By Johnny Jackson
Denise Underwood stood in the ever-growing line of post office patrons, anxious to send off a care-package to her daughter living in Los Angeles, Calif.
"I'm late," said the Stockbridge resident Tuesday as she hurried through the post office lobby.
Underwood has grown accustomed to using the U.S. Postal Service as a means to stay in touch with her family and friends. Most of them, she says, live thousands of miles away.
"I always get my Christmas shopping done before the rush," she said. "And I mail early, because the mail can back up this time of year."
Early mailing during the holidays is urged to avoid a last-minute rush.
U.S. Postal Service officials expect this holiday season will be as busy as any other, expecting about 20 billion cards, letters, and packages to be mailed during the holidays.
Retail sales typically double at the post office during its busiest days of the year - the two Mondays before Christmas Day. U.S. Postal Service officials believe the crowds are a result of busy shopping weekends.
"We often see that people tend to wait longer," added Michael Miles, Atlanta district spokesman for the United State Postal Service.
But, with this Christmas being on a Tuesday, retail sales are expected to be at their highest the Monday, Dec. 17, of the last full week before Christmas Eve.
"We encourage our customers to mail as early as possible," Miles said.
The customer lines at the Stockbridge Post Office have tended to fluctuate throughout the day, according to Eugenia Pryor, the customer service supervisor. The lines are particularly thick during peak rush hours, during early mornings, noon, and late afternoons.
"We've been busy like this since Thanksgiving," Pryor said.
Each year, the post office undergoes preparations and uses a Christmas contingency plan to handle the increased volumes of mail and parcels. The increased volumes are most evident in the stacks of advertisement papers, letters, and packages to overseas military personnel situated around the post office.
On average, the Postal Service moves 670 million pieces of mail every day. On the peak holiday mailing day, that volume will increase to 900 million pieces of mail for that day alone.
Nation-wide, the Postal Service will increase air cargo capacity by almost 40 percent, hire about 10,000 seasonal workers, and put 210,000 delivery vehicles on roadways.
For those wanting to mail packages this holiday season, the Postal Service recommends that military mail to international destinations outside Iraq and Afghanistan be mailed by Dec. 11. Parcel Post should be mailed by Dec. 15; First-class and Priority Mail should be mailed by Dec. 20; and Express Mail should be mailed by Dec. 22.
On the net:
U.S. Postal Service: www.usps.com