12-7-17 7:23 PM EST | Email Article

By Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch

The holiday season presents many complications for online shoppers

Online shopping just got more fraught this holiday season.

United Parcel Service (UPS) this week warned shoppers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ups-warns-of-some-delivery-delays-amid-online-shopping-surge-2017-12-05) of delivery delays at the beginning of the holiday season, after becoming overwhelmed with Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders. The company it rented more delivery trucks and has employees clocking in extra hours to push out deliveries in a timely manner. It also suggest shoppers give them an extra day or two.

Almost 90% of the packages UPS Express (delivered by air) shipped last week arrived on time, compared to almost 100% of FedEx Express packages, according to shipping data analyzing software provider ShipMatrix (https://www.wsj.com/articles/ups-overwhelmed-by-online-orders-warns-of-some-delivery-delays-1512496479?mod=mktw).

UPS manages deliveries for major retailers, such as Wal-Mart (WMT), Macy's (M) and Amazon (AMZN). UPS does not comment on third-party industry estimates,said Steve Gaut, vice president of public relations at UPS, but added the "bubble" of packages is through the sorting system and in package centers or trucks now, a majority of which should have been delivered by end of day Wednesday.

"All carriers have experienced challenges at one time or another," he said. "When a business is required to nearly double daily delivery volumes, it is extremely challenging to have flawless performance across all services."

Also see:This is how much Americans would save if they did all their shopping online (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/americans-would-save-22-billion-if-they-did-all-their-shopping-online-2017-09-09)

Shoppers should shop online by or before Dec. 13 for ground shipping if they want their packages for Christmas, said Trae Bodge (http://www.truetrae.com), a shopping expert in Montclair, N.J. For stores that promise two-day shipping, the shopping deadline should be Dec. 19, at the very latest.

Last season was the first time online shopping for Black Friday and Thanksgiving passed offline shopping, by $5 billion (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/black-friday-online-shopping-surpasses-3-billion-for-the-first-time-2016-11-25). UPS and FedEx both extended delivery windows and suspended guaranteed "delivered by" dates and refunds for those orders (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fedex-ups-fight-to-keep-up-with-holiday-demand-2016-12-13).

Also see: 10 psychological retail tricks to make you splurge this holiday season (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-retail-tricks-that-make-you-spend-more-2013-12-04)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/10-retail-tricks-that-make-you-spend-more-2013-12-04)

Here are 4 ways to avoid delivery nightmares:

Track your orders

The holiday season has its own set of complications. Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of deals site shefinds.com (http://www.shefinds.com) says temporary drivers who are hired to deal with the Christmas rush are often unfamiliar with routes, meaning packages are not arriving on time or to the wrong address. Apps, such as Slice and Parcel, help shoppers collect tracking order numbers from emails and track the packages.

Is the item really in stock?

Sometimes it's not a matter of delivering an item on time, but when the item is actually available to be delivered, Madhok also said. Products may appear available -- until they end up in the shopper's online cart. Check that the items are actually in stock, or call a store to find it.

Buy online, but pick up in stores

The lines may still be long at the store, especially during peak shopping times, but it's one less thing to worry about when it comes to presents arriving on time. Walmart and Kohl's may even offer better prices for buying online and picking up in store, Bodge said. Bloomingdale's, Kohl's (KSS), Macy's and Target (TGT) are making it easier for shoppers to pick up goods by using kiosks to pull up orders and allowing customers to pick up orders at the customer service desk.

Certain gifts can take longer to process

Personalized gifts like monogrammed outfits or frames take extra time, and shoppers should ask customer service representatives how long they truthfully expect those gifts will take to ship, Bodge said. Check expedited shipping options. American Express (AXP) offers some cardholders two-day guaranteed shipping with delivery service Shoprunner.

-Alessandra Malito; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

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RELATED: 12 bottles of booze to give as Christmas gifts -- from $14 to $900 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/12-bottles-of-booze-to-give-as-christmas-gifts-from-14-to-900-2017-11-29)

RELATED: Was 2017 a stressful year? Happy workers are 10% more productive at work (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/shiny-happy-people-are-10-more-productive-at-work-2017-04-03)

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

12-07-17 1923ET

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