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Gap spokeswoman Edie Kissko said that the company sometimes sends items separately depending upon what part of the country the order is shipped from and its destination, a common retail practice known as “split shipping.” Gap did not comment on the specific incident.

When shipping goes wrong, all is not lost. Good customer service can save a bad experience.

Charles Hansen III, 49, a consultant in Falls Church, Va., tried to buy a salad spinner from a secondary seller on Amazon’s Marketplace, but it came crushed in the mail. He dreaded contacting the seller through the online Web form required, but the seller ended up getting right back in touch with him and sent him a new salad spinner within a few days. He didn’t even have to send back the crushed one.

“I was apprehensive. I thought `Oh, great,’ especially when I got to the Amazon website and had to go through this cumbersome process,” Hansen said. “But I was pleasantly surprised. If it had wound up being a bad experience I could see doing a lot less online next year _ but it turned out very well.”


AP Business Writer Samantha Bomkamp in New York contributed to this report.