Amazon.com and United Parcel Service said Thursday that they would offer refunds to customers who did not receive their Christmas orders on time after a last-minute surge in online shopping caught shipping giant UPS off guard.
Customers who failed to get their deliveries by Christmas Day will get $20 gift cards and refunds on shipping charges, Amazon said. UPS also offered refunds on shipping costs. FedEx did not promise refunds but said it would work with people affected.
A combination of bad weather, shoppers waiting until the last minute and an unexpected surge in online buying resulted in some packages not getting under the Christmas tree in time.
The wave of shipments was so large that UPS spokeswoman Natalie Black said "the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network."
The last-minute surge that clogged UPS systems may mean that online sales exceeded even optimistic forecasts. Final numbers for the holiday shopping season will be out next month.
The short holiday season may have played a part in the delivery crunch. There were six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year than last year. More than 30 million Americans did not start shopping until after Dec. 9, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. Nearly half of those surveyed said they planned to shop online. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, about 60 million Americans went to the Web for goods, according to the retail group.
UPS, which had expected to ship more than 132 million packages last week, said holiday demand was higher than forecast. On its website Thursday, the company said it was still "making every effort to get packages to their destination as quickly as possible."
In an emailed statement, FedEx said it did not experience any "major service disruptions."
Neither UPS nor FedEx specified how many packages were delayed.
Amazon said its systems worked fine. "Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery. We are reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers," Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako wrote in an email.