How UPS (might) Steal Christmas

Last year, there was a very well-known fiasco due to an increased amount of purchases on the internet. It was such an unforeseen forecast that it is now infamous and glued to UPS’ reputation. The harsh winter across the country and the spike in online orders, as opposed to brick and mortar stores where delivery is likely sufficient in absenteeism, are the two most cited reasons as to why there was such a failure in operations. The Christmas deadline guarantee is such an important concept to consumers who do not want to miss out on that magical Christmas morning that failing to abide by such explicit guarantees is harmful for business. Personally, I have not used UPS since this inexcusable fiasco caused multiple packages to be delivered after Christmas. Thankfully, out of coincidental luck, the one package that was late was to someone who was Jewish.


Now, online ordering is expected to grow even more. With the increased presence of mobile ordering through smart phones and tablets, online ordering is even easier and more accessible across the country. Amazon even offers a bar code scanner to instantly price check and of course purchase the scanned item when a customer is in a store. Often, Amazon can win these price wars; instead of a customer buying something in the store and bringing it home themselves this causes another package that must be delivered across the country. Amazon’s presence is so large in the online marketplace that about half of UPS’ packages have that familiar smile box.


The article claims that shippers are bracing for an even busier season: USPS is expecting to deliver 15.1 billion parcels which is the high end of the estimates. As we learned in class, forecasts are rarely accurate. However, there are certain reliability factors that UPS and FedEx have used to differentiate themselves from a more economical service (USPS).  Shouldn’t there be a higher standard when reliability is such an importance in the business component?


In addition to forecasting errors last year, there was a misattribution of efficiency. There was not enough workers to load the trucks, and it caused a severe backload of packages. This year, UPS has determined they need an additional 95,000 seasonal workers in the hopes this will be sufficient to combat demand.


Forecasting a holiday season is hard enough in such a fast-evolving marketplace, but adding in the operations component of worker efficiency, inventory management (they can’t have too many packages at one shipping hub or they won’t have enough room), and the unpredictability of the winter season it is almost an amazement they have been so reliable throughout the years.


Were you affected last year by the UPS fiasco?

Do you now trust UPS less due to their mistakes of the past?

Do you tend to purchase your products online or at a traditional store?



9 thoughts on “How UPS (might) Steal Christmas

  1. This post was extremely interesting and made me think about how amazing businesses like UPS really are. They need phenomenal operations management considering all of the elements that can affect their success, especially at holiday time. I was not personally affected by the fiasco last year. I don’t usually order many things over the internet and when I do, they aren’t usually time sensitive. I will say, however, that in the last year I have increased my online purchases so this type of things could have more of an affect for me in the coming years.

    Again, since I wasn’t affected by the mistakes, I haven’t lost much trust in UPS. I know that delivering packages timely and efficiently is what their business is all about but it still seems like they have a lot of tough obstacles to overcome, between the large number of seasonal workers that need to be trained and the weather component. I have traditionally purchased many items in store, but as I stated earlier, I think I will use the online shopping method more as time goes on because of the convenience factor. In learning from the UPS fiasco last year, I will plan on ordering any time sensitive items in advance in order to ensure timely delivery.

  2. I liked your post because it made me think about how people are more prone to get upset when a package they are receiving has an important deadline, but are less likely to be upset when a package is a few days late at a random time. I think this inconsistency in consumers allow markets such as UPS to get away with not providing the quality service they ensure. If this was our mindset year round, we would have better customer service possibly could have eliminated this fiasco. With regards to last year’s Christmas, I think that because the weather was so unpredictable they would not have been able to forecast as accurate as they wanted to, but many of these problems should have been solved earlier in the season because we could already tell the type of winter that was ahead of us. I was not personally affected, but would be upset if I was. Consumers are sold on price and buying online has become the best place for it, so it wouldn’t affect my decision to buy again, but as a consumer I would know to order earlier.

  3. Interesting post! I was not affected by the UPS late deliveries last year. I tend to order things I need a couple weeks before Christmas because I know the delivery services will be hounded by loads of orders the days leading up to the Christmas. Because I wasn’t affected, I still trust UPS and I still think it’s a great company. But I do get that some people affected have lost some trust in UPS. I agree with your last paragraph about forecasting for the holiday season. There are so many variables that can affect forecasting: the weather, the increase in ordering, etc. I am glad I am not part of coming up with the forecast for UPS.

  4. Great and timely article. Personally I was not affected last year by the delays in UPS. Even though I can’t speak from personal experience this does not change the trust I have in UPS. As mentioned in your post, the winter the weather can be extremely unpredictable, which if you are ordering goods at the last minute you should expect something to go wrong. I agree that forecasting is a major part of UPS, and most likely online orders will only grow; therefore, they have an interesting task or trying to forecast accurately. Overall, the best option if you need a package delivered on time during the holiday season is to order early and always expect the weather to act up, especially here in Chicago. UPS will do their best to forecast demand and work with the weather.

  5. Luckily even though I order a lot of things online and send a lot of mail I have not experienced any big problems with the service. I have however had a lot of problems with airlines losing my luggage so I am very nervous about putting things in other peoples’ hands especially something important like Christmas presents. I am not usually one to order super last minute but things always happen that you can’t avoid, but ordering early will definitely make it a lot easier so you don’t have to many problems.

  6. Interesting post. I personally was not affected by the UPS problems last year but I know a lot of people who were. I can imagine how frustrating this must have been when you are expecting something to arrive one day and you don’t receive it for a week after. My trust level with UPS has stayed the same since I haven’t had any problems with them. I still think it was a one time problem and they now understand what has to be done to correct it in the future. As for where I purchase my merchandise it really depends what I’m buying, but I would say that the majority of the time I’m going to the store rather than online.

  7. As fast as online ordering is growing, I don’t think you can blame UPS too much for making mistakes in the past. I order a decent amount of things online and, although sometimes it may take longer than expected, its pretty consistent. I’m sure that they will be able to improve from the mistakes they have made and continue to get better.

  8. I’m a frequent online shopper; however, I wasn’t affected by the holiday fiasco last season. I find that most UPS drivers in my area are constantly overwhelmed whether or not it’s the holiday season. In the past couple months, I’ve had two lost packages and packages that should’ve been delivered to neighboring apartments constantly show up in my building’s garden unit. Because I fly home for every Christmas, I typically avoid any type of online shopping around this time, but even through any grievances I’ve had with UPS, I don’t think it would deter me from online shopping just to avoid their services.

  9. Nice post! For the most part, I have good experiences with UPS, which I prefer over USPS. I tend to avoid times of heavy traffic, so I have fortunately not had to experience that cluster last year. There’s only so much the company can do, so there’s bound to be mistakes/delays. It is frustrating to be that customer who doesn’t receive their packages on time, but it happens.

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