When you expect an Amazon order to arrive and it seems to be taking forever, it can feel incredibly frustrating. Particularly if you were relying on Amazon’s shipping guarantee to receive your item in a timely manner.
As someone who orders from Amazon regularly and has sold hundreds of thousands of items as a seller myself, I know first-hand how big of a problem this can be.
But why does Amazon take so long to ship, and is there anything you can do to speed things up? I spoke with several Amazon employees as well as shipping couriers to find out the answer. And in this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know.
Why Is Amazon Shipping So Slow?
Amazon’s slow shipping speeds are due to a wide variety of factors, and not all of them are necessarily Amazon’s fault.
After all, Amazon ships over 1.6 million packages a day, and there are bound to be some mistakes with an operation that size!
Let’s go over each reason now, so you can better understand what may be causing the slow shipping speeds, and how you may be able to help.
1. Third-Party Sellers
Did you know that Amazon itself isn’t the sole seller of its items?
In fact, there are over over 9.5 million sellers on Amazon’s marketplace, and third-party sellers make up over 56% of sales on Amazon.com.
This is particularly true the more ‘niche’ you shop for. While Amazon often stocks and ships name-brand items themselves, many of the non-household names are sold by independent businesses.
Here’s what’s important – third-party sellers have two ways they can sell items on Amazon.com. Either they can ship the items to Amazon’s fulfillment centers (so Amazon can process and ship them as they’re ordered), or sellers can opt to ship the items themselves. When you find items that aren’t Prime eligible, they are typically being shipped from third-party sellers.
When a seller sends their item to Amazon to be processed and shipped, the process is no different than if Amazon were the ones selling it directly. It should ship in the same exact amount of time, similar to any other Prime order.
If the seller is shipping the items to you themselves however, there can be massive delays – items can arrive in as little as 2 days, or as long as several months.
You can find the promised delivery date on Amazon’s sales page. Note that sellers are required to make sure that they hit the promised delivery window (or you may be able to request a refund), so it’s helpful to pay attention to the dates listed. You can see an example of this below:
There is a lot of important information here:
- This is the actual delivery window, that sellers are required to adhere to. This states that if you order with standard shipping, the latest the item can arrive by is February 9th. For reference, I took this screenshot on January 28th – so this particular item can take up to 12 days to arrive.
- This is the delivery window if the buyer chooses to order expedited shipping. In this instance, the latest the item could arrive is on February 4th.
- This is where people often get confused – the item ships in 2-3 days. That does not mean that it will be delivered in 2-3 days. Only that this is the time period that the seller typically purchases their shipping label to begin the mailing process.
- This section highlighted with #4 indicates that the item ships directly from a third-party seller, and not from Amazon’s fulfillment centers. This can also usually be indicated by the lack of a Prime badge near the product’s price.
This is important information to know. Even if you have Amazon Prime, it does not cover non-prime eligible items – the majority of which are items sold by third-party sellers.
Pay important attention to the promised delivery date, as this is the final day in which the product was promised to arrive. Even if tracking estimates it will arrive sooner, it is still considered on-time if it arrives before the last agreed upon date.
2. Delays With Couriers
Unfortunately, this one is out of Amazon’s hands. While many people believe that Amazon should take natural postage delays into account, the truth is that couriers (such as USPS, UPS and Fedex) deliver most packages on-time.
Occasionally though, delays are inevitable.
Note that if you visit the courier’s website and enter in your tracking number, they may be able to give more information as to what is causing the delay. Some examples include issues with the product clearing customs (if ordering internationally), weather-related issues, and packages being routed to the wrong city.
Occasionally, worker strikes can also be a cause of delays. Remember that your package goes through several facilities on its way to your door. If even one branch is shut down or is working at minimal capacity, it can have a rippling effect for everyone.
3. Prime Was Misinterpreted
Did you know that Amazon Prime doesn’t actually guarantee delivery in 2 days?
Instead, Prime delivery promises are based on the time after the order is processed and shipped. The amount of time it takes for processing isn’t factored in.
Therefore once again, you should focus on the promised delivery date and not just assume that an item will arrive within two days, even if it has the Prime badge.
While Amazon has rolled out one-day delivery in select locations, other areas and items may take 3 or even 5 days to be delivered.
This is frustrating, and many people feel that it’s also a little bit misleading. Others feel that Amazon has tried to expand too quickly and hasn’t been able to keep up their promises – particularly as Prime used to deliver faster for some customers, and is now slower than ever.
4. Amazon Employees Are Overworked
This one isn’t any sort of secret.
Amazon is notorious for overworking their employees, and it effects them a great deal.
This holds true both for the workers in their fulfillment centers, as well as Amazon Flex drivers who deliver packages in eligible areas.
Breakouts of illness or large groups of people not coming into work (or pickup packages for delivery) can cause delays with orders, as each worker processes a relatively large number of items.
Because Amazon is expanding its army of robots and utilizing an ever-increasing amount of machinery to replace human workers, this will surely become less of a factor in the coming years.
For now, it is certainly one of the things that can cause shipping delays.
5. Sudden Postage Surges
It goes without saying, but there are certain times of the year where more packages are shipped than others. And this puts a severe strain on USPS, Fedex, UPS, DHL, and other shipping companies that Amazon (and its sellers) utilize.
Amazon delivers 66% of its own packages, with the majority being in large cities or locations near Amazon fulfillment centers. However, this leaves the rest to be delivered by other couriers.
During busy shopping seasons, all couriers are affected by an increased workload, with Amazon’s delivery service being no exception. Note that gift shopping can start to surge an entire month before its peak.
Some peak shopping periods include:
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- Late August / early September (for back to school shopping.)
- Valentine’s Day
With more people shopping online than ever and couriers failing to grow the logistical side of their operations, they are being stretched far too thin even before peak seasons. When you factor in shopping surges and other outside factors, delays are inevitable.
6. Amazon’s Testing New Programs
Amazon is set to become the largest delivery company in the United States, and part of their market dominance is caused by innovations in how they deliver packages.
From drones to independent drivers, Amazon is rapidly expanding its programs to more and more places, and with it come some kinks that need to be worked out.
You can expect things to improve over time, especially if the rollout is recent.
Remember that Amazon is in a tough battle with Walmart to maintain their share of online orders. Fast shipping has always been one of their competitive edges, and I’m hopeful that they’ll continue to make things better for consumers as time goes on.
7. The Courier Was Unable To Deliver
Finally, one of the most common reasons Amazon appears to be shipping so slowly is that the courier was unable to deliver to your address.
While this is sometimes a mistake from your local post office (I’ve had packages returned to sender that should have been delivered normally), more often than not there was a reason the package was unable to be delivered.
This can be very frustrating, as if the item isn’t able to be delivered and is sent back, you will have to place a second order in order to receive it (and wait all over again!)
Some of the most common reasons that USPS, UPS and Fedex are unable to deliver include:
- The mailbox is full.
- The mailbox is too small to hold the package, and they are unable to deliver to your door.
- The courier doesn’t deliver to your area (in which case, you should request redelivery with USPS if placing a second order. Note that only third-party sellers may be able to oblige, and even packages originally shipped with UPS or Fedex may be transferred to USPS for final delivery.)
- Weather delays leaving couriers unable to deliver.
- Your package is being held at your local post office branch for pickup.
- Your door is inaccessible, and there is no safe place to leave the package.
- The address is not correct.
- The package is addressed to someone that does not live at the residence.
- The package needed to be signed for, and nobody was there to sign it.
Finding out which reason is causing the delays can be difficult. I recommend copying the tracking number into your courier’s tracking tool to find detailed information. Sometimes, there is a delay in tracking updates between the courier’s system and Amazon’s tracking system, and the courier’s system will show more detailed information.
How To Track An Amazon Order
Tracking an Amazon order is simple, and can be done in only a few steps.
Tracking Your Amazon Package On Desktop
1. To start, visit Amazon’s website on your computer, and click on the ‘Returns & Orders’ button near the top right corner of your screen, next to the shopping cart icon.
2. Next, locate your order and click on the ‘Track Package’ button.
3. Finally, click on the ‘See all updates’ button to find information about your tracking. You can also copy the tracking ID to search on the courier’s website, which I’ll provide links to in a moment.
Tracking Your Amazon Package On Mobile
1. Tracking your Amazon package on mobile using the Amazon app is simple as well! To start, click the icon that looks like a person on the bottom of your screen. This will bring you to a page that looks like the one above. Then, click on ‘Your Orders’ across the top.
2. Next, click on the ‘Track Package’ button to pull up another page.
3. Finally, click on ‘See all updates’ to pull up more tracking information. You can also copy the Tracking ID to paste into the courier’s website, to find even more detailed information than what you’d find on Amazon.
Below is a table where you can find direct links to each courier’s tracking page.
Note that Amazon’s own service, Amazon Logistics (with tracking numbers that start with TBA) should only be tracked in the Amazon app, as there’s no additional information that you’ll find elsewhere.
Can You Get A Refund Or Credit For Late Amazon Deliveries?
If your Amazon delivery is late, you may be wondering – are you entitled to a refund, or at least store credit?
Per Amazon’s guaranteed delivery terms and conditions, you may be able to receive any shipping fees refunded if the item does not arrive on time.
While late delivery is no excuse to be given an immediate refund for the item, an item arriving too late is one of Amazon’s available return reasons should you wish to return the product.
Therefore, if the item arrives too late for your event or occasion and is no longer useful to you, feel free to return it in exchange for a full refund.
That being said, Amazon has been known to go to great lengths to make customers happy. Feel free to get in touch with customer support to see if there’s anything that they can do for you.
Why is Amazon delivering so slowly, or taking so long to ship? There could be a lot of reasons, and we’ve detailed some of them here.
While the majority of delays are caused by third-party sellers or the courier being unable to deliver to your address, there are inevitably going to be some problems with a company of Amazon’s size.
Typically, most late items arrive the next day. If you’d like, feel free to get in touch with Amazon’s customer service for more information, or to take further action.
I hope whatever you’re waiting for arrives soon!
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister