Carriers Cram to Deliver as Procrastinators' Packages Pour In

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

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By Rachel Begle

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- If you are a last -minute holiday shopper, your procrastination may actually save you money, if you wait just one more day.

Wednesday is Free Shipping Day. Over 700 retailers from Amazon to Zales have signed up to take part in the one-day event on freeshippingday.com, promising free shipping and delivery by Christmas Eve.

Buying online and having the retailer ship directly to the recipient could save a lot of money. If you try to ship it yourself at the last minute, you could pay up to four times the standard rate.

And if you do still have packages to send, deadlines are nearing. The post office is slammed this week. On a typical day, the U.S. Postal Service distribution center in Des Moines sorts 150,000 pieces of mail. That's expected to double to 300,000 on Wednesday.

Pak Mail in Cedar Rapids is an authorized shipping center for all major carriers. They say if you are dropping a Christmas card in the mailbox, do it by the end of the day Wednesday. If you are sending a package via UPS or FedEx and it's going to a nearby state, get it in Friday at the latest. If it's going to the west coast or the southern tip of Florida, it needs to be shipped Tuesday.

While you may have to pay more to get your package delivered faster, there are other ways you can save. For example, instead of sending two or three smaller packages to one place, send one big one.

"Even if one package sounds expensive, carriers all make the most on the first pound, so one 10-pound package might cost $20 and two 5-pound packages could cost $25 apiece," said Chris Fredrickson of Pak Mail.

Also, make sure the package is in a rectangular corrugated cardboard box, otherwise some carriers will charge extra. Even if you don't mind paying extra to get two-day or next-day delivery, keep in mind carriers can't control the weather. Already this year, major winter storms have halted ground and air transport, delaying shipments. So the sooner you ship, the better your chances are of having your gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.

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