There is a logjam at the U.S. Postal Service, and it couldn’t come at a worse time of the year, with Hanukkah just ending and Christmas around the corner. Backups in delivery, caused in part by record holiday online shopping, means people’s gifts may not arrive on time. Some people’s Hanukkah’s present surely didn’t make it. The delivery delays have been the cause of angst and anxiety for some people tracking their packages online, only to be met with the perpetual message of “in transit.” At least one Baltimorean wondered on Facebook if she should buy all of her presents again as a backup. Retailers are warning customers about delivery delays. We say: Take a deep breath and put things in perspective. This is the year of COVID, after all.
Since the pandemic hit, little functions the same as we knew it. We’ve all had to learn to go with the flow and adapt to a new way of doing things, whether it has meant schooling and working virtually, gathering with family outdoors for Thanksgiving, greeting friends sans hugs and wearing masks all the time. It’s far from ideal, but we know we have to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of the virus, which has killed far too many, until enough people can get vaccinated. We should take that same attitude toward the postal delays as well. Just roll with it.
The Postal Service said in a statement that the delays are due to a historic record of holiday packages, a temporary employee shortage due to the COVID-19 surge, and capacity challenges with airlifts and trucking. The Washington Post also reported that private express carriers FedEx and UPS have cut off new deliveries for some retailers because of the volume, and in turn large amounts of packages were sent to be processed by the Postal Service. The package deluge is understandable given that many of us are sitting at home in front of our computers and purposely avoiding brick-and-mortar stores. Not only are we ordering holiday gifts online, but essentials and everyday staples as well.
The Postal Service has assured the public in a statement that they are addressing the situation with seasonal workers, technology to enhance package tracking and expanded Sunday delivery in areas with high package problems. They’ll also offer Christmas Day delivery — for a fee. In addition, the agency has expanded holiday retail hours at certain areas and leased extra vehicles. Still the delays persist.
The likelihood that timely Christmas package delivery is going to get much better doesn’t seem all that great, and some people are going to have to resign themselves to the fact that gifts may not reach loved ones when they want. But during this pandemic year, does it really matter? We understand the dilemma of people who can’t get much needed medications. As for the packages, they will get there eventually, and those who have the money to spend this year should be grateful for that. The country is experiencing record unemployment, meaning many people don’t have money for food, let alone to spend on holiday cheer. Small businesses are just hoping to be able to keep the doors open, and have suffered their own delays on shipments of inventory to keep their shelves stocked during the crucial shopping season.
Let’s also be thankful for our health, those of us who have it. Anyone who is not in a hospital attached to a respirator because of COVID, or has a family member in that situation, should be happy to spend the holidays with relatives — even if it is virtually and not in person. And think of all the nurses and doctors who will be caring for patients, risking their own lives, and not at home with their families. Delayed packages is probably the last thing on their minds.
Our postal workers seem to be toiling hard to make the best of a difficult year. They, too, are essential workers putting their lives at risk to keep life going for those fortunate enough to work from home. Let’s give them some slack. And maybe even thank them next time they deliver a package. In this time of COVID, we’ve all had to take things as they come. And that might make us all better people in the long-run.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.