As we've been reporting since November, e-commerce sales were at an all-time high during the holidays, with shoppers consistently choosing online over brick and mortar retailers to shop for gifts. Overall, online shopping showed double-digit growth this season. And while that's been great for online retailers' bottom lines, the trend, it turned out, didn't work out so well for last-minute shoppers.
Instead of braving the overcrowded malls, many holiday shopping procrastinators took to the web, not least because of all the "we'll have it to you by Christmas Eve" promises from retailers -- some of which were quite ambitious. Amazon promised express shipping if you ordered by Monday, Dec. 23. Nordstrom promised free shipping, with delivery in time for Christmas if you ordered by Dec. 23.
While encouraging last-minute shopping on this very site, I prefaced a list of these overconfident online retailers with the warning that, really, their promises are merely claims. That's because delivery time is ultimately in the hands of companies like UPS and FedEx, both of which experienced an unprecedented surge in packages in the days leading up to Christmas, resulting in a few late deliveries. "The volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity in our network," UPS spokeswoman Natalie Godwin said in a statement. Retailers who failed to meet their delivery promises included Staples, Dell, Macy's, Gap, Pottery Barn, Kohl's, Nordstrom and TigerDirect, according to a study by StellaService, a company that ranks retailers against each other based on customer service. According to NBC, Nordstrom was quick to apologize and explain delays to customers. Leading e-commerce destination Amazon, too, has been making headlines for its failure to meet deadlines.
Still, people are pissed. Many have taken to social media to complain, as humans are wont to do these days. One even cleverly called Macy's "scrooge" for ruining Christmas. Some charming examples:
But is this really something that warrants such complaints? It's one thing if you ordered something weeks in advance and never received it, or if you were put on hold by Target for six whole hours like this lady -- but some of these people ordered items two days before Christmas and are upset that they arrived a day or two after. To me, Santa Claus coming down the chimney to deliver perfectly wrapped toys Christmas Eve seems comparatively realistic. Ten years ago, next-day delivery on Christmas Eve would have been equally fathomable. Of course, with bigger, more ambitious claims by retailers come higher expectations from consumers. And perhaps retailers are in part to blame for making those claims. Amazon, for one, is at least trying to make amends by offering disappointed customers $20 gift cards.
Still, shouldn't we chill for a sec and think about how insane and amazing it is that we live in a place and time where it's actually possible to do all of our holiday shopping on a computer -- or even a cell phone? And maybe admit that we should have planned ahead a little better? Maybe?
What do you think -- should we be mad at retailers, shipping companies, or ourselves?