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Why Your Black Friday Orders Haven’t Arrived Yet

A warehouse worker sorts packages off a conveyor belt Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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UPS hired 95,000 extra workers this season to deal with the holiday surge. Amazon hired 120,000. So why are customers still seeing week-long delays?

Online shopping is supposed to be a smooth, seamless experience. Clicking around Everlane or Net-A-Porter can lull us into such a coddled state that it’s easy to forget that behind these slick online storefronts is a gargantuan logistics system powered by warehouse associates, postal workers, supply-chain managers, robots, and corporate executives, all of whom are both fallible and finite.

Many Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers are just coming to this rude realization thanks to a wave of shipping problems and warehouse delays that have held up some orders for days, and others for weeks. A Shopbop customer tipped off Racked to the deluge of complaints on the brand’s social media pages from shoppers who report being “ghosted” by its customer service team. Orders have been “processing” since Thanksgiving, some say, and emails and messages have gone unanswered. H&M’s Twitter help desk, meanwhile, is directing customers to the company’s online chat service while phone lines are swamped with calls.

“We experienced a really successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday both in-store and online, and as such we had an influx of orders that needed to be processed,” says an H&M spokesperson. “Although delivery times were extended during this period in order to meet the demand, we are now back to our normal customer promise time of three to five days for standard delivery.” We’ve reached out to Shopbop for comment and will update if they respond.

Even Shopbop parent company Amazon, the standard-bearer for fast, free shipping, has had some hiccups in the wake of record online sales. According to Hitwise data, the retailer accounted for about half of all online transactions on both Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day, but customers have reported their two-day Prime deliveries missing estimates by up to a week. A scan of Twitter shows that other brands are dealing with warehouse delays and a backlog of customer-service complaints, too, among them ASOS, Sephora, Yoox, Fashion Nova, and Ssense.

When orders do make it out of the warehouse, some may face issues in transit. UPS today admitted to the Wall Street Journal that the deluge of packages has put some deliveries behind by one to two days, despite the company staffing up for the holiday season and pushing drivers to work longer hours to meet delivery windows. The logistics giant expects to ship 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, and with e-commerce growing every year, the surge is likely only going to get more dramatic. The question is: Will customer service and shipping be able to keep up?