Uh-oh: holiday mailing deadlines are fast approaching

November 13, 1993|By Judi Hunt | Judi Hunt,Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Ernie Swanson loves to tell the story about an elderly woman who wanted to mail a package for Christmas, but didn't know what to use as packing material to protect the fragile contents.

She took her parcel to the post office and asked a postal worker, who suggested several fillings, including popcorn, says Mr. Swanson, customer relations coordinator for the U.S. Postal Service in Seattle.

She returned a short time later with the parcel, ready to mail. "But when the postal worker put it on the scale," he continues, "it was so heavy he asked her what she had used. She told him popcorn.

"Unpopped popcorn."

A lot of Americans who will be mailing packages during the holiday season don't know how to pack their boxes, Mr. Swanson says. Some do pop the corn, he says, but they use buttered popcorn.

"Besides popped, unbuttered popcorn, you also can do a good job with scrunched-up newspapers, foam chips and sheets of plastic with air bubbles," Mr. Swanson says.

Another mistake amateur shippers often make is packing presents in flimsy gift boxes. "They simply fall apart, no matter how well they're packed and taped, after going through postal machinery and being handled so many times."

Mr. Swanson recommends corrugated cardboard boxes, which can be sent without brown paper wrapping if the box is plain. If it's decorated with product or manufacturer's names, it should be wrapped.

Tape the parcel with fibrous filament tape that can't be torn by hand.

Labels should go inside and outside the box. "That way, if the outside label is accidentally torn off, we can find the address inside," he says. The label inside the box should contain the sender's address in case the recipient has moved or the package is undeliverable for other reasons.

Finally, be sure the address contains the right ZIP code. "It really is the most important part of the address," Mr. Swanson says. "It's the only part of the address that the computers and other sophisticated Postal Service machines read."

Try meeting deadlines recommended by the U.S. Postal Service, he adds. "They're not absolute deadlines because you usually can pay more to send it at a later date, but if you want to use the more inexpensive surface mail, be as close as possible to suggested mailing dates."

International surface rates are 70 cents for the first ounce, 10 cents for each additional ounce up to 8 ounces. The rates vary above that for international parcels. For that information, consult your local post office.

MAIL DATES

Here are the recommended last dates for sending holiday mail overseas and within the U.S.:

Nov. 15: air parcel post to the Middle East

Nov. 17: military priority mail to ZIP codes beginning 098

Nov. 22: military parcel airlift mail to ZIP codes beginning 090-097, 340 and 962-966

Nov. 24: military air letters and cards to ZIP codes beginning 098

Dec. 1: military air letters and cards and priority parcels to ZIP codes 090-097 and 962-966; air letters and cards to Africa, Europe, the Far East, Greenland, the Middle East and Southeast Asia; air parcel post to Africa, Europe, Far East, Greenland, Southeast Asia, Central and South America

Dec. 2: priority parcels to U.S. domestic ZIP codes and military space available mail

Dec. 6: military air letters and cards to ZIP codes starting 340; air letters and cards to Australia, Caribbean and Central and South America; air parcel post to Australia and the Caribbean

Dec. 9: military air letters and cards to domestic ZIP codes

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