The two most important words this holiday season for the Island's shipping and packaging experts are not Merry Christmas, but rather, "ship early." All of them say they are bracing for an onslaught of cards and packages next week, with volume building each day as Christmas approaches.
455 State Rd., Woodland Center, Tisbury 508-696-0600
This will be the first Christmas shipping season for the staff at the UPS store that opened in May at Tisbury's Woodland Center. Owner Mike Boylan says store manager Tom Sawyer and the staff are ready, open from 9 am to 6 pm on Monday-Friday and 9 am-3 pm on Saturday during the holidays.
Unlike some stores that offer UPS shipping, Mr. Boylan said his store does not add a surcharge to UPS rates. He also has opted to participate in a UPS corporate program called the "Pack and Ship Promise," which guarantees everything packed by UPS staff up to the insured value of the item, plus full retail packing fees and shipping charges.
Mr. Boylan also owns a UPS franchise on Nantucket. He said he's handled some unusual customers since going into business, including a man who came in with a load of rocks he wanted to ship to South Dakota for a rock garden.
"We're now shipping a tremendous amount of seafood out of our Martha's Vineyard store," Mr. Boylan said. "We have the ice packs in-house and insulated cooler boxes, and we're shipping scallops, all type of fish, chowder - everything seafood." UPS personnel pride themselves on being the experts in packing and shipping high-value artwork and antiques as well, Mr. Boylan added.
Packaging charges are based on the size of the package and the fragility of the item. For people who eschew the store's packaging services, Mr. Boylan recommends double-boxing fragile items. Many people reuse boxes, which he does not recommend. When it comes to materials people use for padding items, he's seen it all, including towels and diapers. "That's not a good move, because that kind of stuff tends to bunch up and not create any cushioning at all when the package travels," he said. Bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts are the best choice.
UPS requires a street address on packages shipped. For Vineyarders with post office boxes, leave those numbers off the address and use a street address only - otherwise, a delivery person may assume it's a post office box physically located on that street. A UPS automated system checks to see if addresses are legitimate; it also stores customers' shipping addresses for future use.
Mondays tend to be the busiest shipping days, Mr. Boylan said, as people rush in with gifts they purchased over the weekend. Although no UPS shipments leave the Island on Saturday and Sunday, he said that Saturday is a good time to come into the store because it's not as busy. Anything brought in on the weekend will leave the Island on Monday.
The cut-off for shipping by ground, the least expensive way to ship, will be Dec. 14, Mr. Boylan said. After that, everything will have to be expedited and go three-day, second day, or overnight, depending on the location. Normally, packages shipped to California and the West Coast take a week. Delivery times can vary, even within the same state, he explained, depending on whether it's a rural location. However, UPS deliveries are guaranteed. Customers can check schedules available in the store and online at www.ups.com.
The UPS store at Woodland Center also offers printing, copying, and faxing services for small and large documents, office supplies, greeting cards, and 24-hour accessible post office boxes.
15 North Line Rd., Airport Business Park, 1-800-463-3339
Sandy Fisher operates a full-service FedEx store, which also has a drop-off box out front available for packages shipped express. Packaging supplies are available for purchase. The largest box available to buy is 24 x 24 x 24, Ms. Fisher said. Larger boxes can be shipped, and items do not have to be packaged in a FedEx box, she added. Customers must pay with exact change, a check, or a credit card, or have a FedEx account.
Ms. Fisher recommends packing items in a box sealed with plastic sealing tape, with no masking tape, paper, or string. It's a good idea to include an address inside the box, as well.
FedEx offers very competitive pricing, Ms. Fisher said. She recommends checking shipping rates online at www.fedex.com, and doing some comparison shopping among other delivery services.
The last day to ship packages by FedEx ground to the West Coast for holiday arrival will be Dec. 17. Packages going to a Massachusetts address can be shipped by ground as late as Dec. 20, Ms. Fisher said. Packages shipped by FedEx express, which goes by air, can be shipped as late as Friday, Dec. 21.
FedEx will deliver packages on the last two Saturdays before Christmas. Customers can drop off ground and air packages in the office. The last drop-off time for ground delivery packages is 4 pm and 5 pm for express/air. Packages usually get picked up the following morning.
The FedEx store hours are 11 am-5 pm, Monday-Friday. The store is closed between 2-3 pm. Self-service drop-off boxes are available at the Merchants Mart on State Road in Tisbury, the Martha's Vineyard Airport, and the Whale Building on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven.
The Mailroom@Edgartown, 243 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Rd., Triangle Plaza, Edgartown (508-627-7704)
The Mailroom offers packing, shipping, and business services, as well as copy, fax, miscellaneous business services, and post office boxes. Customers can also drop off FedEx packages.
U.S. Postal Service (USPS)
The USPS estimates it will deliver 20 billion cards, letters, and packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and that 128 million customers will visit the Post Office during the holidays (it only seems like they are all at your local post office at the same time you are). The Vineyard Haven and Edgartown post offices are offering expanded holiday services.
Vineyard Haven (508-693-2818): On Sat., Dec. 15 and Sat., Dec. 22, the retail counter and lobby will be open from 9:30 am to 3 pm, and on Sun., Dec. 16 and Sun., Dec. 23, from 10 am to 2 pm. Postmaster Joe Massua encourages people to pick up packages as soon as possible, as the Vineyard Haven post office has little storage space.
Shipping and packaging supplies are available for purchase. Customers need to be sure that their gifts are properly packaged, sealed, and ready to go. "We sell tape, but we don't supply it," Mr. Massua said.
Since Monday, three trucks from the mainland started delivering and picking up mail instead of two. Mr. Massua predicts Monday, Dec. 17, will be the peak mailing day. The busiest time in the Vineyard Haven post office is between 1 to 3:45 pm, he said.
Priority mail can be sent up until Dec. 20 for Christmas arrival. Expected delivery time is 2 to 3 days anywhere in the country, although it is not guaranteed. Christmas packages may be sent by express mail up until Dec. 22.
Edgartown (508-627-7318): Mon.-Fri., retail counter hours 8:30 am-4:30 pm; lobby 7 am-5:30 pm. Sat., retail counter 10 am-1 pm, lobby 7 am-3:30 pm. Dutch door opens at 7:30 am for package pickup Mon.-Fri., and at 9 am on Sat.
Holiday changes: Starting on Dec. 17, the Dutch door will be open until 5:30 pm for package pickups Mon.-Fri. On Sat., Dec. 15 and 22, the Dutch door will be open until 3:30 pm. On Sun., Dec. 16 and 23, the lobby will be open for picking up mail in boxes or package pickup.
Other Island post office hours:
Chilmark (508-645-2535): Mon.-Fri., retail counter 9:30 am-4:30 pm, lobby 8:30 am-5:00 pm. Sat., retail counter 11-1 pm, lobby 8:30 am-3 pm.
Oak Bluffs (508-693-1049): Mon.-Fri., retail counter 9 am-4:30 pm, lobby 8:30 am-5 pm. Sat., retail counter noon-2 pm, lobby 8:30 am-4 pm.
West Tisbury (508-693-7899): Mon.-Fri. retail counter 9 am-4:30 pm, lobby 8 am-5 pm. Sat. retail counter 10 am-noon, lobby 8 am-2 pm.