“Our customers have become more self-sufficient in the personal computer applications for shipping and stamp purchases through www.usps.com.”
If you happen to have family in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean or a European country – and you want them to get their Christmas gift in time – Monday is pretty much your last chance to put that package in the mail.
If you’re mailing warm socks to your son in Colorado, you’re still better off getting to the post office bright and early on Monday, and expect a bit of a wait in line.
On the other hand, you might be one of the thousands of computer-savvy who opted to print out their own mailing labels at home, or bought their stamps at the local grocery store, and avoided the post office altogether.
Communications Director for the U.S. Postal Service-Connecticut Marueen P. Marion says that holiday mail volumes have dropped dramatically this year, partly because of the economy and somewhat because of several “self-service” options.
“In general, mail volumes this season are down for the Postal Service, as to be expected given the economy. Levels of consumer retail spending influence what is mailed,” Marion said.
This means fewer packages are making their way across the country. “Your letter carrier is probably carrying four packages this year, for every five packages delivered last year. Packages are down by about 19 percent in your area, overall, this fiscal year,” Marion said.
That doesn’t mean the U.S. Postal Service isn’t busy, but there has been a dramatic drop in in mail volume. “Nationwide, we will still accept, process and deliver 19 billion pieces of mail this holiday season [Thanksgiving through January 2009]. Last year, it was 20 billion… we are very busy, but it is hard to ignore a billion pieces of mail.”
Local mail processing centers are, as would be expected, in high gear right now.
“Processing plants in Hartford, Southern Connecticut and Stamford postmarked 4 million stamped envelopes on Monday [Dec. 15] alone, the typical busiest day of the year. That’s more for one night than last year, but we are still down about 14 percent for the whole season in this area. We won’t know the whole of the trend until the season is complete,” Marion said.
There also are fewer people standing in line to buy stamps or weigh packages.
“Our customers have become more self-sufficient in the personal computer applications for shipping and stamp purchases through www.usps.com,” Marion said, and they are taking advantage of buying stamps while out and about doing other errands. Many grocery stores and CVS stores sell stamps, for example.
And there are 19 Automated Postal Centers across the state, open 24-hours, where customers have been able to buy Christmas stamps since Dec. 1.
“The 24-hour self-service stations also offer shipping services and Zip Code look-ups, with recent upgrades that permit post office box payments. And Automated Postal Centers offer a Spanish-language option for all transactions,” Marion said.
The APCs are located in Bridgeport, Danbury, Enfield, Fairfield, Glastonbury, Greenwich – Greenwich Avenue Station, Greenwich Postal Store, Hamden, Hartford, Manchester, Milford, New Canaan, New Haven, Newington, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, West Hartford and Wilton.
If you’re willing to pay…
As for getting those cards and packages to friends and family in time for Christmas, procrastinators need to get their act together now.
“All things being equal, you cannot wait much longer to mail,” Marion said. “Best bets… First class and Priority Mail by Dec. 20; Express Mail (overnight) by Dec. 23. But remember, Santa has Rudolph to guide his sleigh. We just have trucks and planes! The weather forecast is not great… That’s why we say the sooner, the better especially for gifts going to loved ones across the miles.”
If you want to pay the price, there’s still time to mail overseas. For example:
Global Express Guaranteed, date-certain shipping to more than 190 countries in one to three business days, includes $100 insurance (save 10 percent online)
Express Mail International, expedited service to more than 190 countries in three to five business days to major destinations, includes $100 insurance (save 8 percent online)
Priority Mail International, Priority handling for delivery within six to 10 business days for parcels up to 70 pounds (save 5 percent online), free limited insurance, Flat Rate Envelope and Flat Rate Boxes
First-Class International, prices based on destination and size
Best-bet deadlines for some destinations have passed or are about to on Monday (this includes letters, large envelopes, small packages, postcards, printed matter and small packets) :
Africa -Dec 19
Asia/Pacific Rim – Dec 19
Australia/New Zealand – Dec 19
Canada – Dec 22
Caribbean – Dec 22
Central/South America – Dec 19
Mexico – Dec 22
Europe – Dec 22
Middle East – Dec 19
For More Information