Holiday shipping under way

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Since Thanksgiving, business has been cranking at post offices across the country. Postal officials expect to process roughly 20 million letters and packages this holiday season.

Given that volume, Steamboat Springs Post Master Bill Butler has some advice to make sure holiday packages arrive on time.

"The more I see people bringing in packages now makes me think people are already behind," Butler said. "We need to get going now, so we can deliver packages on time. That's what we're paid to do. We also want them to get there on time. We're working toward the same goal."

Dec. 15 -- one week from today -- is the last day that people can send cards and letters via regular parcel post to arrive before Christmas. But people considering waiting for that deadline also should consider that the last day for on-time, parcel-post Christmas delivery is also statistically the busiest day of the year at the post office, Butler said. (Two days later, Dec. 17, is the busiest package-delivery day, he added.)

Priority Mail and Express Mail give postal customers a few options for shipping later than Dec. 15. Priority Mail packages can be sent until Dec. 22, and Express Mail packages can be shipped up until Dec. 23. Priority Mail rates start at $3.85, and Express Mail rates start at $13.65, so there is definitely a price advantage to shipping now, Butler said.

Private parcel services, such as FedEx and UPS, have their own deadlines. The last day to ship packages internationally by FedEx or UPS is Dec. 12. For national ground delivery, items must be shipped by Dec. 19, and express and overnight shipments can be made until Dec 23.

Although certain post offices across the state will offer extended hours and be open on Sundays, the Steamboat Springs office will not change its hours during the holidays.

The busiest times at local post offices are typically all day Mondays and around lunchtime every day, Butler said.

Although the post office used to allow packages to be wrapped in string, Butler said it is not a good idea to do so now.

"Our machinery eats string, and for dessert it eats the wrapping paper," Butler said. "Then we usually don't know where (the package) is going because that's where the address was labeled."

Butler said one way to ensure that a package arrives in the unlikely event that it is damaged during shipping is to put an additional note inside giving the shipping and return addresses.

"No matter what, we will do our best to make sure all packages are forwarded along," he said.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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