Mark Talbott said hearing about a 12-minute wait at a Wichita post office bothered him. "Even that is too long, I think," said Talbott, the Wichita postmaster.
But people didn't seem to mind the wait — some even said it was quick — at the downtown post office Monday on the busiest mail day of the year.
Talbot said the downtown facility was the one moving the smoothest, with a line about a dozen deep by midafternoon.
"I've talked to branches all over town, and downtown was the only one not saying they were really, really, really busy," Talbot said.
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Nationwide, the U.S. Postal Service expected people to mail 839 million cards and letters on Monday alone. The bulk of those will be delivered Wednesday, the postal service's biggest delivery day of the year.
Talbot said people could avoid lines at the post office by shipping the way many people are shopping these days: on the Internet.
At usps.com/clicknship, customers can buy and print postage, labels and customs forms anytime. Priority Mail flat-rate boxes are available free at a local post office, and there's no need to wait in the long lines to get them. The boxes can also be ordered online at shop.usps.com or by calling 800-STAMP-24.
Customers can also schedule free package pickup online.
The Postal Service estimates that 1.2 million people visit the Web site each day.
Talbot said while this week sees the year's busiest days, the volume doesn't decrease by much next week.
"The volume is just different," Talbot said.
While most of the mail this week will be cards and letters, the larger packages — Christmas gifts — will come next week, Talbot said.
The post office expects to deliver 16.6 billion letters, packages and cards between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Express mail shipments accepted by Dec. 23 carry a guaranteed delivery by Christmas Day within designated ZIP codes. Gifts sent by Express Mail are automatically insured for $100.