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Shipping gifts for Christmas? Better mail them out soon

by Alecia Warren
| December 17, 2010 8:00 PM

Only a few days left.

If folks still have holiday packages to mail, they should slap shipping labels on soon to ensure their goodies reach their destinations by Christmas Eve.

"(Ship) no later than Tuesday for priority mail going anywhere in the nation, and that's a push," said Dave Hoover, postmaster at the Coeur d'Alene Post Office. "Monday would be more preferable."

If shipped priority mail, packages should arrive overnight if sent to zip codes 83838, 83835 and 83834, which includes areas north up to the Canadian border, south to the Lewiston area and as far east as Wenatchee, Wash.

Anywhere else in the country takes two or three days, Hoover said.

Priority mail flat rates run between $4.90 to $14.50.

Packages sent Express Mail, which costs $18.30 for a flat rate envelope and goes up from there, should be mailed by Wednesday or Thursday to arrive by Friday, Hoover said.

He advised against using parcel post delivery, which is a little riskier.

"It's trucked. There is definite potential for weather delays," he said.

The U.S. Postal Service isn't delivering on Christmas, Hoover added.

Mary Taylor let her 2-year-old son Johanthan help her fill out custom forms at the Coeur d'Alene Post Office on Thursday. It hasn't been as tricky as she had thought to mail popcorn and seven different kinds of cookies to her Navy friend in Bahrain, Taylor said.

"I just came in the other day and grabbed the boxes," she said of the provided flat rate boxes. "The majority was baking and popping."

The $12.50 flat rate boxes were crucial to her being able to afford sending the gifts, she added.

"I told them, 'Sorry, it's all coming Pony Express,' and my friend said, 'We don't care! We're getting cookies!'" the Post Falls woman said.

Barbara Fraley, folding one of the boxes together on Thursday, said post office service has been fast every time she sent holiday packages this year.

"I've been in lines clear out the door, and it never took more than 10 minutes," she said.

The post office has been hectic since Monday, Hoover said.

He suggested avoiding lines by using the automated postal service at the Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls locations.

The automated service does everything a window clerk does except for international and registered mail, he said.

Folks can also go online at www.usps.com, which allows customers to calculate postage, print a shipping label and request a free carrier pickup.

"There are huge benefits to taking care of things online," he said.

For folks using UPS, it's too late to send packages by Christmas Eve to most of the East Coast, said Coeur d'Alene UPS Manager Teresa Wright.

Thursday was the last day to make that deadline, she said.

She advised mailing out today to states just shy of the East Coast, like Ohio and Kentucky.

"(Ship it today), to make it for Christmas Eve with no weather problems whatsoever," Wright said.

She estimated about two more working days to send to the Midwest.

Prices depend on weight and distance, she added.

"Some parts of the country are getting weather problems, so there's a possibility of delays," she said. "You should definitely take into consideration how far you're shipping, and get it (mailed)."

Spokespeople forFedEX couldn't be reached on Thursday.

Tami Delgado, whose entire family lives out of state, has had to ship several packages already this year, she said. She was in line to send more at the Coeur d'Alene Post Office on Thursday.

Her advice for shipping packages? Do it soon.

"Don't wait," the Coeur d'Alene woman said. "You'll have to wait longer in line and pay more."

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