This year, we’re hearing more anxiety around whether Christmas and holiday gifts will arrive in the mail on-time. Shipping businesses across the board are seeing the pandemic further stress what has always been a busy shipping week: the last week before Christmas.
FOX 5 visited the Merrifield, Virginia United States Postal Service on Friday, where we heard two main complaints off-camera with the major U.S. shippers: tracking links are not being updated and delivery dates keep getting pushed back.
"This period is the toughest time for all of the – all of the delivery carriers out there and it’s really testing all of the infrastructures that they put into place in the last few years," said Washington Post National Retail Reporter, Abha Bhattarai, "We’re seeing as many as 6 or 7 million packages a day fall behind. And so they’re rampant delays. The official cut off for shipping was on Tuesday, but we're seeing many retailers extend that and saying, you can still - - you have another day or two and they’ll express ship. But I think a lot of customers are still worried that the packages will not get here, even if the retailers say they will."
This year, the Coronavirus pandemic is impacting the holiday shipping season in more ways than one. Not only are retailers seeing large volumes of people shopping online as a way to stay home and safe during the pandemic, but on Friday, a regional USPS spokesperson also told FOX 5 the pandemic has also impacted staffing.
"While every year the Postal Service carefully plans for peak holiday season, a historic record of holiday volume compounded by a temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking for moving this historic volume of mail are leading to temporary delays. These challenges are being felt by shippers across the board."
Still, there are many who remain hopeful their packages will make it on time. The Merrifield post office was a revolving door on Friday, with people coming all day to drop off letters and some larger boxes.
"Just keep your cool. I mean, it’s that type of year. You know, so just keep your cool and set out to do what you intend on doing and just get it done and hope for the best," said Shameka Carmon, sending off at least one package.
"I think they’re doing the best they can but I can tell they’re very frazzled too – I mean, there’s a TON of packages in there," said another woman who did not give her name.
Mary Gretz told FOX 5, "My boxes are going to an APO. They’ve all gone priority. And so far, all of my two boys have gotten all of their packages that I had mailed for Christmas, so hopefully, this is the last one. Hopefully, he’ll get it by Christmas."
Gretz, who was thankful to the postal service workers, also told FOX 5 she shipped-off those gifts to the APO or Army Post Office well before Thanksgiving. They just recently arrived overseas, Gretz said.
Bhattarai is hopeful these challenges will help form plans for next year’s holiday shipping rush.
"On the flip side of that, we’re also seeing retailers offer a lot of discounts for people who want to pick up in-store. And so that’s an increasingly attractive offer for shoppers who want to buy something at the last minute online and still get it on time for Christmas," she added.
She suggests people print out the gift and include it in a card to their loved one. Let them know it’s still on the way! The national retail reporter tells FOX 5 shipping has tripled this year, compared to year’s past.
We should also mention UPS and FedEx have been tasked with, and are currently working on shipments of the Pfizer Coronavirus vaccine.
Make sure to check with the seller. Some are offering refunds if the package does not arrive on time.
If you’re still looking to send a few items through the postal service, you still have time. Saturday, December 19th, is the deadline for Priority Mail Service deadline.
Next Wednesday, December 23rd, is the Priority Mail Express service deadline.
A FedEx spokesperson told FOX 5 in a statement:
"Delivery drivers, warehouse employees, and support staff across the globe are tirelessly and safely working to meet the surge in demand this holiday season on top of volume increases created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these unprecedented challenges, our networks are flexing as designed to provide the best possible service to our customers."
FedEx says customers with questions about their shipments can visit their website for more information.