Q&A: Kameron Covall, United Package Express

Kameron Covall is the store manager of United Package Express at 1018 E Wishkah St. in Aberdeen. He was hired in July and started officially managing the store Oct. 1. His position is wholly to give store owner Jim Napier some peace of mind by running the store. He manages inventory and shipments, but still takes out the trash and has a lot of face time with customers. Customer service is his favorite part of the job. He was born and raised on the Harbor, graduated from Hoquiam High in 2007. He and his wife of two years, Abigail, have one daughter, 8-month-old Liberty Grace.

What sort of services and products does your store offer?

Our main service is to pack and ship anything a customer brings in. It can be customer-packed, and we’ll handle the shipping. We aim to give convenience. No one wants to worry if they’re doing a good job packing or if it will make it to the destination, so they bring it to the experts who can guarantee the safety of their items. Beyond the shipping, we are a copy and fax center, and we have Notary Public certified staff. We even have private mail boxes capable of receiving packages from UPS and FedEx. If you could perfect your home office to have all the bells and whistles, that would be our lobby. We’re always looking at the next step toward ultimate convenience.

What sort of services are especially useful or popular during the holiday season?

The shipping is through the roof in Christmas season. I’m surprised we haven’t been asked to wrap any presents because we absolutely will and have in the past. Again, we want to be convenient.

What sort of volume of shipping do you do during the holidays and how much do you see business increase?

Whatever numbers we have per day throughout the rest of the year, we can expect three times that or more during Christmas season. Jim Napier, the owner, is very good about giving us the insight of projections to plan and staff ahead for the rush. The outgoing-package room is usually packed to our eyes or higher.

What are some of your tips for holiday shipping with just nine shipping days left until Christmas?

It’s better too early than too late. Our other saying is, “He who ships last ships fast.” Coming in and shipping early is the best way to have it there before the big day. The longer anyone waits to ship, the faster service they’ll need, and that means the price is higher. The best tip I could give is that gifts are important, so choose a service level that provides tracking. It’s a safe and secure way to watch your package arrive using the online carrier site. You can even call us and we’ll track it over the phone for you.

What are some of the dos and don’ts of packaging and shipping fragile items?

Don’t assume the safety of hand-to-hand delivery because of “fragile” labels. Packages go on conveyor belts and in trucks for the brunt of the time, and occasionally a belt will get backed up or a truck driver avoids a pedestrian. These honestly happen, and a package can take a fall. Here are the major don’ts: Don’t pack with clothing as your padding, and don’t leave any dead space in a box. So what do you do? Down size the box to leave two inches of padding from either peanuts, bubble wrap or both. Fill all the empty space with peanuts. If you can shake the box and hear peanuts moving, pack in more. It ought to be a solid box in your hand with no give to pressure.

What about shipping big or bulky items?

Bigger boxes will sometimes have a surcharge or dimensional rating, so we try to cut down the box. Some bigger objects go freight, and we’re happy to put it on a pallet and ship it that way. We’ve shipped an entire storage unit full of bigger objects for a customer, so it can certainly be done. There is a wonderful letter from a satisfied customer on our wall from a grandfather clock shipment that went in a crate. We look at bigger items like David did with Goliath — with confidence.

Are there things people can ship with you that they can’t with the post office (such as liquor, etc.) and what are the rules for such things?

Unfortunately, we have a good amount of regulations that prevent us from shipping alcohol of any kind, certain firearms, tobacco and hazardous materials or chemicals. We do have some knowledge of places that can ship those things, and we try to refer customers to them for help.

What are some of the biggest challenges for you and your staff during the holiday season?

Deadlines. Customers call a lot to ask what cutoff times are for the right truck and service level. We have a great in-store system for checking and double checking that each package meets the right carrier at the right time. An awesome part for us and customers is that some drivers will hang around to take their package even if the customer just put it on the scale.

What are your hours leading up until Christmas?

Our Christmas season hours are 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturdays. These hours are available until we convert back to normal on Dec. 21. We’re closed Christmas Day, but we’re open the days before and after.

What’s the last possible time a person can ship an item through your shop and still guarantee Christmas delivery; what’s it gonna cost those procrastinators?

No one is moving on Christmas Day, so the Friday before is the last chance to make deliveries on special Saturday service and Monday — Christmas Eve. Those will have to be Next-Day Air or overnight deliveries, and though there is no set price (because it equates where to, package weight and package dimensions), you can bet it’s not a stamp or two. On a good note, we get a great rate on the fastest services that compete even with the direct-carrier prices. The last day that we can absolutely, positively guarantee a pre-Christmas delivery is Saturday, Dec. 22. We will be offering the only Saturday UPS Next-Day Air pickup service in our area. The cutoff time is yet to be determined, but I think it will be around 12:30 p.m.