Millions of boxes are flying and rolling around the country as online sales rule the holiday season.
Columbus Postmaster Reba Jenkins says the quantity of packages being handled in local post offices has increased due to online shopping. Last Monday alone — one of the busiest shipping days of the year — the Columbus Post Office processed more than 22,000 parcels.
“It was total chaos,” said Helen Briggs, a 15-year veteran of the Columbus Post Office.
Briggs, a sales associate, was one of five people waiting on the big truck at 5:45 a.m. Monday. More than 10 huge bins full of parcels were inside along with the letters.
Machines separate most of the mail, but many items must be sorted by hand. Because the post office was short handed, all available employees had to help.
On a normal day, she says, the mail would be separated for each local carrier by 8:30 a.m., but Monday”s load required an additional hour.
Jason Clark, manager of the UPS Store in Columbus, also noticed a bump in the number of packages, but the trend is toward more small packages rather than fewer large packages.
A national representative reported FedEx has already shipped 63 million packages this week and anticipates the total number between Thanksgiving and Christmas to top 220 million.
Internet sales are driving many of the deliveries, with online retailers including Amazon offering free shipping during the holiday shopping season.
The rise in online sales means many customers are having their purchases shipped directly to the intended recipient, leading to an increase in small packages containing just one item. However, Jenkins said the postal service”s flat rate boxes are a popular choice for sending gifts because the sender can cram as many gifts as possible in one box and the shipping rate won”t change.
Despite email taking a big chunk out of standard mail year-round, Jenkins said Christmas cards remain popular. Last Monday the Columbus Post Office processed more than 90,000 letters and cards. Jenkins is predicting another heavy day of shipping Monday.
Briggs, who will be working Monday, says busy days tend to pass more quickly because she isn”t be concentrating on the time. But there”s a fine line between busy and ovewhelmed, so she”s hoping nobody calls in sick.
· POST OFFICE: To ensure packages are delivered on or before Christmas Eve, U.S. Postal Service first class mail should be shipped by Monday, Priority Mail by Tuesday and Express Mail by Wednesday.
· FEDEX: Today is the last day to have a FedEx Ground shipment sent to arrive on Christmas Eve, but FedEx Air packages can be shipped by Thursday to be delivered by Friday.
· UPS: UPS also offers guaranteed three-day, two-day and next day shipping up to Thursday.
· PACK SMART: If you are shipping your own gifts, parcel carriers recommend placing items in the center of the box with at least one inch of packing material on all sides. And use packaging tape to seal the box, not masking tape or duct tape.
ON THE WEB
· U.S. Postal Service: www.usps.gov
· FedEx: www.fedex.com
· UPS: www.ups.com
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.