MIAMI – Maya Kogul was in California when Hurricane Irma began twirling toward Florida. She knew stores would run out of key supplies before she got back to her downtown Miami home earlier this week, so she placed an order for three cases of water through a Nestle water delivery company. She waited and waited, but the order didn’t come.
More than 50 Floridians told the Associated Press that they did not receive flashlights, battery-operated radios, boxed milk, water bottles and first-aid kits after placing orders on Amazon.com and Nestle’s ReadyRefresh.
Amazon spokeswoman Amanda Ip said that deliveries were experiencing delays because of the weather conditions. ReadyRefresh posted an apology Friday on Twitter for service disruptions and delivery delays.
“It was frustrating having to run around last minute,” said Kogul, a 31-year-old mother of a 2-year-old girl. “By delivery date it was already evacuation time. By the time I realized I wasn’t getting the delivery, it was almost Thursday evening. I didn’t know they were not going to come.”
Several customers said that online retailers let them down at the worst possible moment and even before weather deteriorated. They said on Saturday that they received cancellation notifications only after evacuations had begun in their neighborhoods and markets’ shelves had emptied. Some had placed orders as early as Monday.
Others said their packages had arrived in Miami but were either stuck at a sorting facility for a few days or delayed because of problems with couriers.
Many of the customers who spoke to the AP said Amazon had directed them to UPS for complaints. The courier said in a statement that their facilities suspended operations as officials rolled out announcements of evacuations, delaying orders that were out for delivery on Thursday and Friday. UPS spokeswoman Jennifer Cook said the company is offering to waive any fees to send their packages to another address that is not under evacuation order.
Mar Enriquez, 41, placed an order on Amazon for what seemed to him like an innovative bag that expands when it comes in contact with water to use as a barrier, like a sandbag. He had heard it worked for friends who braved Hurricane Harvey in Houston, so he bought it on Monday using his Prime membership that offers speedier deliveries. Enriquez was set to leave for New York City on Friday after his suburb was evacuated because of the risk of storm surge.
“On Thursday, they told me everything was fine,” he said. But his package got stuck at a sorting facility in the Miami suburb of Doral, probably because couriers were swamped with orders and not able to deliver them all. “You put your confidence on this. You pay for the extra Prime membership, but they failed us in the worst and most-needed moment.”
The office of Florida’s attorney general was not able to identify whether package delays were widespread. The office said it has received more than 8,000 complaints about alleged price gouging ahead of the storm.
Loyal Amazon customers say they understand the large volume of orders placed this week may have made deliveries impossible, especially as millions were told to evacuate their neighborhood and likely abandon work commitments.
But Christine Huyn, a 38-year-old fitness instructor, said the companies should have been upfront. She ordered a portable air conditioner from Amazon for a room where she will be hunkering with her two children.
“I lost my chance because they guaranteed it would be here. They gave us a false sense of security,” she said.
What she remembers the most from Hurricane Andrew in 1992 as a child is how hot it was, and the fact her family had no electricity for weeks.
“I really was crying when they told me it wouldn’t be here, because I was thinking of my kids,” she said. “The heat is going to be horrendous.”
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