The year’s busiest shopping season is here, and online retailers and shipping services are hoping to avoid the fiasco of last December when online giants like BarnesandNoble.com and ToysRUs.com failed to deliver thousands of packages in time for Christmas.
E-tailers and shipping services said they’ve improved their Web sites, stocked up on merchandise, and established shipping warehouses to ensure that yuletide parcels reach their destinations. FedEx has hired 4,000 temporary package handlers and couriers nationwide – they’ll be paid between $9.50 and $13 per hour.
It is unclear if 4,000 new handlers and streamlined Web sites will be enough. Some 55 million people are expected to visit online shopping sites next month, up 67 percent form last year. In 1999, online shoppers found Web sites slow and difficult to navigate, and 5 percent received their orders after Christmas, according to a report in Newsday. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission hit seven e-tailers with $1.5 million in fines. Toys ’R Us had to pay $350,000 for making misleading claims, and several customers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that the company breached its delivery contract.
But this year, e-tailers and shipping services said they’re ready for anything.
“I don’t think people realize that we have 660 aircraft globally,” said Sally Davenport, a FedEx spokesperson. “We are experts in terms of being able to take shipments and work around problems.”
She said last year’s e-commerce shipping problems won’t be repeated because e-tailers have learned from past experience, and FedEx has improved communication with its dot.com clients.
“Earlier in the year, we sat down with our customers, and talked about what they expected to be giving us,” Davenport said. “They do market forecasts …and we administer our resources accordingly.”
A spokesperson from L.L. Bean, one of FedEx’s biggest customers, was confident that the clothing company has done its part to avoid any shipping mishaps.
“We are well focused in e-commerce, and we have a very strong record on delivery,” said Mary Rose McKinnen, a company spokesperson. “We feel well positioned for the holidays.”
In the East Bay, FedEx and U.S. Postal Employees said they’re also ready for the onslaught.
“I really don’t think we will have a problem this year,” said Florencia Aceituno, a window supervisor at the Berkeley Post Office. “We’re already delivering Airborne Express packages.”
To deal with the rush, Aceituno said the post office has already hired temporary employees. Also, the postmaster will decide if additional measures will be taken in early December. Regina, a FedEx worker at a shipping headquarters in Emeryville who declined to give her first name, said that consumers have nothing to be worried about this year.
“Oh yeah, we’ll be ready,” she said, firmly planing her hands on her hips. “Most people think the peak season starts now, but really, it started in early October.”