Delivery dash hits area mailers

Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2003

Everyone knows the jolly one still has a week to get Christmas presents delivered, but for mere mortals, time's about up.

For most of the United States, the U.S. Postal Service said Wednesday was the busiest day of the year as it would handle 1 billion pieces of mail Christmas cards, letters and packages.

On the Kenai Peninsula, however, because of Alaska's remote distance from the rest of the country, post offices are anticipating the crush of mail today and Friday.

"For mail going out, the busiest day is gone. That was Monday," said Laurel Pickering, supervisor of customer services at the Kenai post office.

"For us, the busiest day for incoming mail will be (today) and Friday," she said.

The same holds true for the Soldotna post office, where Postmaster Margaret Merrill said Monday was very busy for mail coming and going.

"We're thinking the busiest days will be the 18th and 19th," she said.

The U.S. Postal Service reported Monday was the busiest mailing day in the country with more than 850 million cards, letters and packages entering the nation's mail stream.

That volume, combined with Tuesday's overnight-delivery mail, was expected to total the 1 billion figure projected for Wednesday.

FedEx handled 7.1 million packages Tuesday, and expects Monday to be the busiest delivery night for FedEx Express.

On a normal business day, FedEx handles an average 5 million-plus packages.

FedEx spokesperson Kristin Krause said business this year has been good for the delivery service company.

At the new UPS Store in Soldotna, franchise owner Connie Gatling said this has been the busiest week of the year.

"But we have 74 percent more staffing hours, so we're able to take care of our customers," Gatling said.

To get packages delivered by United Parcel Service before Christmas, people can use second-day service as late as Monday and overnight service as late as 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Gatling warned, though, that weather-related problems around the country could interfere with on-time deliveries for late shippers.

Depending on the day, Merrill said business volume this year has been about the same for the Soldotna post office as last.

She said some customers were caught somewhat off guard with a shorter than normal shipping period between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas because Thanksgiving came late this year.

Her advice to last-minute holiday gift shippers is to be sure gifts are packed well to prevent breakage.

"And don't use scotch tape or masking tape," she said.

"It won't hold up as temperatures go from hot to cold. Use strapping tape," she said.

She also said people sending heavy items should use boxes sturdy enough to support the weight.

"Don't use Kleenex or paper towel cartons. Just because the boxes are big, they're not designed to support heavy items."

Gatling added people should not use hazardous-materials boxes such as alcohol boxes or hair spray boxes, because they cannot be shipped without an accompanying hazardous materials permit, regardless of the contents of the box.

To help the postal service, Pickering urges people with post-office boxes to come to the post office and pick up packages that have been shipped to them.

"People should also remove mail and packages from cluster boxes," she said.

"When a package goes to a cluster box, it is placed in a larger package box.

"If people don't pick up their packages, we can't reuse the box," she said.

Pickering suggested that people get packages to the post office no later than Monday to assure delivery by Christmas.

"Monday would be the latest I would mail it," she said.

Santa, of course, has until Wednesday night.

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