You can take the hassles out of shipping holiday gifts by following just a few tips from two popular shipping services: FedEx Kinko's and the UPS Store. In a nutshell, know exactly where you're sending the gifts, come early in the day and don't plan on shipping hazardous materials from your neighborhood shipping office.
"You don't even have to pack your gifts - we can do that," said Joseph Fulginitti, of the UPS store in Roose-velt Square (on the southwest corner of Northeast 65th Street and 12th Avenue Northeast). Note that boxes, bubble wrap and other shipping material may cost extra.
For a fee, FedEx Kinko's also will wrap your items, pack them in a box with all materials and label them. The UPS store charges more than $35 to box, wrap and ship a book and a small Nerf football (second-day air). Bringing one's own packing materials and not waiting until the last minute to ship might have cut that cost dramatically.
"It gets crazy around 5 p.m. (the deadline to ship FedEx)," said Eileen Coleman, of FedEx Kinko's University District store on the northeast corner of Northeast 45th Street and Eighth Avenue Northeast. "Mornings are the best time to come in."
According to their respective web-sites, the last day to ship FedEx Ground within the United States is Dec. 15. The last day to ship FedEx 2nd-Day Air is Dec. 20. For most FedEx overnight services, the last day to ship is Dec. 21, unless you select Saturday delivery, which costs extra.
Other domestic and international "last day" information for FedEx is available at www.fedex.com/us/holiday/shipping/lastdaystoship.html?link=4. You can find FedEx's complete holiday schedule at www.fedex.com/us/holiday/shipping/holidayschedule. html?link=4.
The UPS store says Dec. 19 is the last day to ship UPS 3-Day Select. The last day to ship UPS 2nd Day Air is Dec. 20. The last day to ship UPS Next Day Air is Dec. 21, unless you opt for Saturday delivery to available locations at additional cost.
Know the address
Before you ship your gifts write down the street address and phone number of the recipient. Generally, shipping services can't deliver packages to P.O. boxes. And the phone numbers are important.
"If our drivers have a hard time locating the address, they can contact us and we will send the recipient a courtesy call," FedEx Kinko's Coleman said. "We can look up a location or send it up to the neighbors. If the recipient is not at home and the package is [regular] FedEx, we can even hold it at the nearest FedEx Kinko's holding facility."
That option is not available for the lower-priced FedEx Ground. And the UPS Store, an outlet of United Parcel Service, charges extra for holding presents at store locations instead of UPS distribution centers.
We asked Coleman and the UPS Store's Fulginitti if there are any items that must be sent from the "main" shipping facilities. "The UPS Store has freight services. We can ship just about anything - except hazardous materials," Fulginitti said. "We have some furniture being shipped, and we have even shipped an airplane (new and empty) fuel tank."
FedEx Kinko's Coleman said while the Kinko's outlets are not able to pack items like big TVs, you can ship them from those locations. However, you may need to take some large or sensitive items down to the main FedEx office at Airport Way South and South Alaska Street.
"We do not pack or ship live animals from our FedEx Kinko's stores," Coleman said. "Surprisingly, a lot of people want to ship them. And for loose diamonds or precious stones, you would need to call our 800 number (800-Go-FedEx or 800-463-3339)."
Live animals were not the problem at the UPS Store for one holiday customer. "One guy wanted us to deliver fresh fish - not frozen - by our least-expensive ground delivery service. It would have taken several days," Fulginitti said.
Needless to say, that didn't fly - or ride in a brown UPS truck.
Neither FedEx Kinko's nor the UPS store will ship any hazardous chemicals or flammable liquids. You won't be able to ship aerosol cans, tobacco or firearms or alcoholic beverages, either.
And FedEx Kinko's stores consider dry ice (used to ship perishable items) as a potentially hazardous chemical. It would require a trip down to the main Fed Ex shipping center in South Seattle.
While the UPS Store may allow people to pack and ship fish in dry ice, if you buy frozen fish, say at the Pike Place Market, it might be easier to have the merchants handle the shipping.
If you ship items in your own boxes, a few tips can make things easier for you. "Please don't decorate the shipping box," Coleman said. "You can place wrapped presents inside a box, but outside the box, our machines will rip [the wrapping] to shreds."
To find a FedEx Kinko's location near your home, visit www.fedex.com/us/officeprint/main/ on the web. To find a UPS store near you, visit www.the upsstore.com.