Don’t procrastinate! The deadlines for shipping and mailing those Christmas cards and packages are coming up fast.
The U.S. Postal Service recommends that first-class mail — think Christmas cards — should be in the mailbox by Dec. 19. Priority Mail letters and packages should be shipped by Dec. 20. For Hawaii, better move faster; packages and letters should be in the mail by Friday, or Thursday if you’re using retail ground shipping.
Think it’ll get there faster with the private services? Think again — that weekend in the middle of Christmas cheer is complicating the shipping times. Deadlines for Christmas delivery with FedEx are Friday (Dec. 15) for ground services, Dec. 19 for Express Saver and Dec. 21 for overnight shipping. UPS deadlines are Dec. 18 for 3-Day Select up to Dec. 21 for next-day air.
And while you’ve missed the deadline for guaranteed delivery to APO military addresses for the lowest-cost services, you can still get a Christmas care package to a military service member via Priority Mail Express if you ship by Saturday.
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The U.S. Postal Service expects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail including 850 million packages this year, which is a 10 percent increase over last year’s volume. Sunday delivery is underway at locations with high package volumes, including most major cities, and more than 6 million packages will be delivered on December Sundays alone. A few locations will even deliver on Christmas Day, according to the Postal Service.
“America relies on the Postal Service and our 640,000 dedicated employees to deliver the holidays,” said Postmaster General Megan Brennan in a statement. “We take great pride in our holiday readiness and preparation, and in our ability to offer reliable, predictable and affordable service in every community in America.”
The week before Christmas will see nearly 3 billion first-class mail pieces delivered, fueled by all those holiday greeting cards, according to the Postal Service. Nearly 200 million packages are delivered each week during the height of the season.
With all those packages flying around, you can skip the line! The Postal Service recommends using usps.com to buy and print shipping labels and postage and request next-day package pickup from the mail carrier. A new “informed delivery” tool allows you to track incoming mail and packages and reschedule delivery to ensure that you’ll be home.
Keep in mind: Post offices will be closed on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve as well as the actual holidays, so don’t plan on shipping something at the very last minute!
For Amazon, which delivers much of the nation’s holiday cheer, anything arriving via free shipping should be ordered by Friday (Dec. 15). Standard Prime shipping deadlines are Dec. 18 and 22 for two-day, while you can order one-day shipping in select cities up to Dec. 23. Some cities have same-day or two-hour delivery on Christmas Eve, but those cities do not include St. Louis.
Amazon has hired more than 120,000 seasonal jobs in the U.S. network to keep up with holiday demand, according to the site. Those positions included jobs in Illinois and Missouri, according to the site — it nearly doubles Amazon’s usual workforce of 125,000 full-time employees at 75 fulfillment centers, including Edwardsville.
At one point in the 2016 season, Amazon shipped more than 1 million items in a single day.
But when you’re shipping and receiving, don’t forget safety. Thieves swiping packages off doorsteps while the residents are away at work has become a serious problem in the U.S.
The U.S. Postal Service offers these tips for protecting yourself and your packages from theft and fraud this year:
▪ Avoid sending cash by mail; checks and money orders are safer and can be canceled and reissued.
▪ Don’t leave packages unattended if at all possible. Consider shipping to an alternate address, to a neighbor who will be home during the day, or to your workplace, if allowed. USPS offers “package intercept,” which can alter a package’s destination while in transit to a new address or to the post office to be held for pickup.
▪ Hold your mail at the local post office if you’re going out of town. Don’t risk mail, cards with cash or gift cards, or packages sitting unattended for an extended period of time.
▪ Use signature services that require someone accept the package in person, or registered mail and other special handling.