NEW YORK -- Santa's sleigh didn't make it in time for Christmas for some this year due to shipping problems at UPS and FedEx.
The delays were blamed on poor weather earlier this week in parts of the country as well as overloaded systems. The holiday shopping period this year was shorter than usual, more buying was done online and Americans' tendency to wait until the last possible second to shop probably didn't help either.
Neither company said how many packages were delayed but noted it was a small share of overall holiday shipments. While the bulk of consumers' holiday spending remains at physical stores, shopping online is increasingly popular and outstripping spending growth in stores at the mall.
"UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination; however, the volume of air packages in our system exceeded the capacity of our network immediately preceding Christmas so some shipments were delayed," United Parcel Service (UPS) said in a service advisory online Wednesday.
UPS isn't making pickups or deliveries Wednesday and plans to resume normally scheduled service Thursday.
Some FedEx customers are able to pick up packages Christmas Day at their local FedEx Express centers.
"We're sorry that there could be delays and we're contacting affected customers who have shipments available for pickup," said Scott Fiedler, a spokesman for FedEx (FDX).
Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, FedEx handled 275 million shipments,
The problems appear to have impacted many parts of the country. The Associated Press spoke to people in Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and other states who didn't receive presents in time for Christmas.
Many were left with little or no time to make alternative plans.
Jeff Cormier and his Dallas family were among those whose gifts never arrived.
He had three separate UPS packages -- including two for which he paid extra for expedited shipping -- delayed.
"I've had to apologize to three different people when I thought I had everything wrapped up and good to go way before," Cormier said.
He and his wife are celebrating their baby daughter's first Christmas and flew in his grandmother from Ohio to join them. Her gift, a customized iPhone cover with a photo of her new great-granddaughter, didn't come in time for Christmas.
"My wife and I had our presents to open. Our daughter had her presents to open. And my grandma, she didn't have anything to open," Cormier said.
Three people told The Associated Press that when they tracked their packages online, FedEx said deliveries to their homes were attempted but failed because "the business was closed." During follow-up calls with customer service, they said they learned that the local depot was overwhelmed and didn't attempt delivery.
On Sunday, Eric Swanson ordered a doll for his daughter and a sweater for his wife through Amazon.com and one of its affiliated sites. As an Amazon Prime customer, there was a promise of two-day delivery, getting the gifts to his Carmichael, Calif. home just in time for Christmas. One was shipped via UPS, the other FedEx.
"I thought it would happen," Swanson said. Online tracking tools said the packages would arrive by 8 p.m. Tuesday. Neither did.
Amazon.com (AMZN) has been notifying some customers affected by the UPS delays that it will refund any shipping charges and is giving them a $20 credit toward a future purchase.
Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said the company processed orders and got them to its shippers "on time for holiday delivery" and is now "reviewing the performance of the delivery carriers."
While some customers may get money back, they might think twice about ordering online next year.
"My wife understands but my 5-year-old daughter ... I think we're going to let it be a surprise when it comes," Swanson said. "Next time, if I need to get a gift and cut it that close, I will just have to enter the fray and go to mall."