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Tue Sept 10 2019 20:56:09

Do You Agree with Findings on USPS?

By: Ina Steiner

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Back when micro sellers embraced ecommerce before big brands did, the US Postmaster General got an enthusiastic welcome from eBay sellers attending the company's annual conference. That's because small sellers who were unable to negotiate favorable discounts with bigger carriers turned to the USPS - Priority Mail in particular.

According to the USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Postal Service remains popular with micro businesses. In a new report, the OIG listed the following highlights of its research findings:

- The Postal Service is the carrier of choice for microbusinesses - a majority said they use USPS more frequently than other carriers.

- The Postal Service's retail services are highly valued by microbusinesses, of which 66 percent rated their experiences at postal retail locations as somewhat or very positive.

- Many microbusinesses were unaware of postal services that can help small businesses, such as Package Pickup. Only a third of microbusinesses have heard of the service, but nearly 60 percent were interested in using it.

- Existing employee lead generation programs account for substantial revenue overall, but only 16 percent of microbusinesses surveyed said a postal employee has shared information about ways the Postal Service can help their business.

- The Postal Service can better harness its workforce to promote products and foster relationships with microbusinesses.

It's interesting that only a third of microbusinesses have heard of Package Pickup, which is so important to online sellers. That got us thinking about what other features sellers may not know about - for instance, for a long time, many sellers were unaware of SCAN Form (PS Form 5630). Can you think of other features or services you use that others may not know about?

You can read more about the report in today's Newsflash. We're curious what sellers think of its findings.

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Readers Comments

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 11 07:34:18 2019

Are you happy going to bed with a dog with fleas......NOT

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 11 09:33:00 2019

I have been selling on eBay since 2003 and between my 2 account I.D.s I've shipped out over 13,000 packages with the VAST MAJORITY directly thru USPS  FCP, Media Mail, Priority Mail, and the remaining FEW as FedEx-SmartPost and FedEx ground.
HUGE proportion of those USPS were ONE POUND or LESS Gross Mailing Weight.
For those packages, there is NO viable competition for any MicroSeller (me).  FedEx and UPS are both significantly more expensive for those packages... especially the Sub-Six-Ounce MEDIA MAIL or First Class Package as UPS and FedEx not only charge by Distance/weight with Higher and Higher rates the more distant the destination.... they also charge by POUND so that even a 4 ounce package RATES and BILLS as One Full Pound.
For International shipping the GULF between $-Low-Cost USPS International First Class Package rates and what UPS and FedEx is a VAST GULF.
I think entirely too few eBay sellers realize how little it cost to send 8 ounce and BELOW as Export vs. UPS / Fed-Ex and WORSE the huge saving vs. eBay's GoofBall idea of Global Shipping Program.
Canadian, British, French and German eBay shoppers are NOT STUPID.  They can see readily that a USA seller who uses International First Class on a 5 ounce DVD / Blu-Ray is 1/3rd the cost of the same item using GSP.  Worse if the seller using GSP has the item set as "Free Domestic USA Shipping".  Why Worse?  Because those export buyers are dinged not only for the Domestic postage that they don't use and the Full International shipping, too.  Lose-Lose.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Sep 11 11:16:44 2019

Believe it or not, there are many who are unaware of how they could be saving time and money by using online shipping tools. With all the info available out there, it is surprising, indeed, to read so many talking about waiting in line and paying retail prices at the counter.

Wait...what? Why the heck are you doing that?

Invest in a good scale that can handle at least 30-35 pounds and is specifically for packages (not food or anything else because they're not sturdy enough for packages, certainly not over the long term). Try a small business offering shipping supplies and/or office equipment, many of whom are priced more affordably than bigger names. That's where I got mine years ago and couldn't be happier with it and the service I received. I can't speak more emphatically about what a Godsend a good scale is to a seller. LOL

I've heard some say they like adding that personal touch with a handwritten label. As a business owner, one isn't expected to get personal. LOL Personally, if I received a handwritten label from a business, I would have to question the validity of that business, even if it were from a seller I knew. What business doesn't present itself in a professional manner at all times? Professional doesn't mean unfriendly, you know. LOL

It doesn't matter if you don't have word processing experience or even own a word processor. There are free sites you can purchase and print discounted shipping from (ie, PayPal's ShipNow tool, directly from a customer's PayPal invoice, PirateShip, et al). So there's no reason to present your business in any other manner than professionally.

So, pack your own packages, weigh them with your own scale, and buy and print your own labels online at commercial base rates. Then go to the post office and simply drop off your package -- no waiting in line or paying retail rates necessary.

If you have a reliable postman, you can even schedule a pickup for Priority packages on the USPS site. You can also include any First-Class packages, but they must be accompanied by at least one Priority package. This is especially helpful to those who are super busy and/or live in rural areas.

So, please, do yourself a favor and save yourself that time and money, honey. Please be one less person to make me cringe every time I read about the woes of a seller waiting in line and paying retail rates. LOL

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Sep 11 12:15:31 2019

Now that I've covered the above, on to whether or not I agree with their findings...

My simple answer is that it all depends on your post office. For example, the post office in my zip code has to have the lowest rating I've ever seen for any business (currently 1.5 out of 347 Google reviews). Needless to say, the only thing I use them for is to deliver our mail.

Now, the post office in the next zip code is great! Fortunately, it's about the same distance as mine and quicker due to traffic levels. Many of the reviews for my PO even mention how they go to the other one because it's great.

The USPS could certainly stand to make some improvements, but I do have to agree that they have been far more reliable and affordable than other carriers -- even for dimensional weight packages. Although, it's pretty sad to have even two customers request special handling due to their PO's unreliability. One requested a package be shipped via UPS to her place of work because her PO "loses" packages and one requested a fragile collectible to be extra carefully packaged because her postman is known to damage packages.

Employees could certainly use better training and managers taught proper managerial AND organizational skills. The problem at my PO is solely management (a psycho lady who's reportedly thrown a chair through a window when dealing with a customer). I can only imagine how disorganized it is behind the scenes because they "lose" so many packages.

They could stop using people who could care less about the importance of the postal service. Whatever happened to being so extremely selective about who they hired? These days, there are far too many reports of postmen dumping people's mail in the trash, in ditches or what have you. As far as I can remember, each report I've seen involved contracted workers, particularly during the holiday season.

If they're no longer losing money on incoming international packages, then they need to pass on those savings to its US customers rather than even discussing rate hikes. I know they have the issue of the government and its ridiculous requirements regarding employee pensions, but that's something they need to take up with the government. Better yet, the people really should be getting behind them on that matter because we're the ones paying for it.

Who's to say that money will be there later for those employees? The government has for years been threatening a possible dissolution of Social Security. I think the US government is using the USPS as its own personal piggy bank -- and at the expense of the American people all while giving steep discounts to our competitors.

That said, I blame the US Federal government for the bulk of the USPS's problems. If they weren't having to come up with so much money in advance, causing them to operate in the red every year, forcing them to cut costs and services and close facilities...they could afford to do the incredible job they used to do.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 11 12:23:06 2019

OMG! You know what I just remembered? That customer who requested UPS had her package delivered to the school in the next zip code from me (the one I use). So she must live in my zip code. LOL

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by: quirkyantiques This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 11 15:12:08 2019

@purpleiris. Actually since June parcel select prices (online) increased to dimensional based pricing versus over the counter USPS retail ground. So now I HAVE to stand in line at the PO with my handwritten label in order to save my customers from paying 3 times as much as they need to for anything larger than a 12 X 12 going more than 4 zones away. An example is a 16" cube I sent to OH weighing 5 pounds. Parcel select price was $46. Over the counter price $16. I would rethink your disdain for hand written labels-it might be a seller saving YOU money on your larger items.

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by: cardfinds This user has validated their user name.

Wed Sep 11 15:20:46 2019

I ship 20-30 packages/week with the Post Office and I have made it a point to create a great relationship with my mail lady. 98% of my packages are USPS and I print my labels with ebay shipping labels using a $15 digital scale. If I can't fit all of my shipments into my mailbox, I put in a note asking her to pickup at front door and she gladly does. 95% of the time I meet her at the mailbox as I work from home and can hear the truck coming. My point is it's all about creating relationships and doing things smartly. She gets a nice Xmas bonus and we're both happy.

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This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Wed Sep 11 16:36:53 2019

Your info is a little outdated.  Since they took away commercial base rate from online customers (to cover up losses from coddling the Chinese), there's no price advantage versus buying postage at the counter.  All it really offers is PDFs and e-mail records.  Aggregators like PirateShip can't even do that much.

Also I disagree about hand written notes.  I want my customers to know they're dealing with another collector, not some faceless dropshipper.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Sep 11 19:50:33 2019

@quirkyantiques, that's interesting that they're giving you that rate. It even gives that rate on the USPS site, but that's not what is stated in the DMM. Retail prices in the DMM are higher than the commercial prices as they should be and, yes, dimensional weight pricing is required on packages over a cubic foot.

So, something is screwy somewhere. I haven't used the USPS site for shipping quotes since they did away with the commercial rates on their site, so this is the first time I'm hearing of anyone getting a non-dimensional weight rate on a dimensional weight package.

Heck, if I had such a package to ship and saw that on the USPS site, I would also be standing in line waiting to pay the retail rate at the counter. Although, I would still print my address labels because, yes, I do have a disdain for presenting my business as anything less than professional. My preference -- and I do have a face. LOL

@RKTOYS, thank you for the correction. I'm just so used to typing it, but would be happy to remember that I can now leave off the extra word. LOL

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by: marty This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 00:42:57 2019

About two weeks ago i wrote a letter to my postmaster complaining about the fact that their substitute latter carriers (the one they use when the regular carries is on vacation, sick etc). do not pick up scheduled mail, when they pick up, the do not scan it and when I spoke with some of them asking them to scan the SCAN form they thought I am trying to trick them.

They have no idea that the setting on their scanner is different for the SCAN form vs. an individual label.

This has been going on forever. This is about the 5th postmaster in 20 years I have been using PO. The problems are the same, nothing has improved.

Fortunately, I don' t have any problems with the regular letter carriers. If they are absent, it is a nightmare and the only solution is to go to PO and stand in line....that really helps small businesses

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by: MichaelP This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 04:42:42 2019

@ purpleiris, I use the online form to schedule pickups until 2am the day of pickup. The form does not specify that you need to have a Priority Mail shipment. I routinely have First Class Mail picked up without any accompanying Priority shipments. I believe the form used to require this, though.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 06:12:26 2019

I am blessed to be living in a neighborhood that has a UPS store across the street (for USPS pickup), a Fedex at the corner Walgreens (pickup/dropoff) and plenty of USPS mailboxes.  If I didn't have those conveniences within walking distance I would have to ride to the USPS station every single day to drop off packages.  I just wish the USPS would have drop mail boxes as big as Fedex/UPS has.  It's 2019, and the USPS should adapt.    The days of dropping anthrax and bombs in mailboxes are over with, so the USPS should just modify its boxes to accept packages.

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 08:19:59 2019

@purpleiris

Your rattling on and on does a BIG DISSERVICE to those of us who take our parcels to the post office for mailing. We purchase stamps at 50 - 60 percent of face value. When using regular stamps and HAND WRITING THE LABEL these packages have to be taken to the post office. Your carrier will not pick them up. But its well worth the trip to the post office when you can ship cheaper. This only pertains to Priority Mail packages not regular first class packages. So if one ships 30-40 packages at a time their is lots of money saved by doing the lick and stick and taking them to the post office.

We have a lot of sellers who hand write their labels. We don't think anything of it. Some of them have some beautiful handwriting. Maybe one of these sellers just managed to check their orders and tried to ship an item out and instead of firing up everything just took a pencil and wrote the label out. NO BIG DEAL. You got your package didn't you. Don't be so judgemental I'm sure there are things you do that some people think should be changed.

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by: redheadedlady This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 09:05:55 2019

I would love to use the postal pickup since some days I ship out 3-4 bins of mail.  My sales are up most days.  When I have sale, they skyrocket.
But, on Tuesday, I shipped out 56 packages between ebay and etsy.  I carried them all down to the post office and had each one scanned.  Well...they scanned each and every one as delivered instead of shipped.  I had 27 emails yesterday morning and 2 cases opened against me because the people said they didn't receive their package.  Um...I just mailed it the previous day.
When I looked at the tracking it showed that I shipped it at 2:31 p.m. Sept. 10th and it was received at 6:43 a.m. Sept. 10th.  Gee, I received it before I even shipped it.  Unfortunately, most people NEVER bother to read the details and flipped out.
I printed one of the tracking pages and took it to the post office yesterday.  They said Oh we made a mistake - oh well!  Huh??
And, getting back to pick up.  I was told, I have to call every night to schedule pickup and then have it out to the curb by 8 a.m. in the morning for them to pick it up when they come.  Even if it is 3 p.m.  Um...what happens if it rains?  What happens if someone gets a hankering to steal the mail?  I carry everything to the post office every day and stand in line and wait for each item to be scanned in to make sure that they have it.  Ebay will ding you even if one postal carrier does not scan it.  

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 09:27:18 2019

@redheaded lady, if you have that many packages, why won't the PO pickup?  You must take up a lot of time at the counter with those packages.  That's why the USPS should modify its mailboxes to accommodate packages.

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by: redheadedlady This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 09:34:18 2019

@chicago48
I just have the packages scanned in.  They are all labeled and ready.  As I said for pick up, I have to have everything out by my mailbox by 8 a.m..  Sometimes I don't finish packing until 2:30 or 3:00.  My house sets back 110 ft. from my mailbox so the mail can be grabbed by anyone going by also.  Yesterday we had a shower come through which would mean that all my packages would get wet along with the labels.  Easier to just take it to the post office.  At our post office we also have to deal with people standing all over the place waiting for passports.  It's a mess.  Then we have the people with their cell phones looking up address and trying to get their items ready while they are in line waiting to be called and if they aren't ready, they finish at the counter so they don't lose their place which takes forever.  Pain, pain, pain.
Also, if they had a drop box, how would you know if they scanned  your package or not.  By standing in line and waiting, they remove each package and scan them one at a time.  No, I don't use the sheet printout.  I sell on etsy and sometimes ecrater and bonanza so they all need scanned.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 09:59:28 2019

@Redhead - when I drop off my packages in the Fedex bin, there's a sign that says "pickup at 7 pm."  When it's scanned later that night, I get a notification by email that it was scanned.
Fedex seems to have figured it out I don't know why the PO hasn't.  I don't know how many packages Fedex bins hold, but it looks like it can hold quite a lot.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 10:01:08 2019

@Redhead, also, have you compared the postage prices of Fedex/UPS/USPS?  I ship via Amazon and sometimes the UPS package is less postage than the USPS postage.  Plus it's insured, plus it gets there quicker.

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by: HappyPicker This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 10:34:47 2019

In answer to the original question, yes I would agree with the finding.  I think someone needs to educate the OIG on why some of those facts exist, especially the fact that it's workforce doesn't inform the microbusinesses about the services available.  Many counter employees think if too many people use online services their jobs will be eliminated so it's in their personal best interest to not mention the service.  Long lines = job security in their mind.  If the letter carrier is already feeling over-worked, they are not going to be so interested in increasing their work load with out going mail.  

@quirkyantiques, thanks for your post regarding Online Commercial Parcel Select vs. over the counter Retail Ground.  I double checked the numbers for my own information and was amazed at what I found.  The "fine print" for over the counter Retail Ground says, "For parcels that measure in combined length and girth more than 84 inches but not more than 108 inches, and the piece weighs less than 20 pounds, use the 20-pound price (balloon price) based on the applicable zone."  The "fine print" for Commercial Parcel Select says, "Parcels that exceed one cubic foot (1,728 cubic inches) are charged based on the actual weight or the dimensional weight, whichever is greater (as calculated in DMM 253.1.3).

When you check the way they determine Commercial dimensional weight, it states:
a. Measure the length, width, and height in inches. Round off (see 604.7.0) each measurement to the nearest whole inch.
b. Multiply the length by the width by the height.
c. If the result exceeds 1,728 cubic inches, divide the result by 166 and round up (see 604.7.0) to the next whole number to determine the dimensional weight in pounds.
d. If the dimensional weight exceeds 70 pounds, the customer pays the 70-pound price.

So, for over the counter for a 16" square box, the directions says add 16+16+16+16+16=80 and if under 84" and less than 20 lbs, use the regular rates.
For Commercial online, the directions say 16x16x16=4096" divided by 166 = 24.67 so you round up to 25 lbs and that's the weight you use for postage.  
For a 16" square box that weighs 5 pounds going to zone 6 it's going to cost $46.56 vs. $16.44 if you take it to the USPS building and stand in line.  
That's crazy!  I will point out that if that 16" square box wasn't square and the total of the girth + length equaled more than 84", you would pay $47.13 at the counter for any weight up to 20 lbs.  If you are going to use USPS Retail Ground at the counter, make sure the total of the 5 numbers (girth + length) is 84" or less.

@RKTOYS, the commercial base rate IS available to anyone using online postage purchases except from the USPS site.  I've used PayPal for personal postage purchases and gotten the commercial rate.  Since the USPS did away with the Commercial Plus Rate, I guess it's no longer necessary to say Commercial Base Rate even though that term is still in use.

@MichaelP, thanks for the info on the scan form.  I too thought you had to have at least one Priority Mail to use the scan form.  I ship a lot of 1st Class and Media Mail, so I'll have to give the scan form another look.

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 12 10:40:47 2019

@Happy picker, I recently went to the PO with a package to use with their Automated Postal Center APC.  Well, before all this measurement stuff, you could put the package on the scale and get the weight, pay for it and ship it.  NOW you have to measure it!!! with their rulers.  it's another extra step(s) and I ended up going to the counter.  The PO is just adding layer on top of layer, making it harder to do business in a quick efficient way.  We just want to mail the doggone pkg and be gone.

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