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The Pinch: Senders should know holiday shipping deadlines

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In the days after Thanksgiving, many shoppers braved long lines and crowded stores in search of the perfect holiday gift. It’s not enough to buy a great gift, though; it must reach the recipient in time.

Here are some cut-off dates from the United States Postal Service in order for your package to reach its destination by Christmas, according to Darleen Reid, senior public relations representative for the U.S. Postal Service.

Dec. 3: Military mail destined for Iraq or Afghanistan

Dec. 10: Military mail for other overseas bases

Dec. 15: Parcel Post, the most economical shipping service

Dec. 20: First Class Mail

Dec. 21: Priority Mail

Dec. 22: Express Mail

Postal Service customers can save up to 11 percent when they ship online at usps.com/clicknship. They can also get free delivery confirmation for Priority Mail when shipping from the site.

The Postal Service will deliver boxes for free. It also offers free package pick-up from the home or office. Schedule it at usps.com/pickup.

Lastly, customers sending packages to military serving abroad at APO/FPO addresses using the Priority Mail large flat rate box will receive a $2 discount, Reid said.

To avoid shipping delays, Reid offers these tips:

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

• Remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place batteries next to the toys in the mailing box. Customers should also include the new batteries in the manufacturer’s packaging.

• Place a card inside the package that contains the delivery and return addresses. If the mailing label becomes damaged or falls off and the package can’t be delivered, this will ensure the item is returned to the sender.

• Never guess a ZIP code. It’s better to put no ZIP code rather than a wrong ZIP code.

• Include both “to” and “from” information on packages. Place this information on one side only.

• Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Don’t reuse mailing boxes because they weaken in the shipping process.

• Leave space for cushioning inside the box.

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

When shipping packages through The UPS Store, customers should send them by Dec. 19 to ensure packages reach their destinations nationwide, said Karrie Harmer, the manager of The UPS Store in Martinez. Packages sent within Georgia might still reach their destination if sent by Dec. 20 or Dec. 21, she said.

Customers must consider the weather when sending packages. There can be delays because of snow, Harmer said.

FREE COUPON BOOK: Krystal is giving customers a coupon book valued at $20 with each $10 gift card purchase. The coupon books are available in all Krystal restaurants and will be given away through Dec. 18.

The book has coupons for free Krystal items throughout late December and January, such as sweet bites, wings, strawberry shortcake and chili cheese Krystals.

FREE $10 BONUS CARD: With the purchase of every $50 in Applebee’s gift cards, Applebee’s is offering in-restaurant guests a $10 Bonus Card. Bonus Cards will be available at participating Applebee’s restaurants through Dec. 31 and are redeemable through Feb. 19.

MORE GIFT-CARD DEALS: At Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill, customers get a $20 Bonus Card when they purchase $100 in gift cards. At Outback Steakhouse, patrons can purchase the gift card through Dec. 31. Bonus cards are valid for redemption Jan. 1 to Feb. 10.

At Bonefish Grill, customers can purchase the gift card throughout December. Bonus cards are valid Jan. 1 to Feb. 10.

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