SEATTLE (Heartland Newsfeed/MarketWatch) — Looking to get your last-minute gifts delivered before the holidays? Don’t wait much longer than this week, unless perhaps you have Amazon Prime.
The online retail giant announced it is expanding Prime delivery to 8,000 cities and towns from 5,000 previously and for some Prime members in a handful of cities, including Miami, Manhattan and Denver, with purchases of $35 or more. That means Amazon will deliver gifts up until 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 24.
• For Amazon Prime-less customers, orders with free shipping must be placed by Dec. 15. The last day to place an order with standard (paid) shipping is Dec. 18. The deadline for Amazon Prime orders is Dec. 22.
Here are the deadlines for other parcel carriers:
• The United States Postal Service suggests all orders with retail ground shipping be placed by Dec. 14. First class mail should be ordered by Dec. 19, priority mail by Dec. 20 and priority express by Dec. 22.
• UPS says the last day to get its 3-Day Select service is Dec. 18. Two-day air service is available for deliveries ordered by Dec. 21, but they must be labeled for Saturday delivery (which is not available to all ZIP codes). Saturday delivery fees are $16 per package.
• FedEx ground shipping will not be delivered on Saturday, Dec. 23, the company says, but other services, such as FedEx Express, will be delivered on that Saturday for a $16 delivery fee per package if Saturday service is selected (this includes First Overnight, Priority Overnight and 2-Day services). Orders should be placed by Dec. 15.
Warnings of delivery delays this holiday season
United Parcel Service last week warned shoppers of delivery delays after a bottleneck of Black Friday and Cyber Monday orders. The company said it rented more delivery trucks and has employees clocking extra hours to push out deliveries in a timely manner.
UPS manages deliveries for major retailers including Walmart, Macy’s and Amazon.
Almost 90% of the packages UPS Express (delivered by air) shipped during the last week of November arrived on time, compared to almost 100% of FedEx Express packages, according to shipping data analyzing software provider ShipMatrix. UPS does not comment on third-party industry estimates, said Steve Gaut, vice president of public relations at UPS.
“All carriers have experienced challenges at one time or another,” he said. “When a business is required to nearly double daily delivery volumes, it is extremely challenging to have flawless performance across all services.”
Here are 4 ways to avoid delivery nightmares:
Track your orders
The holiday season has its own set of complications. Michelle Madhok, an online shopping expert and founder of deals site shefinds.com, says temporary drivers who are hired to deal with the Christmas rush are often unfamiliar with routes, meaning packages may not arrive on time or get delivered to the wrong address. Apps such as Slice and Parcel help shoppers collect tracking order numbers from emails and track the packages.
Is the item really in stock?
Sometimes it’s not a matter of delivering an item on time, but when the item is actually available to be delivered, Madhok also said. Products may appear to be available — until they end up in the shopper’s online cart. Check that the items are actually in stock, or call a store to find out.
Buy online, but pick up in stores
The lines may still be long at the store, especially during peak shopping times, but it’s one less thing to worry about when it comes to presents arriving on time. Walmart and Kohl’s may even offer better prices to shoppers who buy online and pick up in the store, said Trae Bodge, a shopping expert in Montclair, N.J. Bloomingdale’s, Kohl’s, Macy’s and Target are making it easier by allowing customers to pick up orders at the customer service desk.
Certain gifts can take longer to process
Personalized gifts like monogrammed outfits or frames take extra time, and shoppers should ask customer service representatives how long they truthfully expect those gifts will take to ship, Bodge said. Check expedited shipping options. American Express offers some cardholders two-day guaranteed shipping with delivery service Shoprunner.
Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network, wrestling editor and contributing writer for Ambush Sports, a contributing writer for My Sports Vote and Midwest Sports Network, and a former contributor to Bleacher Report and Overtime Heroics. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dog Buster.
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