USPS Price and Service Changes Impact eBay Sellers
By Ina Steiner
Online merchants face higher costs each January when shipping carriers raise rates, and this year, USPS changes are having a big impact on eBay and Amazon sellers in particular. EcommerceBytes explains what you should know about changes to Parcel Post changes and rate hikes rolling out this week.
Changes to Parcel Post
Along with higher rates that went into effect on January 27, 2013 (Sunday), the USPS renamed Parcel Post to Standard Post, which will only be available at retail locations. That means shippers must go to the Post Office to mail a Standard Post package. (In May we wrote about the politics of Parcel Post changes.)
A better alternative, however, is to use Parcel Select, a comparable replacement service, according to Lauren Vance from Endicia. Parcel Select has the exact same delivery standard as Parcel Post (now Standard Post), includes free tracking, and is less expensive for nearly all weights and zones less than 27 lbs, she said. And, it's already available for online purchasing. "So, even if online shippers could use Standard Post, they'd want to choose Parcel Select anyway and get the same delivery times for less," Vance said.
Beware of Parcel Select on eBay
eBay said active listings with Parcel Post would automatically be updated to the new comparable replacement service (Parcel Select). While eBay has the new Parcel Select service in its selling flow and shipping calculator, sellers won't be able to purchase Parcel Select service through eBay through its eBay Labels program until March. Which means sellers who select Parcel Select will have to bring their packages to the post office to purchase postage or else use another online postage service.
An eBay seller called the 2-month lag "absurd" and wrote, "I am sure there are literally millions of items on Ebay which offer Parcel Post....what a mess."
eBay sent an email to sellers who've used Parcel Post in the past informing them of the changes. In the letter, eBay reminded sellers who go to the post office or use an alternate online postage provider (i.e. Pitney Bowes, Endicia.com, Stamps.com, etc.) to be sure to upload tracking information within their stated handling time.
eBay sellers must add tracking information to My eBay within their stated handling time in order to meet Top Rated Seller requirements.
"If you would like to continue to take advantage of the convenience of eBay Labels until Parcel Select is added to the eBay Labels system, consider temporarily offering a similar service," it advised.
Some Confusion at the Postal Counter
It also appears some online sellers are getting mixed messages from postal clerks at their local post offices. A seller wrote, "I've been told by my Postal Service agents at my local PO that the USPS will only allow Priority and Express Mail to be purchased online with the upcoming rate change. That would be eliminating Media, 1st Class Package and Parcel Post from online purchasing. Has anyone else run across it? I find it very odd. That would cause obvious major repercussions."
Rafael Zimberoff, ShipRush Product Manager, said that was incorrect. "Some internal communication in the postal service is either inaccurate or open to misinterpretation," he said.
Richard Perry, VP of Business Development at ShipWorks, concurred, saying, "The only services that is going way from Online Postage is Parcel Post. It is being rebranded as Standard Post and will only be available at the PO counter. Anyone using Parcel Post in the past will have to use Parcel Select."
Eric Nash Director of Online Marketing for Stamps.com also agreed. "The local PO is probably referring to the Click-N-Ship program on usps.com where customers are only allowed to print Priority Mail or Express Mail. As long as a person has access to PC Postage (such as Stamps.com, Endicia, etc.), they will be able to print all mail classes."
Highlights of the USPS Changes
ShipWorks' Perry provided some highlights about the USPS changes published by Endicia and Stamps.com:
- Parcel Post has been renamed to Standard Post and will ONLY be available at retail locations
- Express Mail International Flat Rate Envelope weight limit has been reduced from 20 lbs to 4 lbs
- First-Class Mail International Parcel has been renamed First-Class Package International Service (FCPIS) and joins the Competitive mail class group
- Free Electronic Delivery Confirmation will be available for select packages and mail classes to select international locations
- Express Mail International now includes the first $200 of USPS insurance
- Priority Mail International shipments to Mexico join the "All other countries" pricing group
- Optional expedited delivery of USPS packaging is available for $2.50
- First-Class Mail one ounce stamp prices are increasing by one cent to $0.46
Higher International Rates and the Amazon Implications
Amazon sellers have a unique challenge when dealing with higher shipping costs. That's because while Amazon collects shipping costs from buyers, they only pass along a portion of that to sellers in the form of shipping credits.
As described in the EcommerceBytes Blog on Thursday, many media sellers were considering changing their listings to domestic sales only, as they would actually lose money on international orders for books and CDs thanks to a drastic increase in costs of mailing low-weight items internationally.
Eric Nash said First Class Package International Service (formerly First Class Mail International) "are definitely going to shock many sellers," and said, "As Amazon sellers have mentioned in the forum, without any increase in the shipping credit from Amazon, it can be tough to sell internationally for many items."
Amazon did raise shipping Shipping Credits for international packages over the weekend - but only in the books category. (See today's Newsflash story for details.)
Good News: Delivery Confirmation for First Class Mail International
Nash said there was some good news for online sellers this week impacting First Class Package International Service to Canada. "The USPS will be introducing free Delivery Confirmation (called free electronic USPS Delivery Confirmation International) starting on Monday to packages sent to Canada (only to Canada). Previously, this was not offered for First Class Mail Intl.," he said.
"The USPS also has 19 other countries they will be adding the free DC service in the future (hopefully in 2013). Plus, even with the rate increase, USPS First Class Package International Service still will be the cheapest option to ship overseas for ecommerce sellers."
Links to More Information about USPS Changes
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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