Long lines at the new U.S. Postal Service office in Medford are chipping away at some of the holiday cheer for frustrated local residents.
"I probably had to wait an hour-and-a-half before I gave up," Sharron Miller, a 67-year-old Rogue River resident, said Monday. "We were surprised. We're going back to Rogue River."
Miller said she wanted to mail her packages from Medford to ensure they would arrive in time for Christmas.
"We were in town, and we thought we would save time," she said.
The new post office was crammed full of people, creating a line of 50 or more who filled the lobby and snaked along the postal boxes.
"I feel sorry for the people of Medford," Miller said.
Ron Anderson, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Portland, said that overall volumes throughout the U.S. have been down 25 to 30 percent over the past two years.
However, volumes at the Medford branch appear to be comparable to last year when it was in a larger space in the federal building on Eighth Street.
"Although the lobby is smaller, the new location is every bit as busy as last year," said Anderson, adding that Monday is historically the busiest day of the year for the postal service.
He said the Medford branch has the same number of clerks as in previous years, so the wait times should be about the same.
The postal service is busiest from Thanksgiving through the holidays, when 365 million packages are shipped.
Monday was the last day the postal service recommends shipping a priority package to military personnel to arrive in time for Christmas. Today is the last day for international shipping.
If you still haven't mailed out greeting cards, Thursday is the last day you can send them out first class in time for Christmas. The last day for priority mail is Friday, and the last day for express mail is Saturday.
Many people gave up standing in line Monday, exasperated by the long lines, and some said they thought the new post office wouldn't be big enough when it opened last year.
"The first thing I said was, 'What are you going to do at Christmas?'" said Karen Potter, 62, of Medford. "It's kind of crazy."
Walter Weathers avoided the line entirely, walking right up to the self-serve machine, which weighed his package, dispensed his postage and accepted his debit-card purchase.
"I walked in, and I walked right out," said Weathers, who expressed disbelief that so many people stood in line when they could have just used the machine. "I was in there for two minutes — max."
Others took the wait in stride, saying the lines probably appeared longer because they were in a smaller facility.
Doug Smith, a 64-year-old Medford doctor, said he dedicated his lunch hour to waiting in line at the post office.
"I knew the penalty I was going to pay for procrastination," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com.