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Brace for Impact: How eCommerce Merchants Can Navigate the Potential UPS Strike

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve got a bit of a situation on our hands. It seems like shipping giant, UPS, might be on the brink of a strike. If you’re experiencing a sudden feeling of déjà vu, that’s because we’ve been here before. Remember 1997, when the UPS strike turned the delivery world upside down? While we might not have had the eCommerce boom back then, it’s a different story now, and it’s crucial we’re prepared for any hiccups in our operations.

Having owned an eCommerce business during that period, I can tell you it was a very stressful time trying to figure out how to get packages out, which carriers would take on additional package volume, and where exactly in the UPS system packages in transit were at and when or if they would ever be delivered.

While none of us watching from the sidelines can tell whether or not UPS workers will actually strike, we have to err on the side of caution and be prepared for a logistical nightmare should it happen.

What’s At Stake?

A UPS strike would be like tossing a wrench into the well-oiled eCommerce machine. Being the largest package delivery company globally, UPS keeps the world moving, one parcel at a time. If they hit the pause button, we’re looking at delayed deliveries, unhappy customers, and potential losses for millions of businesses.

Rewind to the 1997 UPS strike—businesses of all sizes felt the pinch. Deliveries were delayed, customers were annoyed, and bottom lines were hit. Today, in an age where customers expect their purchases on their doorsteps almost as soon as they click “buy,” a UPS strike could be catastrophic. This is especially true for smaller online retailers who rely solely on UPS.

Riding Out The Storm: What Can You Do?

This situation might sound a bit doom-and-gloom, but it’s not all bad news. You have options and steps you can take to soften the blow of a potential UPS strike:

  • Mix Up Your Shipping Providers: If UPS is your go-to, now might be the time to play the field by moving some package volume to FedEx and the United States Postal Service (USPS). By spreading your shipping needs among several providers, you reduce the risk of having your business hit a standstill.  Just keep in mind, back in 1997 FedEx stopped taking on new customers and limited the number of additional packages existing customers could ship in a day in order to not overwhelm their network.
  • Keep Your Customers in the Loop: Nothing spoils a good customer relationship like unexpected bad news. It’s always better to keep your customers informed. If a UPS strike could delay deliveries, let your customers know upfront and offer them alternatives if available.
  • Stock Up: Now might be a good time to bulk up your inventory, especially for those best-sellers. Having more stock on hand might reduce the time between a customer placing an order and you shipping it out, which could compensate for any potential delivery delays.
  • Go Local: If you’re serving a local customer base, now might be the time to look into local delivery options. From courier services to in-house delivery, you might find a workable solution that could keep you up and running during a strike.

Should You Be Worried?

Given the disruption a UPS strike could cause, a bit of concern is warranted. But keep in mind, we’re talking about a potential strike—it’s not set in stone. Even if it happens, it’s unlikely to shut down the entire UPS network.  During the last strike, packages kept moving because UPS enlisted non-union employees and managers to get packages that were “stuck” in the system out for delivery.  However, don’t expect to have packages picked up daily if a strike occurs.  The priority was and will be, to clear out the packages in transit.

A potential UPS strike is a reminder that in the world of eCommerce, being able to adapt is key. It’s all about rolling with the punches and coming out on the other side stronger than before.  We all made it through the strike of 1997 and today UPS’s competitors are better equipped to handle the volume eCommerce throws at them on a daily basis.

Plus, let’s not forget that every cloud has a silver lining. A UPS strike could be the push you need to diversify your delivery options. You might discover more cost-effective or efficient solutions. Or, it could offer a chance to reinforce your bond with your customers through transparency and communication.

So yes, the idea of a UPS strike is a bit intimidating. But with the right planning, communication, and a dash of adaptability, you can not only tackle this challenge head-on but even discover some unexpected opportunities along the way.

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