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Online retailers overwhelmed by orders this year, many shoppers not getting holiday buys

Posted: 1:35 PM, Dec 11, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-11 13:35:31-05

WEST CHESTER TWP., Ohio — The coffee was good and hot this December day, here at Cavu Coffee Shop.

Unfortunately, customer Nikki Wissel was hot too, after Kohl's canceled her online order of a Nintendo Switch gaming system.

"I ordered it a Thursday night," Wissel said. "But come Saturday morning, I get an email from Kohl's saying sorry your order's been canceled, we don't have them in stock."

The problem: It was too late to get that low price elsewhere. "I didn't have the item, and everybody else was already selling out, all other deals were over, " she said.

Kohl's has apologized after hundreds of Black Friday orders ended up canceled this year,  saying it had "intermittent technology issues."

A spokeswoman told us they are "working with customers one on one." In Wissel's case, the store is sending her a Nintendo Switch free of charge, after we got involved in her case.

Online shoe order canceled

Rotunda Kershaw had a similar Cyber Week bummer: the Timberland boots she bought for her nieces from the Finish Line's site ended up canceled, as well.

Dozens of similar complaints are popping up on social media about similar ordering problems at the Finish Line.

After we contacted the company, they promised to get Kershaw her boots at the discounted price, and apologized for delays and cancelations.

Christmas tree delivery delays

Meantime, the last thing you want to see in December is an empty spot in your family room, where a Christmas tree should be.

But Beth Schirmer says that's what she and her kids had to look at for almost two weeks after she mail ordered a tree on Black Friday weekend.

"I ordered Sunday, November 25th, and their website said orders received by 2 p.m. would go out the next business day."

Beth ordered from Balsam Hill, a California company that gets top ratings on Amazon for high quality, realistic trees.

"I was looking for the nicest artificial tree I could find, she said.

Schirmer figured she had plenty of time, as "their standard shipping said 3 to 5 business days." But after a week, she received nothing, not even a tracking number.

"I've never received a tracking number, and my husband spent hours on the phone trying to talk with a supervisor."

A quick check finds dozens of similar complaints about tree delivery delays at Balsam Hill.

"There are even people who paid for expedited shipping who are not getting their tree when promised," Schirmer said.
    
The Better Business Bureau  gives Balsam Hill an "A Plus" rating for responding to complaints. But dig deeper and you learn the retailer gets just 1 out of 5 stars from customers, with 161 complaints the past 3 years.

The company tells the BBB "our delivery dates are presented as a range to the customer. We are aware of a shortcoming with our previous shipment partner, an issue we are actively addressing."

The good news:  after we contacted Balsam Hill, a spokeswoman promised to get Schirmer her tree in the next 24 hours. And two days later, she had her tree, filling that vacant hole.

How to protect yourself

But the overall lesson: we are getting into crunch time in the 2018 holiday season. Many stores are setting sales records, which is good ... and bad. 

Some this year are overwhelmed with orders and are now struggling to fulfill orders in time.

In addition, Amazon is now using third-party Flex Drivers for many orders, who may not have the reliability of FedEx.

So don't wait much longer to place an online order, and in the next few days start thinking about paying for expedited shipping.

Or to guarantee it arrives by Christmas, go to the store and pick it up yourself (novel idea there), so you get what you want and you don't waste your money.

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