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Amazon shipped an astonishing number of Prime packages in 2017

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So that’s another year done and dusted, as the British say, and Amazon, never backward in coming forward when it comes to rolling out stats trumpeting its various services, has  just rolled out a bunch of stats trumpeting one aspect of its gargantuan online operation.

Throwing the spotlight on its $99-a-year Prime service (but still refusing to tell us how many people are signed up to it), the Seattle-based company revealed that members’ orders led to a colossal 5 billion shipments worldwide in 2017. That’s a helluva lot of picking, packing, and delivery driving, with a good chunk of them made in recent weeks as consumers went online-shopping crazy for friends, family, and of course, themselves.

In a release highlighting its bumper year, Amazon was keen to remind us of the delivery benefits enjoyed by Prime members, which include free two-day shipping “on more than 100 million items … free one-day shipping and free same-day delivery in more than 8,000 U.S. cities and towns, and two-hour delivery with Prime Now in more than 30 major cities.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing for Amazon over the holiday season. The spike in orders toward the end of the year, combined with the huge number of other packages entering the mail system, put huge pressure on delivery firms around the world, leading in some cases to late deliveries.

The problem hit a number of U.K.-based Prime members in the run-up to Christmas, causing British officials to consider launching a formal inquiry into Amazon for its apparent failure to meet promised delivery times.

The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority said it had received a “handful” of complaints from Prime members claiming, for example, that their packages had taken four days to arrive instead of the promised two.

But in response to one shopper — and this may come as a surprise to some Prime members — Amazon’s promise of two-day shipping doesn’t necessarily mean your package will arrive within two days, only that it will take a maximum of two days to travel door to door.

This was confirmed recently by a representative of Amazon’s support service responding to a complaint on Twitter:

“With Prime two-day shipping, you receive your items within two days from when the item ships, not from when ordered. Some items may be out of stock or unavailable to ship immediately,” Amazon Help said.

But overall it appears Amazon coped well with the influx of orders at the end of 2017. It’s a far cry from the serious difficulties it suffered back in 2013 when the likes of FedEx and UPS failed to cope with the high number of packages entering the delivery system, leading to numerous late deliveries. Amazon handed out $20 gift cards and refunded shipping charges for affected customers in response.

Since then, Amazon has been steadily building out its delivery infrastructure while also pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to one day make deliveries by drone.

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