The US Postal Service is offering premium tracking for packages. The optional paid service extends the amount of time that tracking information remains available.
A logistics consultant brought the service to our attention over the weekend after he came across it when tracking some packages.
Matthew Hertz worked at Shyp before cofounding Second Marathon Consulting. He said he was a huge advocate of the Postal Service and its flagship products (First Class and Priority), but said the premium tracking offering seemed highly irrelevant.
Hertz saw the offer on Sunday on two orders he was tracking - "One was a personal item I shipped from a label generated on Shippo, and another was an order from a Shopify store that was generated using Stamps."
We're not sure how long the USPS has been offering the service, nor are we sure how widely available it is.
I was curious to see if Premium Tracking was available on an item I had mailed on January 29th via Priority Mail, with extra insurance, that had arrived at its destination on the 31st.
When I entered the tracking number on the USPS website on Sunday evening, there were four headings with pull-down arrows located underneath the status information:
- Text & Email Updates
- Tracking History
- Premium Tracking
- Product Information
"Premium Tracking" didn't jump out at me from the page, and I am doubtful I would have clicked on the down arrow next to it unless made aware of it.
Clicking on the arrow next to Premium Tracking brought up the following information with 6 options:
"Your item is eligible for Premium Tracking: Extended History. Purchase the extended tracking history for your item to be sent via email upon request. Choose the length of time you would like to extend access to this tracking history and select for purchase. You can only purchase extended history once so your order will be final. Based on your tracking number, your regular tracking history is available only until July 27, 2020 without this purchase. You may purchase Premium Tracking for only one tracking number at a time."
6 Months: $2.10
1 Year: $2.59
3 Years: $3.59
5 Years: $4.59
7 Years: $5.59
10 Years: $9.99
Aside from the date, the messaging and options were identical to the information in the screenshot Hertz tweeted on Sunday
Normally the Postal Service allows you to access tracking information for 4 months (120 days), according to the USPS website
. That poses difficulties for merchants who are subject to claims up to 6 months after a transaction. However, the leap to paying an extra $2.10 for protection seems extreme, unless it's for a high-risk or high-value item.
It's also interesting that the option is available to both the shipper and the recipient. Why would a recipient need to pay for extended tracking, given the fact they would have the item in hand? And if the item hadn't arrived by the time expected, they could file a claim with the Postal Service long before the regular 4-month tracking period expires.
Have you noticed the USPS Premium Tracking option, and is it something you would use as a buyer or as a seller?
Update 2/4/2020: The USPS announced the feature on Monday (February 3rd) and provided us with a statement, which you can find in this EcommerceBytes Newsflash article.