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No waiting at post office on 'busiest day'

Waiting lines were scarce Wednesday afternoon at Fargo's main U.S. Post Office, even in the middle of what historically is the year's busiest shipping season.

Waiting lines were scarce Wednesday afternoon at Fargo's main U.S. Post Office, even in the middle of what historically is the year's busiest shipping season.

"The traffic doesn't seem to be there," Postmaster Don Logue said. "It's not the overall volume that we're used to."

Business also has been slower than expected at Fargo's United Postal Service office, a worker there said. The relatively sluggish holiday mail rush might indicate an off year for Christmas shopping, Logue said.

If shopping is down, it hasn't slowed business at Fargo's Federal Express headquarters. The volume passing through there this month has been higher than past Christmas seasons, employee Carol Beede said.

"We've been very busy this week -- really busy," Beede said.

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Tuesday was the last day customers could send packages on the ground anywhere in the United States through Federal Express or UPS and be sure they would arrive by Christmas.

The ground service deadline typically provides the biggest rush for the two companies, workers said.

At the post office, local priority mail can be sent Monday and still reach its destination Christmas Eve. Non-local mail must be sent by Saturday to make the same deadline.

Though it may be down, the annual December glut of cards, cookies and gifts still means a lot of extra work for couriers. The pace usually picks up two weeks before Christmas and ends with a last-minute push Dec. 23, Logue said.

The Postal Service hired 14 temporary workers for its four Fargo locations to help through the holidays. Because of an increasingly automated mailing process, Logue can get by with fewer helpers than he had only a few years ago.

Before machines started taking over, Logue might have used up to 50 extra employees, he said.

Also helping things is a contract the federal agency signed last year that allows it to send its mail on Federal Express aircraft. The new arrangement has made delivery much more consistent, Logue said.

As always, last-minute shippers will test that reliability Monday.

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"You'll have people, just like myself, that procrastinate," Logue said. "It's like tax day."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Forster at (701) 241-5538

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