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Mon July 29 2013 15:10:24

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

By: Julia Wilkinson

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Boxes. Maybe they seem too picayune a topic for a blog, but the eBay and other online sellers I know expend a good deal of brain space on what boxes they have on hand, and will they have the right-sized box for that next sale? Well, did you know that the USPS actually has 29 different  Priority Mail boxes available for free at the USPS.com Get Mailing & Shipping Supplies page? Stamps.com has just come out with a new pdf guide of these boxes, complete with  box sizes and weight limits for every Priority Mail box and envelope the USPS provides. 

I think many of us sellers are leery of using the free Priority Mail boxes because we are thinking of the flat-rate boxes, which can actually be more expensive to use for shipping items of a light to medium weight. What they're good for, not surprisingly, are heavy items that are not too large.

"Most sellers are only aware of the Flat Rate Boxes, but the USPS has 29 total boxes for Priority Mail," said Eric Nash of Stamps.com, which has other whitepapers and information available from their site.

Boxes have actually become something of an obsession for me. I hate it when I don't have that perfect-sized box on hand for an order, and therefore have to use a larger box than is necessary; this can be especially costly for international shipments.

But wherever possible, if something is light enough and can go first class, I reach for the generic box; boxes I get as a buyer with my Amazon.com Prime account often do the trick for those. It's gotten to the point where when I order a small item from Amazon Prime, such as a single bag of coffee, I think about how it will be nice to re-use the box it comes in to ship something out.

What about padded mailers? "Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelopes
are a great option to lower shipping costs," the Stamps.com guide reminds us in a tip. "The Padded Envelope is flexible enough to include a small box inside to protect your items, but you are charged for only the low shipping cost of an envelope!"

If the item you're shipping is not susceptible to damage, go for it. But don't make the mistake I made once (and never will again), of shipping a hardback book in a padded mailer. With some bubble wrap, yet. The distraught buyer emailed me a photo of this lovely Joseph Campbell after it arrived, with what looked like a corner that had been chewed off by a dog. Oh, the humanity! How on earth did that shipment go so wrong? Did the mail carrier drop it in the street and then accidentally back over it with the truck?

At any rate, all my Amazon book shipments now go by sturdy cardboard box.

Need a bigger box but only have smaller boxes of the same size? Try taping two of them together.

What other tales of box triumph or tragedy can you bring to the packing and shipping table? Post a comment here!




Comments (18) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Mon Jul 29 16:20:25 2013

I've ordered USPS Priority boxes for years from usps.com & use the NON-flat rate boxes a lot.

Having recently put in a large order for boxes from USPS, my mailman is delivering them bit by bit.

And, if you sell clothing, some nice jackets & dresses call for a box, not a bag.  

Another great box to have on hand is the Priority mailing tube. They are actually 3 sided or triangle shaped & come in a couple lengths.  I've used them for some odd-shaped items.

They do discontinue some of their boxes, though. so if you have a favorite, stock up.  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Bidofthis.com

Mon Jul 29 21:37:41 2013

I taped two medium sized flat rate boxes together.. but then I figured I had to cross "flat rate" off each box.  Also one could easily flip a box inside out and not ship priority but I have seen folks at the post office look for that.

Then there is "FedEx Furniture"
---Furniture Causes FedEx Fits---
that was fun...

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Jul 30 08:33:04 2013

For the types of items that I ship, the "Regional Rate A" and "Regional Rate B" size boxes are the least expensive. (Even when shipping from the East Coast to the West Coast!)

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: Bethofvt This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 30 08:50:16 2013

Bidofthis.com.  Federal Postal laws prohibit altering flat rate boxes in any way, possible $10,000 fine, same for turning a Priority box inside out, but it must have been along time ago that you got your boxes. Priority mail boxes have the word PRIORITY printed all over the inside now so turning inside out does not hide the fact they are priority boxes. If you need a box that is not going priority, just visit the dumpster at your local fabric shop.  They have them by the dozens, all broken down so easy to take and store for future use.

By the way, I found this blog very funny.  These boxes have been available for years and years.  Can't believe someone thinks this is news.  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Jul 30 08:56:38 2013

Bidofthis suggests: ''Also one could easily flip a box inside out and not ship priority...''

Actually, it appears that the USPS has gotten wise to this practice.

I've seen boxes and envelopes that are now printed on the INSIDE with the message similar to: ''Thank You for using USPS. Priority Mail Postage Required''

I think the only solution to re-purpose USPS boxes would be to completely ''gift-wrap'' them in brown paper.

(Is anyone else old enough to remember when wrapping boxes with brown paper and tied with string was the standard way to ship parcels?)

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Jul 30 09:00:00 2013

I wonder if the USPS minds that I sometimes use their boxes to double-box my items (for extra protection of breakable items).

Other times, I'll place the breakable item inside a USPS padded envelope and then place that inside one of their smaller boxes.

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 30 09:37:34 2013

@ Annie,
I remember the paper and string. Every once in a great while, I still see it at the local post office.
I have been using priority boxes for years. Yes, I am guilty of turning them inside out on a few occasions and then ship UPS.
I use primarily USPS Priority Boxes and ship Priority. Use the regional boxes to lower costs whenever possible.
Not all boxes are available at the post office. You have to order them online. They also take a while to get to you, so don't expect to order and receive them in a couple of days. My case, usually 10 days or longer.
I have been surprised to receive a package from an ebay seller in an oversized box with all kinds or paper wadded for protection. Nice, but way overkill and cost twice as much to ship. Boxes from the post office are free. Some bubble wrap and it is all set. I have seen(at my post office) where people just bring in the item and the clerk grabs a box and finds some items to put in for protection. Seals the box - whole nine yards. Nice service, but not if you are in line and in a hurry and just want to see your boxes scanned in.

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: rs_in_nc This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Jul 30 09:57:20 2013

I ahve found that using www.freightbybus.com at times has saved me money on shipping over the USPS. Not all the time but quite often on the long distance stuff and larger that I may send with UPS. I always check their site too when figuring out shipping costs.

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Jul 30 10:01:40 2013

The following page contains links to other helpful stamps.com guides and whitepapers:

http://www.stamps.com/whitepapers/

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: dkkdolls This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Tue Jul 30 13:13:17 2013

I use Priority Shoebox size, Regional Rate Box A (both shapes), and Regional Rate Box B like they are water, they so often fit what I am shipping. I often put Tonner Tiny Betsy size dolls in flat rate padded Priority envelopes as the label fits better.  Of course other sizes work too, but with Medium Flat rate boxes you often spend more than you would otherwise unless it is something heavy like books.  Regional Box A can sometimes be slightly higher to the East Coast, but much of the time it is more cost effective than looking for a box and using Parcel Select. The new automatic insurance of $50.00 is going to make it even better for the smaller less expensive items. Years ago I used to use FedEx Ground a lot, but now it is too expensive unless something is very large and heavy or wanted faster than Parcel Select. My discount with FedEx just is not large enough unless there is a specific request for it. At one time I used UPS years ago, but it was more expensive than FedEx and further to travel with packages. With the mailman picking up my packages or with me living close enough to a small post office to walk (if they don't close it), I save on gas, too.  The post office simply made it so you can't turn the boxes inside out and use them without it showing. Lots of folks cover packages to me in brown paper. I even reuse them and sometimes do that except it costs something to make a package heavier. If it is only a few cents more for Priority Mail, I send it that way. Of course the 13 ounce and under packages go by 1st Class Mail and I am stuck buying padded envelopes and hunting for small, light boxes. How I wish the weight limit for that would be raised within the USA.  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: lalin This user has validated their user name.

Tue Jul 30 13:16:51 2013

That old adage is so true: "There's no such thing as a free lunch." You can call me Crabby Abby today but have you ever stopped to think that priority mail boxes are NOT really free? We pay for them in the outrageous prices the USPS charges us for shipping.
It is now costing us about SIX dollars to ship a one pound package. That is just simply ridiculous. As both a Buyer and Seller, I can feel the pain. As far as I am concerned, the post office has perpetrated one of the biggest frauds in history with priority mail, and now priority mail express. I'd much rather go back to using my own boxes and having cheaper shipping rates. Yes, flat rate boxes are a good deal when your package fits into it, and is heavy enough to warrant the cost. But when someone uses a small flat rate box to ship a piece of jewelry, I thoroughly resent overpaying for priority when it could be sent via first class for less than $2. In such cases, I always give my Buyers a choice.
As far as priority boxes go, to paraphrase a famous saying, "We don't need no stinkin' priority boxes (most of the time)!  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Anonymous Annie

Tue Jul 30 15:02:34 2013

... and ''toll-free'' calls are not really free either. And ''free toy inside'' is not really free. And ''free soda refills'' are not really free.

:-)

Of course the USPS takes into account the cost of the boxes when calculating what they need to remain profitable! But in this case ''free'' is understood to mean that you don't have to pay up-front for the supplies, and it's still cheaper than buying fresh shipping supplies and padded envelopes from your local office supply store.

I remain convinced that the cost of postage (for all classes of service) continues to increase due to the US Congress' requirements that retirement benefits be pre-funded SEVENTY FIVE YEARS in advance... not because of any ''freebies'' that the USPS gives away to encourage people to use USPS and to make it convenient to do so.

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Jul 30 16:51:06 2013

For Earth's sake take care when ordering!

My rather large USPS order is still trickling in - the new Priority ''Game Box'' just arrived today. This is what transpired.


Me: . I thought I was ordering 5 boxes total.

Postman: You are getting 5 cases. It happens a lot. When you put a ''1'', it is for 1 case.

Me: I feel bad, like I'm de-foresting the planet

Postman: Don't worry, they are free. The daily leaflets, solicitations & fliers (junk mail) you receive is what pays for the Priority Boxes. But the Priority boxes are at least recycled. Most of the leaflets, fliers, etc… are not.

Me: There is enough here to construct something!

Postman: have fun.  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

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

Tue Jul 30 19:48:53 2013

Using Priority boxes for anything other than their intended use can get you in trouble and in more ways than one. First the Post Office will charge your buyer Priority rate for the box. Next the buyer will be after you for the extra money and probably give you a negative. Using a priority box and trying to disguise it, is no different than shipping glass, toys, etc., by media mail.  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Tue Jul 30 22:23:54 2013

What - So I can't build a new doghouse out of all these extra boxes that my junk mail apparently paid for?  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

This user has validated their user name. by: Ric

Tue Jul 30 23:19:11 2013

USPS occasionally makes errors with orders.

We have received APO boxes instead of standard Priority Boxes. Once, we received 10 bundles of boxes when we ordered 1.

We take all excess boxes to our Post Office and the clerks are happy to take them off our hands.

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 31 00:22:35 2013

IF you turn the Priority mail boxes inside out AND you then use them FOR PRIORITY MAIL the PO doesn't like it but they really can't do or say anything about it.  They just have to use a piece of the tape that says Priority Mail with the red white and blue--which I think you  can order on line free.  Also the labels that say this too----not address labels.  Those also turn ANY box into a Priority Mail Box!

The PO acts like a big bully with some classes and sorts of mail--I am not saying this for when some one is using Media to mail a pair of boots but when you are doing the best you can with what you have.  If I have a box from Fed Ex that fits--I will def use the USPS to ship it.  Again--they don't LIKE it but too bad.  I just stand there and look very pious and say But it's RECYCLING!

And technically for larger sturdy items you don't even NEED a box--we just sent a 44 pound trunk with NO packing via UPS! Cost $45 to go from upstate NY to NYC but that was certainly cheaper than gas to deliver it to a family member.  You can also do this using USPS.

I too make a lot of my own boxes for things like ski's since my ski shop sometimes charges me $5 a BOX---sometimes this is worth it sometimes not--and I never know if they are going to hand them to me or charge me! For other odd size items I make boxes too.  And I have been taught how to do this by museum item packing so I know how.  But mostly it is common sense!

I always offer a choice for lightweight small items of First or PRi as you don't know what expectations are for delivery times.  MOST times the buyer is THRILLED to be offered a choice and will tell me of other sellers who charged a ton of money for a $2 package.  

I am "guilty" of using the VCR tape size boxes for one steady seller--first tissue then bubble wrap with my card included for future contact  then the box and THEN a poly mailer envelope.

These poly mailers are worth their weight in gold for the savings.  I order them on Amazon as no one on ebay either sells them or does it reasonably-if you keep an eye out on Amazon you can find sales and stock up.  For the few pennies they cost me I can ship MOST items either in a box inside or just the item.   And I can pass the savings on to the customer.  I just factor the cost of the mailer into the price of the listing.

And I recycle EVERYTHING for mailing from bubble wrap to padded envelopes to peanuts to those sheets of odd "foam" wrap to air pillows etc.  Altho I don't like the air pillows for actual fragile items sometimes as filler for things that just need to be centered they are OK.  I also use cleaned and filled soda bottles for corner blocking and hard styrofoam and egg cartons and the list is practically endless!  

Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide   Do You Use USPS Priority Boxes? New Stamps.com Guide

by: rudestar This user has validated their user name.

Sat Aug 3 10:35:34 2013

I use Priority Legal Flat Rate envelopes to ship items under 4 pounds all the time without a problem. Cover the envelope with clear tape, cut open the end seam and seal top flap. Wrap the item in cardboard untill it will just fits into end of envelope and seal with tape.
The A region rate box is poorly made and has thin walls. Double box it by cutting off flaps and insert the cut center into stock box and line top and bottom with cut off flaps.
The #4 box 7x7x6 and #7 box 12x12x8 can be clam shelled to any depth.
Any use of Flat Rate boxes for other than there intended use is trouble! Have had shipments returned for using flat rate boxes for standard Priority shipping. They expect to get the flat rate for EACH flat rate box used. Covering with plastic will not work, they know the size of their FR boxes!
The #7 box can be remade to any depth by folding on a door way edge and cutting off excess lower flaps.
Cut up the #4 & #7 boxes for packing material. Fill voids with blocks of cardboard pieces taped together.
Pellet stoves can be converted to burn shredded cardboard.



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