Post office working overtime

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Andy Brooks, a Sikeston Post office window clerk, takes a package from a customer.

SIKESTON - Post office employees are experiencing a larger workload than usual this week, in light of the holiday season. The U.S. Postal Service has projected today as the heaviest mail delivery day of 2004, with Monday being the busiest mailing day of the year.

"Obviously the employees are working longer hours," said Michael Darling, postmaster at the Sikeston Post Office. But he insisted these busy days are the same as any other business days, just with a larger volume of work. "We are used to stepping up, trying to meet the demands of the public and provide our services," he added.

According to the U.S. Postal Service, the daily average volume of all types of mail is 670 million, with about 100 million of that being cards and letters. Today, on the busiest day, the amount of cards nearly triples to 280 million. This is a tradition that usually occurs the Monday before Christmas.

Rose Townsend, postmaster at the Charleston Post Office has witnessed this trend during her 26 years of experience at the post office. "People wait until the last week and then come in and try to get their mail out," she said.

And this year is no different. Darling compared the lines at the post office to those at retail stores this time of year. "We have had long lines all day," he admitted.

Townsend commented that customers were lining up at the post office in Charleston beginning at 8 am. "Judging it, the volume going out today has more than tripled," she said earlier this week.

A larger number of packages are being sent this year, Darling and Townsend observed. "There is an unbelievable amount of parcels," Townsend commented.

This sharp increase is attributed to people purchasing presents online. "With eBay and services such as that provided to the customer, there are definitely more packages," he said. Townsend added "more people are ordering than going out to the stores and buying."

Although the amount of cards being mailed throughout the year may have decreased due to online cards, Darling hasn't witnessed this trend at Christmas time. "People who don't mail regularly always mail at Christmas," he said. "We always see an increase in cards."

Both postmasters have experienced overflowing mail boxes at the post office and in their other locations around town. This is also common around other holidays such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

Although the volume of letters is high, the boxes are rarely filled with envelopes. "Normally someone has stuffed a box in to plug it," Darling said. These boxes are emptied once a day throughout the year and several more times during peak mail times, according to Darling and Townsend.

Because of security problems with overflowing mail boxes, Townsend recommends customers bring their mail into the post office in these situations. She also added that it is safe for those living on rural routes to put their outgoing mail in their mailbox.

Darling commented that the post office is more flexible and has the ability to get everything done from a delivery aspect. "We can call in extra carriers and do things to offset things that would impede on normal delivery service," he said.

Mail carriers will definitely be out on the streets later than usual this week, agreed Darling and Townsend. "They are usually in by 4 p.m., but today it will be closer to 5 p.m.," Townsend said.

With these large volumes of mail, delivery will be a bit behind this week. "Customers used to getting their mail at 2 in the afternoon may not get it until 5 p.m. or later," Darling said.

However, the Sikeston postmaster emphasized the post office's goal is to have all mail delivered by 5 p.m. "It is difficult but we strive to do it."

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