Post office battling labor shortage, holiday rush |

Post office battling labor shortage, holiday rush

Aspen’s post office is a bit short of labor for the Christmas season, but the staff isn’t letting things get too far out of hand, according to one official.

It’s an average Christmas season in terms of mail volume, said customer service supervisor Dave Blackwell, but a shortage of seasonal employees is forcing the regular staff to put in some overtime.

“We’ve got a couple bodies in here,” Blackwell said, referring to the seasonal help he has been able to hire. But the regulars are getting in some extra hours.

“Some days we have to work ’em 12 hours, some days 10,” he said.

Part of the problem with the work load at the post office, Blackwell said, is that the mailing rush is moving closer to Christmas. “Seems like people aren’t mailing early this year,” Blackwell said Friday. He said last week was probably the busiest week of the year, but this week is expected to be pretty heavy, too.

Lines of people waiting for window service haven’t been too bad, Blackwell said. A wait of three to five minutes is about average, he estimated. But a quick check with a few postal customers indicated Blackwell’s estimates were pretty far on the optimistic side.

One customer said her wait was 15 minutes, and another said 20. Two more, who both admitted they hadn’t checked a timepiece, guessed 10 to 15 minutes. And that was between 2:30 and 3 p.m., not a real high-pressure time at the windows.

Blackwell guessed the busiest times are between 12:30 and 2 p.m., when customers come in on their lunch breaks and postal employees go out on theirs, and between 4 and 5:30 p.m. A postal customer said the queue at times snakes out into the lobby and almost to the exterior doors.

“The people have been pretty patient. I have to commend them for that,” Blackwell said. He added that it really helps the flow of customers when everyone has their packages completely ready to mail, so that postal employees don’t have to help tape up boxes or that sort of thing.

While the volume of holiday cards is about average, Blackwell said he believes the total number of packages may be up slightly. One reason he cited for that increase is a larger number of people buying from online retailers. Many of the e-commerce sites ship via mail rather than UPS or express services, he said.

Packages are generally being delivered on time, Blackwell said. But a shortage of parcel lockers is forcing postal workers to place window-call notices in post-office boxes.

Local officials had permission from the U.S. Postal Service district office to make Sunday package deliveries to residential addresses if necessary, to clear out any backlog.

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