USPS: Don’t wait until last minute

Published 8:07 pm Monday, November 23, 2009

The elves in Santa’s workshop are not the only ones who are bracing for the holiday season. “Elves” at post offices across the country are also getting everything ready.

“It is by far our busiest time of the year,” said Fran Sansone, a USPS spokesperson in Richmond. “We see a tremendous increase in the number of packages and letters during the next few weeks.”

Sansone said that during their holiday season, which the post office considers from Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, the service will handle between 18 billion and 19 billion packages, letters and cards.

“We always encourage people to ship early and do not wait until the last minute,” Sansone said. “But there are always those who wait. We can still get it there, but it will cost more.”

According to the Post Office’s Web site, holiday mail for servicemen and women stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan should be sent by Dec. 4 for arrival by Christmas. Holiday mail going to other military overseas APO/FPO locations should be sent by Dec. 11. Except for Iraq and Afghanistan, Express Mail can be used until Dec. 18 to mail packages to other overseas military locations for delivery by Christmas.

As for domestic deadlines and using regular mail, send holiday cards, letters and packages going to U.S. destinations by Dec.20 for delivery by Christmas. Using Express Mail, you still have time to mail packages to certain U.S. locations until Dec. 23.

As you prepare your packages to ship this season, Sansone said, there are a few tips that can help ensure your package gets there on time and in one piece.

“First make sure you’re using sturdy packaging, packaging that you know is strong enough to hold whatever you’re shipping,” Sansone said. “Also, make sure to seal the package, using filament tape or packing tape.”

She also added that the sender and destination information is needed on only one side of the package.

“We just need to make sure that information is on the side we are placing the postage,” Sansone said. “Also, double-check the address. If you don’t know the zip code, then leave it off. Don’t guess.”

As for shipping fragile packages, she suggested using old newspapers, packing peanuts or bubble wrap to ensure safe arrival.

“You want to make sure that the item does not move around within the package,” Sansone said. “And there isn’t a real need to put fragile on the box, but you can if you would like.”

Based on historical trends, the post office predicts Dec. 14 will be the service’s busiest mailing day with Dec. 16 being the busiest delivery day.

“Based on tradition, the week before Christmas is really the busiest time for us,” Sansone said.