Friday, March 11, 2011

Post Office Shuffle

Maybe it's me, but it appears the friendly neighborhood postman has turned into a pusher.

If you don't go to the post office often, here are some words of warning. First of all, shipping costs have gone up, and like everyone, the p.o. is looking for more ways to make money. During every transaction, they'll ask you if you need extra services, like Delivery Confirmation or insurance, stamps, or a p.o. box.. For me, that's not the problem.

The bone I have to pick is they won't tell you ALL your shipping options. They conveniently omit the cheapest alternatives.

If you visit their online site, your immediate options are the most expensive - Express and Priority Mail. You have to navigate a bit further to discover there are other options. Thankfully, they added things like Media Mail and Parcel Post at the tail end of your rate search - until recently, you had to dig to find those rates, buried on some distant link at the bottom of the page.

Here is the link for the USPS Postal Rate Calculator. They have updated it, so it's a little easier to navigate.

If you go into the office, don't expect as much - they won't even tell you all your options UNLESS YOU KNOW TO ASK. A lady next to me was trying to ship internationally, and they told her she could only ship Express and Priority - which is incredibly expensive, nor was it necessarily true.

So, from me to you, here are your options - insist on them if you want them.


1. First Class Mail: Isn't just for envelopes - you can ship boxes too. The only caveat is the weight must be under 13 ounces, and the size cannot exceed 108 inches in length and girth. It's fast, and cheap. There are separate rates for flat envelopes and boxes, but either way, reasonable.

2. Parcel Post: Prices vary according to size, weight, and zone. Size matters here (haha). Packages over 12" in any direction cost more to ship even if they don't weigh much, so be aware of that.

3. Media Mail: Have a book or video you want to ship? Media Mail is very cheap, slow and there are restrictions, but if you're trying to ship a large, heavy tome, it's the way to go, because price is based on weight only. No-no's include flash drives, advertising and video game CDs or cartridges. Also, by sending something Media Mail, you consent to allow your package to be searched, so no cheating!

4. Priority and Express: These are the services the P.O. want you to use - you can compare the fancy page with the other pages... I've used Priority - hey, they give you the boxes for free - they'll even deliver a load of Priority supplies to your home, which is pretty cool. I think they work best for small heavy items, since they do have Flat Rate boxes - these boxes are in various sizes, and "if it fits, it ships." So, if you want to ship a lead brick or a carburetor to New York, Priority is definitely the way to go.


1. First Class International: Ship envelopes or packages up to 4 pounds. Very reasonable, and the USPS relationship with foreign countries means the recipient probably won't have to pay any additional fees or duties. Easy paperwork. Unfortunately, I don't believe you can insure this method of shipping, nor is there Delivery Confirmation (although, I've heard the P.O. offer it, you won't be able to actually confirm delivery, so that is a total waste of money). This link will break down costs to every country in the world. You have to scroll down to the bottom to find the First Class rates and restrictions.

2. Priority and Express: These are the services they push, so there is lots of info out there, so I won't go into them here.

I'm not saying never use the expensive methods, but it's good to know all your options. Happy shipping!

No comments: