British Columbia

You've got mail, eventually: best practices for holiday online shopping and shipping

With online shopping becoming more the norm, waiting for those packages to arrive can be just as stress inducing as shopping on Christmas eve.

Package insurance and tracking your shipment can help protect against late deliveries

As Christmas approaches, Canada's shipping and mail centres are flooded and customers are expected to wait for their packages. Canada Post will deliver over 50 million packages during the holiday season. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

The numbers on the countdown clock to Christmas are dwindling and many people are still on the hunt for last-minute gifts.

But with online shopping becoming more widespread, waiting for those packages to arrive can be just as stress inducing as shopping on Christmas Eve. 

It's too early to guess at numbers for this holiday season, but last December, shoppers bought $1.7 billion worth of goods online from Canadian businesses, making up about 3.4 per cent of all retail sales.

UPS warned of short delays this month and hired 1,300 seasonal workers to help meet the demand in Vancouver and Toronto, but there's only so much companies can do to manage the overload of deliveries during the holiday rush.

Insure your package

"One thing you might want to consider before you send off a package is parcel insurance," said Evan Kelly, senior communications advisor for the Better Business Bureau in mainland B.C.

"That's an easy way to at least cover your bases if some things go missing."

UPS is liable for loss or damage of a package, at no extra cost, for up to $100 for each domestic package or international shipment, according to its website.

A similar policy applies with Canada Post, and FedEx charges 90 cents for packages with a declared value of under $100.

Another way to protect yourself against lost packages is paying a little extra for tracking on your order. Even if it doesn't arrive on time, at least you can locate the package and file a formal complaint for a refund on express shipping.

Keep track of your parcel

"If you have a tracking number that at least has some armour in your arsenal that you can use to locate that package," Kelly told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

And if  you find yourself in the lurch with packages stuck in transit or late to arrive, Kelly recommends writing a simple email to either the Better Business Bureau, the shipping company or the point of sale that clearly outlines your request and expectations from them regarding a refund or more.

"We're here as a complaint process, we do get complaints about delivery companies of all sorts, from Canada Post to UPS to FedEx we get them all, and for the most part what we find is these companies are proactive in dealing with complaints and doing everything they can to resolve them."

To hear the full interview with Evan Kelly listen to media below:

With files from the CBC's On The Coast.