Deadlines approach to mail holiday gifts

By Jeffery Whitfield

Don't let the spring weather fool you. It's November and despite the recent 70 degree temperatures, the time to mail holiday packages is creeping closer.

“We're encouraging people to mail items as soon as possible,” said Michael Miles, a spokesman for the Atlanta district of the U.S. Postal Service.

With deadlines only weeks away, many residents are planning to mail items, though some visiting the Jonesboro Post Office this week said they haven't started just yet.

“I haven't started yet,” said Ronald Ringer, a 53-year-old Jonesboro resident. “But I'll probably start immediately after Thanksgiving.”

Another Jonesboro resident, Roslyn Williams, also hasn't mailed any items yet, though she plans to start soon.

“I hadn't started mailing because I'm going home to Mobile, [Al.],” she said. “But I'll probably start this weekend.”

Many people typically wait until the last minute to send holiday letters or packages to friends or relatives, Miles said, though the delay isn't necessary.

The holiday mailing season, which lasts from Nov. 25 through the end of December, is the busiest season for U.S. Postal Service, Miles said. There are 26 delivery days in the season this year.

“We see a lot of increases in volume,” he said. “In some cases it's a 50 percent increase.”

At least 300 million packages are expected to be handled nationally by the U.S. Postal Service during this year's holiday shopping season.

Other package deliveries also expect to see annual increases in business.

UPS expects daily shipping volume to spike as much as 30 percent above the company's daily average of 14.1 million between Thanksgiving and Christmas and to deliver between 14 and 20 million air and ground packages worldwide on each day. On “Peak Day,” or Dec. 20, UPS will deliver more than 20 million packages, which amounts to 230 packages delivered every second. Delivery of air express packages will crest on Dec. 21 with an anticipated global volume of more than five million, or 2.5 times greater than the average number delivered. For more information about UPS, visit the company's Web site at www.ups.com.

Workers at FedEx Corp. companies could handle about 8.5 million packages on their busiest day of the holiday season this year, which is expected to be Dec. 12, or about 400,000 more than last year's busiest day. The packages expected to move through the FedEx Ground and FedEx Express networks represent a 40 percent increase from the average daily volume of 6 million. For more information about FedEx, go to www.fedex.com.

The annual increase in volume means consumers should prepare in advance to mail their packages to avoid potential late deliveries, Miles said. However, for those who do wait, there are a few tips, he said.

“If you don't mail before the week prior to Christmas, we recommend using priority mail,” he said. Priority mail provides two or three day delivery service to most metropolitan areas, starting at $3.85. Prices varies according to the weight of mailings.

For those residents that wait until the week of Christmas to send packages, Miles recommended using Express Mail, which guarantees delivery of mail in one or two days after being sent. Prices start at $13.65.

Those with more questions should call their local post office or access the Postal Service Web site at www.usps.com.

Miles also advised residents to mail items in sturdy containers; pack items properly using means such as foam peanuts; use only mailing tape or a clear tape as adhesive when mailing packages and ensure return addresses are included.

While there are no deadlines for items mailed domestically, international deadlines do apply, especially for those mailing items to troops stationed overseas.

Packages being sent by air life mail to all Air/Army Post Office (APO) or Fleet Post Office (FPO) zip codes should be mailed no later than Dec. 3 to ensure they arrive by Dec. 25. The deadline to send items using priority mail and first-class mail for letters and cards is Dec. 10. Letters and cards sent by first-class mail should be posted no later than Dec. 10. The deadline for mailings sent using express mail for military service is Dec. 19. The deadline to send mailings on a space available basis using parcel post is Nov. 26. The maximum weight for items sent using parcel post is 15 pounds and 60 inches in length.

Postal Service deadlines for international mailings vary and can be found on www.usps.com. For Global Priority Mail Service, the deadline is Dec. 14 for International and Canadian deliveries. The deadline for packages to be mailed using Global Express Mail Service is Dec. 16 for International deliveries and Dec. 17 for Canadian deliveries. The deadline for Global Express Guaranteed Service is Dec. 19 for International deliveries and Dec. 20 for Canadian deliveries. Deadlines for Priority Mail Service are Dec. 21 for national deliveries and Dec. 22 for local deliveries. Express Mail Service deadlines are Dec. 23 for national deliveries and Dec. 24 for local deliveries.