It was the carriers who suffered the brunt of the criticism, but many of the tardy deliveries weren’t their fault, according to Jerry Hempstead, who spent decades as an executive with DHL and Airborne Express, and now heads up his own firm, Hempstead Consulting. He blamed the severe snowstorm that struck large portions of the South and East, including UPS’s hub in Louisville, KY and FedEx’s in Memphis, Tenn., for much of the delay.
There’s a limit to how many extra people and equipment can be crammed into the system. The problem, said Hempstead, is that many e-tailers are unrealistic about the ability of carriers to fulfill delivery commitments, especially when a large part of the country is paralyzed by a storm. The big online merchants have access to detailed information about conditions in various regions, and could inform consumers that certain areas will be subject to delays — just as UPS and FedEx make exceptions in cases of bad weather. But competition among sellers is so fierce that no one wants to lose prospective buyers by telling them the truth.