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UPS fails to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas

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UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas.

“The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network,” UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin said in a statement.

Now, even as the company is lionized on the holiday cover of Bloomberg Businessweek for making “dreams come true”, customers are streaming online to pummel the shipping giant.

For some of the customers the void under the tree came despite days of phone-and-Web wrangling with UPS customer service. In Houston, the Amaya family toggled between tracking their package online and waiting by the door for UPS to arrive. But after 10 days and two delays, they finally gave up hope.

Christmas is about more than just stuff, many posters acknowledged, but even some of the smaller, more symbolic gifts of Christmas got lost in transit.

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

“However, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed.” 

UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas

UPS acknowledged getting swamped by the seasonal cheer and failing to deliver thousands of orders in time for Christmas

Amazon.com, one of UPS’s biggest clients, cited UPS’s “failure” in an apologetic email to customers Wednesday morning. UPS itself is on a condolences tour, telling NBC in a statement that only “a small percentage” of packages were affected and pledging that most of these will arrive by Thursday.

The last time a significant number of UPS packages were late for Christmas was 2004, when an ice storm crippled Worldport, the UPS distribution center in Louisville, Kentucky, in the run up to the holiday. Back then employees ended up manually loading packages for days, and surprising revelers with Christmas Day deliveries. This year the company declined to call its workers in for holiday service.

It’s still unclear where the UPS network broke down, and the company has declined to specify the size of the problem. But Bloomberg Businessweek detailed the challenges likely to have stymied Santa’s corporate helper this year – and spotlighted the man who may take a fall for the year’s mishaps.

Scott Abell is known as “Mr. Peak” to the brown-shirted faithful, and he spends his whole work year outlining the company’s holiday delivery plans, scrambling hundreds of planes and thousands of trucks from his office at Worldport.


Beyond icy weather, which reportedly hampered UPS distribution hubs, the company was likely squeezed by a smaller window for holiday shopping and a record number of e-purchases being pushed through at the last minute. There were just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At the same time, there was the continued growth of online shopping, which not only facilitates last-minute gifting but often rewards it with deeper discounts.

Online spending jumped 9%, to $37.8 billion, between November 1st and December 15th, according to the online research firm comScore, and retailers expect overall holiday sales to be up nearly 4%, exceeding $600 million.

UPS anticipated delivering 132 million bundles in the week before Christmas, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, and to meet that wave of holiday cheer, Scott Abell organized 55,000 part time workers, 23 extra planes and what amounts to a second fleet of delivery trucks.

A last-minute decision by one of UPS’s clients – reportedly Amazon.com – dumped additional packages into the system last weekend, but Scott Abell doubled the number of shifts at Worldport, still hoping to stay ahead. It wasn’t enough.

Scott Abell usually heads to Florida in January to play golf and decompress after the madness of the holidays. When he returns, the 31-year veteran of the company gathers his lieutenants for a special lemon session, detailing all that could have gone better in the weeks before.

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