Christmas cards and packages within the U.S. can be sent as late as Dec. 22 with the U.S. Postal Service; but deadlines for some letters and packages, especially to international destinations and U.S. troops overseas, are approaching quickly.
Some parcels to troops overseas must be mailed by Dec. 3 to assure delivery by Christmas. Some can be sent as late as Dec. 17, but often at a higher cost.
Postal service employees encouraged customers to send items as early as they can to avoid the last-minute rush — and higher prices.
Heather Stout, acting supervisor at the Columbus post office, 450 Jackson St., also said customers should avoid stopping by between 4 and 6 p.m., which typically is the office’s busiest time, as people drop off mail after work. People will have a much shorter wait between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., especially Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Stout said.
The post office is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays; but Stout said that, starting at 4 a.m., customers also can use the Automated Postal Center, which is near the post office boxes in the Columbus office. The automated center requires the use of debit and credit cards but includes a scale and touchscreen and allows customers to buy stamps, mail letters and ship packages.
Small flat-rate packages within the U.S. can cost as little as $5.15 online, while larger Express Mail boxes can cost as much as $39.95.
Sande Hummel, a retail associate at the Columbus office, suggested that customers who want to ship packages internationally stop by the post office if their package weighs more than 4 pounds. Packages of up to 4 pounds can cost as little as $16.95 with the slower Priority Mail International, while the faster Express Mail International, with a limit of 20 pounds, can cost up to $60.95.
On Friday afternoon, few patrons at the Columbus post office had the holidays on their minds. Most were running more routine errands, such as buying stamps or checking a post office box.
Ronnie Reynolds, of Bedford, dropped off a package with Christmas presents for his son, Jesse, who lives in the Netherlands with wife and son.
Reynolds said that the package included a Bloomington newspaper, because Jesse, who lives near Nijmegen, Netherlands, and is overseas on a Fullbright scholarship, attended Indiana University.
Including shipping costs, “that’s probably a $20 paper,” Reynolds joked.
He said he had collected things throughout the year to send to his son and family at Christmas and subscribes to the practice of shipping early for the holidays.
“It’s good to get Christmas (presents) bought and out of the way,” Reynolds said.