By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Headed to the post office Friday to mail holiday gifts? You will not be alone.
The U.S. Postal Service is estimating Friday (Dec. 16) will be the busiest day for sending packages and the most cards will be sent on Tuesday (Dec. 20), said Eva Jackson, a Postal Service spokeswoman.
On those days, Jackson said postal employees in San Diego expect to ship 170,000 packages and cancel 1.9 million cards and letters. Most will occur in Carmel Mountain Ranch at the Margaret L. Sellers Processing and Distribution Center, which sorts, postmarks and redistributes almost all mail for the region.
As for busiest delivery days, Jackson said those will be Dec. 20 for packages and Dec. 22 for cards.
Today (Thursday) is the last day people can send packages via Parcel Post if they want gifts to arrive by Christmas. For First-Class Mail, the deadline is Dec. 20, for Priority Mail it is Dec. 21 and Express Mail it is Dec. 22.
Jackson said the Carmel Mountain Ranch post office at 11251 Rancho Carmel Drive is having extended hours on four days. Today and Monday it will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Several post offices — including Rancho Bernardo, 16767 Bernardo Center Drive, Suite L1; Rancho Penasquitos, 9245 Twin Trails Drive; and Carmel Mountain Ranch — also have automated postal centers, so with a credit or debit card you can weigh boxes and envelopes, print postage and ship 24 hours a day. Poway’s post office does not have one.
Jackson said an increasing number of customers skip a trip to the post office, opting to weigh packages at home (or use a flat-rate box), print postage from their computers and request a mail carrier pick up packages from their front door. There is no extra cost.
Though getting free boxes delivered at home is an option, she said it might be too late to have that free service this year. However, all post offices have Priority and Express Mail boxes in several sizes available for free in their lobbies.
One of the best values is using a flat-rate Priority Mail shipping box, Jackson said. Shipping is $4.95 for the smallest and $14.95 for the largest box, which can be filled with up to 70 pounds of items and mailed for each size’s posted rate.
“Flat-rate boxes have become extremely popular,” Jackson said, adding if the box is heavy people will save money.
As for shipping, Jackson said there are many things people can do to ensure packages arrive in one piece.
“Use a box strong enough to protect the box. When taping, do not use Scotch tape, but packing tape,” Jackson said. Put delivery and return addresses on a paper inside in addition to writing clearly on the outside.
“Leave space for cushioning,” she said. “If it’s fragile, a coffee mug or vase, wrap it in tissue paper, not newspaper, because the print can rub off on the item. Pack it in bubble wrap or Styrofoam peanuts.
“If you run out of packing material late at night, air pop some popcorn with no butter or salt,” she said. “It is great (cushioning) and if you’re hungry can also be a midnight snack.”
• Indicate if food is inside.
• Remove glass from photo frames and wrap separately, so if the glass breaks it will not destroy photos.
• Remove batteries from toys and electronics and wrap separately.
“Lots of toys … move (during shipping) and turn on,” Jackson said. “When we get noises, we’re not sure why a box is ticking … so we have to isolate the box and call in authorities because you can never be too safe.”
When at the post office, customers might want to buy some Forever stamps since on Jan. 22 postage for a letter up to 1 ounce is going from 44 to 45 cents. Postcard rates will rise 3 cents, to 32 cents; 1 ounce letters sent to Canada or Mexico will go up 5 cents, to 85 cents; and letters sent to other international destinations will rise 7 cents, to $1.05.
For mailing tips and available services, go to www.usps.com or call 800-ASK-USPS (275-8777).