If Santa Claus were to get the travel-jitters like so many folks this holiday season, he could easily rely on Payson's very own shipping and mailing professionals to get his cards and parcels delivered to their proper destinations before Christmas Day.
Of course, mere mortals can use their services, too and they can do it with Santa-style panache by simply heeding these guidelines, deadlines, and tips from the smartest postal folks in town.
PostNet owner Ed Enos' first holiday tip for local Christmas package-shippers is, "If it's fragile, bring it in and let us wrap it.
"What we often see is customers who don't wrap their fragile items correctly. They are not sufficiently protected, and that's not good in a rough shipping season like this, where packages aren't always handled with care," Enos said.
His advice? "Bring your boxes in before you seal them, and let us look at the packaging and maybe re-package it for you."
Another problem Enos' employees regularly confront can be summed up by the old comedy adage, "Timing is everything."
"If you expect your package to get to its destination, you have to get it here early enough for that to happen," Enos said.
PostNet Postal & Business Services is located at 217 E. Highway 260 in the Safeway Shopping Center. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 472-4355.
"Ship early" also is the motto of Payson packaging owner Bob Caldwell, who often sees the improper packaging of fragile items in his shop, too.
"Items like glass really need to be double-boxed, and most people don't do that," he said. "We can do it for them, though. In fact, we can ship anything of almost any size."
Payson Packaging is located at 106 E. Bonita in Payson. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday "But we'll stay open as long as customers are coming in," Caldwell said.
If you have a package smaller than 36 inches by 12 inches by 10 inches, you can have the folks at Postal Connections safely box it up for you, clerk Sara Stevens said.
Postal Connections is located at 250 E. Highway 260 in Payson. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 474-4010.
The recommended shipping deadlines for UPS and Federal Express from Payson to anywhere within the country are Dec. 14 for UPS ground service; Dec. 18 for three-day air; Dec. 19 for two-day air; and Friday, Dec. 21 for UPS and Federal Express "next-day service," since neither company picks up packages during the weekend or delivers on Christmas Day.
Generally speaking, the closer to the holidays a package leaves, the higher the shipment expense will be. Shipping via surface transportation costs the least, and next-day air costs the most.
UPS and Federal Express collect Payson-area packages from Monday through Friday only at 2:30 p.m. for Federal Express and at 4:15 p.m. for UPS. There are no Saturday or Sunday collections.
United States Post Office
"Mail early if you want to get it there on time," begins Postmaster Almendarez when asked for a list of the smartest tips her customers most commonly forget. "Letters to the North Pole are considered domestic mail, so you only need a first-class postage stamp. We would like people to use good strapping tape to hold their packages together not masking tape, Scotch tape or string, because they just do not hold up. Be sure to put a return address on everything."
Additionally, Almendarez says, all parcels should be insured "and it's a good idea to place a card in the box with the name and address of the recipient, and a list of contents just in case the package is separated from the wrappings."
Although the U.S. Post Office's official surface-mailing deadline for guaranteed delivery before Christmas has passed, Almendarez says there is still plenty of time to ship or mail by air.
The best hours for the shortest lines, she said, are "usually, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and 1 to 3 in the afternoon on any day but Monday, which is our busiest day. You want to avoid the first and last hour of the day, because that's when we get a lot of our business customers."
Another way to avoid the lines, Almendarez adds, is to check your mail for the Stamps By Mail envelopes the post office is scheduled to mail out this week, or to order your stamps online through the U.S. Postal Services' Internet website at www.usps.com.
One major set of complications that the nation's post offices have had to confront for the first time this year was created by the anthrax mailings which followed the events of Sept. 11. But while the perpetrator managed to slow down the U.S. mail for several weeks, Almendarez said, "I think we've caught up now, and everything is up and running.
"Last week, the general mail facility in Phoenix (through which all Payson mail passes) was tested, and no anthrax was found. In fact, no anthrax has been found at any mail facility on the West Coast."
To make sure your cards and letters reach their domestic destinations by Christmas Eve, Almendarez says, they should be sufficiently stamped and mailed by Dec. 21. Packages sent from Payson by First-Class Priority Mail on Dec. 19 or 20 will arrive anywhere in the country by Dec. 24.
And procrastinators can put off their shipping chores until as late as Dec. 22 if they send their packages by Express Mail which many metropolitan post offices will deliver on Christmas Day, Almendarez promises.
"But the rule of thumb everyone should always remember," adds Payson's postal chief, "is that the earlier you send it, the greater the chances will be that it gets there on time."