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Crowds pack into post office on busiest mailing day

Piper Gawel, 5, and her mother Jennifer wait in the long line at the Westminster Post Office on Monday.
Piper Gawel, 5, and her mother Jennifer wait in the long line at the Westminster Post Office on Monday. (KEN KOONSSTAFF PHOTO, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With the days before Christmas dwindling away, people are in a hurry to mail their holiday cards and packages so they arrive to family members and friends before next Thursday.

On Monday, the busiest mailing day of the year, the Westminster Post Office experienced a heavy flow of customers. It was the last day for standard shipping to guarantee arrival by Christmas.

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"Right now we have about 20 people in line," Vince Seebach, supervisor of customer service, said of the situation at the post office at 11 a.m. "It's been like this since we opened this morning so we have an extra clerk out helping people."

By 11 a.m., the post office staff already had to refill the stamps in the self service machines, Seebach said.

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"We're actually blown away by the letter volume and we're bombarded with parcels. We have 50 carriers trying to get the mail out."

Busy since the holiday season began, Seebach said he's noticed a change in the shopping habits of customers.

"Since the day after Thanksgiving we have been inundated, but we're staying on top. It's great business," he said. "It seems like more and more people are shopping online."

Seebach said more customers are choosing quicker shipping methods with their online purchases and all postal service employees are working seven days a week to keep up with the high volume of packages and letters.

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Monday morning, four employees were stationed at the customer service desk while one employee assisted customers with purchasing stamps. Two self service machines were also available for customers to use.

"Even with all the people we have working it's very hard to keep up but we're going to," he said.

While the line inched toward the door, it seemed to move fairly quickly and many customers remained in good spirits.

"I don't think you can come on a day like today and be impatient," Jennifer Gawel, of Westminster, said.

Gawel, number six in a line of 20 people, came to the post office with her 5-year-old daughter Piper to mail Christmas cards.

"I figured I would come not so early to avoid a rush [at opening time] and before lunch to avoid a lunch rush but we have time," she said. "We're in no rush."

Claire Scott, of Finksburg, had about 70 Christmas cards to mail as she waited at the end of the line.

"It's longer than I expected for 11 'o clock on a Monday, but this time of year it's just busy," she said.

Westminster resident Laura Finch, out with her 3-year-old daughter Noelle and 1-year old son Joseph, opted not to wait in line and used the self service machine to mail her Christmas cards.

"This was as early as I could get here and I wouldn't have come at all except I had a letter that was going to Australia and I didn't know how much postage would be," she said.

The Westminster Post Office closes at 5 p.m. weekdays but self service machines are available for 24 hour use.

The busiest delivery day for cards and letters is Wednesday, Dec. 17, and the busiest delivery day for packages is Thursday, Dec. 18.

Important shipping dates

The postal service recommends the following mail-by dates to ensure packages arrive on time:

Dec. 20 – First Class Mail and Priority Mail

Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express

FedEx recommends the following dates for guaranteed arrival before Christmas:

Dec. 17 — Last day to ship using FedEx Ground for pre-Christmas delivery

Dec. 23 — Last day to ship using FedEx Express for pre-Christmas delivery

UPS recommends the following ship by dates for guaranteed arrival by Christmas:

Dec. 20 — Delivery of UPS Worldwide Express, UPS Next Day Air and UPS 2nd Day Air packages processed and labeled for Saturday Delivery.

Pickup service provided to regular Saturday pickup customers for air and international packages, or if prearranged by Friday, Dec. 19.

All locations of The UPS Store will be open.

Dec. 22 — Normal pickup and delivery service. Last day to ship UPS 2nd Day Air packages in time for Christmas (arriving Dec. 24)

Dec. 23 — Normal pickup and delivery service. Last day to ship UPS Next Day Air packages in time for Christmas (arriving Dec. 24)

Dec. 24 – Normal delivery of air, international and ground shipments, if prearranged by Dec. 23. UPS on call pickup and UPS drop boxes available to all customers for air and international shipments. No UPS Ground, UPS Standard or 3 day select pickups until Dec. 26

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