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Fri June 26 2020 16:56:55

Some Postage Adjustments Disputed as USPS Expands Coverage

By: Ina Steiner

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We've seen a few reports from sellers who say the USPS incorrectly adjusted postage paid on packages they've sent this month. For example, one seller contacted us and reported that on June 9th, they received over 40 adjustments in the amount of $4.75 for First Class Packages mailed between May 25 - June 1st.

The USPS launched a program in August 2017 called the Automated Package Verification System (APV) designed to help collect and deter shortpaid revenue for postage purchased through PC Postage label providers.

In a September 2019 USPS OIG report (in PDF format), the Office of Inspector General described the program as follows:

"APV verifies whether the correct postage was paid for each package by comparing the postage paid from a mailer's manifest to the postage calculated using the actual package weight and dimensions, as captured using scales and dimensional scanning devices installed on mail processing equipment.

"When incorrect postage is paid, the system generates an invoice and sends it to the label provider who then either sends payment to the Postal Service on behalf of the customer for the shortpaid amount or issues a credit or refund to the customer for the overpaid amount."

Sellers discussed issues with AVP on the Etsy seller discussion boards this month. An Etsy seller recently said they had over $500 worth of automated postal adjustments. 

In response, sellers discussed how to resolve the issue and whether changing shipping services might make a difference.

In a help page, Etsy tells sellers they can only dispute a shipping label adjustment directly with USPS and provides contact information.

eBay's help page offers the following recommendation to sellers who feel any amount owed or refunded is incorrect: "We recommend to check the weight and dimensions on the package to ensure that the discrepancy identified is actually invalid. The tips on this page should help you validate that. If you still feel the discrepancy is incorrect, you may contact USPS to raise a dispute, which should take no more than 15 days to receive a reply."

Bonanza also offers advice to its sellers in a FAQ in which it calls the USPS APV machinery "state of the art," writing that it catches both underpaid and overpaid packages. The FAQ continues, "there are situations where the scanning tool can have a false positive (i.e, a package will be flagged for being underpaid even though the correct postage was applied)."

The FAQ tells sellers they should contact Bonanza if they encounter errors. It also notes, "the USPS will not be providing partial reversals. A dispute will either be approved or denied. If the dispute is approved, Bonanza will credit the overpayment back to the seller."

A USPS spokesperson provided EcommerceBytes with the following statement this week in response to our inquiry about a possible glitch:

"There were no Automated Package Verification system issues reported in June. We expanded our coverage of automated verifications. Any customers who believe they were charged in error can dispute through our APV Help Desk at verifypostagehelp@usps.gov."

While many sellers are fluent in the intricacies of shipping carrier rules and rates, it's always possible that some sellers could have been tripped up by them. Dimensional weight rates come to mind - they impact large but light-weight packages. 

Expanded verification gives sellers another reason to double-check postal rates and regulations for the packages they send.

And while you might think sellers would be against the concept of automated postage verification, we've heard sellers say that as long as it's working accurately, they approve of cracking down on colleagues who may be cheating the system while they themselves pay the correct, full postage for their packages.

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 21:49:11 2020

I've had issues with over and under weight packages.

I've won some and I've lost some - so to make up for the fake losses - I under weighed a few to get "even".

I have the items weights from the manufacturers and Amazon - and thats what I use. 4.3 pounds becomes 5 and the boxes I use are industry standard (so you know what the dimensions are.

I can fully understand the USPS trying to catch people who do it all the time on purpose.

Where it goes off the track is trying to fight USPS - you almost always loose - because they dont care what anyone "else" says/thinks - they are always wrong (sounds like eBay).

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jun 28 09:21:36 2020

@angryllama

No where in my comment did I say anything about the higher priced postage. About the biggest package we send might weight 10 oz or less. We downsized everything with the saying if it weights more than my coffee cup its tossed in the garbage a few years ago. Now we only carry the small stuff. Most ships first class or first class flat. We never use tracking unless it has to go the 3 oz - 10 oz first class package. Stamps are the only way to go. You print your postage via whoever. We slap stamps on and only pay for a 70 cent envelope maybe 45 cents. We ship hundreds of these a week. So figure out the savings. Even the cheapest cost of 3.25 for first class package over the counter with slap on stamps is only costing us 1.90 each. No where can you generate a label for 1.90. For just an extra second time you slap on a tracking number. As a side note we have figured to be saving upwards of 20.00 a day for a few minutes invested with stamps. So laugh all you want it works for us.

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by: thriftyattireandstuff This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 01:08:05 2020

Dude, buy a scale, measure your package, print postage. I think I had 1 correction not in my favor since this started.. for like 1.12..USPS has actually refunded me 5 times.  Fly by night sellers.. Estimating everything, then whining when they get nailed for cheating the system.. That's all I hear.

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by: Paul W This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 02:02:24 2020

I have been refunded 3 times for packages that I deliberately overpaid just to see if it worked--one managed payments parcel, one each eBay and eCrater parcels shipped with PirateShip.  But mostly I ship with stamps, as a previous poster mentioned, careful shopping can net stamps at 40% below face, making the net shipping cost considerably below any printed label cost.  

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by: namebranddealz This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 03:50:41 2020

I would say 8/10 of my shipments weigh less than 3 ounces.. yet I have to pay for 4 oz because of Their 1st Class pkg minimum.. I've yet to get any money back, Not holding my breath!  

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by: papergoy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 07:55:45 2020

Have had numerous adjustments, almost all in my favor.  One that irked me though- an Argosy magazine.  The largest Argosy magazine ever made probably comes in at 15 ounces.  I mean it's not a thick magazine by any means.  I mailed it out at 11 ounces (which is what my scale showed and was reasonable when I packed it- no other issues with anything shipped out using that scale).  The Post Office said it was two pounds and charged me Priority.  There isn't an Argosy magazine around that weighs two pounds (and I don't use lead as backing board).  I shook my head with disgust but as they say- you can't fight City Hall.  So yes, sometimes they do make errors.  They do credit me though as well- those errors I'm less upset over, oddly.

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by: TexasTwister This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 09:38:31 2020

Another thing to consider is not accepting the size printed on a box as gospel. I ship a lot of a certain item that goes in a 15 x 12 x 10 box. After assembly, the box measures 15 x 13 x 11 because of rounding UP. This is a big deal since these packages use DIM weight for shipping cost.

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by: spooky This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 09:41:27 2020

if my package weighs 4 pounds and .01 ounces I do 5 pounds - I never cheat the system. But I know many others that do

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.
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Mon Jun 29 17:09:06 2020

What I charge customers for shipping is extremely important to me, so, I always pre-package items with extra sheets to account for the weight of label, tape and inserts. I have never been off on the weight of a package and know to check the dimensions of a box if it seems too big.

It's tedious, but it has worked like a charm for me.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 17:11:20 2020

"if my package weighs 4 pounds and .01 ounces I do 5 pounds - I never cheat the system. But I know many others that do"

Definitely part of the problem. Don't think the USPS won't account for that extra tenth of a pound. If you want to get rid of that tenth, then remove a peanut or few. It's certainly better than the alternative.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 17:15:37 2020

One other tip I'd like to share is that I found that using crumpled up paper in conjunction with peanuts results in less weight. I used to use nothing but peanuts, but now place paper at the bottom of top of the package with peanuts in between. It has dropped many of my two-pound packages (over a pound) to First-Class rates.

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by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Mon Jun 29 17:16:37 2020

"at the bottom of top of the package"

That should read "at the bottom AND top of the package"  

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by: Chel This user has validated their user name.

Sun Jul 12 11:58:33 2020

I was wondering why I was getting all these messages & refunds from PayPayl saying that eBay ruled in my favor or whatever. I always use the scale & yes, if anything I over rather than underestimate but 9 times out of ten I am following what's right in front of me but apparently I've overpaid for shipping several times. I use eBay's pre-paid labels & I use calculated shipping. When I make the listing I have to put in the shipping options, I weigh the items & approx. dimensions which will differ depending upon the shipping method chosen, then when the customer purchases I follow the instructions & print the label & pay w/ the same credit card for the shipping. I don't offer "free" shipping too often. I'm new to eBay & shipping is still a mystery to me. I just pay what they say when the item sells. I am glad to know why I've been getting these refunds on 90% of recent sales. I find Poshmark so much easier when it comes to shipping. Customer pays $7.11 for anything under 5 lbs. Then you have to add more postage if it goes over 5 which has yet to happen. You can also offer a discount or free shipping & Poshmark automatically takes that from what they give to you (minus their 20% cut) and it's much simpler. They also collect any tax on your behalf & you can download a breakdown of your sales if you want (excel). With shipping costs it's challenging for me to even figure out how much net I actually made with anything I sell on eBay. Good thing it's just a small side thing!

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