Himes, manager at the UPS Store in Sikeston, was busy until just after noon, when there was a much-appreciated break, with only two customers in the store. "Lulls are nice, especially when you haven't had one all day," she said. "It is unreal."
'Tis the season for overflowing delivery trucks and mailboxes and long lines to get holiday packages shipped, where customers pay figures to ensure their package arrives on time. This week, the United States Postal Service, UPS, FedEx and others will work overtime to handle the increased load.
The USPS predicted Monday would be its busiest mailing day of the year, and Wednesday the busiest delivery day. Overall, more than 900 million pieces of mail were expected to be placed with USPS Monday, an increase of about 230 million in volume over the average mailing day, according to a USPS news release.
At the UPS Store, shipping was up "a good 40 percent, as of today," Himes said.
But Monday was a bit slower than expected at the Sikeston Post Office, said Postmaster Delbert Walter.
"Surprisingly, it's not as busy as it was Thursday and Friday. We feel like the biggest surge was right before the weekend," Walter said. "But it's been steady, don't get me wrong."
It was the mail carriers who had the bulk of the work. "I would say today they've got twice as many parcels as they would carry in a normal day," Walter said. That equates to about 75 to 80 parcels, roughly speaking, about a parcel for every block. Additionally, the carriers are working about an hour overtime daily in the final stretch.
Still, there was enough extra traffic inside the post office to justify an extra employee staffing the retail window. For the most part, Walter said, the mailing is going smoothly this year, and the general public appears to have been well-prepared and well-informed about mailing items early in the season.
And when there aren't customers to assist, there is plenty of stocking shelves to do. Only two bags of packing peanuts remained on a shelf at the UPS store at 1:30 p.m. that had been full Monday morning.
The drop in customer service needed at the post office could be due to the expanded online services, Walter said. Shipping tools at www.usps.com allow people to print postage and labels online. That's something Walter said is offered at no charge, but mainly used by those who have accounts set up to use year-round. An added bonus of this tool is free delivery confirmation, he added.
Sending packages last minute means a bigger dent in the wallet. There are no ground guarantees this week at UPS. A package that may normally cost $23 to ship climbs to close to $300 this week depending on the mailing option, Himes said. Additionally, mailing options such as three-day select at UPS and two-day express mail from the post office can take longer than usual to ship, depending on location.
With deadlines fast approaching, these shipping providers expect business to keep surging, at least for a couple more days. "Wednesday will be the last big day," Himes predicted. "After that, things will slow back down to normal."