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Sellers Deal with USPS Online Postage Crackdown

USPS United States Postal Service

USPS United States Postal ServiceFive months after the USPS implemented a new practice to verify postage for packages paid online, sellers have been feeling the impact. Reports of “USPS label cost adjustment” have not been as widespread as some sellers may have feared, however.

On August 1st, the US Postal Service rolled out the Automated Package Verification System (APV), which verifies shippers have paid the correct amount for postage purchased online. If found to be incorrect, the USPS then bills the shipper (or their postage vendor) if postage is due. Likewise, it compensates shippers for over-payments as well. You can read details in this July 20th post.

While there hasn’t been an outpouring from sellers impacted by the new system, there have been some cases reported. One reader recently wrote: “I received my first “USPS label cost adjustment” of (redacted) on PayPal today. I know I weighed and measured this package correctly. I contested it on PayPal (against eBay shipping). Do any other sellers have issues or tips for this? I don’t want to see a trend in “cost adjustments.””

There are various reasons why the USPS may find a seller has underpaid. When a seller turned to the eBay boards in September to ask about a PayPal payment for $13 called “USPS label cost adjustment,” saying he didn’t know what it was, a colleague responded:

“Have you possibly mailed anything out that did not have enough postage? Something in the wrong class? Maybe a 1st class label on a Priority box? 1st class postage on an item too heavy for 1st class? Something by “media mail” that did not qualify as “media mail”?

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“This may be the 1st documented case of the new USPS “postage verification” where USPS charges the sender for “postage due” items.”

In another thread on the eBay boards two months later, a seller who prints shipping labels through eBay using PayPal was perplexed when he said he saw a message on the Manage Shipping Label page that read, “Some of your shipping labels have cost adjustments,” but could not see any adjustments on eBay or PayPal.

A user accused of being snippy in their initial response to the seller claimed to be a postal carrier who had had to collect postage due from recipients on their route: “I am the one that for the past 16 years have had to go to the door and collect Postage Due for short paid postage. I have had to explain why it is short paid, wait for them to find the money, often standing in the blazing sun, pouring rain, or freezing wind. I have also been the one that they take their frustrations out on when a seller “makes a mistake”.”

One of the examples cited was an extreme case where a shipper had paid flat rate postage for a non-flat rate box – specifically, a 23-pound Priority Mail “Shoebox” size box incorrectly sporting a “Small Flat Rate Box” postage label.

Some sellers may like the idea of APV, since it avoids annoying buyers since in theory they shouldn’t have to pay for overdue postage or see delays in cases where the Postal Service returns a package to the seller.

Several industry players were unwilling to go on the record, but one expert told us there have been reports of some cases of packages being returned for postage due instead of being delivered on time with the APV coming into play.

Let us know what you’ve experienced as frequent shippers – weigh in on today’s AuctionBytes Blog post.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
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 ina@ecommercebytes.com.

One thought on “Sellers Deal with USPS Online Postage Crackdown”

  1. pffft. I have overpaid on many packages and have YET to get a adjustment back. I am sure if I ever UNDERPAID they would be sure to tag me.

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