published: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Holiday mail delivery deadlines looming
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - Monday night's Christmas parade in Avon Park signaled the start of the holiday season but what many people don't realize is that there are a number of mailing deadlines that are right around the corner. Erica Search of Sebring's Goin' Postal says those who want to get their cards and packages to the right place and on time need to make their plans today.
The Sebring-based operation offers services from United Parcel Service, FedEx, DHL as well as the United States Postal Service,
"For instance, if there are people who have Christmas cards that are destined for exotic locations such as Africa or Central and South America, they probably should be stamped and on the way by Nov. 30," Search said.
Other countries, such as those in western Europe can go out as late as Dec. 7, she said. Although those dates were not set in stone, they are considered "the last reasonable days" for customers to expect a timely delivery.
Packages sent to military addresses need to be shipped by Dec. 10
"That includes APOs, FPOs and DPOs," she said.
Because the packages are bound for military locations, there are a number of special restrictions. No aerosol cans are permitted for instance, alcohol is prohibited as are most kinds of tobacco.
"Anybody sending those packages out will be asked to fill in a form and anything sent to those locations also is subject to inspection," she said.
The most economical - and generally the slowest - delivery is parcel post and the deadline for those packages also is not so very far away. The drop dead date for that currently is set at Dec. 13.
And, she adds, that as the deadlines get closer, the volume of packages, boxes and bags ramps up as well.
"The crunch week for Christmas will be Dec 17-21," she said. "That's when the massive amounts of packages come in."
After that, it will be priority mail or some other kind of accelerated delivery service. Sebring's Goin' Postal also offers a same day courier service. That is only available for locations within a four-hour maximum drive time from their Sun 'N Lake office. Courier service is reserved for extremely important shipments and also comes with a commensurate price tag.
"All of those prices are custom quoted depending upon the drive time and other variables," she said.
Making certain that boxes arrive on time an intact, they have put together a list (and checked it twice) for those who will be sending packages near or far.
- The Box - First and foremost (and the most obvious) is the selection of the container in which to package the items. While this may sound easy there are many things to consider when choosing a box. Choose a box that is strong enough to protect the shipment. A new box is always best and certainly goes a long way in helping with an insurance claim. If it is a used box be sure the cardboard is rigid and in good condition. Check for cracks, weak spots, rips, or corner damage. Be sure all the flaps are intact and remove any old shipping labels. Shipping regulations prohibit the use of any container that has wording or indications of having been a container for alcohol, chemicals, tobacco, or flammable substances. If you are in doubt, don't use the box. We cannot accept it for shipping and the carriers will refuse to pick it up.
- The Packaging Material - The proper protective material in which to package the items is just as important as the box. Newspapers are good for reading but not for packaging. While abundant and free, the paper packs and settles considerably. and eliminates any protective value it may have had when you first placed it in the box. Use bubble wrap to wrap fragile items individually. Don't be shy with it. When placing items in the box be sure to leave at least two inches of space on all sides. Fill this space with proper cushioning material such as "peanuts" or lightly crumpled craft paper. This will protect the items from damage should the container take a sudden shock. Pack the container snuggly enough that the items do not move around during transportation. Improper cushioning materials include clothing, old blankets, rags and newspaper.
- The Closure - Once items have been properly packaged, it is now time to close the box and secure it. Again, there are some things to consider. Do not use masking tape, duct tape, or electrical tape to close packages. These types of tape will not stand up to the rigor of shipping when stuck to a paper product (cardboard). Instead, choose a quality tape specifically manufactured for packaging such as clear or nylon-reinforced tape. Water activated reinforced tape (brown paper tape) is also acceptable, but more expensive. Apply a minimum of three strips to the top and bottom of the box. Applying a strip along the open flap edges for added security also is a good idea. Do not wrap packages in any kind of paper, or use string as a closure. Modern shipping facilities utilize highly complex and automated sorting equipment, very little is done by hand. A package that is covered in paper, string or other such materials has a high probability of getting snagged during this process. Return address information needs to be well displayed on the outside of the container. If this happens to be paper and it is torn away so is the return address information. Without a doubt this will, at a minimum, delay timely delivery of the package, if it gets delivered at all.
- The Labeling - The most important factor insuring the fastest and most efficient delivery of your package is proper and legible addressing. If the package is shipped via UPS, FedEx or DHL a "smart label" will be generated from the carrier software which will be attached to each package. These smart labels will include bar codes and routing codes that are read by optical scanners in the respective carrier automated sort facilities. Utilizing the smart labels ensures accurate routing and prompt delivery of packages. In order to generate these labels clear, legible, complete and correct address information is a must. Print clearly the name of the person to whom the parcel is being shipped, their complete address, including apartment or suite number. If there is a phone number, it needs to be included as well. That also will be entered into the software so should there be a problem with the delivery the carrier will make an attempt to resolve the issue before returning the shipment. Be sure the zip code is correct. Incorrect zip codes will delay delivery. If the package is going to a post office box be sure it has the correct box number as well as the zip-plus-four postal code. For APO and FPO addresses double check to ensure the name, rank and military unit name and number are correct.
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