Web Source Company Limited managing director Lincoln Maharaj.

For many people here in Trinidad and Tobago, their Christmas presents will not make it under the tree in time for Christmas Day. In fact, some people may not be able to open up those gifts until well into January if they did business with Web Source.

This is because COVID-19 health restrictions worldwide have caused huge delays on the sorting of packages.

Web Source managing director Lincoln Maharaj said yesterday that he believed people were shopping a little more than they had initially planned because they thought the borders would have been opened by Christmas. As such, he said some people may have felt they would have been able to travel to buy their presents directly but with the borders staying closed they turned to online purchases.

But those customers are now facing the reality that if their packages haven’t yet arrived in Miami, which is the sorting hub for the Caribbean, they probably will not arrive in time for Christmas.

“Our normal business model is receive on a Monday, in-hand on a Wednesday. So a 48-hour turnaround time for receiving to delivery,” Maharaj said.

However, he says they have not been able to meet that schedule in weeks and packages are now taking between one week to a week and a half to arrive in T&T from Miami.

“Even me, I have stuff that is pending in Miami for quite a long time as well,” he said.

While his customers have been understanding for the most part, he said he was empathetic to the ones that don’t.

“I and all don’t even want to understand because I want the item.”

Maharaj said staff shortages are to blame for much of the delays. There are restrictions on the number of people who can be on their warehouse floor in Miami. In Miami-Dade country, for example, employees must be separated by at least six feet while on the warehouse floor. This in essence means staff numbers for each shift have been reduced. And that means sorting times have increased.

Maharaj also said their preferred air-cargo service had at least 13 pilots in quarantine at one point. Flights that used to come in daily were therefore reduced to a few times a week and packages. As such, once sorted, packages are taking longer to be delivered to Trinidad.

In addition to the lengthy delays, the cancellation of Carnival means the courier companies can no longer expect the usual Christmas to Carnival boost in deliveries. However, he admitted that after the Christmas rush, he expects customers will continue shopping online in large numbers, spending on clothing and accessories for fetes and costumes.

“We are missing the parties just as much as Trinis are,” said Maharaj.

He described 2020 as a break-even year and anticipates 2021 will be “slow, slow out the gate.” While he said Web Source can weather the storm, he acknowledges that it will be very rough.