The big news this holiday season is that UPS and FedEx have missed their holiday delivery schedule, ensuring that some children, as well as adults, will have to wait a day or two longer to receive their gifts. The media was out front with stories featuring irate consumers who felt that paying extra would actually guarantee delivery. I think there is a lesson in here for every consumer, as well as investors.
At the outset, let me say that the delivery companies do a herculean job of handling logistics during a time of transition to an online economy. Their fleets of planes, trucks and employees expands dramatically to handle holiday deliveries during a time of the year when weather can be very challenging. UPS alone was responsible for delivering an estimated 130 million packages during just a single week in December. It is amazing that they can deliver what they do.
The proximate cause for the missed deadline has to do with the shortened buying season this year, plus online retailers trying to buy market share by extending guaranteed delivery deadlines. With retail sales for Christmas week hitting a record $88 billion, it should be no surprise that there could be glitches.
The takeaway from this experience is that perhaps we all rely too heavily on the wonders of technology delivering the goods 100% of the time. We expect that all of those servers powering our iPhone apps will work flawlessly all of the time. We have such trust in advanced medical technology that we expect consistently positive outcomes. Sometimes, for whatever reason, the outcomes will not be what we expected.
Many people expect, unrealistically, that their accounts will only remain positive. They think that the job of their financial advisor it to predict when markets will decline, and get them out ahead of the crowd. They may realize that this sounds foolish, yet in their heart of hearts they really think that their advisor will save the day for them. As we reflect on the passing of 2013, pause for a moment to appreciate the miracles we take for granted each day, and have some tolerance for when things do not go as planned.