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Post Offices Ready to Be Holiday Helpers

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RALEIGH — What's bought at the mall often winds up being sent in the mail. And that's where your local post office hopes you mail gifts and cards as early as possible.

From a national perspective, 16.7 billion cards and packages will be rolling through the Post Office over the holidays. In addition, privately owned mail and delivery services will be carrying cards and packages as well. In all cases, the savviest senders have already made a trip to a mailing facility.

Here are some tips to help your mail really move:

Lack a zip code for an envelope or package? Check thePost Office web sitefor zip code information.

Addresses should be written, typed or printed clearly in permanent ink. Always use a return address.

Don't shortcut the address. Include the full street name, such as Ave., Blvd., St., Road. This is critical in many U.S. cities, Atlanta chief among them -- which reportedly has 39 roadways with Peachtree in their names. And remember to include North, SW and other geographic labels if that is part of the address.

Does the recipient live in an apartment or condo? Work in a suite? Be sure to use the number.

Stick a return address somewhere inside packages. Cartons can be damaged in shipment, but the extra set of addresses can get the item on its way.

Sending film for developing? Glue an address label on the plastic film canister. That way, if the mailing bag is ripped, your film can get back to you.

Forget string, twine or cord when finishing up a package. That tends to get caught on machinery. Use tape designed for shipping to close the package.

Consider the fragility of the contents when you are choosing a mailing container. Cushion items with newspaper, bubble wrap, Syrofoam peanuts, or air-popped popcorn.

Are the contents quite valuable? Breakable? The post office will provide up to $5000 insurance for a fee. You can also register your shipment for more protection, up to $25,000.

Have things going overseas? Get to a mail center as soon as possible.

And if you are a procrastinator, you might want to use an overnight mail service or the post office's express or priority systems.

Remember, only Santa can wait until after sundown on Christmas Eve and be confident his packages will be under the tree the next morning.


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