Countdown To The Holidays-How to Minimize Stress Series

December 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

December—It’s all about the delivery (and last minute gifts)

By this point in the holiday season, you’re thinking there is no way you will do this again next year. Shipping PhotoEverything feels overwhelming but there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will be over and soon you’ll be sipping heavily spiked eggnog with your friends.

Last month we spoke about getting the gifts purchased and having the supplies on hand to ready them for delivery. This month we will discuss the delivery of those gifts and Holiday cards.

Delivery Options—
First of all, I strongly suggest you set up an online account with the shipping vendor you decide to use. For those of you who do not have a team of PA’s around your office, here are your delivery options:

1) Include Your Gift when Doing Regular Business—If you do regular business with a client, coordinate getting those gifts there when you do business. Anytime after Dec. 1 is acceptable to deliver a gift. Also, leaving all vendor gifts with a house manager or office manager is something you should talk to them about in advance and take that off of your plate.
2) Hire a Friend to Deliver—This works great for local deliveries. You can give them the gifts, addresses and phone of the recipient and let it rip. This option causes you work in coordinating when recipients will be home to accept delivery so the best route logistically may not be realistic. You also have no way of confirming the gift arrived if they ask you to “leave it at the door.” You should negotiate a flat daily rate for your driver due to traffic. They should be responsible for providing the transportation and securing packages. Financially this is usually a good option if you have over 20 local deliveries. But realize, there is no insurance if the truck is in an accident and your packages are a casualty. If it is your vehicle, and if the car is being used for work by someone else, you may need to check with your insurance provider as again, you may not be insured for these conditions.
3) Use A Delivery Service—This local option is good for a few packages, but again, you must coordinate who is home or not, and if the delivery person cannot make contact, you will pay extra while they wait. You will have a confirmation of delivery. The price is much higher than if you sent your packages via fed ex but it is the only option same day delivery of local gifts. I recommend you establish an account with them now so if you need them, they are available.
4) Fed Ex—Still my favorite of the big three shipping operators. This is because they have an easy and consistent record, good online website, and will usually credit you if your package was not delivered on the timeframe you paid for. They will also pick up everything and give you a fairly accurate pick-up window. Tracking is online and easy to see every step of the way. If you use Fed Ex ground for packages in your same city, they will arrive the next day. It’s cheaper to ship from LA to NY than to ship within the same city so may not always be the best choice there. And can be more depending on how remote the delivery area is. Packages are billed by weight and size. However, I will warn, they will not deliver on time after the 23rd, despite what they tell you.
5) UPS—My least favorite for shipping to residences and they do not deliver on Saturdays. They work well for businesses. However, I have repeatedly seen them leave a note on my door for redelivery when I have been home. This is a common trick with drivers who want to get off work on time. Customer service on the phone takes a long time, as compared to Fed Ex and lastly, often their online delivery notices can be confusing. Their tracking has become better since launching My Choice, but it is also a tool for thieves to re-route your deliveries! They are only slightly cheaper than Fed Ex so for me, not worth the aggravation.
6) USPS—By far the cheapest and if you mail early enough, their estimated delivery record is good. They have gotten better with online access and tracking too but they still cannot compare to the Fed Ex & UPS technology wise. Another bargain are their flat rate boxes-everything you can stuff into that sized boxes goes for a flat rate, not based on size or weight! Another bonus is that you can ship packages, mail Holiday cards and get your stamps in one trip. Prepare all paperwork ahead of time. They do have a scheduled pick-up service using your regular delivery person, which means you are limited to how many they will pickup and I have found this not to be reliable. The downside are the lines and the fact that you can walk to the post office in Alaska and get an answer quicker than on the phone.

Holiday Cards Tips—
Ship your cards by Dec. 15th to arrive before Christmas. There is a much larger selection of Holiday stamps online than in the Post Office. I try to match my stamp to the card or card sentiment. (A stamp with the Madonna and baby Jesus doesn’t match up with a card of drunken Santa & Mrs. Clause, ya know?) It’s easier to pick a generic stamp that says Happy Holidays since you may be sending holiday cards to all religious denominations and I think that should be respected. Most important—If you have an oversized or odd-sized card, please take it in and have them measure and weigh it when you buy your stamps. Often these cards cost more than the standard sized card because they are non-machinable. Don’t assume it’s .49 cents or all your cards will get returned to your employer. Yikes!

International Shipping—
All of the vendors above can ship internationally in addition to many others. Get those gifts and cards out first. However, please allow for all packages to clear customs and clearly describe the contents to minimize delays. Also, wrap these gifts with a simple bow in a simple box. Since customs can open the gifts, don’t bother with fancy wrap. Insure properly. On your shipping form, make sure the shipper (you) pays customs fees. A gift where the recipient has to pay isn’t a gift.

The Bottom Line
Now that the delivery is handled for your employer, how is YOUR personal shopping going? If it hasn’t begun, I would put out feelers and scout out the items your family wants. My family has always been those I never want disappoint and often would be shopping all day on Christmas Eve, (that is before online order became a thing). As for friends, most of mine wrote me a pass until after Christmas to exchange gifts, they knew during the holidays I was the Mayor of Crazy Town. Click this link for last minute, inexpensive gift ideas.

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