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No Hue and Cry as USPS Effectively Eliminates Mailing Tubes for Many

USPS Mailing Tubes
No Hue and Cry as USPS Effectively Eliminates Mailing Tubes for Many

In a small corner of the ecommerce world, some sellers have been sounding the alarm over the USPS decision to price mailing tubes and other long packages out of the market. The move shows a new approach the USPS is taking that has broader implications for the shipping industry.

In 2021, online sellers began reporting significant problems with mailing tubes shipped via USPS. One small seller who sold movie posters on eBay surmised it signified a change in the USPS sorting processes, telling EcommerceBytes in July the USPS had become “constantly unreliable in delivering tubes on time or without incredible delays.”

Another merchant who sells movie posters on eBay and runs the multi-million-dollar business eMoviePoster.com told EcommerceBytes last year he was also seeing delays as well as a tenfold increase in damage to his posters shipped via USPS.

Rather than finding a solution to processing the awkward-sized packages, the Postal Service under the helm of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy appears to have taken a more “corporate” approach to the problem – raise rates to the point of making them unprofitable for many shippers, thus reducing the number of them entering the mail stream.

The “nonstandard” fees added to regular postage costs go into effect on Sunday (April 3) and apply to packages that are longer than 22 inches:

Length greater than 22 inches: $4
Length greater than 30 inches: $15
Cube greater than 2 cubic feet: $15

“I will soon take down all my single golf clubs,” an eBay seller named Harry told EcommerceBytes on Thursday. “Putters and wedges will fit in an unaltered 38″ Priority Box, but nobody is going to pay $15 more on April 3 because the box is longer than 30″ except for the most valuable clubs.” He planned to end many of his eBay listings today and turn to the occasional local flea market instead.

Another seller who sells plants on her own website and on Amazon told us on Thursday that the new surcharges would nearly put her out of business, as the majority of her plants are large.

Sellers in many categories are affected – a seller of fishing poles said even 2-piece rods measure between 33 – 36 inches before boxing but said it would affect many other items as well, including baseball bats and windshield wipers.

“I sell hundreds of everyday fishing rods, average $10-$20 a piece per year,” the seller told us on Saturday, half of which go into USPS triangle boxes and the other into custom boxes.

The seller shopped around for rates for the recent sale of a 6-foot fishing rod going four states away and found USPS would currently cost $8.24. By comparison, UPS Ground would cost $20.15, while FedEx Home would cost $39.38.

“So as of today, UPS and FedEx are way more, that’s why I don’t use them,” the seller said. “Plus they won’t pick up at my home, so that’s a 14 mile one way drive to a drop off point, added gas as it is UGH. Plus from what I’ve read, they both can add the “extra mile” fee without notice and I wouldn’t know until I get the bill. So you can see when you add the $15 surcharge, USPS shipping jumps to $23.24.” (We did not verify the rates the seller cited.)

The USPS first buried news of the new fees in its November 2021 announcement of new January 2022 rates. We reported on the surcharges in November in “Mailing Long Skinny Items Like Posters Is a No-Go in 2022,” where we suspect many in the shipping industry first read about them. By December 3rd, the USPS announced a delay in implementing the new surcharges

“This brief delay is intended to provide the industry with additional time to plan and adjust for these changes,” it informed the Postal Regulatory Commission, “and aligns with our intent to be judicious in our pricing decisions and responsive to the needs of our customers.”

The USPS had made a point of stating in its November announcement that the January rate increase was an average “3.1% increase for Priority Mail service” and wrote, “Unlike some other shippers, the Postal Service does not add surcharges for residential delivery or regular Saturday delivery.” Yet it failed to point out it was adding steep new surcharges for nonstandard packages. (The USPS is also adding a $1.50 surcharge when shippers incorrectly enter the dimensions of their package.)

What’s surprising is how quiet online marketplaces have been about the new surcharge fees. They may get a rude awakening as sellers find a host of items they can no longer profitably sell on their platforms.

The question they may want to ask is, what’s next on the list of pesky packages the USPS no longer wants to handle?

Enjoy the following YouTube video from 2015 on shipping plants in small mailing tubes:

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/.

25 thoughts on “No Hue and Cry as USPS Effectively Eliminates Mailing Tubes for Many”

  1. I have dozens of original one-sheet movie posters from my years in the Biz…guess I can just Plaster Them To My Ceilings now!
    Thanks for Nothing, USPS! Oh, but, Enjoy your expensive New Trucks!

  2. FYI, this evening, a seller responding to this article wrote to us:

    “I just keyed in an order on Ebay using their shipping and selecting the ship date of April 4th, Monday. It appears that Ebay’s calculators are reflecting the new postage increase due to my package size.

    “To ship tomorrow is $8.73. To ship on the 4th the cost is $23.72.”

  3. There will also be a $15 surcharge for boxes bigger than 2 cubic feet. I uses boxes for dinner plates that are 16 X 16 X 16. These boxes will get a surcharge of $15. If I could use 15 X 15 X15 then there is no surcharge. This will drive up costs for the buyers and will reduce sales for eBay and myself. I will note that as these shipping cost go up I end paying more in fees to eBay. Why does eBay get rewarded for things that hurt my business. Another issue is that combined shipping for stemware or dinnerware can force me to use a box that will have the $15 surcharge. Ebays combined shipping calculator seems to just add together weight but not take into account size of box. It will be interesting.

    1. Excellent point about the impact on selling fees on eBay and Etsy.

      eBay charges 12.9% final value fee in most categories, so the fees on just those USPS surcharges are as follows:
      $4 x 12.9% = $0.52 extra to eBay
      $15 x 12.9% = $1.94 extra to eBay

      Etsy is raising transaction fees to 6.5, so the fees on just those USPS surcharges are as follows:
      $4 x 6.5% = $0.26 extra to Etsy
      $15 x 6.5% – $0.98 extra to Etsy.

      That’s assuming buyers are willing to pay an EXTRA $4 – $15 for shipping.

      1. I’m not sure how Etsy does it, but it could actually be even worse than that on eBay. Some states charge sales tax on shipping, and eBay charges fees on sales tax. So, whether you charge shipping separately or bundle it into the price and offer “free” shipping, eBay’s going to tax the tax. Then there’s also always the potential of the extra 1.65% international fee (I only ship within the U.S., but I still get hit with it occasionally when an international buyer has a U.S. shipping address). So, the absolute worst case scenario (which, I am the first to admit, won’t come up very often in practice), is an extra $2.32 in eBay fees on the $15 surcharge – and that’s with my store discount figured in. It’s even more than that for those without a store (like in your example). And remember, when you raise your prices, fees are assessed on that amount too, so a cost increase of $17.32 ($15 surcharge + $2.32 eBay fee) warrants a price increase of a bit more than that amount just to break even. I raised my eBay prices by $20.10 for those items that will get hit with the higher surcharge (and a whopping $40.20 for the one and only item I have that will get hit with BOTH $15 surcharges – $30 total!).

  4. I suspect this is a way for Postmaster De Joy to give something to his “buddies” at UPS and FedX. So USPS equipment has problems handling large packages after all the recent planning and upgrading; yet UPS and Fedx equipment can. More seller’s will try UPS and FedX and find they are not so bad or not a lot more expensive now. Maybe all those new trucks will only be 3/4 full now.

  5. Not to mention when you use ebay labels, they are not giving a discount on the surcharges like they do on the shipping cost.
    I’m getting ready to pull $2500 worth of fishing rods from sales this morning, money ebay and the USPS will not see again($28-30K per year). Its not even my busy season yet, which won’t happen because I wont’ be buying or listing anymore rods.
    As far as UPS, they charge $20-$40 PER week for business pick up if you spend at least $75 a week on shipping, higher if you don’t. My fishing rods are too long for drop off spots so have to go to their store 14 miles away. AND I kid you not, while on the phone getting their quote, I was listening to a rooster crowing in the back ground.
    USPS just doesn’t get the hardship they caused for the small sellers. I’ll have to see how sales go the rest of year and if my business can survive the 50% cut of inventory.

  6. No hue and cry? Wait til a gazillion club sellers who offer free shipping and are unaware see their rates today and tomorrow.
    This is TOTAL insanity. They just gave million$ in business to Fedex & UPS.
    I just canceled all my club listings til I regroup.
    ebay will be LOSE money on this “deal”.

    1. I pulled 185 fishing rods Saturday morning. A couple of us discussed how busy the boards are going to get this week from sellers that didn’t see the shipping change.

  7. You wanna see chaos? Imagine how many bids were placed prior to April 3rd on lower priced clubs where the margin is not substantial…and the seller is unaware of the coming charge.

  8. 99% of single packaged clubs are 35″ to 48″ and weigh 2 lbs.
    2 lbs to Canada is $42 before discount…add $15 and say good-bye to Canada.

  9. It’s not as bad as I thought. Fedex Home Delivery is only a couple $ more than the old USPS rate for over 30″ and the office is only a couple miles from me. Buyers will have to wait a bit longer to get their stuff. Now the big challenge is getting boxes for golf clubs, as USPS triangular Priority Medium boxes were/are “free”. They are designed poorly with tabs sticking out that can cut you or get stuck in a machine. What did the USPS have against using tape? Their shoe boxes and some others require tape.

    1. If you find a decent source of non USPS shipping tubes, let us know…..I would gladly ship hiking/ski poles via UPS, but I could not find an affordable alternative to the free Priority Mail tubes that the PO provided. But I am not going to pay $5 or $6 or more for a box….just not worth it.

  10. We sell rolls of gift wrap and am in the same boat, ended our listings and waiting to see what the next step can be….maybe liquidate locally……in the mean time those orders will likely go to AZ now since they have their own delivery network. One must wonder if this is planned by design to continue to consolidate industries.

  11. I have just raised the Priority Mail shipping charges for the three listings I have of Leki Cross Country ski poles and hiking poles from $12.95 to $25.00 to reflect this surcharge. I will eat the extra $2.95 but I think that $25 is about as high as I can go on shipping for items that usually range in price from $30-$50.

    It is indeed regrettable that the Post Office does not want to deal with long tubes. I have not had any problems with shipping these tubes – the Post Office has delivered them in a fairly timely manner. I understand that they may be a hassle for the PO to deliver, but there are lots of us ebay sellers of hiking/ski poles, fishing rods, posters etc. You would think that the brainiacs at the USPS might try to accommodate us sellers instead of driving down this shipping category.

  12. So, the seller says
    “So as of today, UPS and FedEx are way more, that’s why I don’t use them,” the seller said. “Plus they won’t pick up at my home, so that’s a 14 mile one way drive to a drop off point, added gas as it is UGH. Plus from what I’ve read, they both can add the “extra mile” fee without notice and I wouldn’t know until I get the bill. So you can see when you add the $15 surcharge, USPS shipping jumps to $23.24.”

    This quote contains a few inaccrate statements. UPS and FedEx will most certainly pickup at your home or business. If it is not an overnight or 2nd day package, there is a charge. Also, there are no “surprise” extra mile fees added into UPS. My bill for picking up my packages is the same, it never changes. The actual cost to ship a packages is determined at the time I purchase the shipping label. It is pretty consistant.

    I ship tubes and cubes from 26 inches in length to 38″ in length. I use UPS and have been since the beginning of the 2021 Christmas rush. USPS was destoying 30% of my packages that were shipped in their triangle Priority Mail Tubes. When I switched over to UPS, I rarely get damaged shipments.

    For online sellers, there is an easy fix. Use UPS ground, it takes the same amount of time as Priority Mail (I have not had a Priority Mail package delivered in under 7 days since Dec 2021). No surcharges. Tell your customers that use a PO Box, to use the street address of the PO box instead. Then UPS will deliver the package to the post office for you.

    This removes the pay raise that Etsy and other online marketplaces get with the new surcharge. I clearly state in my listing, that I only ship UPS. Because I use a flat shipping rate, the new surcharges will not automatically apply to me.

    1. I made that comment, let me revise, UPS does pick up packages but charges $40 PER week as long as it adds up to over $75 worth of packages. While I was getting the info from UPS there was an actual rooster crowing in the back ground and someone who barely spook English.
      A package today measuring 48x4x4, from MO to NC using ebay’s label:

    2. Just wondering where you get your tubes. I will gladly switch to ups, as i find their prices much more attractive, especially on packages weighing more than 2 pounds. But i can’t seem to find reasonably priced shipping tubes.

      1. I used square tubes but in the last year they’ve tripled, they have gone down a little bit in the last couple months. I did some research, UPS jumps to $21 when you go up to 49″ long, USPS stays the same up to 7′ long

  13. I don’t know why everyone is panic deleting their listings Just add the extra costs and see if people still buy. It’s not like they’ll get lesser costs elsewhere and if they do USPS will have to lower their charges/fees.

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