Bill Sikes/AP

Online Shopping is Overloading the Postal Service

The USPS has to do more with less.

The holidays are the U.S. Postal Service’s busiest time of the year; it expects to ship more than 850 million packages between Thanksgiving 2017 and New Year’s Day 2018.

The hustle is getting worse thanks to an online shopping season thats beginning increasingly earlier each year, according to the USPS. In 2012, the postal service expected to ship just 365 million packages during the holiday season. Despite the massive increase in holiday packages handled, the organization’s workforce actually shrunk by 20,000 full-time workers since 2012 to a total of 508,000 in 2016. Even including seasonal contract workers—the USPS expected to hire 35,000-40,000 last year—the growth rate of number of packages far outpaces postal manpower.

This year, preliminary data suggest the actual number of delivered holiday season packages will surpass predictions. The USPS originally calculated it would deliver 6 million packages each Sunday in December, but on Sunday, Dec. 17, for example, it actually delivered 10.5 million, a USPS spokesperson told Quartz.

That might be why on Tuesday (Dec. 19) at 9am eastern, wait times on the USPS customer service line exceeded three hours. During the day, the average wait time hovered from 39 to 68 minutes, according to calls placed by Quartz. On Twitter, USPS customers reported similar two-hour wait times. Those who’ve had trouble getting packages on time or needed help with their order might be on their own this holiday season.

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