Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Postmasters urge area customers to ship early

November 30, 2006

The holidays are a busy time of the year for everyone, especially post offices.

Basehor postmaster Jo Rundus and Tonganoxie postmaster Ron Hubbard offer a few tips to help their customers avoid long lines, keep packages safe from harm and make sure all of those holiday cards and gifts get to their destinations on time.

Ship early

While Christmas is still several weeks away, cards and packages traveling overseas and to military bases take a little extra time.

The post offices provide a shipping deadlines chart for several countries and military bases around the world to make sure packages arrive by Dec. 25. While some deadlines have already passed, the earliest deadline for Priority Mail, the most-recommended and popular method for sending mail, is Dec. 4 for certain countries and overseas military bases. The chart is also available at www.usps.com.

"Our international traffic is really high," Rundus said. "People have been asking if it was too late to get things to the troops. People don't seem too concerned since it's still early, but give it another week and our volumes are going to increase tremendously."

Because of the high volume of mail going through the system during the holiday season, both postmasters recommend sending cards and packages within the U.S. a little bit early as well.

"It doesn't hurt to mail a couple days sooner than you normally would because our volumes pick up so much at this time," Hubbard said. "But we still stick to the normal service standards."

Shipping methods

Both post offices offer several methods for shipping, including express mail, priority mail, first class and parcel post.

Express mail, the postal service's premium service, travels the quickest by air and is the most expensive method. The post office recommends sending express mail packages to destinations within the U.S. by Dec. 22 to ensure delivery by Dec. 25. Priority and first class mail also travels by air and will need to be sent by Dec. 20 and Dec. 18 respectively. Parcel post mail, the least expensive method, travels by truck and should be mailed by Dec. 13.

Hubbard said price is determined by weight of the parcel and the distance it is traveling.

"They can get expensive sometimes, especially the bigger ones," Hubbard said.

An option Hubbard and Rundus said many customers have been taking advantage of are flat-rate boxes. Customers can fill the small boxes with as many items as it can hold and ship it for $8.10, regardless of weight and distance.

"We have a lot of customers that use it," Rundus said. "Especially if it's something on the heavy side. You can save yourself a lot of money."

Both postmasters agreed that postal clerks handle packages on an individual basis and will help customers determine the best method for shipping.

Wrap it up

Hubbard and Rundus said parcels and letters that are packaged well and addressed clearly will have the best chance of arriving at their correct destinations on time and undamaged.

Using bubble wrap or other forms of padding, which are available at the post offices, are recommended. Hubbard said a general rule of thumb is to use enough padding on items in parcels to protect them from breaking if dropped from a height of 3 feet.

"They do take some jarring and bouncing around in the back of trucks and airplanes, so they have to be able to handle a little bit of that," Hubbard said.

Rundus advised customers to also think about what they are shipping.

Items such as alcohol, perfume, nail polish and other flammable materials can be considered hazardous and cannot be sent through the system. She also recommends sending items in boxes that don't have other writing on them, to avoid having them returned to the sender.

Avoid the lines

Rundus said customers have a few options to avoid the inevitable long lines the holidays bring to the post office. Postal carriers always have stamps on hand during their routes for customers to purchase. Any cards placed in home mailboxes with the flag up will be picked up by carriers and sent first class.

Packages can also be mailed from home through www.usps.com. Mailing labels for the selected shipping method can be printed out, and carriers will pick the packages up from the homes.

"The carrier will pick them up free of charge," Rundus said. "That's something else that could be really convenient."

If the Web site is not an option, Hubbard said the best plan is to come to the post office early.

"The earlier in the day you can get us the mail, the earlier we can get it up the road to Kansas City and on its way," he said.

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