Postal Service learns how to adapt to new-age Christmas shopping

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- This year Santa has had more help than ever from the U.S. Postal Service. The big changes are due to how many people are now shopping for the holidays.

Ireneo Gutierrez has been with the Postal Service for 21 years, but this Christmas is different.

"I've never remembered this season being this busy," Gutierrez said.

The back of the truck is not filled with Christmas cards, but piles of presents.

"About a third of them come from Amazon," Gutierrez said.

Amazon is now one of the Postal Service's biggest customers. Holiday shipments are up 15 percent over last year, even as postcards and letters decline.

"That mail has gone away and it's never going to come back, but it's being replaced by something else, something that takes up more space," Postal Service spokesman Gus Ruiz said.

So the Postal Service is racing to shift from carrying letters to carrying packages.

"A large part of that success is our ability to handle that large capacity because of machineries like this," Ruiz explained.

Giant laser scanners find the address and sort packages on machines the size of a football field. But at least for now, all the technology in the world can't get those packages to your door in time for Christmas. That last mile still depends on the good old postal carriers, and they've been awfully busy.

Postal carriers, like Gutierrez, now have to make more than one trips out to neighborhoods.

"This December, we've started delivering packages at 7:00 in the morning," Gutierrez said.

And for resident Pat Garcia, her packages were sent to her 10 grandchildren just in the nick of time, and luckily nothing was stolen. She said, "I did over half of my shopping online."

That's no Christmas miracle. Gutierrez has gotten creative at outsmarting package thieves, or as the postal service calls them, porch pirates.

The new cloud-connected scanners let you know as soon as your package arrives. The Postal Service is even designing bigger mailboxes, and roomier trucks to meet the demand.

"Until somebody figures out how to email a sweater, we're going to deliver it," Ruiz said.

We didn't see any sweaters being shipped the day we walked through the Postal Service's distribution center, just tons of fliers for those after-Christmas sales.
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