By Natalie DiBlasio
Social media exploded on Christmas with complaints about UPS and FedEx from customers furious about empty spots under their trees.
Most complaints were directed at UPS, which issued statements on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day acknowledging that the company was overwhelmed by unexpected volume and some packages were delayed until after the holiday.
Barry Tesh, 52, of Jacksonville, Fla., said in an interview, "A lot of these employees keep saying 'It's the weather' or 'It's some kind of a backlog.' Well then why, all the way up until the 23rd, were they offering next-day delivery? That guaranteed delivery was 80% of my decision to buy the gift."
UPS and Fed Ex did not respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment on Christmas Day.
"This has been the worst Christmas ever," said Larry Ledet, 55, of Houston, who has been a UPS driver for 27 years. He made 337 stops and delivered 505 packages Monday.
Even though Ledet and other UPS drivers have been pulling 60-hour weeks, thousands of holiday gifts didn't arrive by Christmas.
UPS normally delivers 16.3 million packages and documents, 2.3 million by air, every day. Those numbers soar around the holidays.
A statement issued Wednesday said, "UPS understands the importance of your holiday shipments. UPS is experiencing heavy holiday volume and making every effort to get packages to their destination."
UPS spokeswoman Natalie Goodwin said on Christmas Eve that "a small percentage of shipments are delayed and will not be delivered today."
Mike Reynolds, 43, of Martinez, Calif., said UPS' biggest mistake wasn't the delivery delay -- it was that statement.
"They said 'a small percentage,' and that was insulting as a customer. It made me feel marginalized," Reynolds said. "My mother stayed home last night waiting for packages to come in. She just waited and waited and waited, and it never happened. She missed out on the festivities."
UPS elected not to ask employees to work on Christmas.
Christopher Le, 34, of Moore, Okla., is still waiting for UPS packages, but he says it's not a problem.
"It's really easy to sit behind the internet and bash UPS," Le says. "People forget it's not just a corporation -- it's people, too. I am proud that they made the decision to let their employees take off and spend Christmas with their families rather than make them come in because people were angry about their presents. The holiday season is about family."
On Facebook, there has been an outpouring of support for the "Santa's helpers in brown" along with criticism for UPS administrators.
Angela Lemond, 42, of Allen, Texas, placed an order with Amazon, which guaranteed delivery on Dec. 23. Now her packages won't arrive until at least Dec. 26.
"I feel bad because I see that UPS workers are being worked to the bone," Lemond says. "There is something that needs to be done higher up. They shouldn't be promising something they can't deliver."
As for UPS workers, "We are doing the best we can," Ledet says of his UPS colleagues. "I am sure I'll be working until 10 pm tomorrow."