Increased demand could lead to delayed deliveries during holidays

It's commonplace in most communities to see a big, brown delivery van lumbering down the street, or parked curbside with its hazard lights blinking. In Wrangell, the familiar UPS brand is replaced by a white cargo van belonging to C&D Deliveries.

The family owned service puts in a lot of hours, especially during the holidays, to ensure people receive their packages despite adverse weather, unknown addresses or unfamiliar names.

Since April 30, 2019, when Chris Booker and his wife, Dixie, started C&D Deliveries and took over the Lynden UPS contract, the company has averaged between 250 to 400 deliveries per week, sometimes working seven days a week.

Even in a place as small as Wrangell, challenges finding people still exist.

"Wrangell is unique in many ways with being a small community ... where most of the people know everyone by a first-name basis, but it functions as a hub as well," Booker said. "It's nice when packages come in with physical addresses on them, but that's not always the case. A lot of people will use the physical address of the post office, thinking that their packages will be sent there."

Booker said people will also use a "general delivery" status, which is mail service for those without a permanent address.

Another problem C&D Deliveries runs into is a fluctuating population. The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium has contract and traveling workers who might only be in Wrangell a short time, so tracking them down has proven to be complex.

"The biggest challenge, I would say, is not only trying to remember where the 2,000-plus residents live, but also trying to figure out where to deliver packages for new people that, for whatever reason, couldn't use a physical address for shipping."

Booker said Dixie has been able to use Facebook to track down quite a few people. It's normal to visit the company's page and see posts asking for people's whereabouts.

The majority of packages come via airfreight, he said. Items that would typically be delivered via UPS in other places are flown into Wrangell from Anchorage or Ketchikan by ACE Air Cargo, a contracted carrier for UPS.

A scant amount of packages are delivered via barge, so "99.9% of all our freight is airfreight," he said. Items such as pharmaceuticals are brought in via Alaska Airlines.

"Locations outside of the Railbelt and Southcentral Alaska have extra days of time in transit built into their delivery schedule," said Matt Skeen, communications manager for the west region of UPS. "For Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, there is one-plus day added time in transit. For Wrangell, there are two-plus days time in transit."

Skeen said ACE has the ability to move cargo on its behalf Monday through Saturday.

The post office will accept small packages from FedEx, which are brought to town by ACE, but larger packages need to be received at the company's office at the airport. Any items shipped out through FedEx, regardless of size, need to be taken to the ACE office.

Deliveries times are also subject to bad weather, mechanical issues and scheduling.

"Most often, when people's (tracking information) say they're 'out for delivery,' we have to wait, I'd say, two to seven days for it to get here to Wrangell," Booker said. "And there's no tracking update for that, so people here understand that means their stuff is stuck in Anchorage."

With the holidays on the horizon, Booker expects to be putting in more than his usual 40 to 50 hours per week. He said December can be hectic, with a 25% to 50% increase in volume during the month. "Around the holiday season is when it gets to be a little more difficult. So far, we've been fortunate enough to find help in our family and friends when we've needed it."

The Bookers have six children, with the oldest four ranging in ages 10 to 18, who like helping out.

"We have two delivery vans in operation, which makes staging deliveries and receiving freight at the same time possible. It sounds like a lot of work, and to be clear, it is," he said with a laugh.

To make deliveries easier and to help people get their packages as soon as possible, Booker urges residents to keep an updated address on file with C&D, especially if someone has recently moved.

"Sometimes when we are unaware that somebody has moved, we'll deliver their package to the old residence, which causes confusion," he said. "Try to send us a message on Facebook or leave a message on our office phone (with) the address change at (907) 874-4575. Otherwise, your packages may be a few days late getting to you."


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