After months of complaints over delivery delays and various service suspensions, Americans are getting ready to see how the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) handles the 2022 holiday shipping season. From November through January, the USPS is inundated with more mail than it sees at any other point of the year, as customers send out holiday gifts and take advantage of major sales online. That’s not an easy task, especially for an agency that has been struggling under the weight of financial challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. So in order to help manage increased demand during the hectic holiday season, the USPS has to tinker with its service, and that includes setting some new deadlines. Read on to find out what the agency is now alerting customers that they can’t do with their mail after Nov. 5.
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The holiday season is approaching faster than any of us are ready for—except for, perhaps, the USPS. The Postal Service said it has “been planning for months to make this the best holiday season yet.” In fact, the agency recently revealed that its preparations for the 2022 holiday season began all the way back in January. According to the USPS, several “critical investments” have been made ahead of the season to aid its preparedness. These include deploying 137 new package processing machines, converting over 41,000 part time workers to full time, and active initiatives to hire an additional 28,000 seasonal employees.
“Successfully delivering for the holidays is a cornerstone of our Delivering for America 10-year plan,” Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said in a Sept. 21 statement. “Thanks to the 655,000 women and men of the Postal Service, recent investments and operational precision improvements, we are ready to be the most used delivery provider this holiday season.”
But as it continues preparing for the upcoming holiday season, the USPS now has an important new update for customers.
The USPS is now asking customers to make preparations for the holidays as well. On Oct. 4, the postal agency issued a news release warning about shipping deadlines for the upcoming season. According to the announcement, the newly dropped 2022 schedule provides dates customers should pay attention to “for estimated delivery before Dec. 25,” which is Christmas Day.
“The Postal Service wants to make sure that you send all of your holiday mail in time for your family and friends to receive and enjoy for the holidays,” the USPS explains on its website. “Therefore, in order to ensure timely delivery of your cards, letters or packages, please note the shipping deadline dates for the following different types of mail.”
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The first date on the 2022 schedule is Nov. 5. According to the USPS, customers wanting to send holiday mail to military addresses in all ZIP Codes—whether that be an Air/Army Post Office (APO), a Fleet Post Office (FPO), or a Diplomatic Post Office (DPO)—should ship them with USPS Retail Ground service by this date. To send military mail after this by Christmas Day, you can use Priority Mail and First-Class Mail until Dec. 9 and Priority Mail Express Military service until Dec. 17.
For non-military addresses (which is what most customers will be using), the overall deadline for sending mail through USPS Retail Ground service and First-Class Mail service (which includes greeting cards and packages up to 15.99 ounces) is Dec. 17. The last opportunities for most Americans to get mail delivered before Christmas Day are Dec. 19 with Priority Mail service and Dec. 23 with Priority Mail Express service.
There are exceptions for Alaska and Hawaii. For timely shipments using Retail Ground between the continental U.S and Alaska, customers will need to send mail by Dec. 2. Then for First-Class Mail and Priority Mail, the deadlines for shipping between both Alaska or Hawaii and the rest of the country is Dec. 17. And for both states, the Priority Mail Express cutoff date is Dec. 21.
You should be sending holiday mail as soon as possible, however, because it could still arrive late if you wait—even if you adhere to the holiday shipping deadlines. Delivery before Dec. 25 is “not a guarantee, unless otherwise noted,” the USPS said. “Actual delivery date may vary depending on origin, destination, Post Office acceptance date and time and other conditions, including customs delays.”
But the odds of on-time delivery are likely in your favor if you consider last year’s statistics. The USPS reported record-high mail volume between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve in 2021, as it “accepted more than 13.2 billion letters, cards, flats and packages for delivery, exceeding 12.7 billion accepted for delivery during the same timeframe in 2020.” The average mailpiece or package was delivered in less than three days during this time, which White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told PBS equated to roughly 98 percent of holiday packages from the Postal Service being delivered on time.