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UPS package delivery holdups leave some a little less merry on holiday

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 11:47 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Warren Weifenbach of Green Tree takes a break while family members shop. Shoppers hit the Mall at Robinson for returns and exchanges and to take advantage of big after-Christmas sales at the stores Thursday, December 26, 2013.

Little Sophia Rich waited all year for a new toy train table, styled after her beloved “Thomas the Tank Engine” animated cartoon series.

But when Christmas arrived without United Parcel Service delivery of the toy, Sophia, 3, collapsed in tears, said her mother, Joanna Rich of Neshannock in Lawrence County.

“I told her that I got a call from Santa and he wasn't sure if he was going to have it, that he was still working on it,” said Rich, 26, who was among UPS customers across the country waiting for Christmas deliveries on Thursday. “You pay extra to make sure it gets there on time — and it wasn't.”

UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin was quick to apologize but said she could not comment on how many packages missed their delivery dates. It wasn't clear how many Western Pennsylvanians were affected, though Godwin said the package delivery giant — the largest in the world — projected an 8 percent increase during the holiday period from its average 16 million daily deliveries.

UPS expected most late packages to be delivered by Thursday evening, she said.

“The volume of air packages in our systems exceeded the capacity of our network as demand was much greater than the forecast,” Godwin said.

She blamed a combination of bad weather, a boost in online shopping and a surge in last-minute orders shipped through UPS, headquartered in Atlanta.

Rival FedEx Corp., based in Memphis, reported 99 percent of its ground packages met their delivery dates. FedEx said it would work “directly with customers to address any isolated incidents.”

“Overall, we did not see the service delays that were being reported,” said FedEx spokeswoman Erin Truxal.

She said she did not have reports specific to Western Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Postal Service reported no widespread delivery delays, only limited problems in regions experiencing severe weather, spokeswoman Karen Mazurkiewicz said. She said the Postal Service anticipated a 12 percent jump over typical delivery volumes during the holiday season.

“You had a perfect storm of events from the consumer side, the retailer side and the shipping side,” Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn., said of the UPS shipping delays.

He said some retailers extended the cut-off dates for delivery by Dec. 24 to compensate for a “mediocre” holiday shopping season.

“Normally, those kinds of schedules are all kind of prepared or coordinated with the carriers,” Johnson said.

A 10 percent increase in online shopping over 2012 led to an overall uptick in holiday spending, which climbed 3.5 percent, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse and research firm ComScore. UPS brought on 55,000 part-time workers for the holidays and leased 23 planes, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Godwin declined to say whether UPS might change its approach next year.

Online retail behemoth Amazon.com is reviewing the performance of the delivery companies, providing some shipping refunds and granting $20 gift cards to those affected, spokeswoman Mary Osako said.

“I think these businesses will be going back after UPS for this stuff. Logistics is their business,” said Rocco DeMaiolo, 48, of Center.

His daughter's priciest Christmas gift — Ugg boots — showed up on Thursday after he paid an extra $15 to have them delivered on time.

DeMaiolo wants a refund for the extra shipping cost but isn't turning his back on UPS.

“This is the only time I've ever had a problem. I'll give everyone one shot to make a mistake,” he said.

The Associated Press and Bloomberg News contributed to this report. Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or asmeltz@tribweb.com.

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