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Delivery dash for holiday packages

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The U.S. Postal Service expects to process 658 million pieces of mail Dec. 17, the busiest mailing day of 2012.

According to the Postal Service, 17.9 billion cards, letters and packages will be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.

The Postal Service has seen a double-digit increase in package shipments already this holiday season. Postal officials say the earlier customers can mail, the better.

"The windows are starting to pick up," said Cary Postmaster Beverly Bode, "It always happens this time of year."

First-class mail should be sent by Dec. 20 to arrive in time for Christmas. The recommended deadline for parcel post is Dec. 14 and for express mail, Dec. 22. The last day to ship to military is Dec. 17, and Dec. 19 is the last day for most international shipping.

Customers who don't want to deal with lines can create pre-paid shipping labels using their own computer and printer. Free package pickup is available.

Darla Wilson of Crystal Lake brought a package to the Cary Post Office Monday to send to her step son in Sheboygan, Wis. "It's an early Christmas present," she said, noting that he's engage to be married. "I'm also dropping off some Christmas cards," Wilson said.

The post office's busiest mailing day for holiday cards and packages is Dec. 17. The busiest delivery day for holiday cards is Dec. 18, and packages Dec. 20.

On Monday, FedEx was bracing for a record-breaking day, when 19 million packages were expected to move through the FedEx networks.

FedEx driver Rocco Marcadante of Johnsburg was delivering a package on West Lake Drive in Cary Monday morning. "We've been extremely busy," said Marcadante, who has been working for FedEx for two years. "I've been putting in 60 hours a week."

“At FedEx, we have been preparing for this busy holiday shipping season for almost a year now,” said T. Michael Glenn, executive vice president of Market Development at FedEx in a press release. FedEx expects to deliver 280 million packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up 13 percent from 2011.

The majority of volume surge is from online shipping. Online holiday sales are forecast to climb 17 percent compared to last year, according to eMarketer.

Monday, also marked “Green Monday,” a term coined by eBay to describe the best sales day in December and traditional kick-off to the heaviest online shopping week of the year. According to comScore, in 2011 U.S. consumers spent $1.1 billion on Green Monday alone.

Boxing and packaging tips:

Safe delivery starts with careful preparation. Follow these guidelines to get your shipment off to a good start.

• Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. If you’re reusing a box, cover up or black out any old labels and markings.

• Place cushioning all around your items. Close and gently shake the box to see whether you have enough padding. Add more newspaper, Styrofoam, or bubble wrap if you hear things moving around.

• Tape your box shut and reinforce the seams with 2-inch-wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape. Do not use cord, string, or twine because it gets caught in sorting machines.

• Using a complete and correct address is the best way to get it there. The post office also recommends senders put a card with both the delivery and return addresses inside each box, in case the outer labels fall off or are destroyed.

– Source: U.S. Postal Service

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