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Why Are Shipping Delays During the Coronavirus Pandemic So Inconsistent?

Boxes rolling down a warehouse sorting line.

Around the country, governors are urging people to shop online and social distance. The problem is, internet shopping is very inconsistent right now. Here are some of the reasons behind the wildly different delivery times.

Delays Due to “Essential” Needs

An Amazon Prime delivery truck, delivery essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic.

You might have noticed messages on websites like Amazon saying some orders are delayed because they’re focusing on the “items customers need most.” This means people working in Amazon warehouses are picking items people need to survive first. Then, during any remaining time, they package and ship other orders.

However, given sites like Amazon sell both first- and third-party products, this might only pertain to items shipped directly from Amazon warehouses. Items from individual sellers on Amazon Marketplace that ship from their own locations might not take as long to ship nonessential items. This is why some products arrive in two days, while others take a week or more.

Delays Due to Temporary Closures

While some warehouses are open, but operating at a reduced capacity (or focused only on essential items), others are closed. For example, a clothing order I placed with Torrid over a month ago finally showed up, but other parts of the order are still being fulfilled. Normally, I get orders within a week.

This was because the company had completely closed its warehouse because clothing was deemed nonessential. Once it was allowed to open again, orders started shipping again (albeit, slowly).

A splash page announcement alerting customers to COVID-19 delays on the Torrid website.

Most businesses are being straightforward with this information. Be sure to look for banners at the top of websites or for extra info on order pages. Most stores will still allow orders while they’re closed and will ship them out when they’re allowed to open again. When in doubt, search your email inbox for the company name. You’re sure to find an update email explaining how that particular organization is handling pandemic-related issues.

Delays Due to Short Staff

Like many businesses, when Torrid got the okay to reopen its warehouse, the company was required to work with reduced staff. This is to minimize the exposure of workers to each other, so fewer people are there to pick and package items. Many stores around the U.S. are experiencing this.

The key to dealing with delays due to limited staff is patience. If you need something quickly, your best bet is to order it locally and have it delivered via Shipt or a similar service.

Delays in Overseas Shipping

Since the coronavirus is a global pandemic, shipping has been suspended from some countries. You might order something from eBay or another large online marketplace, like Aliexpress, only to get a notification that your item cannot be shipped from its destination to yours.

Most of the time, you’ll get other options for different shipping locations (possibly with a higher shipping cost). Other times, you’ll simply have to wait it out. Now is a great time to shop local with businesses that are open, whether in-store or via delivery.

Delays Due to High Shipping Volume

Finally, not only are there issues at warehouses pertaining to everything from stock shortages to staffing issues, there’s the sheer volume of people now ordering online en masse.

While major shippers gear up for the holiday rush by hiring part-time labor, running extra trucks and routes, and so on, this sudden rush in March and April is a bit unprecedented.

It’s always frustrating when shipments are delayed. Hopefully, though, knowing that all the harried warehouse workers and delivery people are doing their best to get your things to your doorstep will inspire a bit more patience.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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