A small UPS store in Ogdensburg, N.Y., located just an hour's drive south of Ottawa, has become one of the busiest such outlets in the United States thanks to a steady stream of Canadian mail order shoppers looking for a deal in shipping.
The Ogdensburg UPS outlet will receive and hold any package for a five-dollar fee, and Canadians are flocking to use its service.
But the crush of bargain hunters from Ottawa has added up to long lines and wait times of several hours for customers trying to claim packages.
"They’re just getting shipment upon shipment, and people are all over the place in there… scrambling around and trying to find little things," said Trevor Lach, who planned to head back to Ottawa after waiting four hours in line. "It’s total chaos in there, total chaos."
Michael Lira, the owner of the upstate New York UPS outlet, said he hired 22 extra staff just to handle the crush of Canadians.
"It’s unheard of as long as I’ve owned the store," Lira told CBC. "I’ve owned it since 2003 and never saw this kind of volume, and now we’re doing what we can to service people as fast as we can."
Since November, the Ogdensburg UPS has handled 23,000 packages and Lira estimates 99 per cent were for cross-border shoppers.
Lira said he plans to streamline operations, but likely won’t get the breathing space to implement these until next year.
Some come for just a few Christmas presents, but for others, like Nancy Whan, it’s a daily pilgrimage. The Ottawa businesswoman stocks shelves at her Rideau Centre novelty shop with mail order items.
To beat the lines, she’s gotten staff at the UPS outlet to put her boxes out back to collect.
"They know that I’m like 45 minutes away, and they know if they leave it outside, as long as it’s not raining or snowing, I’m here," she said.