The business of Cyber Monday is not limited to cyberspace. Post offices around the country feel the impact a few days later.
Grand Island Postmaster Cindy Jensen expected business to pick up substantially this weekend as the result of Cyber Monday.
“We’re expecting the influx of parcels to start anytime,” Jensen said on Friday.
Nationwide, the Postal Service expects to deliver 591 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. That number is a 10 percent increase over the 537 million packages delivered during that period last year.
Much of that increase is due to free shipping offered by retailers, said U.S. Postal Inspector Dave Margritz of Omaha.
Contrary to gloomy stories about the future of mail, the Postal Service processes nearly as much volume in a single week as Federal Express or UPS does in a year. That number includes both letters and packages, Margritz noted.
Like other postal facilities, the Grand Island post office hires extra people to get through the holiday season. Three temporary workers will start work on Monday, and Jensen would like to have more.
“I was hoping for five right off the bat, but I’m not getting applicants,” she said.
The temporary employees work through December and sometimes up to a year. It “depends on what we’re needing,” Jensen said, adding that a lot of employees tend to retire at the end of the year.
In order to help keep packages safe, the Postal Service offers more services than the average customer might realize.
“Each year, we add more options as we get feedback from people. We’re always trying to keep them safer,” Margritz said.
An important tip is not to send cash by mail.
“This time of year, the bad guys know that there’s a lot of holiday cards with possibly cash in them. So they’ll steal mail, hoping to find those,” Margritz said. Thieves rip through the cards, looking for cash, “and then pitch them wherever.”
Criminals might visit mailboxes that are on the street and not locked. In newer neighborhoods of many cities, the Postal Service requires that cluster boxes be built. Those mailboxes have locks on them, but occasionally someone will try to pry them open, he said.
A kindly grandparent who sends her grandchild a $20 bill for Christmas is “rolling the dice,” Margritz said. “What she should do is send a gift card or a check,” he said. “The parents could take the check and give the kid cash because, with a check or a gift card, at least we have a chance of catching the person when they use it. Cash is not traceable.”
It’s not generally known that postal customers can go online to give carriers detailed instructions on where to leave a package. In order to do that, people should visit USPS.com, track their packages and select delivery instructions. The service is helpful if your package doesn’t fit in your mailbox and you won’t be home to receive it. You can also request your package be left with a neighbor or held at a post office for pickup.
In order to protect a package, many carriers “on their own will try to sort of hide it behind a bush or somewhere. But if you have a preferred place, you can tell us,” Margritz said.
Postal customers are also able to change a package’s delivery address while it’s in transit.
“We’re trying to be more flexible and give people options,” he said.
If you’ll be away when your package is being delivered, the Postal Service recommends USPS Package Intercept. Using that system, most domestic package shipments may be redirected to a new address prior to delivery or to the post office to be held for pickup.
“The service is fee-based, but you are only charged if the package is successfully redirected,” a news release says.
People should minimize the time a package is on a porch, either by picking it up promptly, asking for a neighbor’s help or sending the package to your workplace.
“The longer it’s out there, the more at risk it is,” Margritz said.
Options include USPS Signature Services, in which a signature is required at the time of delivery. One of the services, Signature Confirmation, provides you the date and time an item was delivered or attempted. It includes a record that is maintained by USPS and available electronically or by email upon request.
Customers may have packages held for them at the local post office by using Priority Mail Express Hold for Pickup. The Postal Service says Registered Mail is the most secure form of mail delivery.
“Registered Mail receives special handling from sender to delivery, documenting the chain of custody of your important item,” the release says.
Recommended holiday shipping dates
The Postal Service recommends these dates for domestic mail. To get mail somewhere before Dec. 25, here are the suggested deadlines:
Saturday, Dec. 19 — First-class mail
Monday, Dec. 21 — Priority Mail
Wednesday, Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express
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