Delivery companies scramble to fulfill last-minute online holiday shopping

Record online holiday orders

If you’ve avoided the crowded malls this holiday season by ordering online, you haven’t really prevented a headache – you’ve just transferred it to the folks whose job it is to get your packages delivered by Christmas Day.

“It’s stressful but it’s very energetic,” said Nanette Malebranche, managing director at Big Apple District FedEx Express. “We’ve been preparing all year for this, ever since last peak.”

Online shopping is expected to account for a record 18 percent of all holiday sales this season. FedEx is expecting to break records this shipping season, a 10 percent increase over last year, reports CBS News correspondent Don Dahler. To insure the blizzard of packages arrives on time, FedEx has its eyes on the skies.

“We’ve got 15 meteorologists 24/7 around the clock, watching the weather worldwide and we are really geared up here,” Malebranche said. “We have contingency plans for everything.”

FedEx, UPS preparing for record online holiday shopping

UPS is also expecting record shipments – up 14 percent to more than 700 million packages. And to make sure Santa gets the job done, experts say it takes a lot of extra elves.

“UPS has hired about 95,000 people for the holidays. FedEx has hired about 50,000,” ShipMatrix president Satish Jindel said.

At the Soma apartment complex in Miami, residents usually use a digital bin system to pick up their packages. But the delivery deluge is creating a package pile-up. They’ve seen a 70 percent increase this week alone.

“We actually counted how many we had at overflow at one time during the day, and we had 198 packages back here,” James Taylor said.

Many retailers are promising last-minute delivery options. If you order online today, Amazon Prime, Target, Best Buy and Walmart all say they can get your package under the tree by the 25th, with some even promising next-day delivery on the 24th. But if weather conditions get bad, not even Rudolph can save the day.

“They shouldn’t wait until the day before to order, even if the retailer promises guaranteed delivery the next day. Because they don’t have control over it. Don’t wait ‘til the day before,” Jindel said.

Amazon operates 28 of the Amazon Prime hubs across the country. They’re offering free two-hour delivery for a variety of items until midnight Christmas Eve. But perhaps the best way to guarantee your loved ones get their presents on time? Next year, order earlier.