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An overhead scanner identifies packages as postal clerk Rebecca G. Turner directs packages down different conveyor lines from the center of the "spider" inside the Chattanooga Postal Processing Center on Shallowford Road. "They call it that because it's got all these legs that come off of it," plant manager Jim Corkern said.

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Postal service gears up for heaviest time of year

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Recommended mail-by dates

› Thursday, Dec. 10: Military mail for overseas bases

› Tuesday Dec. 15: Standard Post

› Saturday, Dec. 19: First-Class Mail

› Monday, Dec. 21: Priority Mail

› Wednesday, Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Busiest mailing days

› Monday, Dec. 14, will be the busiest mailing and shipping day for holiday packages, letters and cards. It also is expected to be the Postal Service's busiest day online with more than 7 million customers predicted to go to visitusps.com.

› Monday, Dec. 21, is expected to be the busiest delivery day for holiday packages, cards and letters. The Postal Service anticipates that more than 30 million packages will be delivered on the peak delivery day alone.

Source: U.S. Postal Service

The busiest day of the year to ship Christmas cards, letters and packages, according to the U.S. Postal Service, will be Monday, Dec. 14.

But Katye Jones doesn't have to worry about that.

"I'm done — yeah, buddy," Jones said on a rainy Monday afternoon outside the historic, art deco-style U.S. Post Office at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building in downtown Chattanooga. "I believe in getting it done early."

The Postal Service predicts its 2015 holiday season volume will be up 10.5 percent from last year, with 15.5 billion cards, letters, flats and packages delivered.

"In Chattanooga, we are expecting a 15 percent increase in package volume during the holiday period," said David Walton, Postal Service spokesman for the Chattanooga area.

Christmas cards aren't as popular as they once were, but they're still a big part of the holidays.

The Greeting Card Association says Americans will purchase 1.6 billion Christmas cards this year, including boxed cards. That's down from the 2.7 billion Christmas cards the trade association says were sold two decades ago in 1995 before the Internet changed everything.

"It's still a great way to connect," said Pam Beeler, the store manager of Amy's Hallmark Shop in Northgate Mall. "People like to receive good mail."

The Postal Service says it plans to hire 30,000 employees for the 2015 holiday season.

And the Postal Service touts technological advances it has adopted to make holiday mailing easier and more efficient — and even fun, thanks to a smart phone app that allows you to take "augmented reality" photos with Peanuts cartoon characters.

For select packages, the Postal Service offers real-time delivery notifications. Customers who sign up for alerts at www.myusps.com will receive notification within a few minutes of the delivery scan.

Self-service kiosks available at more than 2,800 locations nationwide allow customers to use credit and debit cards at no extra cost to weigh and mail letters and parcels as well as purchase stamps. To find a nearby kiosk, use the "find locations" tool at www.usps.com.

For the augmented reality "Peanuts" experience, download the Postal Service's AR app at Google Play or iTunes App Store. Then stand next to one of nearly 160,000 blue mail collection boxes between Dec.14 through Dec. 17 to see Charlie Brown characters surround the mailbox.

"Take a photo with the Peanuts gang to save on your camera phone or share on social media," said a Postal Service news release.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetfor business or 423-757-6651.

Mailing Tips

Print addresses clearly and include all address elements, such as apartment numbers and directional information (ex: 123 S. Main St. Apt. 2B)

Remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place them next to the toys in the mailing box. Customers should include the new batteries in the original packaging.

Place a card inside the package that contains the delivery and return address. This ensures the package can be delivered or returned should the mailing label become damaged or fall off.

Never guess a ZIP Code. NO ZIP is better than a wrong ZIP.

Include both "to" and "from" information on packages and only on one side.

Do not reuse mailing boxes they weaken in the shipping process.

Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Priority Mail and Priority Express boxes are free at the local post office.

Leave space for cushioning inside.

Stuff glass and fragile, hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.

As a reminder, all packages weighing more than 13 ounces and bearing only stamps as postage cannot be deposited in collection boxes or given to letter carriers. These packages must be presented to a Postal Service employee at a retail window counter.

Source: U.S. Postal Service

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