Post office set for holiday surge

Posted: Sunday, November 27, 2005

After mailing a Christmas gift Friday, Mendenhall Valley resident Bruce Bowler said he was trying to do things right this year.

"I figured I'd get it there on time for a change," he said.

Bowler and others didn't have to wait long to be served at the valley branch of the U.S. Postal Service.

The crowds will start showing up soon, said Ruth Vincent, manager of customer services at the valley office. "Monday will be a busy day."

"They're buying things today," Juneau Postmaster Kent Eriksen said. The Christmas season is the busiest time of the year at the post office "by far."

More people will be working, and the lines will get longer, Eriksen said. As far as moving the mail in and out and getting it delivered, "we're really expecting a good Christmas," he said. Juneau's priority mail has been meeting the national standard, currently two to three days. "Flights come in more frequently than they used to."

Whether all postal customers agree with the assessment may depend on when they get to the post office.

While people mailing early can avoid the holiday mail rush, they also can avoid having to pay for more premium postal services to assure they get things in by Christmas, Eriksen said.

Deadlines have long passed for people wanting to get Christmas parcels to people in other countries under the cheapest global rate. The deadline to get Christmas packages to military APO and FPO addresses overseas by parcel airlift mail is Saturday.

For most APO and FPO addresses, the Postal Service is looking at a Dec. 10 deadline for first-class letters and cards and priority-mail parcels.

Eriksen said mailing holiday packages early can mean the difference between sending a package priority mail and sending it express mail.

Even the global express guaranteed-by-Christmas delivery dates aren't so far away. For most of the world the deadline is Dec. 19. People sending packages global express to Canada have one more day.

For domestic mail, postal authorities nationally are encouraging priority mail until Dec. 22. Express mail is encouraged beginning Dec. 23. Postal officials in Juneau said, however, that people should consider the unique characteristics of Southeast Alaska.

"We do have some overnight locations (for delivery from Juneau)," Vincent said. Generally, it's only in the Anchorage and Seattle areas, she said.

While the Postal Service encourages people to use domestic parcel post no later than the second week of December, Eriksen said Southeast Alaska is in a special situation. Parcel post in and out of Juneau travels by barge, which can add about a week to the transportation.

People in Juneau may want to tell friends and family living in other states that letters and packages sent first class, priority or express travel by air, Eriksen said.

People in Juneau generally know that, he said. "People in other places used to (using) surface mail don't," he added. For Juneau mail, he said, "it's not like they put it on a truck."

"Our mail does take a little longer here," Eriksen said.

And for many, a visit to the post office in the coming weeks won't be a one-time thing. Bowler said that while he was mailing early on Friday, he expects he will have to take more packages to the post office.

"My wife was up at 4:30 a.m. hitting Fred Meyer and the rest of the stores," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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