If you haven't shipped Aunt Emily’s slippers or that Hokey Pokey Elmo for your nephew in New Jersey yet, there’s still time to get the gifts there by Christmas without forking over a fortune.
Monday is the deadline for most coast-to-coast shipments by ground service, but expect to brave huge lines at Valley post offices and shipping centers.
Monday is pegged to be the busiest shipping day of the year for the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and Federal Express.
“It surpasses income tax day and Mother’s Day,” said Patti Boreham, Scottsdale spokeswoman for the Postal Service. “Probably Monday is not the best day to come to the post office.”
Boreham said 14.3 percent more customers are expected at Valley post offices on Monday than on April 15, and 12 percent more than on Dec. 8.
At a Chandler Postnet, which provides packing and shipping services using Fed Ex, UPS and the post office, owner Karin Zapata is bracing for four to five times the typical daily volume of customers on Monday. She plans to bring in her entire staff for the whole day and order lunch from the local Subway shop.
“There will be no lunch breaks, no bathroom breaks,” Zapata said. She said she will set up an assembly line system to process gift senders as quickly as possible.
The post office expects to deliver 20 billion cards, letters and packages nationwide this holiday season, Boreham said. In Arizona 1.4 million will be mailed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said. That equates to about 11 million a day. The usual statewide volume is about 7 million to 8 million a day, Boreham said.
Several East Valley post offices have extended hours on Saturdays, and some are even open Sundays between now and Christmas to handle the volume. Fed Ex set Dec. 19 as the deadline for getting gifts across the country by ground in time for Christmas, but both UPS and the post office said Dec. 15 is the latest date to ensure a pre-Christmas delivery.
The biggest package delivery day is expected to be Dec. 17 or 18.
Susan Bittikofer of Scottsdale beat the rush by sending a Christmas telephone to her brother in Ohio on Friday. It was her third and final trip to the post office to send her holiday gifts, she said. Bittikofer said she always shops and ships early.
“I don’t like to fight the lines,” she said.
But Steven Ong, who showed up at the Scottsdale Main Post Office on Friday with seven packages, was just getting started.
“I have 16 more (packages) at home, and my wife is still out shopping,” he said. Ong said, however, he knows how to time his post office trips and hopes to dodge the Monday rush.
“You plan ahead,” he said. “Monday can be a little inconvenient.”
Kathy Shumard of Scottsdale already missed a deadline, shipping a package Friday to her children in Germany. Post office officials advised overseas packages to be sent by last Thursday.
So Shumard opted for priority mail.
For people willing to spend more money than time in line, there are several options for getting domestic packages to their recipients before Santa shows up. All the shippers and the post office have different levels of air shipping options.
The prices go up as the number of days left goes down.
UPS and Fed Ex will still take shipments for Christmas Eve delivery as late as Dec. 23.
“For an average 10-pound box, that could cost three to four times the regular ground rate,” Zapata said. “And if you have fog in Memphis all bets are off.”
Zapata said business was slower than last year earlier this month, but it started picking up steam Thursday, which topped the Dec. 11 volume a year earlier.
“People are still fine, but if they want to avoid premium service they need to get it to us by Tuesday,” she said. “People need to slow down the shopping and start shipping.”