MARIETTA, Ga. — Go inside any post office, shipping store or packaging center and you'll notice the buzz of the holiday season.
The National Retail Federation expects holiday shopping to increase by 8 percent this year, and with that, shipping companies are expecting to handle more packages.
The U.S. Postal Service accepted more than 13.2 billion letters, cards and packages during the 2021 holiday season, delivered in under three days on average, according to spokeswoman Evelina Ramirez. She said it's expected the 2022 holiday season could prove similar or demand even more of postal workers.
“As much as it is the busiest season, we’re still very much energized and very excited about being able to deliver for the nation," Ramirez said. "We prepare for this all year round. We’re ready. We deliver the holidays. It’s what we do. It’s our Super Bowl.”
Ramirez said USPS is currently hiring 20,000 seasonal workers to deal with surging demand right now. The postal service is looking for truck drivers, letter carriers, retail workers and mail processing personnel.
11Alive's Joe Ripley visited a UPS store in Marietta, where store manager Shawn Reese said the location's volume typically doubles during the holidays compared to any other time of the year. Reese said his store has unique technology to keep customers moving.
"We have timesaving kiosks up front," Reese said. "If you're pressed for time and want to return an item, you can go ahead, get it processed and head out the door without any hiccup. Our staff is ready and willing to keep everything going. We’re handling the volume as it comes in. We can do multiple things at the same time with the staff we have here," Reese said.
Nikolay Osadchiy, an information systems and operations professor at Emory University's Goizueta Business School, does not expect the same supply chain shortages and long delays that were experienced last year. Osadchiy said companies are better prepared this year with more resources and storage.
“We’re mostly not seeing those surges of new infections, as opposed to last year when we were in the middle of the Omicron surge," Osadchiy said. "So now people feel more comfortable going to shop in brick and mortar stores and shopping malls. Companies built up the capacity. They built warehouses, invested in trucking, trailers and this is all paying dividends.”
To keep one's package safe, shipping experts suggest using a bag to shield items from moisture and bubble cushioning to fill the void in the box to prevent rattling. Consider using a newer box and one that has a burst strength of at least 200 lbs. so it doesn't get crushed during shipping. Lastly, packages can be shipped to a center rather than a home to prevent theft.
“Please retrieve your package as quickly and as soon as possible," Ramirez said. "If you are going away, or are on vacation, don’t let criminals know you’re not at home.”
Ramirez recommends checking the mailbox or porch every day, consider holding mail while away from home and sending specific instructions to the carrier to know the package is safe.
As for key dates to have a package delivered before Christmas, the deadline to ship via USPS ground or first-class mail is Dec. 17. The deadline for priority mail is Dec. 19 and priority mail express is Dec. 23.
With UPS, three-day select shipping will get a package delivered by Christmas if done by Dec. 20. Customers have until Dec. 21 to use second-day air and Dec. 22 to use next-day air to have packages delivered by Christmas.
Finally, FedEx is offering express saver with a deadline of Dec. 20, express two-day by Dec. 21 and express overnight shipping by Dec. 22.