Several hundred thousand Americans will be opening their Christmas gifts a day or two later than usual as United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) and other carriers were simply unable to keep up with the unexpectedly large volume of Christmas deliveries. UPS attributes the problems to a short shopping season, bad weather across the country and a huge late-season surge in online orders.

UPS

UPS statement

United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) spokeswoman Natalie Black addressed the problems in a statement this morning. “It is unfortunate for this to happen at this time of year, but we’re working around the clock to fix it,”  “We had our peak projections, and the volume has exceeded our projection.”

“We are sorry,” the statement continued, also noting that only a small percentage of parcels scheduled to arrive Dec. 24 were delayed.

United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) hired an additional 55,000 seasonal employees, and had almost 200,000 delivery vehicles on the road for the 2013 holiday season, but it still wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Retailers offering refunds and gift cards

Several larger retailers including Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) and Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE:KSS) are offering customers gift cards and/or refunds on their shipping fees as compensation for the late deliveries.

”We’re deeply sorry for disappointing our customers expecting delivery in time for Christmas,” said Jen Johnson, a spokeswoman for Kohl’s Corporation department stores.

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) spokeswoman Jaeme Laczkowski said the company would offer gift cards to customers who did not receive their orders before Christmas. “We extend our deepest apologies,” she said.

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is also offering customers who didn’t receive their orders on time a $20 gift card, but is not accepting any blame for the problems. According to Mary Osako, an Amazon spokesperson, “Amazon fulfillment centers processed and tendered customer orders to delivery carriers on time for holiday delivery,” she said.

Surge in online orders

Nasty winter weather all across the country beginning in Mid-December put United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) and other carriers behind the curve on holiday deliveries, and when online orders for delivery began to surge around the same time, they simply couldn’t keep up. It was arguably, a “perfect storm,” in that the poor weather both made deliveries more difficult and led more people to order online rather than going to brick and mortar retailers and bringing home the gifts themselves.