UPS RODRIGUEZ
Gene Blythe  /  AP
Ron Rodriguez of Atlanta checks information on a computer screen at an Atlanta UPS shipping store as he shipped Christmas gifts Wednesday. Major shippers are offering premium services for late shoppers but at a premium price.
updated 12/21/2005 5:27:13 PM ET 2005-12-21T22:27:13

It doesn't usually take this long for Ron Rodriguez to send his holiday gifts, but this year things just kind of got away from him.

He stood in line Wednesday at a UPS Store in midtown Atlanta with a steady stream of customers. The total for sending the baby toys, kitchen utensils and Italian leather shaving kit by next-day air to relatives in Boston, Minneapolis and Washington: $167.

"I'm working from home today. It's the only way I could get this done," said Rodriguez, 41, who does video-on-demand work for the cable industry. Of the bill, he said, "There's nothing you can do about it."

Last-minute shoppers needn't worry about getting their gifts to loved ones in time for the holidays with major shippers like UPS Inc. and FedEx Corp. offering Christmas Eve delivery on items sent to most U.S. addresses by Friday, but they could pay plenty for waiting.

"There are premium services available to the procrastinators, but planes are expensive and you'll see that in the pricing," UPS spokesman Steve Holmes said.

Atlanta-based United Parcel Service and Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx charge an extra $12.50 for guaranteed Saturday delivery. The fees are on top of what it costs to send packages to destinations based on size, distance and amount of insurance.

That hasn't stopped the swell of customers from sending packages at the last minute. UPS' busiest day of the year for air shipments was Wednesday, when it expected to ship 5 million packages by air, 2 1/2 times what it ships by air on a normal day. And FedEx said Wednesday its second-quarter profit jumped 33 percent to beat Wall Street expectations.

The peace of mind in knowing his packages will get to family members in time for the holiday makes the extra fees worth it, said Tommy Nix, a furniture and gift shop store owner who sent a candle holder and vase to relatives in Daphne, Ala., by next-day air at the UPS Store in Atlanta.

"I've been procrastinating," said Nix, whose shop is next door to the UPS Store. "It's something I forgot. This has been one of those years when it hasn't happened right."

The last-minute Saturday delivery guarantees offered by UPS and FedEx are good for packages sent to most locations in the U.S. Exceptions include some remote areas and New York City, where the two shippers have suspended next-day and second-day air time guarantees during the transit strike.

FedEx spokeswoman Carla Boyd said customers can go online to find out where the Saturday guarantee does and doesn't apply. She said the company shipped 8.9 million packages on its overall peak day on Monday. There was still a steady stream of customers in FedEx Kinkos stores on Wednesday, she said.

At the UPS Store in midtown Atlanta, meanwhile, owner John Kichko was busy packing boxes while his wife was taking orders from customers.

"It comes in spurts as we catch people doing their last-minute shipping," Kichko said of the stream of customers.

He said most customers were choosing the next-day air option to make sure their packages got to their destination in time for the holiday.

"They don't want to see any babies crying for Christmas so they are willing to pay the extra price," Kichko said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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