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SALT LAKE CITY — With 23 years under his belt at the U.S. Postal Service, Ray Hulse knows the drill when it comes to the serious business that is the holiday season.
"We're dedicated here," he said during a recent media tour of the bustling mega-warehouse that is the Salt Lake City Priority Mail Center. "We lose a lot of family time this time of year so we can get people their packages."
Hulse, a clerk at the warehouse, is readying himself for what is expected to be a record-breaking Christmas season in Utah for mailed packages.
"There is not a minute when a machine is not running," he said.
The U.S. Postal Service expects Utahns to send roughly 6 million packages this Christmas season. Across the country, roughly 155 million American addresses will receive packages.
To Troy Larson, a 19-year Postal Service employee, the statistics are not surprising considering the exerted effort he sees around him every day, particularly in December. The Salt Lake City warehouse employs about 370 workers year-round and adds about 100 more for the holidays.
"There's some people here who haven't had a day off for two weeks," Larson said, letting out a small chuckle as he contemplated the workload.
The peak day for sent packages is likely to be Dec. 19, according to the Postal Service. About 450,000 packages are expected to be sent from Utah addresses that Monday. That's followed by what's likely to be the busiest delivery day: Thursday, Dec. 22.
"This is our season. We're excited to be delivering cheer," said Laura Hubrich, a senior plant manager who oversees multiple Postal Service facilities.
This is our season. We're excited to be delivering cheer.
–Laura Hubrich, USPS Salt Lake City
People are increasingly going online to make purchases, and that trend holds true during the holidays, according to Hubrich.
"It helps the customer," she said, referring to the convenience of buying from home. "Then for us, it has enabled us to grow a business."
Nationwide, about 750 million packages will be sent during the holidays, which represents a 12 percent increase from this time last year, according to the Postal Service.
But the elevated trend of sending packages really has taken hold in Utah, according to regional Postal Service spokeswoman Margaret Putnam, who said the 6 million packages expected from the state represent a 19 percent increase the 2015 Christmas season.
Hulse credits the number of businesses in Utah included in that figure, particularly startups in the tech industry.
"Utah is good for business, and that's good for us," he said.
The U.S. Postal Service is asking customers to abide by the following deadlines to make sure your mail and packages arrive in time for the holidays:
- December 15 — USPS Retail Ground™
- December 20 — First-Class Mail®
- December 21 — Priority Mail®
- December 23 — Priority Mail Express®
The Postal Service has also released a guide to help holiday shoppers avoid procrastinating. It recommends Dec. 20 as the final mail-by date for packages within the United States that senders intend to arrive by Christmas Eve. The mail-by date is Dec. 21 for priority mail and Dec. 23 for priority mail express.
As peak season hits its climax at the Salt Lake warehouse, Larson maintains he isn't too stressed out. After all, he's been here before.
"They've really streamlined a lot of our processes," he said. "Our volume has gone up, but it's just become much more efficient."
Plus, Larson said, he can't blame those who make his job busy by buying gifts online. He feels the same way.
"Who wants to go out and deal with crowds," he mused, "when you can stay home and shop?"