Boom Time For Delivery Services

The lines may be a little long at your post office or parcel service this week, says CBS News.com's Lloyd de Vries.

The U.S. Postal Service predicts Monday will be the busiest mailing day of the year, with as many as 200 million cards and letters more than on a normal day. Wednesday should be the busiest delivery day.

A normal day's volume is 680 million pieces, of which about 100 million are cards and letters.

Competitor United Parcel Service expects Tuesday to be its busiest day, as the men and women in those big, brown trucks deliver 18 million packages. FedEx expects the biggest workload on Wednesday, with six million parcels.

The Monday a week or so before Christmas is usually the busiest mailing day because many people spend the weekend writing their Christmas cards. It's also pushing the limit for shipping presents for arrival before the holiday.

The USPS this year began a new service: Customers can order greeting cards over the Internet and have them mailed directly to specified addresses. The agency says a stock design can be chosen, or custom artwork supplied for the five- by seven-inch cards. The Postal Service will then print, address, mail and deliver the cards.

If you're shipping holiday gift packages via United Parcel Service you may be in for a rude awakening. CBS News Correspondent Stephan Kaufman reports heightened security concerns have increased the need for more thorough inspections.

Ken Tysor runs a Mail Boxes, Etc. store in Spokane says security is just one of his concerns.

"We will have them fill out a form that identifies them, identifies where it's going, identifies what the item is, and then after the paperwork is done, we also discuss with them what's inside and how it's packed."

At many UPS offices, customers, as a general rule, are being asked to leave their boxes open for possible inspection.

"We work routinely with the appropriate agencies around the world to ensure the safety of our network," said UPS spokeswoman Heidi Burgett. "This year as in every year, we take safety very, very seriously, but to get into specifics of our security measures would be to compromise them, so we don't discuss those in detail."

Louis Mastria, director of public affairs for the Direct Marketing Association, says sales by mail are in line with expectations.

"What we've seen so far thankfully...is that it's been a negligible impact," from the terrorism, said Mastria, who's group represents catalog companies and other direct marketers.

Some expectations had been tempered because of the recession, Mastria said, but "the bottom line is...folks are buying our stuff."

Even the delays caused by the anthrax infections were localized, he noted, with most of the country getting mail delivered in a timely fashion.

A study done for the association found that in the first week after Sept. 11, revenue for catalogue and direct-mail marketers was down 15 percent to 30 percent. But it began o rebound in the next week and was nearly normal after three weeks.

Some postal managers believe they may benefit from the expected decline in holiday travel among Americans either saving money or concerned about flying. People who want to feel closer to friends and family, but can't visit, may send more cards and gifts.

Because of concerns about anthrax, the Postal Service offered a series of suggestions for mailers, stressing in particular that every item have a return address so people will know who sent it.

Other suggestions included:
  • People who receive door delivery can give cards and letters to their letter carrier, rather than placing it in a collection box or making a special trip to the post office. Customers who receive curbside delivery may leave the letters in their receptacle for pickup.

  • Take packages that weigh at least 1 pound into the post office for mailing. Do not put them into your neighborhood mailbox or expect the carrier to pick them up.

  • Print addresses clearly, including apartment numbers, suite numbers, directional information for streets, etc.

  • Include both "to" and "from" information on packages — and only on one side.

  • Tape parcels with shipping tape or tape that won't come off in transit; cushion contents appropriately.

  • Never guess a ZIP Code. No ZIP is better than a wrong one. You can obtain ZIP codes on the Internet from the Postal Service's Web site.

  • Put a card inside each package with the sender's address and the recipient's address along with a list of the contents.


©MMI CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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