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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: Bullet This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 17:26:35 2016

I regularly take Priority Mail boxes that are misused into my post office and the post master is always thankful.

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

by: EJOHNS This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 18:36:06 2016

Please read with caution, The USPS are responsible for the boxes needed in priority mail and express mail mailings.
Our very own Bob Doles wife was the owner of a company in Topeka, Ks who supplies the USPS with the shipment boxes alluded to. Several years ago the USPS in Oakland, Ca  destroyed over two million of the priority and express mail sleeves used for shipment. Then the USPS bought over two million dollars of boxes from the same company in Kansas, the story told was because the USPS had redesigned the Postal Eagle boxes. Truck loads of new priority and express mail boxes were thrown way in dumpsters. The business where the boxes were destroyed, major employees at that time was Physically Challenged people, being paid minimal wages and no benefits. So Mrs. Dole were the benefactor of the so called new shipping boxes supplier business on the quiet side. My homework found this information to be valid and within scrutiny. So providing boxes for free is and will be business as usual. Help the bigwigs to maintain their perks.

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

by: EJOHNS This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 18:39:14 2016

Abuse has absolutely zero to do with this, its about the misuse of the process to help the friends of many in high places.

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

by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 7 21:31:23 2016

I'm surprised the usps doesn't send free boxes to china. Or do they?

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

by: Zojja This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 00:56:28 2016

I don't think it would be that difficult to track down the abusers.  All they would have to do is look for the people that order the most, how often and if they have a business.  Now, you would, however, have to get a government worker to do the work, which may cause some delay ...  : - )  I used to work for the government and I know how lazy some people can be!!

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: Rexford

Tue Mar 8 07:17:59 2016

Ric says "The Postal Service is so short sighted and their own worst enemy in many ways."

Ric, I realized this for certain when I printed an international shipping label for a 1 oz package and it was over $12.00 and that did not even include insurance.

And meanwhile, USPS subsidizes China. Yes, USPS, charge us so that China can continue to get subsidized rates on the backs of US shippers and tax payers.

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

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 09:34:24 2016

...... The majority of post offices (at least in NY) ONLY provide FLAT RATE BOXES and NEVER the padded envelopes or regular PM or PME boxes.

Its done because most people dont realize that they OVERPAY for the Flat Rate boxes (price) when doing it by weight would save them money - and USPS knows this and does nothing about it. It NEVER suggests to use ones own packaging or standard boxes - JUST Flat Rate.

As told to me by USPS employees at various trade shows (and RIC may have mentioned this earlier) - the ONLY difference in delivery time (in reality) between PM and FCM is a day or so. The FREE BOXES are covered in the price(s) of the shipping. Cant swear the USPS employee knew it all but being he was a senior supervisor .... Id think he knew.

Yes USPS does not pick up or take back extra, wrong or not needed boxes - they say throw them out.

BTW - the HOLY GRAIL in USPS packing supplies is one thats never given out or sold - PM TAPE. Padded envelopes can be gotten from usps.com BUT NOT the tape!

When something happens Ill worry. Meanwhile I dont use all that much of their stuff anyways except for those padded envelopes so ... Ill go stock up on em just in case.

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

by: Toledo Maude This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 12:03:14 2016

Up until 8 years ago, I used almost exclusively the free USPS free boxes.  My then current products fit safely in the Priority boxes.  

With a change to fragile collectables, I now purchase all my boxes.  Two years ago, I ended up 600 bucks in the hole over what I charged buyers for handling charges versus the cost of the boxes.  Shipping bundles of boxes is EXPENSIVE!

Last year at the risk of losing orders, I raised handling fees and nearly covered the cost of boxes, packing supplies and tape.  Who knows how many lost orders that cost me.

If your products allow you to use free boxes, count your lucky stars.

However, with rising delivery charges by the ''three sisters'' and cost of packing supplies, the end maybe in sight for online orders of $50 or less.

What did I do with my excess Priority boxes and bundles of Priority boxes?  I asked no one at the Post Office what to do.  Now and then I left the excess boxes in the lobby of the Post Office.  They disappeared.  

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

by: notbananas This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 15:23:08 2016

It isn't the abuse of a few boxes that causes the USPS to be in financial crisis. It's the policy of funding future pension for retired employees now! USPS's requirement to prefund its long-term pension and healthcare liabilities is like a reverse credit card.

Pay for the future anticipated credit card balance you are going to owe now! If you are planning to spend $100,000 over life of the credit card, you must send in the payment of the $100,000 in full this month. Does that make sense? Obviously not, but the morons of the USPS Unions convinced congress to do that!

The Postal Service is required to pay the full estimate of its future liabilities, currently at nearly $404 billion.

And you're worried about a few million in wasted Priority Boxes? Sheeeees.

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: RKTOYS

Tue Mar 8 18:01:53 2016

Yep, the Republican legislature and Republican president that rammed that bill through totally listened to the postal workers union.  And I have oceanfront property in Kansas to sell you too.

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

by: fashionista This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 19:27:52 2016

I'm of the thought that they should charge a nominal fee, or charge up front and credit you when used. I've been a proponent of this for a long time.
I'm tired of going to yard sales and seeing garages full of priority supplies, most you can see have been there for years, damp, etc.  Because they're free, people hoard them. I've received packages and tyvek envelopes were used as padding, crumpled up like peanuts.
Boxes purchased on their own are expensive,  if they put a nominal fee of lets say 0.10 it would save the post office a lot of money and they probably wouldn't have to raise rates as much. I prefer that to free boxes & higher rates.  0.10 is not going to break most people, and USPS rates are still way below other carriers.

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

by: Guest This user has validated their user name.

Tue Mar 8 21:04:39 2016

Flat rate pricing is much cheaper than using your own package.This is happening right when extringent price increases are ending. The average online seller has to make up the loss in revenue, putting them at a disadvantage to sellers from China.

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by: strife This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 9 08:20:02 2016

Wow, come people. Abusing a "gift horse" Try living in Canada where we not only pay the highest postal rates in the world but we don't get squat for free from Canada Post. Not only are Canada Post supplied boxes (you'd have to be an idiot to use them) not free but they are also ridiculously expensive.
Try to use even the smallest amount of decency and be thankful for what you have people.

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

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 9 08:31:19 2016

charging and then crediting later would not work.  there are 4 different sized boxes and 2 sizes of envelopes.  the envelopes i might use a couple a month, the boxes a couple a year...  but i have no way of knowing which size of box i will need, so i need to keep them all on hand.  if they charge a dollar a box (as someone here suggested), i would need to spend $40 just to have them "just in case".  not practical at all for me, even less practical for the casual user.

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

by: That Guy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Mar 9 12:42:09 2016

Getting rid of free Priority boxes won't save the USPS.  

Getting rid of some Congressional dirtbags might.

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

by: mcposty This user has validated their user name.

Fri Mar 11 15:12:59 2016

How about they save money by charging china the correct rates.

Usps are traitors

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

by: ignatz This user has validated their user name.

Mon Mar 14 09:16:32 2016

Almost 200 million dollars a year???

And they're STILL giving them away for free?

Seems crazy.  Why not charge .25 a box - I'd that would separate the freeloaders from the customers, and would still be a bargain.

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

by: Noc This user has validated their user name.

Thu Apr 7 03:25:25 2016

I read the USPS Inspector general article.  The article was in the context of ecommerce growth creating a sea of cardboard and the energy, material and pollution costs.  The boxes being used for other purposes appears to be more of a footnote without any specifics.

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