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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.



Comments (33) | Permalink

Readers Comments

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by: lessthanthreerecords This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 26 17:32:52 2020

I foresaw that issue when the program was first announced by USPS, and I have not printed a label since.  I pay for all of my postage at the post office so that I cannot be fraudulently billed after the fact.  It's hard enough dealing with scales that aren't properly zeroed at a post office, but I am not about to let USPS (or anyone else) weigh or measure my packages WITHOUT ME PRESENT so there is no recourse.  I'm sorry to hear this is happening to people.

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by: Silver Ice King This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 26 21:14:54 2020

I have never had anything changed on what i have paid for postage online.  I know many have but after talking with them most admit they guessed at the weight, sent items via Media Mail when it really did not qualify and they got caught.  There are other potential reasons for it but again I have not had to deal with it for a shortage or an overpayment.  

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by: 1st Armored Division 1971-1973 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Jun 26 21:22:48 2020

Never had a problem I know of.

If you enter the proper weight and DIM you should get the exact postage due.

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by: Coin Seller This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 02:59:35 2020

Since May 31 have had eight instances of USPS adding adding ''correction'' charge for Signature Confirmation on flat rate priority mail package labels with Signature Confirmation already paid via Endicia.com.  Absolutely NO error on my end. Have contacted Endicia.com for resolution.

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 03:24:01 2020

As stated by others ABOVE in this list.  Dimensional Weight, Inappropriate u1.se of MEDIA MAIL, and.... Cheating on how Flat Rate Priority envelopes and boxes are the THREE most likely.
a.  Dimensional Weight. FAR too many adults think that what they learned in Third Grade about ROUNDING to the closest Integer applies to SHIPPING Weight and SHIPPING dimensions.  Nope.  8.1 ounce RATES as 9 ounces.  11.125 inches has to be ENTERED as 12 inches.  

b.   Meida Mail.  Not forgiving cheaters, but eBay NUDGES sellers toward this one as they SUGGEST Media Mal right in the "select your service class" page. Those who do NOT frequently ship Media Mail ( I do ) can easily be lured to USE that class on the theory that if NOT appropriate EBAY wouldn't SHOW it.
A four pound NON-media item from Texas to Alaska might well be $10 plus so seeing something more like $4.50 could EASILY lure the unwary.

c. Incorrectly SEALED or JOINING Two flat rate envelopes/boxes into ONE package is 101 percent Wrong and "Illegal" by USPS rules.  I have not cruised YouTube for this sort of video for YEARS, but there USED TO BE a raft-load of videos promoting how to Cut / ReShape / and ReSeal some sizes of Flat Rate boxes / envelopes to let TOO BIG items ship for PENNIES vs. RIGHT size Flat Rate Box.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sat Jun 27 06:11:29 2020

MEDIA MAIL :
This is DISCRIMINATORY pricing / ILLEGAL.
It doesn't matter what's IN the box, it's the weight / dimension and distance.
Media Mail is a contrivance of a group that considers itself "Special", making it's own rules assisted by "connections" within the Postal Service.
STRIKE DOWN MEDIA MAIL.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sat Jun 27 06:14:40 2020

What's Next ?
Lingerie Mail ?
Auto parts Mail ?
Get the Picture ?
ABOLISH MEDIA MAIL.  

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 06:32:00 2020

Dear The End,    Cool your jets.
Obviously have never read up on the GENESIS of what is NOW defined as MEDIA MAIL.

Originally it was described as EITHER Book Rate or Library Rate.

'Way back in pre-history ( 1930 ) libraries would still MAIL OUT requested books so that library patrons could still obtain books without an arduous TREK back and forth to the LIBRARY.
That was expanded to allow BOOK PUBLISHERS to also use that RATE.  Why?  Because in the Good Old Days our federal government ENCOURAGED an informed and Well-Read Populace.

Imagine that.

This rate also allowed heavy magazines and Sound Recordings on WILDLY heavy shellac 78 rpm records.

Thru the years as technologies changed, they ADDED movie film, micro-groove LPs, Audio Cassettes, then VIDEO cassettes, most recently DVD and Blu-Ray ( and the LOSER in the HDTV media market HD-DVD.

Right today an ODD carve-out to NOT allow is COMPUTER programs on ANY media.  This includes Games on cd-rom, dvd-data, BluRay data, and MEMORY chips no matter if Thumbdrives or MegaByte / TerraByte Real or Virtual Hard-Drives.

OK class,  close your books and prepare for a POP quiz.

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by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 07:14:24 2020

We haven't generated a preprinted shipping label in years. We buy US Postage stamps at around 60 per cent of face and use them all the time. Just think of saving 40 percent of the cost of postage if you just take the time to lick and stick a stamp. Been doing it for years. The post office doesn't care about our little stamps as they are more concerned with your label printed for 70 cents when it should have been 71 cents. Its no wonder they can't make any money.

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by: Shanna This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 10:00:43 2020

@lessthanthreerecords

By paying full retail prices at the post office, you are paying 25-40% more than those of us paying the commercial rate online. The chances you would ever be overcharged via this new system is tiny compared to the overages you have been paying the post office for years.

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sat Jun 27 14:05:46 2020

To use the Contents of a package as the pricing mechanism IS ILLEGAL !

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sat Jun 27 14:17:18 2020

Abolish the "Media Mail" category.

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by: hopeforthebest This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 14:42:29 2020

The End's Quote: ''to use the contents of a package as the pricing mechanism IS ILLEGAL!!''

You obviously received your JD from one of the Ivy schools. Legal code and section used to make this carefully considered statement, please?

I thought not.

Like one of the previous writers I also send packages using postage stamps.

The biggest problem I see is USPS reclassifying Letters as Packages. I can mail a product in an letter envelope weighing less than 1 ounce, dimensions less than .25'' thick x 4'' tall x 6'' wide for $.55. It meets the post office specs for First Class Letter in every regard.

They will randomly reclassify some of these mailings as a ''Package'' and then collect between $3-$5 from the recipient. There is no possible recourse, no point of protest or complaint, and no way to recoup the loss.

Lately, they've been returning Packages when they're more than 1/2'' thick. Sometimes, it truly feels like they are the enemy.

I use Stamps.com for international mailings. The USPS regularly charges extra for international packages even though the weight and dimensions are correct and the postage charge shown at the time of purchase seem to be accurate. I've noticed Stamps.com now calls the international shipping charges an ''estimate'.  I guess that's their way of dodging the issue.




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by: ebayout This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 17:25:15 2020

I've never had a charge back because I play by their rules...weight AND dims.
I've lost track of all the times I've nipped off pieces of cardboard from my packaging because it was .1 oz over the weight I had charged my customer, ESPECIALLY on intl shipments.
Then...I lose my mind when I receive a 3 lb Priority Mail package with "1 lb" showing on the pre-paid label.

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by: Mamak This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 20:03:00 2020

I have only been charged once or twice in the last few years but have actually received multiple refunds.  Always round up.  Ebay's newer bulk postage screen is flawed and automatically puts your first class package as 1 oz making it  easy to accidentally skip adding in the correct weight.  Ebay should change it to have nothing in the weight unless it is specified in your listing already, so that you actually have to add the weight in before you can purchase a label.  I have almost accidentally purchased multiple labels with 1 oz because of it being filled in rather than requiring a weight.  

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by: ShortSeller This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 20:04:26 2020

Shipped hundreds of first class shipments within the last month and have not seen a single adjustment, zero in the last two years in fact. Wouldn't be surprised if they are just catching the cheats trying to get away with the usual first class letter for goods or those who deliberately just mark every package at the minimum weight. If so good riddance.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Sat Jun 27 20:29:27 2020

Regarding Media Mail, my personal rule is, if the item doesn't have an ISBN, I can't go by Media Mail.

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by: OnlyPollyPocket This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 20:39:49 2020

"I've never had a charge back because I play by their rules...weight AND dims."

Yep!  Best way to avoid those surprise postage adjustments :)

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 21:35:23 2020

hopeforthebest   I bet you that I already KNOW why you have been seeing these CHANGES from paid First Class "flats" rate vs. First Class Package rate.

NO SLAM, but you need to go to USPS website and SEARCH up the specifications on First Class PACKAGE rate.

I think you'll be both surprised and calmed down at the same time.

1.)  I personally WATCHED the counter person at one of my nearby post offices DRAG out an official USPS  "Size / Thickness" GAGE... (yes, gage is spelled correctly) and she instantly informed THAT postal patron that her package was TOO thick.

2.)   There are THREE criteria .... any ONE of which means that the package MUST be treated and BILLED as First Class Package.
       I'm not digging back thru as THICKNESS is pretty much the LEAST important for me, but the OTHER TWO are just as important.
CANNOT be RIGID and Must be ABLE to be ROLLED or SPINDLED.

I have read OTHER posters here on eCommerceBytes you had an inkling on these requirements BUT they misunderstood and though a package Mandated as PACKAGE rate.

One last encouragement.  First Class Package rate automatically get a Unique Tracking Number and FULL door to door TRACKING which serves as Proof Of Delivery.  Just ADDING that feature to "flats" mailing cost is on the order of $2.28 EXTRA, but is automatic and packed in the PACKAGE rates.

For anyone who touts PHYSICAL stamps or goes to the COUNTER and suffers the RACK RATE you also miss out on the ability to get First Class Package rates BEYOND 13 ounces all the way to 15.9 (actually 16) ounces. Laugh if you wish, but that means that for a LEGIT 16 ounce BOX, TUBE, or Padded Mailer you not only get a roughly $3 savings off the Priority Mail even LOWER $$ than the EXCELLENT quality Padded Flat Rate Mailer.

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by: angryllama This user has validated their user name.

Sat Jun 27 21:44:20 2020

OOPSIE,  my laptop seems to RANDOMLY elect to VANISH certain blocks of text.

In the following it LEFT OUT the phrase " mistakenly think that Package Must cover ALL Three Criteria to HAVE to go as Package Rate."

Previous Inacurate Text: " I have read OTHER posters here on eCommerceBytes you had an inkling on these requirements BUT they misunderstood and though a package Mandated as PACKAGE rate."

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