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UPS, FedEx breakdown causes delays in Christmas deliveries

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Published:   |   Updated: December 25, 2013 at 07:43 PM

TAMPA — Some presents weren’t under the tree this Christmas, but not because of any Grinch.

Delays at UPS and FedEx were blamed on poor weather earlier this week in parts of the country as well as overloaded systems. The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual, more buying was done online and Americans’ tendency to wait until the last possible second to shop probably didn’t help either.

Neither company said how many packages were delayed but noted it was a small share of overall holiday shipments. While the bulk of consumers’ holiday spending remains at physical stores, shopping online is increasingly popular and outstripping spending growth in stores at the mall.

Residents in the Tampa Bay area took to social media Wednesday to express anger about the late delivery of packages from UPS and FedEx.

The problems appear to have affected many parts of the country including Alabama, California, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

UPS officials acknowledge their shipping network along the East Coast suffered a breakdown, meaning many packages promised by Christmas did not make it in time.

“UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments,” the company said in a statement on its website. “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.”

UPS did not share the number of packages shipped or what the company’s maximum capacity is.

Snow and ice in the Midwest last week and an ice storm that hit Dallas two-and-a-half weeks ago also were partially to blame, said UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin.

UPS did not make pickups or deliveries Wednesday. Extra workers were being brought in Wednesday night to the company’s hub in Louisville, Ky., to sort packages for Thursday and Friday delivery, Godwin said.

“We apologize that our customers did not receive their packages on Christmas,” Godwin said.

Godwin said “UPS will honor its peak shipments commitments” to customers who used its air delivery service. Those shipping by ground have no guarantee past Dec. 11. Godwin said she didn’t know if customers would receive refunds.

Some FedEx customers were able to pick up packages Christmas Day at their local FedEx Express centers.

The FedEx World Service Center on Water Avenue in Tampa was open until 1 p.m.

“We’re sorry that there could be delays and we’re contacting affected customers who have shipments available for pickup,” said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for FedEx Corp.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, FedEx handled 275 million shipments, according to Fiedler. Those that were not delivered in time, he said, “would be very few.”

Three people told The Associated Press that when they tracked their packages online, FedEx said deliveries to their homes were attempted but failed because “the business was closed.” During follow-up calls with customer service, they said they learned that the local depot was overwhelmed and didn’t attempt delivery.

On Sunday, Eric Swanson ordered a doll for his daughter and a sweater for his wife through Amazon.com and one of its affiliated sites. As an Amazon Prime customer, there was a promise of two-day delivery, getting the gifts to his Carmichael, Calif. home just in time for Christmas. One was shipped via UPS, the other FedEx.

“I thought it would happen,” Swanson said. Online tracking tools said the packages would arrive by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Neither did.

Late on Christmas Eve, Amazon sent out an apology letter to its customers affected by the breakdown.

“We’re very sorry for the delay and inconvenience,” the Amazon e-mail read. “We understand this is a disappointment. We wanted to let you know about this as soon as possible in case you need to make other plans.”

Amazon gave an automatic credit of $20 to the account of those customers involved “to compensate for this inconvenience, good for any item sold on Amazon.com

Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said the company processed orders and got them to its shippers “on time for holiday delivery” and is now “reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers.”

While some customers may get money back, they might think twice about ordering online next year.

“My wife understands but my 5-year-old daughter ... I think we’re going to let it be a surprise when it comes,” Swanson said. “Next time, if I need to get a gift and cut it that close, I will just have to enter the fray and go to the mall.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

rmullins@Tampatrib.com

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Twitter: DailyDeadline

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