Shipping centers busy with Mainland-bound gifts

LIHUE — Kauai resident Thayne Taylor, who dropped by the Lihue UPS Store recently to pick up some packing peanuts, said he’s doing his best to get his gifts shipped before the lines get even longer.

“It’s busy in there already,” Taylor said. “It’s busy at the Post Office, too.”

The window is closing in order to land gifts under a Mainland tree before Dec. 23, at least without having to pay for expedited service.

“Technically, you can come in here Thursday, Dec. 22, and have something delivered on Christmas, even have it delivered on Saturday,” said Joel Groomes, owner of the Lihue UPS Store.

But that option, for a parcel that weighs around 35 pounds, could come with a price tag of about $125 for UPS shipping.

“With each day that passes after the 15th, the further east we go (to a shipping destination), that’ll become second-day air instead of UPS ground,” Groomes said. “Starting after the 16th, if you want guaranteed delivery, you’ll look at another level of service.”

Seventy-five orders for shipping were placed at the Lihue UPS Store in three hours one day last week.

“It’ll be busy up to Christmas Eve and into next year,” Groomes said.

Stockpiles of gifts will be shipped to the Mainland in droves over the next few weeks, so the time is now if you want to avoid the crowds, especially since the U.S. Postal Service won’t be extending retail hours this year.

Instead, the USPS is encouraging Kauai customers to use online payment and pickup options.

“This is one of the ways to reduce a little bit of holiday stress,” said Duke Gonzales, Hawaii spokesman for USPS. “People can pay for postage and print out the labels at home, and then arrange for pick-up from their homes.”

Gonzales recommends using flat-rate boxes, which can be retrieved from any USPS Post Office. Customers can then go online to pay for the label, print it out and pack the box.

“Then it asks you if you’d like to arrange for your mail carrier to pick it up the next time he’s dropping mail at your house,” Gonzales said. “You can even indicate a particular area where you’re leaving it.”

USPS expects to process and deliver somewhere around 16 billion pieces of mail and 750 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas nationwide this year, a projected increase of 12 percent over last year. The busiest day nationwide is expected to be Dec. 19 and the busiest delivery day is expected to be Dec. 22.

Using the online shipping method is one way to avoid the lines that will continue to grow throughout the next few weeks at shipping centers all over the island.

The customer flow through the Lihue UPS store routinely doubles from 100 customers per day to 200 at the peak of holiday shipping, Groomes said.

USPS suggests mailing deadlines of Dec. 7 for first-class and priority mail headed to international and overseas military destinations. They recommend a shipping date of Dec. 16 for first-class and priority mail headed to the Mainland.

The latest date recommended to send something to the Mainland via USPS expedited priority express shipping service is Dec. 21, though prices increase as the deadline approaches.

These mailing dates aren’t deadlines, according to USPS, and if normal holiday conditions occur, packages and letters sent shortly after the suggested dates could still make it to their destinations before Christmas.

“Mailing as early as possible reduces variables, weather being the biggest factor,” Gonzales said. “By mailing early, you reduce impacts of weather on the transportation network.”

But timely arrival during the holiday season isn’t the only priority for some; Groomes said shipping outlets on the island will be busy through Christmas and into next year.

“We get a lot of people that resign to the fact that because we’re way out here, economically it’s not worth it to rush it,” Groomes said. “We get lots of people that ship after the holidays and we see Christmas gifts after January.”

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