5 Ways to Ease the Pain of Holiday Shipping Delays

customer service shipping Dec 15, 2020

Disclosure: some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.


Shipping delays are a really regular part of the holiday season, but in keeping with the 2020 brand, this year it’s EXTRA ridiculous.

On the bright side, part of the reason for these exceptional delays is the overwhelming number of packages that have been sent out...meaning that people have shopped online more than ever! The New York Times reported an estimated 3 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) packages will be sent by the end of the holiday season.

We’re gonna take that little nugget of info and put it in our back pocket for now, though.

The downside is that packages are definitely delayed across the board. 

Now, for the most part it’s just a couple of days, so it’s not THAT bad if you are getting your orders out right away. 


But...depending on the area you are sending to and which hub(s) your packages travel through, there have been some major COVID-related staffing shortages that have resulted in just not enough people to process all of this mail.

So, what can you as a seller and a business owner do to counteract this unprecedented bottleneck in the system?

1. The easiest and perhaps most obvious step: set realistic expectations with your customers. This means:

✓ Banner announcements on your website letting people know that there are delays in the USPS system

✓ Messages in your purchase confirmation emails reminding your customers of these delays

✓ Making sure your customers are receiving the tracking numbers for all packages (and yes, they should all have tracking numbers if they are packages…)

2. Ship as SOON as you possibly can

Yes, I know this one is sometimes easier said than done...but on your end the only part of the shipping process you can control is when the product actually leaves your hands and gets into the system.


If it is at all possible, consider listing only your ready-made items, or make it REALLY clear that made-to-order/custom items may not arrive in time for Christmas. Then, get those packages picked, packed, and out the door ASAP!

I shipped over 100 packages on December 1, and I ended up with 5 that seemed to be taking the long way ‘round to get to their destinations. I put in a help request through the USPS website, and I actually got individual (albeit canned) responses to each request. One of those responses included this little tidbit of information: 

 There is a backlog of mail/packages being processed on a first come first served based on its mailing class.”

This leads me to my next point:

3. Consider upgrading your shipping method

USPS first class packages are close to the bottom of the list of priorities when it comes to shipping, so consider upgrading your shipping method to Priority Mail. To counterbalance the increase costs, you could:

✓ Offer an automatic upgrade on orders over $X

✓ If your items are on the heavier side (I’m looking at you, soap makers!) consider Priority Flat Rate or Priority Cubic Rate shipping

✓ Offer optional shipping upgrades for an additional price (you can update your shipping settings on your website or in your shipping profile on Etsy)


4. Consider creative alternatives when your product just won’t get there on time

You’re an artist, right? Well it’s time to get crafty with problem-solving!

If it looks like that package just isn’t going to arrive, be prepared with an alternative solution. 

One way to wow your customer would be to provide them with a beautiful graphic depicting the product they purchased in a “gift certificate” format (I’d turn to Canva to make this a snap!). This ensures that they won’t be caught empty-handed when it’s time for the gift exchange.


5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be proactive in your communication with your customer

People get most upset when something unexpected happens. We as humans like to know what’s coming next, and when there is a breakdown in communication, that’s when conflict happens.


YES, it is an uncomfortable conversation to have with your customer. 


Telling them that their package is delayed can feel like...


“Hey there Susie Customer! Thanks for buying from me..., but it won’t be there before Christmas. Thanks for the cash, though!”


I PROMISE you, though, if you keep the lines of communication open, let them know that you are aware of the delay and that you are tracking their package, and keep them posted when you get updates, you will be AMAZED at the results. 

Will they be disappointed if the package doesn’t arrive on time? Yeah, probably.


Will they feel like you ghosted them after they supported your small business? NOPE! 

Some of my best customers have come from these kinds of sticky situations...take this as your opportunity to be overly kind, overly generous, and overly understanding. 


We will get through this together...new and exciting things are coming in 2021 and you are HERE for it!!!

Speaking of awesome things to come, I’ve got a pretty sweet 2021 planning session that’s coming up in January. Members of the Bloom community will get the first invitations, so make sure you’re a member of the group!


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