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Sun Mar 6 2016 21:23:13

Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

By: Ina Steiner

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Some sellers would be lost without the free Priority Mail boxes that the US Postal Service provides. Boxes and packaging material all add up, so free mailers are welcome.
But what's free to sellers costs the USPS - the agency's overseer said it cost the USPS $158 million for Express Mail and Priority Mail supplies in fiscal year 2010, and said that number rose to $192 million in fiscal year 2015.

The USPS Inspector General wondered recently if the strategy of providing certain boxes to mailers at no charge is sustainable, and we wondered how sellers would feel if there was an end to free boxes. 

"Free packaging differentiates the Postal Service from its competition," the OIG said. "However, because the supplies are free and readily available at all post offices, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes, such as shipping with competitors or using the labels for an art form known as graffiti slaps."

We've seen people sharing tips on how to use the boxes to make furniture, though the use of the labels as "graffiti slaps" is new to us.

Could the increasing cost ever prompt the USPS to start charging for PM boxes, even for flat rate boxes? Given the financial straights the agency finds itself in, it wouldn't be the most radical cost-cutting idea proposed.

A couple of online sellers weighed in by leaving comments - one noted that small eBay sellers reuse all of the boxes they receive other items in; another said large eBay and Amazon sellers abuse the system.

"However," the seller noted, "the USPS doesn't even accept reports about packaging abuse, so it is going to continue unchecked. I could document several moderately large sellers who have sent me multiple shipments and are consistently abusing the packaging. Why cannot I not report this somewhere so the USPS can take action?"

How would such a change impact your business? What would you tell the USPS and the OIG?



Comments (58) | Permalink

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Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Sun Mar 6 22:46:21 2016

We use a lot of priority mail boxes both flat rate and calculated. If we had to pay for them it would affect our bottom line for sure. Sounds like we had better start stocking up for a long winter. . .

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by: handmedownheaven This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 00:33:45 2016

In the event the post office eliminates these boxes, we would no long use the post office.  All sales we receive are shipped priority mail through the post office.  If I have to provide my own box to ship something equal to priority I look elsewhere

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by: cash4clothesbozeman This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 00:34:07 2016

This would be a disaster for me.  Paying a solar a box would. Most me 6k a year off the bottom line.  Remember when a priority box was 3.25. Maybe I have been doing it to long.

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by: alaska This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 00:35:54 2016

It would be a disaster to lose the free priority mail boxes. I know that a lot of people abuse the program. I was once in someone's garage in Texas and saw maybe 25 rolls of priority mail tape. I don't think that person shipped much of anything. I'm not surprised the PO took the free tape away.

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by: EssexEstateServices This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 00:38:17 2016

We pay the PO over $30,000 a year is postage fees. The least they can do is give us a few hundred in free boxes. I might even pay a little bit for them if they continue with free delivery of the supplies. They are not very strong so we do have additional cost of padding and protecting the contents.

Abuse? Who's making furniture out of boxes? IKEA? I'm sure that is not a significant amount of abuse.

Now, sporting goods? The postal workers have already found many ways to punt, kick and pass boxes around. There must be a field in the sorting centers that is for #4 and #7 box hockey!  

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by: val2525 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 01:11:25 2016

""Free packaging differentiates the Postal Service from its competition," the OIG said."

Wrong, OIG. FedEx and UPS both offer free shipping supplies as well. USPS offers free supplies for Priority and Express, and FedEx/UPS are direct competitors.

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by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 01:21:16 2016

I suspect that the cost of free boxes is one line in the compilation of expenses that go into the cost of delivering Priority Mail, and that every price increase includes a bit for that.  So the abuse of free boxes hurts USPS less than it does those of us who actually use them for Priority Mail.

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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 01:44:04 2016

Getting rid of the ridiculous pre-funding scheme would do a lot more good than limiting priority boxes, though I could guarantee - charging even one thin dime per box would pretty much end any abuse - abusers are generally also criminally cheap.

(BTW, there's a typo: It's not financial ''straights'', it's financial *straits*.)

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by: neilaz This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 01:44:50 2016

We users should start giving USPS some suggestions, for example: I use about 30 Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Boxes a month.I could easily submit previous months Tracking Numbers for next months supply of boxes as proof I'm using them legitimately.  

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by: SparklyEyes7 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 01:48:32 2016

They could still give free if they charged upfront and then gave you credit as you used them.

When I buy boxes, they ship them just plastic bands around them.

When I order from the USPS, they pack them in boxes, which adds additional costs.

One other thing they could do is stock all of their boxes locally.  I use a lot of Regional Rate boxes and have tons on hand because my local PO isn't allowed to carry them.

While I don't use the boxes for making furniture, I sure use it for storing inventory.

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by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 02:27:43 2016

I LOVE the free boxes but as someone who also ships a lot via UPS I also BUY a lot of boxes every year.
And I have to admit....USPS rates are SO much cheaper than the other carriers (at least for lightweight and not overly big stuff........that I've always been perplexed as to WHY they felt the need to GIVE AWAY all those boxes.
Honestly.....it's NOT like anyone would actually stop using the services because UPS and FedEx are DARNED sure not gonna lower their rates down to USPS level.
So like I say.....I LOVE the freebies!  But looking at it from a "business" point of view, it's REALLY dumb on their part.
Some of these people who're so used to only using the "free" boxes USPS hands out like candy would probably have a HEART ATTACK if they saw what it costs to actually have to BUY their boxes.  LOL  

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by: Xander This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 02:42:36 2016

I have no doubt the USPS includes the cost of boxes, labels and other so called ''free'' supplies into postage rates.
Everyone knows there's not such thing as ''Free'' anything these days and it would be nice if they started calling it what it really is: ''Costs included'' instead of free.

As with anything else good, there will always be a few who game the system and take advantage of getting materials without using the services but this has to be very small.

Supplies included is what brought us to the USPS so if these materials were discontinued, the value of using Priority mail would be downgraded and become a less desirable shipping option.

With all the rate increases the USPS has implemented this past five years, they might want to keep the shipping supplies coming without additional cost of risk more customers jump ship to other carriers.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: pfft!! This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 03:21:56 2016

The problem is they're NOT running at a profit.  And their rates are so low that those companies who ARE running at a profit can't even compete with them.
And again..........all these people saying if they stop giving out FREE boxes they'll STOP using them is bunk.  NOBODY will stop using them because they can't find anybody who'll ship that cheap.
Which brings me back to the point.  "From a BUSINESS standpoint there's really no reason they HAVE to GIVE AWAY $192 MILLION DOLLARS worth of product every year".
YOU love the free product.  I LOVE the free product too!  But from a business standpoint it's ridiculous.  

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by: tb This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 04:27:17 2016

Here's an idea... forget about the boxes and simply lower the Priority rates! Win-win. If you have to pay 50 cents for a box, but pay 75 cents less in postage, sign me up right away!

Another option. Link your usps.com account to whatever account you're using (Stamps.com, Endicia.com, eBay, etc) and keep track of what the person is using. UPS and FedEx already do that now. Try ordering a bunch of labels from FedEx and never using FedEx. The next time you go to order, you won't even see them as available for your account. The problem is USPS is not run like a business. They don't think.

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by: moreintheattic This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 05:11:09 2016

Up here in Canada, Canada Post has never given anything away for free.  They charge for those kinds of boxes and people pay for them.  You guys have been spoiled for decades with free shipping supplies.  We haven't had Saturday mail delivery in Canada since the early 70's.

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by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 05:16:00 2016

can the usps shoot itself in the foot any better?  the flatrate boxes and envelopes are about the only reason to use the usps for priority shipping.

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by: cvsharkey This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 05:43:37 2016

Wow--I learned all about graffiti slaps & not to be a toy today. Free envelopes & boxes? Nice while it lasts--but nothing (free) lasts forever.

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by: wanda This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 06:55:48 2016

Punish everyone for the abuses of a few?  Is that where we are heading?

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 07:23:17 2016

I'm going to start stocking up.  I need those boxes.

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 07:38:30 2016

Get a grip everybody. Paying some REASONABLE / NOMINAL FEE to buy Flat Rate Priority Boxes delivered to one's own house would be a GIFT on several levels. ONLY the FLAT RATE BOXES/Envelopes are FREE$ today. Others that the USPS offers DO COST and they are still DARN REASONABLY priced, too. I think anyone here "threatening/promising" to MOVE AWAY from USPS over the thought of "having to pay those Flat Rate Boxes" needs to take ten minutes the next time they ship using PAYPAL.  I'm a FAN of the PayPal shipping system and ONE HUGE benefit is that one is free to TEST the waters by switching to an entire RANGE of shipping services from FedEx and USPS. Right next door it can be $less to ship in REGULAR box vs. Flat Rate, but 400+ miles it can be HUGELY CHEAP to use the Flat Rate packaging. Then compare to FedEx GROUND and be prepared for your Jaw to DROP at how much more$$$ to ship that way. They also required DIMENSIONAL WEIGHT rating which can in some cases double or even triple the RATE at FedEx.

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