Busy season winding down, local postmaster reports

'Tis the season to ship presents

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Summer Durand, with her 1-year-old daughter Taylor Stack, gathers her packages in preparation to mail them Tuesday at the United States Post Office in Coeur d'Alene.

It's the expected scene for the season: Bodies hustling and packing toys, whipping colored wrapping around boxes, snipping tape and stuffing Christmas cards.

This isn't at the North Pole, by the way. This is at the Coeur d'Alene Post Office, where customers are still prepping their gifts for long journeys.

The deadline is just a few days away to mail packages in time for holiday unwrapping, said acting postmaster Ralph Parsons.

Lines have even been moderate for the season, Parsons added, so folks won't have long to wait to ship items off.

"It was busy at the beginning of the week, but it's not busy currently," he said on late Tuesday morning. "Right now, the wait is less than five minutes."

People have until Friday to mail packages by Priority Mail, Parsons said, if they want the items to be received by Christmas. Those who choose Express Mail, which has guaranteed delivery, can ship packages as late as Saturday.

The deadline has already passed to mail items by Parcel Post in time to make it under the tree.

Monday was hectic with holiday customers, Parsons said.

The service window clocked 1,875 transactions, over double a usual day.

But the lobby has otherwise been serene, he said. He believes that's because more customers are opting for the self-service kiosk by the entrance.

"They're starting to realize it's here, that they can use it on their off hours," he said, noting that Monday nearly doubled the machine's record revenue at $2,500. "It's working really good for us."

There have been fewer large packages coming through, too, Parsons said.

"I think it's a sign of the times, the economy," he said.

Christmas deadlines for shipping UPS depends on how far the gift is traveling, said Terri Smith, Coeur d'Alene UPS store employee.

Customers are too late to get their packages to the East Coast or Midwest, but still can ship gifts to the western states if they hurry, Smith said.

The Coeur d'Alene UPS store has been "very, very busy," she said, adding that the store shipped more than 350 packages on Monday.

She estimated the maximum wait in line at 10 minutes.

Summer Durand was hastily prepping a holiday envelope on Tuesday in the Coeur d'Alene Post Office, as her infant daughter investigated the contents of her purse.

"It's been a little tough, especially with a 15-month-old baby on my hip," Durand said with a laugh of getting out gifts. "I'm just sending out gift cards, because it's easier."

It helped that her visit to the post office had gone smoothly, Durand added.

"I didn't have to wait that long. There were maybe 10 people in front of me," she said. "All the employees are really nice. That makes it easier, since some people kind of get agitated during the holiday season."

People should take care with materials they use for packaging, cautioned Parsons and Smith.

Folks won't be able to ship items in boxes marked with alcohol brands, or with Hazmat labels. Items like aerosol cans, hair spray, lithium batteries, perfumes and firearms should not be shipped.

Packages can be wrapped, Parsons said. He recommended using packaging tape, not duct tape or string, which don't hold well.

Joyce Randall stood with a smile at the post office as she waited to mail off homemade gifts.

"This seemed like the last minute I might have a possible chance," Randall said with a chuckle. "That's kind of sad when you're retired, but I'm busier than ever."

The Coeur d'Alene native applauded how fast the line was moving. The errand hadn't soured her mood at all, she added.

"I see how (the employees) are scrambling and they're also smiling and interacting with people," Randall said. "The feeling here is one of happiness, not of frustration."

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