And UPS will deliver on my promise before New Year’s Day.

  • clara

    One thing you are missing is more and more people wait until the last minute to make their purchase. I’m finding more and more people waiting until a few days before an event to place an order with me for a gift. I tell them they are to late. I can’t deliver. People are not thinking in advance about what to give someone. Procrastination is on the rise.