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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Peak crowds push the envelope at post offices

 •  Suggested mailing dates

By Mike Gordon and James Gonser
Advertiser Staff Writers

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the state, postal workers were busy and you had to wait.

Lines were long at the Makiki post office yesterday as the holiday mailing crunch peaked.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday was billed as the busiest mailing day of the year, which translates to a pair of four-letter words.

L-O-N-G and L-I-N-E.

"When I pulled into the parking lot here this morning, I would think it is true," said Nancy Wong, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service in Honolulu. "The parking lot was full."

And it stayed full, too.

"The line all day has been heavy," she said. "You know, I still have to mail my stuff. I haven't done it."

Although yesterday will likely bring a new total for the postal service, outgoing holiday volume peaked on Monday of last week when Hawai'i residents mailed 865,000 cards and letters and 64,000 parcels of Christmas cheer.

This compares to an average of 500,000 to 600,000 cards and letters and about 30,000 parcels on a typical Monday.

"As of last week, we were over last year," Wong said. "People are mailing more parcels."

The holiday season is always busy for postal workers, who have been processing mail seven days a week since Dec. 9, and working up to 12-hour shifts, Wong said.

On average, it takes three to six days for a package to get from Hawai'i to the Mainland, "but at Christmas, you need to add a few days," Wong said.

But you can still send that holiday fruitcake as late as Saturday if you use express mail. It will get there by Christmas Eve, Wong said, "or you get your money back."

There other options, of course. United Parcel Service and Federal Express are busy this week.

"This is the crunch week of the entire year," said Mike Sasaki, sales manager for UPS in Honolulu. "As we get closer to Christmas the express carriers carry the bulk of the packages."

Most Hawai'i residents opt for two-day service, he said. But that's two business days, so the deadline is Thursday. Like Santa, UPS carriers will be on the road Christmas Eve, but only until 11:59 p.m., Sasaki said.

"We put our entire work force out there," he said. "I did it last year. I started in Pearl City and ended up in Kane'ohe, and I went around through Hale'iwa."

Sasaki is counting on service like this. He still has to get his mother's gifts to Sacramento, Calif. "It will get there Thursday," he vowed yesterday. "At least she will have it under the tree for a few days."

Federal Express has a similar deadline, said Sally Davenport, a spokeswoman in the company's Memphis headquarters. Ship those gifts by Thursday, she said.

"It will be delivered Christmas Eve," she said.

Out on the front lines of the delivery war yesterday, the hopeful stood in lines for 20 to 30 minutes or more. At the Wai'alae-Kahala post office, people stood with arms full of packages.

With no holiday music in the government office to distract them, the anxious line of customers 40 deep shuffled in place as they waited their turn. The parking lot was full. Cars overflowed into Pahoa Avenue, blocking the right lane.

Ed Campbell sent eight packages to the Mainland after waiting half an hour. "It was not too bad. I expected to wait longer," Campbell said. "With four clerks, it moved pretty fast."

Carol McNamee opened the front door yesterday, did a double-take and left, hoping she could find a less crowded post office at which to mail her packages.

"I don't have time," she said, "to stand in line."