Retail Shipments: Sending Customer Orders During COVID-19

Mar 26, 2020

The coronavirus is changing our retail industry every few hours. From manufacturing goods to sourcing products to learning how to sell online, retailers are scrambling to revamp their businesses overnight. During these transformational times, we are starting to see some common questions pop-up amongst consumers, retailers, and wholesalers.  

In the coming weeks, we are launching a series of articles to help you navigate industry changes. In this article, we’re going to discuss what’s happening with shipping products from online orders. 

Brian Gibbs, a shipping expert and founder of Refund Retriever, shares his insights on what’s happening with UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. 


Brian, the increase of online orders and shipping products to your home has retail customers afraid of contracting the virus from boxes. What do you advise retailers to add to shipping FAQ to address these concerns?

Brian: The CDC has stated there is a very low risk of transmission of COVID-19 from products or packaging that are shipped. The virus has poor survivability on surfaces, but that does not mean it could not be present, open packages outside, discard of the packaging and wash your hands. 


What three things retailers need to know about shipping in times of crisis? 

Brian: Retailers should remember that demand is still there; people are still shopping online. For many people, online retailers have become their entire marketplace. Retailers also must be patient when customers experience frustration with the process; a little bit of help and explanation of the process will go a long way. Keep your website up to date and if you are out of a product, indicate that on your site immediately.  

Retailers are wondering how they can ship and who they should ship with. What’s your advice?

Brian: If you want consistently reliable tracking numbers, use FedEx or UPS. USPS is the way to ship if your package is under one pound. If you do not have a current UPS or FedEx account number, it is easy to apply for one online.

Are there any carrier restrictions retailers should be aware of? How should they navigate those restrictions? 

Brian: FedEx and UPS have recently removed the on-time guarantee for ground and express packages. Under normal operating circumstances, if your package arrives late, you are entitled to a full refund. They have temporarily removed this policy, so parcels will experience some delay. FedEx and UPS have also temporarily adjusted the procedures for signature requirements. Customers may be asked for a verbal name confirmation in place of a signature.  

Are we putting undue pressure on an already-strained delivery system? 

Brian: I think the carriers have a very robust delivery system, but there are now unforeseen restrictions due to the social distancing placing new hardships on capacity. FedEx and UPS can handle this; they can ship millions of packages each day with massive surges from Black Friday and Christmas.  

With the drastic increase in parcel shipment, how do retail make sure they aren’t being overcharged by FedEx, UPS or USPS? 

Brian: It is very easy to pay too much for shipping. There is no one answer to this question, but if you already have accounts set up, pay attention to the new emergency surcharges and current package characteristics. A shipper’s current carrier agreement will lay all discounts and variances in terms of percentage off published rates. That agreement might need to be analyzed to the package characteristics that are going out of the warehouse. Many times a shipper will receive more significant discounts on package types that never use. While the most common services see a lower discount, review your agreement and invoices often. 

Find FedEx, UPS and USPS shipping information for retailers on their websites. To safeguard your business and find shipping overages that can bring money back into your business, visit Refund Retriever. You can also find retailer-focused information on the COVID-19 impact in our resource center

Macala Wright

Macala Wright

Macala Wright is a writer and researcher who specializes in health, wellness, food, and farming. Her expertise has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, and many more publications. When she’s not writing about consumer behavior or food, she can be found scouring for deals in antique shops or on the back of her horse. You can follow her on Instagram @Macala or visit https://www.maca.la.
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