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Sun Mar 6 2016 21:23:13

Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

By: Ina Steiner

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Some sellers would be lost without the free Priority Mail boxes that the US Postal Service provides. Boxes and packaging material all add up, so free mailers are welcome.
But what's free to sellers costs the USPS - the agency's overseer said it cost the USPS $158 million for Express Mail and Priority Mail supplies in fiscal year 2010, and said that number rose to $192 million in fiscal year 2015.

The USPS Inspector General wondered recently if the strategy of providing certain boxes to mailers at no charge is sustainable, and we wondered how sellers would feel if there was an end to free boxes. 

"Free packaging differentiates the Postal Service from its competition," the OIG said. "However, because the supplies are free and readily available at all post offices, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes, such as shipping with competitors or using the labels for an art form known as graffiti slaps."

We've seen people sharing tips on how to use the boxes to make furniture, though the use of the labels as "graffiti slaps" is new to us.

Could the increasing cost ever prompt the USPS to start charging for PM boxes, even for flat rate boxes? Given the financial straights the agency finds itself in, it wouldn't be the most radical cost-cutting idea proposed.

A couple of online sellers weighed in by leaving comments - one noted that small eBay sellers reuse all of the boxes they receive other items in; another said large eBay and Amazon sellers abuse the system.

"However," the seller noted, "the USPS doesn't even accept reports about packaging abuse, so it is going to continue unchecked. I could document several moderately large sellers who have sent me multiple shipments and are consistently abusing the packaging. Why cannot I not report this somewhere so the USPS can take action?"

How would such a change impact your business? What would you tell the USPS and the OIG?

Comments (58) | Leave Comment | Permalink
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Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: GotToGetOut This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 08:58:13 2016

@pfft -- I used to always think low weight USPS shipping was much less expensive but now I'm finding the opposite. I can send a Fedex Smart Post package that is 2 lbs. to many places for $6 and change AND they give $100 in insurance AND reimburse for the original postage if damaged. I have now switched over to 50% of my orders going via Fedex Smart Post (which is shared shipping from the post office and UPS and does usually take a few days longer than priority mail). Check it out! Always compare the shipping cost before shipping. I am saving $1 - $3 a package. Since I live 1/2 mile from a UPS/Fedex store where I just drop off the packages, it is not a major inconvenience for me to drop off a package there every day rather than having it picked up by the post office. For others who don't have that convenience, the lower price may not be worth it.

As far as paying for boxes, I don't worry about that. I'd just continue to go to my town's recycling center that has a trailer load of mailing boxes at all times and I can get all the boxes I want in all kinds of sizes, including Amazon boxes in all sizes and they also save bags of peanuts and bubble wrap for me. The best of all worlds -- recycle, recycle, recycle! Of course, I sell china so using these recycled mailing products would never cause a problem since the china/crystal/silverware has to be washed before use anyway. Happy shipping!

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by: JoanR This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 09:06:13 2016

Being charged for the Priority Mail boxes would be a hardship for our small business and in our view would be unfair.  We order boxes thru Endicia our online USPS postage source.  We pay a monthly fee to Endicia to use their online USPS shipping services which provides a printed shipping label with postage.  

If free boxes were available only thru an online postage source we doubt the abuse would continue.

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by: sanddogg This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 10:08:23 2016

I remember seeing the wife of a Postal Employee who was doing an estate sale and helping some old lady move out. This lady had a huge pile of priority boxes and was taping them together with rolls and rolls of Priority tape standing by. I think like many corporate abuses, some of said abuse is 'in house'

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by: a_c_green This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 10:47:16 2016

@angryllama: No, Priority Mail (and similar) boxes are free to order on the USPS website, and shipped to you for free (via Parcel :-). The sole exception to that is the pre-paid mailer assortment, where you're paying for the postage up front.

The Flat Rate boxes are also available for free at most post offices. I see some non-Flat Rate boxes available at a few post offices, including my own local PO, but you really need to go on-line to the USPS website to find the full selection:

https://store.usps.com/store/browse/subcategory.jsp?categoryId
=free-shipping-supplies&categoryNavIds=shipping-supplies%3Afree-shipping-supplies

Only
the retail ''ReadyPost'' packaging has a price for purchase; the Priority stuff (with the exception of pre-paid mailers) is all free.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: Junkyardog This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 10:47:27 2016

What goes around comes around. USPS theft from denied insurance claims adds to the abuse of free boxes.
Don't get mad, get even.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: gizmo This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 11:24:14 2016

No free priority supplys , no usps as a shipping service. They are barely worth it now. You cannot give things away , then keep taking them away 1 by 1. Business suicide for sure. First the tape , now boxes , Goodbye USPS.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Mar 7 11:36:45 2016

Could no longer providing boxes and envelopes be the first step in eliminating flat rate shipping?

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 12:10:18 2016

For the few bigger shipments I send that need a box, I rarely use a Priority box since it always ends up more expensive to ship in a recycled box than the Priority one. I do use the flat rate envelopes and that would be a problem. I have stacks of Priority boxes. At one point my postal clerk was having trouble getting them for the PO and asked me to order some for them. I did but by the time they came he told me that the local postmaster said no, they couldn't use them so I have been stuck with bunches of boxes for a very long time. I would love to get rid of them to someone that could actually use them.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: Scottower This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 12:12:20 2016

Let's assume the USPS spends .25 per box/envelope and currently eats that cost with or without it ever being used to ship. Simply charge $1.00 per box and continue to deliver them as they currently do. When properly used provide a credit of $1.25 effectively making it the same cost as now for the USPS. This would provide an incentive to use this service even more than now as it would be a .25 discount for every shipment.

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by: moreintheattic This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 12:22:11 2016

Seriously folks..........no wonder USPS is always in financial trouble.  Were they not on the brink of having their handout for a government bailout?  Charge for your packing supplies for god sake.  Makes perfect sense.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Mon Mar 7 12:36:36 2016

The Postal Service is so short sighted and their own worst enemy in many ways.
A couple of years ago, I ordered a single package of Large Flat Rate Board Game boxes. In their efficient manner, USPS sent me not 1 but 10 packages - that was 200 Boxes and was more than I would use in a lifetime.

I inquired at my Post Office as to how to get them returned and was informed that USPS does not have a process for picking up excess product!!!

The clerk told me to bring them to the PO and leave them on the rear loading dock which I did.

The boxes sat there for 18 months. They got rained on, snowed on and were generally in the way.

Eventually, they were so damaged that they were deposited in the dumpster - not even recycled!!


As to USPS eliminating free boxes... First, I was always under the impression that Priority Mail shipping rates included packaging. If that is the case, the eliminating free packaging would amount to a rate increase and would need approval.

I would bet that if USPS were to start charging even a nominal fee for Priority Boxes that UPS or FedEx would seize the opportunity and fill the free box void.

Of course, UPS or FedEx might have better controls to avoid abuse as they could issue free boxes only when sellers came into the store with pre printed labels or were purchasing postage at point of sale.

Perhaps, before USPS cuts their own throat, they could take a look at that business model and avoid chasing business away that they so desperately need.

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Mon Mar 7 12:44:15 2016

The USPS is an entity that is in HUGE financial trouble. They are having problems paying pensions to retirees, and this expense has caused rate increases and other cost-cutting measures.

Will they start charging for Priority Mail boxes? Well, it may appear to be on the horizon.

Really?? Well, when I went to mail the other day (with a USPS handled white tub full of packages), the friendly postal clerk confiscated my tub.

He explained that the Postal Service lost over 100,000 of them last year, and that they are instructed now to take any back that they can. Even though I use it for its intended purpose.

So, yes, a day may soon come where they charge for Priority Mail boxes. And tack on additional fees whenever possible.

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by: booklover27 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 14:52:03 2016

The rising cost of postage for the little guy has spiraled out of control.  We are subsidizing the giant retailers with their secret deals. And now, they want to charge us for boxes...I feel the revolution in the air...

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by: GoingBroke This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 15:24:32 2016

I just don't understand why the post office can't find a middle ground. Years ago they gave us postal tape. So instead of charging .25/.50 a roll they quit giving it out. With the quantity they made that would covered the cost and kept customers happy. Also what about the increase in online shipping the past few years. If more people are shipping more packages of course they are going to use more boxes!! The post office already sells standard boxes and envelopes just looks like they are looking to shift that way. With all the fees, including postal hikes. I am already looking to take my business off line, like others I know. Having to buy boxes would be a big push to do it sooner. Now that this is out people are going to stock pile and for sure the post office will start charging.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Mon Mar 7 16:14:19 2016

What some call abuse I call getting even. After being burned multiple times for high-priced insurance claims I decided I would start utilizing their padded envelopes in lieu of bubble wrap for cushioning items shipped in poly mailers.  I can’t recall a single claim that didn’t result in 30+ calls and up to nine months of wrangling only to be denied due to managerial incompetence.

USPS is singularly the worst company I have dealt with over a lifetime. Am I even? Probably not, but the supplies diminishes the sting and eventually it will be a wash. And I now use third party insurance.  

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by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 16:24:47 2016

The Post Office, like other big conglomerates, know you are not going anywhere else. There is no place else to go. If you want to use flat rate you will have to buy their envelopes or boxes which will go up in price every year. Both buyers and sellers will pay more. When there is no profit left and you have to pay someone to take your merchandise, then you will leave. Until that day, status quo.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Howard

Mon Mar 7 16:45:03 2016

I've always appreciated the free USPS Priority Mail boxes. I know there is misuse by some sellers. I’ve received shipments where sellers have used Priority Mail bubble mailers like bubble wrap and I’ve seen FedEx and UPS shipments arrive in USPS packaging. Why punish the people who play by the rules when the USPS doesn’t even seem to try and enforce the rules they have in place?

The latest USPS rate increases and the rescinding of Commercial Base discounts on many online postage venues has brought USPS Priority rates very close to FedEx Ground and UPS costs. I have stayed with USPS because of the free boxes and the convenience of having boxes delivered to my home. Carrier pickup of shipments and the convenient location of multiple Post Offices versus the inconvenient FedEx and UPS drop-off locations is another reason to use USPS. A shortfall of USPS is the additional charge for insurance above $50. FedEx and UPS include insurance on all shipments so if the cost versus USPS is the same or close then they are a better option. If I have to start paying for my own shipping boxes as well then the scale has tipped in FedEx and UPS’s favor.

Free boxes are not a birthright but they are an incentive and when the USPS removes the incentives they have already put in place they run the risk of losing hard-won customers, especially when they raise rates at the same time. As others have said, it’s almost a certainty that USPS has already figured the cost of boxes into the rates it charges.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Mon Mar 7 16:50:54 2016

So let me get this straight.  USPS loses upwards of a dollar on every single ePacket from China and that's a great success that should go on indefinitely.  But USPS loses 25 cents per unsent box and herp derp it's a sea of red ink that must stop NOW!1one.  Isn't it great when government operates like a business (stupidly)?

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by: DonC This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Mar 7 17:03:33 2016

We ship about half of our products in Priority Mail boxes.The markup is so slim considering the latest price increases Priority mail may not be an option if I have to add about three dollars for a box at office depot.
Net result: the USPS has to ship the same package for about 20 dollars less.

This appears to be a back door attempt to raise postal rates.  

FWIW; who in the hell makes furniture out of Priority mail boxes? Isn't it illegal to use these for anything other than  mail?  

Perminate Link for Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?   Could Abuse Spell the End of Free USPS Boxes?

by: maribellr This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 17:18:14 2016

Years ago, I had so many full boxes in my basement that I was a afraid of a fire.  I opened up the boxes and everytime, I passed a post office, I would drop off about 10 boxes and leave them on the counter.  Other people immediately picked them up. So don't say anything to the postal employees, just drop some off  and leave them on a counter. I would NOT leave a complete case.  

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