There is still hope for the last-minute shipper

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 20, 2006

While trying to balance attending all of the holiday events and completing the last-minute shopping, the gifts piling up on the dining room table for friends and family living far away have gone unnoticed. Here it is, less than a week away from Christmas, and the presents are still not on their way to the homes of your loved ones.

However, the United States Postal Service wants every gift giver to know there is still time to get those packages delivered by Christmas.

&uot;You can mail it on Saturday and we’ll deliver it on Sunday or Christmas Day We will have people out, locally, delivering on Christmas Day,&uot; said Fran Sansone, media contact for USPS in Hampton Roads. &uot;It’s a very good deal for that last-minute customers and shoppers.&uot;


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By today, customers can use Priority Mail to have the Christmas day deadline met. Then, through Dec. 23, customers can still use Express Mail.

This year’s holiday season has been a busy one for the USPS. Per a press release sent in mid-December, the holiday mail volume across the country was expected to be more than 20 billion packages and letters. As of yesterday, there were roughly 1.37 million postmarks on letters and cards in the Hampton Roads area alone, according to Sansone.

Proving the mass amounts of mail in circulation this season, Sansone told the story of a post office in Denbigh. The office had 7,400 packages delivered to them on Monday. The office on a normal business day has 400.

Since Thanksgiving, the USPS has handled 12 million packages a day and expect to do so until Christmas. To make the handling and delivering of these gifts easier, they have released tips for customers to keep in mind while preparing their packages.

n Print addresses clearly

n Include all address elements (apartment numbers and directional information for streets, for example: 123 S.Main St. Apt. 123)

n Include both &uot;to&uot; and &uot;from&uot; information on packages, but only on one side of the package. Also, include this information on a slip of paper inside the package in case the package is damaged.

n Cushion contents appropriately. Fill glass and fragile hollow items with newspaper or packing materials to avoid damage during shipping. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.

n Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Leave space for cushioning inside the carton.

n Pack the contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap, Styrofoam peanuts, or plain air-popped popcorn. Pack tightly to avoid shifting of the contents.

Sansone also said to make sure there is enough room on the package to put the postage and to not use scotch tape, string or masking tape on your packages because it is easily caught in the sorting equipment.

If there is still a desperate need to get packages off before Christmas, there are Automated Postal Centers. These are self-service kiosks that can dispense stamps, weigh packages, find zip codes and calculate postage. They are open 24 hours and take credit and debit cards. The APCs are located in Hampton and Yorktown.