On the Monday before Christmas, just that one day alone, United States Postal Service personnel were expected to handle approximately 611 million pieces of mail. The final days leading up to Christmas will be extra busy for postal carriers, including those in Western New York who have processed tens of millions of cards and letters since Thanksgiving.
A local US Postal Service spokeswoman did not have a number readily available, but Karen Mazurkiewicz told WBFO that carriers in the Western New York region - including Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Jamestown and Elmira - would handle about three times their normal Monday workload on December 19.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, she says, postal workers in this district will process about 80 million cards and letters and about six million packages.
"Our carriers have actually been going out on some early morning runs, coming back and delivering their regular load during the day and then, in some cases, going out at the end of the day just to make sure we stay on top of all the package deliveries," Mazurkiewicz said.
Customers are urged to follow some simple steps to ensure cards or packages are not subject to delays. The most important tip is checking that addresses are accurate. Mazurkiewicz suggests taking extra steps to protect any gift cards sent in the mail. With postal workers handling many envelopes, there's always a risk that while being processed a card can become separated from its packaging.
"Our mail processing is pretty vigorous and there's a lot of belts and pinch points. Sometimes, gift cards will fly out of an envelope and we have no way of figuring out where it belonged," she said. "If you're going to send a gift card, label it, tape it down, or better yet put it in a padded envelope."
It requires putting in a lot of energy and longer hours, but Mazurkiewicz suggests many among the US Postal Service staff take great pride in delivering such a large volume of mail in a timely fashion. There's even room for some fun, with some assuming a role as one of "Santa's other elves."
"You'll see employees that wear holiday hats and elf ears," she said. "That kind of sets that they are, in a way, their own Santa's Workshop."
As postal carriers deliver cards and gifts to customers, Mazurkiewicz says the best gift one may give to those carriers is a cleared sidewalk. Shovel and, if possible, de-ice walks to ensure their safety.
"Let's just get them home in the same way that they came to work, in a good healthy condition, so they can enjoy the Holidays," she said.