Consumer Alert: Holiday shipping survival guide

Black Friday marks the unofficial beginning of a holiday shopping season unlike any other.
The pandemic isn't just changing how we buy gifts, it's also changing when we have to order them or get them in the mail.
Shoppers this year are expected to spend about 5% more this holiday season, according to the Retail Federation of America – a sign people may want to splurge a little after a difficult year.
Experts say the pandemic could still shape what people buy and when. 
Retail shopping expert Janet Alvarez says there are hot holiday gifts every year, but with COVID-19 cases spiking, expect this year's top items to be things we can use at home. She says video gaming systems, home fitness equipment and outdoor firepits will all be in demand.
“These things are hot, hot, hot this season and selling out,” she says. “So if you can get a good deal now, jump on it.”
E-commerce experts also say the normal growth has been accelerated by about five years in one, so there may be 4 million more packages at any one time being processed or shipped.
That means leave extra time for processing and shipping to be sure you get your gift by the holiday. You will also need to ship your holiday gifts earlier than usual, especially if you use less expensive options.
For ground shipping, you will need to get packages out by Dec. 15, regardless of what service you use. If you use the postal service, the priority mail deadline is Dec. 19.
You can still ship as late as Dec. 22 with FedEx or UPS.
All three carriers say if you're willing to spend the big bucks on overnight service, you can still do that as late as Dec. 23.
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