EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 170 - July 09, 2006 - ISSN 1528-6703     4 of 8

More Reasons for US eBay Sellers to Love the Postal Service

By Yisroel (Izzy) Goodman

Email This Story to a Friend

Have you avoided using online postage services because of their monthly fees? Expanded offerings from the U.S. Postal Service make it a viable way to print postage from your own computer.

The Post Office has come a long way in the past century. There was a time your letter going to the opposite coast was first shipped by rail, then loaded onto saddlebags, where Pony Express riders braved storms and bandits to finally deliver your missive months later, weather-beaten and barely legible. It's no wonder Sears and Roebuck's first attempt to create a version of eBay in 1902 failed when the first bids came in a month after the auction closed. It took about three months to get a response to the "ask the seller a question." Buy-it-now was not just a good idea, but a matter of necessity. What did the customer pay to have their letter go on that month-long trip? One cent. The Post Office has come a long way. Today they charge 39 cents.

People love the Postal Service. Mostly they love to trash it. Complaints of lost mail and misdirected mail abound amid ever-increasing rates. (First class postage will probably rise to 42 cents by year-end, and you can expect priority mail and similar services to rise as well.) But for every complaint of a lost letter there are probably over a million that make it to the destination safely and with amazing efficiency. My personal experience is that in several years and thousands of packages shipped, only two were ever reported lost and one of those was going overseas.

That's a pretty good track record. I haven't had anywhere near that luck with UPS, which managed to misplace two 17 inch monitors for about two months and leave an expensive digital camera in plain view on a customer's doorstep from where it was stolen, among numerous other misdeliveries. That's why I ship by USPS almost exclusively and don't even insure my packages unless the customer insists.

While many people complain that rising prices usually accompany a decline in service, USPS is expanding their services. For a long time savvy online auctioneers knew that you could order priority shipping supplies for free, including labels, tape, and boxes. Many also knew that online delivery confirmation was free for priority mail and only 13 cents for first class. Philatelists knew you could order stamps online and pay only a one-dollar service charge over the face value, regardless of the size of the order. But people still pay extra for services like Endicia and Stamps.com because it allows them to print their shipping labels with delivery confirmation and postage, create a mailing list for repeat customers, automatically email customers when packages are shipped, and track the shipments.

Now these services are available for free from USPS. You can print labels with free delivery confirmation, track shipments, and have recipients automatically notified via email about the status of the package. If you create an account online (which takes about a minute), you can print labels with postage and build a mailing list. (Without an account, you can't build a mailing list and have to affix postage.) You can schedule free pickup of your packages. And at eBay Live earlier this month, the postmaster general announced the USPS will begin allowing batch printing of postage labels on eBay starting in the fall.

Best of all, with or without an account, you pay only the postage. There are no additional fees, monthly or annual. The URL is (https://sss-web.usps.com/cns/enterLabelInfo.do?landing=true&countryID=1) or (https://sss-web.usps.com/cns/landing.do).

How efficient is this service? I printed labels for two packages on Sunday, each going to a different neighboring state. The packages were picked up on Monday and delivered on Tuesday. My customers and I all received email notifications of the pickup and the delivery.

Online postage services offer advanced features but aren't necessary for everyone. So do your homework before choosing which service is right for you. You may be pleasantly surprised by what the Postal Service has to offer.

 

USPS

Endicia

Stamps.com

Monthly fee

Click and Ship: free (No first-class or media-mail, see note D below for other restrictions)

Basic: $9.95

Premium: $15.95

Pro: $34.95

Pro: $15.99

Premiere: $24.99

Electronic labels (a)

entered one at a time, full page only

batch printing. Can be imported from other programs. Many templates available

batch printing. Can be imported from other programs. Many templates available

online delivery confirmation lookup (b)

one package at a time

full history available

one package at a time

mailing list database (c)

3,000 entries which are saved as you manually enter them

interfaces with other database programs

premium and pro interface directly with over 40 auction management programs and even your custom applications (10)

interfaces with other database programs

Netstamps (d) no

yes

yes

stealth postage (e)

no

Basic: no

Premium: yes

Pro: yes

yes
works with first class, media mail, foreign shipments no yes yes
insurance options and discounts (f) no yes yes

Notes:

a The ability to print your shipping labels online or via a program - USPS only gives you a choice of one full-page label which must be manually entered one at a time. The other programs let you import from other programs, batch print, and create your own formats in various sizes

b With Click and Ship and stamps.com, you have to check delivery status one package at a time. Endicia produces reports on paper and online which show you delivery status of all your packages. You can look up Endicia status over the Internet from any computer even if the application is not installed.

c With Click and Ship, you can save the entry after you enter it, for re-use later. The others interface with a variety of third-party databases.

d Stamps - USPS can only print domestic priority and express mail or Global Express Mail, Global Priority Mail, Global Air Parcel Post, and Global Express Guaranteed for specific packages, one at a time. It can’t do media mail, first class, International Airmail Letter, International Postcard, International Aerogramme, International Economy Letter, or International Economy Parcel.

With the others you can also print postage stamps which can be used at any time. For an additional fee you can even print stamps with your own company logo or photo. You can also mailmerge and bulk-print directly on envelopes. Printing stamps requires special labels which cost 3.95 for 125 and less with bulk purchase.

e Produces labels with the postage amount hidden. Many sellers charge a shipping and handling fee which covers more than just the postage. Some customers complain about extra charges. With this option, they can’t see exactly what was paid.

f USPS only insures with USPS, which is expensive and can be difficult to deal with. Stamps.com lets you Insure with usps or stamps.com. Stamps.com offers a 10% discount over USPS. Endicia has its own brand of insurance which is actually Upic and is 65% less expensive

More Information
All these programs allow you to print postage online, including free delivery confirmation for priority packages, and all allow refunds for labels that were misprinted or not used. All will email shipping info to the recipient if requested.

USPS packages must be entered one by one off a web site, with a lot of clicking through pages. Endicia and Stamps.com allow bulk-printing from a program, with pre-defined database and importing from other databases.

With USPS every package, or every daily batch is a charge on the card. With Endicia and Stamps.com, you pre-pay shipping so you can have one charge for the entire month with an invoice showing the breakdown

Stamps.com

  • Free $25 postage, sample pack of assorted labels, and 5 lb. scale with registration.
  • Print COD, Certified, and return receipt labels. Print Fedex labels.

Endicia

  • Endicia interfaces with over 40 auction management programs and even custom applications. From the application you can call a function which prints the label via Endician and then continues with the application
  • Endicia prints custom forms and has a walk-thru of the destinations, rates, and instructions for foreign packages.
  • Endicia allows you to look up your packages online even if the computer does not have the application installed.

Endicia Pro version has these features:

  • Bulk acceptance scan - a master bar code is generated which is tied to the whole day’s shipments. USPS scans this code and all the packages are marked as accepted by the Post Office.
  • ODBC links to your database - you define a key, then enter it into the program. Endicia will use this key to look up all matching packages, fill in the postage amount, print the labels and even feed the shipping cost information back into your program.
  • Download list manager - Endicia will download your shipping list from Amazon, Paypal, etcThen you can assign weights and mail classes to the list based on your business rules. Endicia will then bulk-print your labels, calculating postage based on your criteria. This sound great for a high volume shipper.


About the author:

Yisroel (Izzy) Goodman owns Complete Computer Services Inc. and sells electronics and ink cartridges online. His Web site http://www.ccs-digital.com contains articles about creating web sites, using HTML and ASP, obtaining a merchant account, payment service ratings, and avoiding fraud. His informed opinions are based on his own experience and from reading about others' experiences with payment services as well as discussions with users, representatives of the services and experts in the field. (Note: He is not affiliated in any way, directly or indirectly, with any payment service.) He can be reached by email at izy@ygoodman.com.


You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to EcommerceBytes.com and either link to the original article or to www.EcommerceBytes.com.
All other use is prohibited.