With Christmas just a few days away, the scramble for last-minute gifts is matched only by the rush to ship them.
The U.S. Postal Service is well on its way of reaching the projected 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages to be sent and delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
“Saturday is the very last day that we would recommend sending anything first class or priority mail,” said Michael Miles, Postal Service media contact for the Atlanta area. “If you wait until last minute it’s going to cost you more, so for people that haven’t mailed yet and they’re looking to do it as economically as possible, we certainly recommend that they get items mailed by Saturday.”
While the deadlines for shipping seem to be flying by, Miles points out that items may be shipped as late as Tuesday with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. But expect to pay more for Priority Mail Express.
This year at select post office locations around the country, the USPS will open on Sunday. There are 40 locations around Georgia that will offer these special holiday hours, though the closest locations to Hall County include Canton, Suwanee, Woodstock and Duluth.
“It’s another option to make sure that people’s gifts and greetings get there on time,” Miles said. “We’re also expecting Monday to be a heavy day as well, so if we can get people in on Sunday, that will ease the lines and traffic at the post offices on Monday.”
With time of the essence, the Postal Service has set up self-serve kiosks for those who want to skip the lines. Many locations also offer lobby assistants who can answer questions and direct customers with their shipping needs before they get to the counter.
Even with such efforts to streamline the process, officials urge patrons to remain patient.
Last Monday, the Postal Service had its busiest mailing day of the year to date with more than 640 million parcels shipped, 117 million over the average number of pieces shipped daily.
“Package volume is up about 12 percent from last year and most of that is the result of ecommerce,” Miles said. “There are so many online shopping options out there these days that the public are taking advantage of. And of course, all those items ordered online have to be delivered.”
After private company shipping fiascos that led to many gifts arriving late last year, the reliability of shipping remains a concern after packages were carelessly left in the snow or around the yard.
“One thing I always point out when I’m asked about the Postal Service gearing up for this season and how do we plan for it, the simplest answer is we do Christmas every year,” Miles said. “We’ve been doing Christmas for a long time, so we’re always prepared for it.”
Online options offer tools to make shipping as painless as possible. And when filling out addresses, make sure you use the most up-to-date information, including zip codes. No one wants a returned package for Christmas.
Miles also suggests when wrapping fragile items, use care to adequately protect the item being shipped, be it with bubble wrap or packing peanuts to fill the box. If you are unsure or have questions, there are plenty of associates available to help.
“Our employees are prepared for it, and one thing I find in traveling around to various facilities is not only are our employees prepared for it, but they look forward to it,” Miles said. “They know they play a big role in helping to connect people together, across the country and around the world.”