Where’s your delivery? Canada Post backlog amid COVID-19 keeps customers guessing

Click to play video: 'Canada Post on parcel backlog'
Canada Post on parcel backlog
WATCH: Canada Post on parcel backlog – May 27, 2020

Canada Post has told customers for weeks now that it’s delivering parcels at “record levels” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there appears to be no end in sight to the delays.

Complaints about delayed deliveries from the company are abundant online. Some customers describe waiting weeks for items being sent inter-province, while others describe lengthy customer service call wait times and even offer to pick it up at processing facilities themselves.

Aware of the backlog, Marie Labelle chose to pay for expedited shipping for two parcels.

She ordered a package of coffees and teas from British Columbia on May 20 and a parcel of reptile food and supplies from Oshawa, Ont., on May 21. Both were supposed to be expedited to her home in Quebec at an additional cost of more than $20 each, she said.

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“So they should have been here before the beginning of June,” Labelle said.

“I used the tracking tool to follow the progress, and as soon as the arrival date appeared for the one from Ontario, it changed to ‘date pending’ again. I got an email from Canada Post about the one from B.C. having a ‘processing error’ and to expect delays.”

Labelle said she’s still waiting for both packages. When she called about the orders, it was futile.

“Customer service was… short, to put it politely,” she said. “I was pretty much cut off and told that they can’t tell me anything more than what’s on the website.”

Labelle said the items were small and that she’s ordered them before, so the hefty delay felt odd.

She asked about being reimbursed for the expedited shipping fee — since the packages did not, in fact, arrive within three to five business days — but says she was told “they don’t reimburse.”

According to its policy online, customers can request a refund for late deliveries, but only if it meets certain criteria.

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Canada Post told Global News in a statement that “expedited services are still treated on an expedited basis and therefore move through the system much quicker” but that the overloaded situation still applies.

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Union for Canadian postal workers expresses COVID-19 safety concerns

“It’s frustrating,” Labelle said. “We’ve ordered with FedEx or UPS and received deliveries within a quick time frame, so I don’t know what Canada Post is doing.”

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Delivery challenges

The Crown corporation described the COVID-19 crisis as a “challenging period.” Those challenges are two-fold.

While Canadians are “doing their part by staying at home,” online orders have only gone up, said spokesperson Jon Hamilton. As the stay-at-home recommendations have lingered, the volume of orders has collided with the size of the orders.

“We’re seeing people sit at home and say, ‘Well, I could use a new patio set or barbecue.’ So we’re seeing bulkier items, heavier items,” he told Global News Winnipeg on May 29, adding that those types of deliveries often require more employees and more time.

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On top of that, physical-distancing protocols at processing facilities and other centres have slowed output. The measures are not only enforced to protect workers but customers, Hamilton said.

“We have 21 processing plants across the country. We’ve put it into facilities that were never designed to keep people more than two metres apart. Very few people develop a processing plant to do that,” he said.

Shifts have changed, and tape lines the floor where employees are to work and stand, he said. Parcel sorting areas that would normally have up to four employees working may now only have one or two.

“But it does add extra time,” he said. “It’s just taking longer to process because of the measures in place. That creates backlogs across all facilities across the country, not just one or two.”

Amy Booker of Stouffville, Ont., is part of that backlog. She had to get creative when recently ordering an item from a company in the United States.

She placed an order for a flea and tick product for her horses in early April but had it sent to a friend’s house in Parsonsfield, Maine, because the company wasn’t shipping to Canada during the pandemic. Once it arrived in Maine, her friend shipped it to Canada on May 4.

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Booker said her friend filled out all the appropriate customs forms to have the item successfully shipped across the border. The item, along with fees and shipping, came at a cost of more than $200.

It’s been three weeks since it was sent off, and there’s no sign of it, she said.

She contacted Canada Post about the delay and claims she was told it was still stuck at the border as of Friday. She believes it may now be at a processing facility in Mississauga, Ont., but can’t be certain because the tracking page hasn’t been updated.

“Basically, if it gets here, it gets here,” she said.  “Goodness knows where it actually is.”

Booker said she put the order in early, knowing not only COVID-19’s impacts on deliveries but how important the item is for her horses.

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“It’s to help prevent ticks. It’s not just an article of clothing,” she said.

“I understand the holdup to an extent with the pandemic. That being said, I’m sure the influx of packages is not much different than the Christmas holidays.”

Booker is nearly right.

Record parcel delivery

During Christmas, especially after Cyber Monday and Black Friday, Canada Post says it will see days where two million packages are delivered.

On May 19 alone, it hit an all-time, one-day record of 2.1 million parcels delivered to Canadians.

“That’s roughly three times the norm for this time of year,” a spokesperson told Global News in an email.

For packages coming from the U.S., “delays should be expected,” they said.

“We’re receiving more than 50 per cent the usual amount of parcels from the U.S. than this time of the year, with delays occurring before they even reach us.”

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Canada Post says it is taking a “pre-Christmas” approach to keep up -— delivering on weekends, running processing facilities 24-7 and “utilizing significant voluntary overtime with thousands of trained temporary employees.”

But ultimately, it’s hard to pinpoint reasons for delays, Canada Post said.

“A delay could be different for every parcel depending on the route they take, or not occur at all,” the spokesperson said. “If people are seeing an item pause at one location, it means it is in cue (sic) in a trailer waiting to come into the facility for processing.”

If you haven’t seen a package yet, Hamilton said patience is key.

“Follow your items online. You might see them take a different route as we try to move to another facility that can handle the capacity and move quicker,” he said. “We apologize for the delays, but they’re for very good reasons.”

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