USPS – Gouging for Money

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Have you heard about the new USPS regulation that it is not permissible to mail any stamped envelope weighing in excess of 13 oz.?  Did  you know that you cannot simply use USPS’s Click N Ship to print out a Priority Mail postage paid label and drop it into one of the blue collection boxes?  Did you know that these rules are magically waived if you use stamps.com, the official third party postage site of the USPS?

The common denominator here is that unless you want to pay the stamps.com $15.99 monthly usage surcharge, you are required to hoof it to the post office to mail anything over 13 oz.  Sure, you can hand it to your mailperson…but for most of us, it means a trip to the local postal zone.

So where am I going with this? 

With the economy down and the USPS losing lots of business over eBills and alternate carriers for eCommerce, they are wanting to get as much money as they can.  As such, forcing consumers to go to the post office to mail just about anything gives the USPS customer interaction clerks a good opening to try and gouge customers for unnecessary or overpriced services.

For example, let’s say you have a small package to mail.  It weighs 1 lb. 13 oz.  It contains 2 DVDs and a book.  You initially go to USPS.com and try to estimate the postage.   USPS.com gives you postage options for Priority and Express mail.  You find that the cheapest would be $4.80, but that is for a “Small Flat Rate Box.”  After more research, you find that your book won’t fit into a “Small Flat Rate Box”, so you notice that it will fit into a “Medium Flat Rate Box”.  That bumps the postage cost up to $9.85, without tracking or insurance services tacked on.  At this point, most people would probably opt to mail the package via Priority Mail and pay the $9.85 plus free delivery confirmation.  Or they might even go to the post office and have the clerk tell them that they can send it Priority or Express Mail.   First Class Mail is no longer an option since you can only send up to 13 oz. these days.  You might think you can send it “Parcel Post” a little cheaper, but the cost of that option is $8.28. 

What most people don’t know is that you have another option.  Media Mail.  The USPS defines Media Mail as:

Media Mail® service is a cost efficient way to mail books, sound recordings, recorded video tapes, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail can not contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books. The maximum weight for Media Mail is 70 lbs.

There are presorted rates available for bulk quantities of Media Mail (minimum quantity is 300 pieces).  A barcode discount is available for Media Mail.  Rates are based on weight and size.

The same 1 lb. 13 oz. parcel sent via Media Mail costs $2.96.  Now what the USPS is going to do is try to scare you by telling you that it may take 10-15 days for your “Media Mail” item to reach its destination.  But that all depends on where the package is going.  For example, a package going from Orlando to Atlanta via Media Mail might take 3-5 days, whereas a package from Orlando, FL to Diamond Bar, CA might take 10-15 days.  Don’t forget about Media Mail…it is a great way to save some dough.

Another little secret for frequent shippers is to download and install the USPS Shipping Assistant, currently at version 3.6.  Just google it.  That little application allows you to calculate and print postage, and it even integrated with certain USB enabled postal scales.  It really takes the guesswork out…and allows you to get a firm grasp on what it will cost to send an item using the various options.

Overall, be warned…USPS needs to make money too.  By overselling the premium services, they may give the impression that you have to use these premium services to “ensure delivery” of your stuff.  USPS clerks will not tell you about Parcel Post and Media Mail options unless you ask, or in some cases, demand that service.  Just rest assured that 99% of the time, your items will reach their destinations regardless of the service type…it all depends on whether you are in a hurry, or if you would rather save some money.

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