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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane USPS: Here’s how to make sure your Christmas packages arrive on time

A worker carries a large parcel at the United States Postal Service sorting and processing facility, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Boston. Last year’s holiday season was far from the most wonderful time of the year for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service. Shippers are now gearing up for another holiday crush.  (Charles Krupa)
A worker carries a large parcel at the United States Postal Service sorting and processing facility, Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, in Boston. Last year’s holiday season was far from the most wonderful time of the year for the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service. Shippers are now gearing up for another holiday crush. (Charles Krupa)

A record number of mail and packages overwhelmed the U.S. Postal Service last holiday season, but a USPS official said processing and distribution centers, including the one outside Spokane, are in “incredibly better shape nationally” this year.

Still, Earl Eisenrich, Spokane processing and distribution center plant manager, said anyone mailing presents and cards to friends and family should mail as soon as possible to help postal workers deliver them on time.

“The real moral of the story is, mail early,” Eisenrich said.

He said a package sorting machine installed in July at the Spokane plant can sort 200,000 pieces of mail and packages per day, about 80,000 more pieces than the old machine.

“It’s a game changer,” Eisenrich said.

He said employees can sort another 100,000 pieces by hand each day.

Eisenrich said the Spokane plant expects to handle 57.5 million pieces of mail in December from Eastern Washington and North Idaho, part of the more than 12 billion letters, cards and packages estimated to be processed and delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day across the country.

While supply strains and worker shortages are affecting many USPS posts across the country, Eisenrich said his plant is largely unaffected. He said he has 100 more employees than he had this time last year.

Some metro areas can’t get people to apply, he said.

“Locally, we’re in really good shape,” Eisenrich said.

Many post offices are experiencing delivery driver shortages, and that appears to be the case locally.

“They’re working super long hours, which isn’t completely unusual, but it’s definitely very taxing on the delivery (person),” Eisenrich said.

The postal service is expanding delivery services to Sundays in some areas so packages arrive on time during the peak season.

Eisenrich said USPS has been doing seven-day-per-week deliveries, primarily for Amazon, for several years, but it will ramp up to all parcels in December.

“I’ve never seen such a focused effort to try to give world-class customer service,” he said.

Eisenrich said mailing before Dec. 15 would be “very responsible” for those who want packages and other mail delivered by Christmas.

For packages to reach their desired destination by Dec. 25, USPS retail ground service should be mailed by Dec. 15, first-class mail service by Dec. 17, priority mail service by Dec. 18 and priority mail express service by Dec. 23, according to USPS.

“We have to understand that there is no restriction on the amount of mail that we intake, and so if everybody waits until the week before Christmas, it’s not gonna go well,” Eisenrich said.

He said people can also help themselves and postal workers by avoiding post office lobbies at high traffic hours, which Eisenrich described as shortly before the post office opens, during lunch and before it closes.

He said customers can avoid long lines by conducting their business online.

He said all they have to do is box up their presents, label them and postal workers will pick up the package and deliver it to the desired location.

“You don’t even have to get in our lobbies. That’s my postmaster hat talking,” said Eisenrich, who served as Spokane postmaster for the previous seven years.

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