|Sun Aug 29 2010 20:46:06|
Online Sellers: Beware the Shrinking Postage Label
By: Ina Steiner
| Online sellers live and die by shipping, and the ability to print postage labels online has been a real benefit especially for small retailers and marketplace sellers. Often, however, sellers must choose between practices that can save them money with those that ensure their packages arrive safely in the hands of their customers. |
One such issue came up recently in the comments section of the AuctionBytes Blog that I thought was worth exploring.
A seller wrote that she doesn't print labels from PayPal because her packages were too small for the label to fit. Another person said no problem, just reduce the size when printing. A third seller said shrinking postage labels was not recommended because the size of the bar codes were standardized.
I decided to get to the bottom of the question, Can You Reduce the Size of a USPS Shipping Label to Fit on a Small Package?
Dave Lewin, Public Relations Representative for the U.S. Postal Service, provided the official response:
"Customers generating shipping labels through PC Postage or other computer-generated sources are advised that attempting to reduce the size of shipping labels below the intended size when printing could make the mailpiece unreadable by automation equipment and Postal Service personnel.
"Placing a mailing label on smaller packaging that has been reduced below its intended size may create distortions resulting in processing errors, unreadable barcodes and other readability issues."
I also checked in with Rafael Zimberoff, ShipRush Product Manager, as he is one of the most well informed people I know when it comes to shipping questions for USPS and other carriers as well.
Rafael said there are two approaches that sellers use, but only one is recommended.
1) Put the small box in a larger box or envelope (or padded envelope) to accommodate the 4x6 label.
2) Print the shipping label using some kind of "scaling" to shrink the printed label so that it will fit on the 3" x 4" box.
But, he said, number two breaks the rules with ALL the shipping carriers. "You are asking for trouble. Don't do it. (And if you ever have a lost package, or get in trouble for doing it, I told you so!)"
"Because the bar code size is carefully designed to be the SMALLEST that the automated equipment can reliably scan. Note that even the text on the label is REQUIRED to be the size it is, as the Postal Service has automated scanning equipment that actually reads the text on the label."
According to Rafael, mess with those labels at your own risk - use solution number one, and never shrink the postage label.
Unfortunately, using a larger box or envelope incurs higher costs. Shipping costs have risen dramatically since the early days of ecommerce, while at the same time merchants face increasing pressure to offer free shipping (eBay just raised the stakes, as we reported last week). So some sellers will use old fashioned postage stamps for small packages, costing them time, while others may continue to shrink postage labels, risking non-delivery of their small packages.
Saving money on shipping is always a good topic of conversation - let us know if you have tips to share with your colleagues, or if you have questions you'd like to see answered.
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