By Alessandra Malito, MarketWatch
Gift-giving is a major component to the holidays, but sometimes the unexpected happens
Christmas Eve is the last chance to secure the gifts intended for loved ones on Christmas Day, but even the savviest shoppers may feel stuck if their online orders haven't yet arrived.
Millions of presents are being shipped across the country this year, with the hopes of arriving in time for the holidays. The United States Postal Service expects to deliver almost 200 million packages each week between Dec. 10 and Dec. 23, and expanded its Sunday delivery operations in high-volume locations to make this happen.
Read:Where to do last-minute toy shopping now that Toys 'R' Us is gone (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/where-to-do-last-minute-toy-shopping-now-that-toys-r-us-is-gone-2018-12-20)
Many retailers gave specific deadlines for their holiday orders. Amazon(AMZN) said the last day for free shipping with no minimum purchase was Dec. 19, and for Prime members with two-day shipping, it was Dec. 22 (some shoppers in major cities could even purchase items for same-day deliveries by 9:30 a.m. local time on Christmas Eve, the company said). eBay(EBAY) offered a page for last-minute gifts to arrive by Dec. 24, but only if ordered by Friday. Target(TGT) guaranteed orders purchased on Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/target-says-orders-placed-by-thursday-are-guaranteed-to-be-delivered-by-christmas-eve-2018-12-17) would make it in time for Christmas Eve. Other stores suggested last-minute shoppers order online but pick up in store, such as Walmart(WMT) , which said purchases made online by 4 p.m. on Dec. 23 could be picked up the next day. Right -- this may all only help for next year's planning.
But if you're still listening for the thump of a package landing at your door, know that carriers are putting extra work into making those deliveries happen, including those sent between individuals. FedEx(FDX) and UPS(UPS) also expanded their delivery hours and operations to meet consumer demand. UPS had a 98.6% on-time performance rating, while FedEx can claim 97.5% and the USPS had a 98% rate, for packages shipped between Dec. 9 and Dec. 15, according to ShipMatrix, a shipment consulting firm.
"This is a clear indication that the carriers' networks are finally tuned to handle peak holiday volumes, which this year will exceed 2.5 billion online deliveries between Thanksgiving and Christmas," the consulting firm said.
Still, the unexpected could deter shipping plans -- retailers may not be able to keep up with their orders, weather could slow or halt delivery and carriers might face bottlenecks in high-traffic areas. "Every year there's some kind of issue," said Michelle Madhok, chief executive officer and founder of deals site Shefinds.com.
If you find yourself among those for whom delivery is too late, or you miscalculated yourself, here are four easy steps to save your gift list.
1. Make it a game
When one Reddit user's gifts didn't arrive on time (she sent them to her destination to avoid carrying them on the train), she turned her misery into a game, she said on the social media site (https://www.reddit.com/r/Random_Acts_Of_Amazon/comments/158pfy/discussion_what_do_you_do_when_a_gift_doesnt/). She put symbols and poems into other little boxes and made the gifts a riddle, so the recipients had to guess what their gifts, still on their way, were going to be. She was also honest about what happened. "We had a ton of fun with the riddles (they were very silly) and nobody was miffed (except for me, about postal service)," she wrote.
2. Print out a picture
One easy solution is to print out a picture of the gift, Madhok said, though the giver may want to add a temporary stand-in alongside that snapshot, like a mug, candies, a bottle of wine or flowers. "Just something to have that's tangible," Madhok said.
One Reddit user said her parents did that all the time, putting a picture of the item in a wrapped box. "It's a little weird at first, but then you get a present later on so it feels like Christmas again," she said.
3. Run to the store
Ordering online may be out of the question, but running to the store on Christmas Eve isn't. It may mean finding your original gift idea, or settling for second best. A handful of stores (https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/what-stores-open-on-christmas-eve-2018) are open until 5 or 7 p.m. local time, including Best Buy(BBY) , GameStop(GME) , Target, Costco(COST) , Kohl's(KSS) , Macy's(M) , Sears and Kmart(SHLDQ) , Old Navy(GPS) and Bed, Bath and Beyond(BBBY).
Also see:4 mistakes you're probably making when you shop on Amazon (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/4-mistakes-youre-probably-making-when-you-shop-on-amazon-2018-11-26)
4. Reach out to retailers and carriers
Carriers have made it easy to track packages. FedEx suggests customers check the status of their shipments on their website (https://www.fedex.com/apps/fedextrack/) or call 1-800-GO-FEDEX. USPS said consumers can sign up for "Informed Delivery," which is a free and optional notification feature to let customers preview their packages and track when they'll arrive. They can also reach out to consumers at 1-800-ASK-USPS or fill out a form (https://www.usps.com/help/contact-us.htm). UPS's tracking website is also available, or customers can call 1-800-PICK-UPS.
Consumers have the right to complain to retailers and shipping carriers if their orders weren't delivered by the date promised. Some retailers will offer full refund, or at the least, issue gift certificates and merchandise credits, and carriers may offer refunds on shipping, Madhok said.
-Alessandra Malito; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 25, 2018 10:34 ET (15:34 GMT)
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