Holiday postal rush picks up steam
Christmas shipping deadlines
The following dates are the last day to send a package with the United States Postal Service and have it arrive at its destination by Christmas.
Tuesday: Final day for express mail international
Friday: Final day to ship parcel post
Dec. 17: Final day to ship to military
Dec. 19: Final day for most international shipping
Dec. 20: Final day for first-class mail
Dec. 21: Final day for priority mail
Dec. 22: Final day for most express mail
Like clockwork, as Christmas nears, the rush to the local post office gains steam.
Though some may be annoyed by spending some extra time in line, the crowds are uplifting for at least one person not behind the counter at the U.S. Post Office in Auburn on Nevada Street.
Frances Kehoe, a London native and longtime Auburn resident, has become adept at beating the rush, as her entire family lives across the pond, she said Friday after sending a Christmas gift for a nephew living in Britain.
“Definitely plan ahead on that,” Kehoe said. “But when you get out in times like this, you kind of pick up on the excitement of the season when you’re around everybody else rushing in, and everybody is busy trying to get their cards out, their packages out.
“So, you kind of get wrapped up in the season.”
On Friday at the Nevada Street branch, lines grew up to a dozen or so around lunchtime, but business was moving swiftly with three clerks at the counters processing packages – holiday or otherwise.
It’s an important time of year for post offices, as the holiday season makes up a “significant” percentage of annual business, said Richard Cook, postmaster of the Nevada Street office.
It’s especially important to make a good impression on customers around this time, and he said the office is able to maintain its goal of keeping waits shorter than 5 minutes about 95 percent of the time even with the increased activity.
“There’s a group of people that only deals with us during Christmas time,” Cook said. “We want to keep those customers and actually try to grow our business.”
Cook said it has been a higher-volume year overall, taking into account election mailings, and that trend continues into the holiday rush. He has seen an uptick in the amount of Christmas shopping catalogues, as well as online retailer shipments.
Overall, package volume is up about 20 percent over last year, he said.
“If I was going to base what we’re doing on the overall economy, I would say that things are looking better,” Cook said.
“We’ve been busy this whole week, really busy this week,” he said. “Next week I expect to be our busiest and then things will die down. You will get some people who wait for the last minute – it happens every year. We’ve all been guilty of it.”
One way to beat the lines is to use the Automated Postal Center, or APC, that comes with no additional charge and can process basically any domestic packages, so long as the package is smaller than 20 inches wide, 15 deep and 12 in height. It only accepts credit or debit cards.
The APC is open 24 hours a day, and sometimes it can get overlooked – Friday for example it was available when there was a line of about a dozen people waiting in line at the counters.
When lines get extra long, Cook said extra clerks will help in the lobby and help familiarize people with the machine.
“I spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday almost all day long out in my lobby helping people get used to using the APC,” he said. “And it never fails. We still have a lot of people that still wait in line (to see a clerk).”
Barbara Hewitt mailed a gift – birthday, not Christmas – on Friday and said the line at lunchtime “wasn’t bad.”
“It’s always pretty pleasant here at this particular post office,” Hewitt said. “I’m here all the time.”
She won’t, however, be mailing Christmas gifts.
“I drive my presents,” Hewitt said. “My family is down south, and I make a Santa Claus run. I have too big of a family – 17 grandkids.”
Kehoe’s Christmas package was gift idea that her sister had called her about because she couldn’t find the right size for her son and they were too costly where she lived. Kehoe found the proper one at a specialty store in Sacramento, and spent about $60 to ship it.
“It was actually less expensive for me to find it here and send it to her,” she said. “So she was so excited when I called her this morning and told her that I found it and I was coming to the post office this morning.”
Jon Schultz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews