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Do NOT Use USPS Calculator for Parcel DIM Weight Estimates

Do NOT Use USPS Calculator for Parcel DIM Weight Estimates

Sellers must now pay much more to ship large, lightweight packages due to a DIM Weight pricing change the USPS rolled out on June 23rd. But there’s one thing that is tripping up some sellers when they try to determine the cost of shipping such goods, and that’s the USPS’s own calculator on its website.

We heard from a reader who was shipping an item via Parcel Select in a box measuring 10″ x 10″ x 20″ inches and weighting 5 pounds. “The correct postage was $16.44, but eBay charged us and the customer $31.96.” He was aware of the DIM Weight pricing, but said he got the rate information from the USPS website.

Well, in this instance, both the reader and eBay were correct – sort of.

If you enter your box’s weight and dimensions on the USPS website, it will give you a rate for what it calls “USPS Retail Ground.” But some sellers are assuming that’s the equivalent of Parcel Select – it’s not. You can *not* mail a package via Parcel Select at your local post office!

If the seller brought his package to his local post office, the cost would be the price indicated on the USPS calculator (Retail Ground – no DIM Weight), but because he used eBay shipping labels, the cost was higher (Parcel Select – DIM Weight applied).

It’s easy to see why sellers may make that assumption. Online postage providers like Stamps.com and Pitney Bowes allow shippers to purchase USPS postage online – and not only that, they charge Commercial rates, which are almost always less expensive than USPS “retail” rates.

Some sellers may be tempted to use the USPS website to get a baseline estimate of postal rates for a particular shipment, but in this case – meaning Parcel Select boxes larger than a cubic foot (Length x Width x Height equaling over 1728 cubic inches) – that would be a mistake.

It’s a very rare instance of the USPS charging more for postage purchased online than in real life for virtually the same service.

So, to get this straight:

  • USPS Retail Ground is only available at retail Post Office locations; Parcel Select is a comparable service, but is only available when buying postage online.
  • If you are checking rates on the USPS website, it’s going to give you rates for Retail Ground, which does not charge DIM weight, so to get that rate, you would have to bring your box to the Post Office window.

Should you consider Priority Mail rather than Parcel Select? We would refer you back to the June article where Stamps.com’s Eric Nash offered examples of when you need to consider Parcel Select.

We’re grateful to the reader who shared his concerns about the postal rate discrepancy. Let us know if you’ve run into any other shipping anomalies with the June postal rate change.

Ina Steiner on EmailIna Steiner on LinkedinIna Steiner on Twitter
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). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.

2 thoughts on “Do NOT Use USPS Calculator for Parcel DIM Weight Estimates”

  1. Ok Ina.. Let’s get this all figured out.. I still haven’t printed the shipping label headed to OK City.. So what your telling me is I can offer my customer a cheaper shipping option (sometimes) with Retail Ground but I have to walk over to the post office. That’s fine. I’ll evaluate every large listing. But I’m wondering why none of my customers choose FedEx (once this year) when offered at a cheaper price. I still ship stuff FedEx when it’s cheaper anyway, but in the instance I posted on EKG the Retail Ground price was actually cheaper.. It’s red tape and it’s annoying. What eBay could do is just simply create code to offer the customer the best price slow mail or priority based on the packaging calculations for USPS.

  2. The best way to thwart inaccuracies in calculated shipping when it comes to DIM weight pricing is to simply enter the number of pounds you’re being charged for. Take the example given in the article, 10x10x20 at 5 pounds, the DIM weight pricing would be for 13 pounds (10x10x20 / 166 = 12.05). So, instead of entering package dimensions, just enter 13 pounds for the weight.

    This is what I do on sites that don’t have the option of entering package dimensions and it has always been accurate. If you’re required to enter package dimensions, you could just enter the dimensions for a smaller box that doesn’t require DIM weight pricing.

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