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On Time Delivery Guaranty Gotchas

  UPS, and to a lesser extent Federal Express, got black eyes this past holiday season when thousands of packages were left undelivered in time for Christmas.

Some retailers like Amazon, Kohl’s, and Walmart promised to make peace with their customers by variously offering shipping refunds, gift cards, or complete refunds. But what about UPS and FEDEX themselves?

Both companies have on-time guarantees.

For UPS, air shipments are guaranteed throughout the holiday season. But, if you used UPS Ground service, they have conveniently excluded the two weeks before Christmas:


UPS guarantee

Federal Express on the other hand, appears to have left their full money back guarantee intact.

FEDEX guarantee

For overnight deliveries, their policy is generous:

“FedEx offers a money-back guarantee for every U.S. shipment. You may request a refund or credit of your shipping charges if we miss our published (or quoted, as in the case of FedEx SameDay®) delivery time by even 60 seconds.”

Wow, even if they are only a minute late you get back your money. Wow, again.

In small type, however, the customer is referred to Fedex’s “terms and conditions” and ground tariff. For both overnight express and ground services, their money back policy begins this way:


“We offer a money-back guarantee for our services. This guarantee can be suspended, modified or revoked at our sole discretion without prior notice to you.” [emphasis added]

So they have this great policy, but tuck into the fine print that they can suspend it at will. Nice, huh?

Sure enough, FEDEX created a special holiday money back guarantee . For FEDEX Ground shipments, they invoked that weasel clause just when it might be needed most.


“The money-back guarantee for FedEx Ground® and FedEx Home Delivery® services will be suspended temporarily for packages tendered during the 14 calendar days before Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013 (Wednesday, Dec. 11, through Tuesday, Dec. 24).”

And for FEDEX express services, they give themselves an extra 90 minutes to make on-time deliveries, just like UPS.

The company issued a statement after the big media uproar about packages being delivered late (primarily by UPS), saying:

“Every single package is important to us, and we will continue to work directly with customers to address any isolated incidents.”

The bottom line is that these companies have tried to absolve themselves of on-time delivery responsibilities, and have been relatively silent about how they would make good for disappointed shoppers.

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11 thoughts on “On Time Delivery Guaranty Gotchas”

  1. I don’t mind UPS and FedEx changing the delivery and money-back guarantee with advance notice to customers. There are sometimes events that cause delivery backups that companies have little control over, and peak season is one of them. However, FedEx looks really shady when they write into the fine print that the guarantee offered can be suspended without notice. They should make it more obvious when they know peak season will likely not have the guarantee.

    That’s like having a 50% off sale and writing in the fine print that you have the right to honor it depending on how you are feeling at the moment.

  2. FedEx blew a two-day delivery of computer equipment that was supposed to be received on Friday Dec. 20, with the completed system shipped back and received before Christmas. Their screw-up has cost me two weeks, so I’ll be putting in a claim.

    My neighbor drives for UPS, and says they were “set up” by Macy’s, who allegedly, and unrealistically, promised next day (Christmas Eve) delivery for purchases made December 23rd. He also believes Amazon is planning a roll-out of their own delivery service, thus making UPS look bad is no skin off their nose.

  3. While I appreciate all these “guarantees”, whether they try to make it up or not, come on, if you buy stuff during the Christmas madhouse and ship it close to the holiday, you can’t get too upset if it gets there a day or two late.

    Some late packages and the world freaks, millions get delivered on time and no one says a word.

    And don’t forget, every day some packages will get lost or delivered late, there is always a percentage, what was the percentage late during Christmas compared to normal (when there is no media hype)?

  4. Although, I do question their “without a prior notice to you”.

    Say I ship something on Dec 15, and at that time there is no notice. Then say come Dec 17 they change their policy, is it retro-active to previous shipments or from shipments starting on the 17th going forward? Because, if they have a policy then change it AFTER the fact, I do have an issue with that.

  5. On the plus side, I put in an order and chose expedited delivery, which “guaranteed” delivery by Friday, 1/3. On Thursday I got a notice from and from UPS that it would be late due to weather, rescheduled to 1/6. I could have had free delivery by 1/6, so without a reversal of the delivery fee that didn’t look so good. The plus is that UPS did complimentary Saturday delivery, which is when I needed it anyway. Even with a major snow storm, UPS managed to come through.

  6. I am very happy with FedEx on the other hand. I made a purchase the 20th of December, and they told me before hand that it would not get to me until the 26th. Fine, I messed up and paid the price for it, no big deal. But they were able to get the package to me from the New England Region to New Orleans on Christmas Eve. It’s give and take.

  7. UPS relies heavy on Railroad for on time service. The bad weather this season along with bad Railroad service created much of the problems

  8. Use the Postal service. There wasn’t any media hype on the P.O. not delivering packages. Also both Fed-x and UPS make drop shipments daily to Postal facilities. They refuse to deliver the last mile so the P.O. takes care of the last mile. The P.O. has 24 hours from the time the shipment is dropped at a facility to get it to the customers house/business.

  9. Well Mary not all online retailers even have USPS as a shipping option so you have no choice if they use UPS.

  10. What if the package is more important than a new sweater?

    UPS delivered a critical prescription to the local post office. There it sat. Mailman came and went. Old prescription exhausted. Screaming panic. Did I mention CRITICAL?

    Got our MD to send an emergency Rx to local druggist. BC/BS of course wouldn’t pay because the mail-order Rx was in their system. Over $300 out-of-pocket. Thanks UPS!

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