As children chart Santa’s journey from the North Pole on Norad, some adults are preoccupied with tracking of a less joyous sort: hunting down packages marked as delivered, yet nowhere to be found.

An estimated 82 million packages are going out every day this holiday season. With just a few delivery days left until Christmas, anxious consumers are checking the status of the ones they haven’t yet received.

Those who have gotten perplexing proof-of-delivery photos from shippers that their packages arrived—just not at their homes—are becoming neighborhood sleuths, posting the images in community Facebook pages alongside pleas of “Do you recognize this doorstep?” Others are turning into unofficial postal workers and redirecting parcels that mistakenly land at their gates.

Logistics pros say more problems arise this time of year as warehouses, retailers and drivers cope with the increased seasonal volume. They are divided on whether 2023 is on track to be bumpier than 2022.

Conversations mentioning wrong deliveries across social-media platforms including X, Reddit and YouTube were up 6% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 19 compared with the same time last year, according to analytics company Sprout Social.

Still, companies are experiencing lower-than-predicted package volume than last year’s 90 million daily parcels, according to shipping analytics company ShipMatrix. The lower volume might mean that companies rely less on seasonal workers who don’t know warehouse processes or delivery routes as well.

The industry is coping with challenges posed by the adjustment to increased automation, cost-cutting at major package carriers and more returns. Last-mile delivery is a perennial problem in shipping and one of the thorniest parts of running big delivery businesses. Package carriers hear complaints about the mistakes they make but also about problems they can’t fully control, such as theft.

Neighborhood search

Carla Caccavale, 47 years old, went door to door earlier this month in search of the AirPods meant to be her daughter’s Christmas present.

UPS alerted her they had arrived. But because she already had received and redirected two packages in recent weeks meant for houses nearby, she figured a neighbor had ended up with hers.

When her notes on doors and posts in the Parents of Pelham, N.Y., Facebook group went unanswered, she relayed her saga to Apple and they sent a replacement.

(Holiday cards aren’t immune, notes Caccavale, who owns a travel public-relations firm. One with children she didn’t recognize turned out to be complete strangers trying to reach a house across town. Once she realized the mistake, she got the card to the right address.)

A UPS spokesman apologized for Caccavale’s inconvenience. He said the package appeared to be loaded on the wrong vehicle and called such incidents “extremely rare.” UPS cited ShipMatrix data saying that 98% of its packages in the U.S. arrived on time during Cyber Week, the most recent time period available.

Logistical headaches

For Douglas Kent, executive vice president of the nonprofit Association of Supply Chain Management, a recent package mishap felt personal.

Excited to go hiking with his new boots this holiday weekend, he ripped open the package after receiving separate notifications from the company and FedEx that it had been delivered. Inside he found two portable desk fans.

The fans were addressed to a man across the street, who Kent was disappointed to learn didn’t have his boots. A different neighbor had received the boots and dropped the package off a few hours later.

A FedEx spokeswoman called the secure and timely delivery of packages a “top priority” and encouraged customers with delivery problems to call its customer-service team.

Package carriers usually consider orders on-time if they arrive on the day they were supposed to, says Kent, who lives in Provincetown, Mass.

He predicts misdeliveries like his will be more common this year because of a combination of factors, from returns clogging the supply chain to growing pains from companies’ adoption and application of artificial intelligence-powered sorting-and-tracking technology.

“It’s really too soon to say, because it’s still happening,” he says.

Pleasant surprises

Not every wrong delivery is completely unwelcome.

Amazon recently delivered a Bissell Little Green carpet cleaner to Irene Alvarez’s doorstep. A few days later, a matching bottle of cleaning solution showed up. She had ordered neither.

The packages had Alvarez’s address and another woman’s name. She has been trying to track down the other woman down but to no avail—including googling the name with variations of her address and searching neighborhood groups.

“I don’t know who this person is or if they are missing their Bissell,” says Alvarez, 44, a consultant. “But it’s in Columbus, Ohio, if they’re reading.”

In Dallas, the Sweat family has inadvertently ended up with two free gifts. A pink children’s scooter arrived with their Black Friday order from Target, says Kevin Sweat, 29, who works in sales operations. Even stranger: An $80 JBL speaker arrived from Amazon in lieu of breast-feeding pads.

“I feel bad for whoever ordered a speaker and got nipple covers,” Sweat says.

An Amazon spokesman said, “While misdeliveries affect all companies, we’re thankful that they’re rare across our network.” He encouraged customers experiencing delivery problems to contact Amazon’s customer service team.

Write to Rachel Wolfe at