SHIP, SHIP, HOORAY?! 2021 Holiday Shipping thoughts from a Small-Business Owner
1: Yes, 2020 was a Hot Mess + 2021 is a Hotter Mess.
Last Holiday season millions of USPS packages had significant transit delays and I do think this Holiday season will be similar or worse. I've shipped thousands of packages over the last year and a half, here's what I've learned:
USPS was experiencing staffing issues, we were in a pandemic, and there was a massive surplus of packages in the 2020 holiday season as folks weren't gathering in person. Regional USPS facilities were so packed with mail that they were having to process the "new" mail first just to get to "older" mail. Most regional hubs had truckloads upon truckloads of packages parked outside regional facilities -- many of these sat for several weeks before being touched. It was a perfect storm of a lot of things and I don't think anyone knew how to handle it.
From mid-November until mid-December, my evenings went like this: sipping a glass of red wine (or two), constantly checking tracking, scouring reddit for "insider" USPS hub information on backup estimates, and various variations of this email to my sweet customers: "I promise I shipped your package even though tracking isn't updating. I have no idea why it's still sitting at XXXXXXX facility. I am so sorry, I wish there was something else I could do -- I'll make sure to keep an eye on your tracking ... Thank you for supporting my small-business."
Please understand that I do believe USPS was doing all that they could and I hold no frustrations towards them. They were surviving. We're surviving. We're all recovering and figuring out this new journey. I will forever be grateful for USPS and the work they do. Many folks don't realize that many small-businesses would not be able to survive without the services USPS offers (more on that below).
Do I think that 2021 might be worse? I do. Staffing issues are still happening, transit delays have been present for much of this year, and Fed-Ex is now experiencing much of the same pain points.
If you're ordering online this year, there are thee ways to handle the holiday shipping cluster:
2: Order Early (i.e. NOW), Reset Your Expectations, or ship UPS
ORDER NOW: There is nothing wrong with having your holiday shopping wrapped up before Thanksgiving. And if you're shopping online, I would recommend it. Shipping delays aren't that much of an issues right now (as of 10/18/21), so you'll likely receive your gifts in a timely fashion. That being said: 2021 is not a year to procrastinate with any online holiday purchases.
At Amanda Klein Co. we're just going to go ahead and encourage early shopping: Our Black Friday Sale will be 10/29/21 - 11/1/21 with 15% Off Sitewide 🎉
RESET YOUR EXPECTATIONS: Can't order early? Ordered a last minute gift? Just be prepared that your gift might not arrive when you hoped. Almost all carriers are experiencing major delays, and once something is shipped the transit time is only controlled by the carrier.
SHIP UPS: UPS is consistently on-time and packages rarely arrive damaged. The truth is that UPS is often 2-3 times the cost of USPS or FedEx, but if you're in a time crunch -- it's worth it. At Amanda Klein Co., we offer a UPS shipping upgrade option for all of our orders.
I can't speak for the business practices of other small-businesses, but I can speak for mine. We're a team of three, and work very hard at keeping our order processing time as short as possible. Most of our packages ship within 1-4 business days. We have over 500 product variations in our lines, and trust me that it takes a lot of organization to keep that 1-4 business day turnaround rolling. But I am so proud of my team for making that happen: It's because we care.
And we care--a lot--with our shipping.
- We make multiple trips to USPS/UPS/our local shipping center a week (shoutout to Hoover Shipping, we LOVE them!).
- We buy premium shipping materials to protect our goods in transit -- all 100% Made in America
- If a package is lost in transit or is damaged in transit, we make it right. We do all that we can to ensure an excellent experience from fulfillment to delivery.
When you're a small-business that doesn't ship 25,000+ packages a month and have your own private UPS rep & access to major UPS shipping discounts ... you count your blessings for USPS and how they keep your business running.
One of the beautiful things about small-business is that you're directly supporting their family, and in return, many businesses take your happiness and experience to heart. I know I do, and I know many other small-business owners whom feel the same. We are so thankful for you and want you to be happy with your experience, so if it's not right -- just talk to us.
4: We're humans with beating hearts, too. So don't be a jerk.
I heard recently that consumers were way more likely to leave negative reviews or verbally bash small-business than larger box stores. That someone could have a horrible experience at a large fast food restaurant or mega box store, but they would continually give them their business regardless. But if someone had a similar experience at a small-business, they were much less likely to give them second chances. The rational was because they knew box stores didn't care, but small-businesses did.
Please, be kind. Take a deep breath. Remember that we're all human and 99.9% of the time a small-business really wants to help answer questions or wrong a right.
And for those of us on the receiving end (looking at you: all you fellow customer service, folks!), remind yourself that hurt people hurt people. It's not you, it's them. Believe me, as a business owner who has been the recipient of hurtful words from trolls, this is way easier said than done.
Anyway, these are just my thoughts from a small-business perspective. Order your gifts early or go shop your local brick & mortar. But above all: Practice kindness and love -- isn't that the meaning of the holiday season, anyway?