Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Sun Feb 2 2020 23:50:12

USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

By: Ina Steiner

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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.



Comments (27) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: DeathFromAbove

Mon Feb 3 00:17:16 2020

Is this from the ebay playbook?  Can't raise the rates any more as your customers are already fleeing, so have to look somewhere else?  

USPS could literally store every tracking number with up to 100 stops, for the last 20 years, on a single modern server you can buy from dell for $1,000.  Clone it on another one or two in different locations for failsafe measures.  Run incremental backups every 5 minutes to yet another offsite location.  $5,000 investment, max, to keep the information forever.  The idea that they can charge for hard drive space occupied by a text record is like a dot bomb startup idea from 1998.  Did they hire another dinosaur with no ideas?  WHY do new people who don't know anything come in and constantly change things when they WORK?!?

Not sure if anyone noticed, but we've hit the tipping point on small packages where USPS is going to get slammed with competition.  FedEx can now BEAT the USPS rate on things under a cubic foot, and charges comparable price for 2-day, which beats priority mail in reliability.  They really shot themselves in the foot with the annual increases, as now they aren't the best price.  Delivering junk mail won't keep the doors open - they act like they don't WANT to handle packages, which is ironically the only path to their future.    

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Mon Feb 3 02:07:37 2020

Dang now there is a way for USPS to make serious money!!!  Certainly nothing a regular online seller could utilize as the cost is way too much.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 3 03:35:59 2020

Unless they change their current tracking model it is irrelevant. Any high risk item that would require extended tracking would likely be sent with signature confirmation which stays in the USPS system for at least a year. Anything longer is very unlikely to require proof of delivery. Why pay a $2.10 fee when you can just add signature confirmation (if it wasn't already required).

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 3 06:57:05 2020

We haven't used tracking in over 3 years. If we can't send stuff first class we don't sell it. So we are still at 55 cents.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Mon Feb 3 07:46:47 2020

10 years should have been included in the last annual price increase. Scumbags.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: Life During Wartime

Mon Feb 3 10:28:42 2020

I've never done a transaction, as buyer or seller, where I needed to access tracking information for 4 months.  So can't imagine why I would need the info for longer than that?  

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Mon Feb 3 10:40:52 2020

Agree with Life During Wartime. If an item hasn't arrived in three to four weeks, and regular tracking shows no current location, it's lost. JD or Devin must be suggesting ways for the USPS to make extra money, and we all know how that turned out for eBay.  

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Feb 3 11:19:14 2020

The USPS has been Californianized

Another entity just trying to squeeze every last penny from their customers!

Now if they had only charged a nickel for that extra time they might have gotten a few takers!

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: Shanna This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 3 12:19:40 2020

What you are paying for is keeping the tracking number active. Tracking numbers are recycled after 6-8 months. Don't believe me, grab an old box and look up the tracking now. It will be to somewhere else.  

For some reason, USPS cannot use anything but numbers for domestic tracking, so they only have several billion numbers to use. UPS and Fedex figured out long ago you include letters and that set increases into the quadrillions.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Mon Feb 3 17:14:32 2020

It sounds to me like this is targeted at clients with more document retention requirements like government.  But even government is cutting corners on former legal requirements like paper forms and telephone service.  It sounds like a solution in search of a problem at this point.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

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

Mon Feb 3 18:20:00 2020

@Life During Wartime

Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common from what I have been reading on both the discussion boards and Facebook for Scammers to claim the item Was an Unauthorized Purchase and the only way to prove otherwise is to be able to show the tracking information which shows that it was delivered to the Buyers Address.  Paypal will close the claim in favor of the Seller with this information and the scammers know it so they are now waiting until it is almost at 6 months so they are within Paypals 180 day claim period but outside of the Sellers ability to show this information to Paypal as they will only accept electronically submitted information.  At least at this point in time Paypal will close it in your favor if you can show this information even if they lose the chargeback from the bank.  That is part of their Seller Protection which is why everybody needs to keep up with any changes to it.  

Feebay has not made any mention of having our backs when they force everybody into Mangled Payments, so having this information can become a completely moot point.  It also appears that Mangled Payments has no intention of offering a MicroPayments option for those that sell a lot of items under $12 (breakeven point between Micropayments account and a regular account).  It looks like this is what Ebay plans on using to finally show some growth as Sellers will have no option but to allow Ebay to process their sales  so they can dig as deep as possible into the Sellers pockets to grab more money for their incompetently run company.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: hopeforthebest This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 3 18:37:26 2020

My tracking is usually a 22 digit number... just using the last 14 digits makes 22 billion... if you add the next 4 digits - 22 trillion.

They do recycle, but only slowly, and at any time they can add another 4 digits to make a quadrillion.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: NoMoreEbay

Mon Feb 3 19:24:48 2020

When a label is printed through ebay and paid for by paypal, ebay has the record that it's been delivered. PayPal has the tracking number, transaction ID and the Invoice ID which can easily be traced back to the buyer.

So both companies already have the information electronically at best. At worst, paypal and ebay could mark an agreement to share the tracking history.  I know for a fact that both companies keep this information on servers for at least 10 years.

To then have the seller come back and supply that which is already in their posession when they know darn well it's not available to the seller electronically is yet one more despicable thing that comes out of PayPal.

It's like criminal ping pong. ebay and paypal back and forth. Who can score the highest today for horrible treatment towards it's customers.

As for the USPS, who cares what they do anymore. Does it really even matter. Each increase puts more and more sellers out of business and less shipments passing through. A lose lose for everyone.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Feb 3 20:30:52 2020

I have a return coming!

Women in Northern California buys some earrings that are price at $10, she begs me to accept $8.75 + $4 shipping

I accept, she gets the (15) pairs and says they do not match the pictures!

They're one in the same! They look EXACTLY like the pictures.

She files for a return and eBay automatically accepts the return.

This item cost $3.25 to mail. But when I look at the USPS details it has a FULL year of tracking included!

Did eBay charge me for this extra time of tracking?

I'm just wondering how much eBay is going to charge me for this shipping label.

If it only cost me $3.25 to ship thru eBay, eBay shouldn't charge me anymore then $3.25 to get it back!

We'll see what happens!

I got the feeling I'm going to go BALLISTIC when I see how much the label cost. . .

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Mon Feb 3 20:39:00 2020

Here's a label from me to a customer:


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 June 2, 2020 without this purchase. You may purchase Premium Tracking for only one tracking number at a time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Here's the return label from eBay to my customer:


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 February 1, 2021 without this purchase. You may purchase Premium Tracking for only one tracking number at a time.






Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 4 06:45:15 2020

“ USPS could literally store every tracking number with up to 100 stops, for the last 20 years, on a single modern server you can buy from dell for $1,000.”

Seems simple, right? But it’s not just a number, it’s the reach into and return from other multiple differently purposed database entities that have pieces of the associated information regarding the mail piece too. Not to mention the ability needed to service literally millions of potentially simultaneous requests for the (different pieces per request) data. Try picturing what happens when one tries to fill a funnel faster than it can drain....

“ My tracking is usually a 22 digit number... ”.

But it’s not just a ‘number’ randomly or sequentially assigned. They actually indicate information such as origin, class, destination, handling requirements, etc. That’s why so many may start with the same 4 digits for example - always - for a given ‘attribute type’ set associated to the mail piece. And it’s not just ‘packages’ being tracked....

“ For some reason, USPS cannot use anything but numbers for domestic tracking...”

USPS Overnight Express numbers are a combination of two letters, fewer numbers, and two more letters (representing country of origin). Same with registered mail/parcels. It’s an international convention, btw. However, using only numbers means it’s also much easier (faster) to input a request from a/the numeric keypad alone. Err...was that a zero, or an oh?....

“ Certainly nothing a regular online seller could utilize....”

Most may not, sure. But this wasn’t some ‘income reach’. It was a service response to a need identified as being requested enough to be worth responding to. And the cost isn’t feeding a profit center. It’s meant to help defray.

It’s also just an option. An offering. A choice. Not embedded and charged to all, and included as ‘free’ for those without need.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: exdwh This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 4 11:10:20 2020

It sounds like they e-mail the tracking details rather than keep it visible online. That wouldn't work as ''online proof of delivery''.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Tue Feb 4 18:52:05 2020

And the return label cost............................

$3.25 cents (the same as I paid to ship it)

OK, so I can say from personal experience that eBay didn't overcharge me for a return label.

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: industrystones This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 4 23:10:12 2020

Retarded. It will never work.
FIRST you need USPS employees to cooperate on data-inputting tracking into the system ( scanning upon arrival) which they CAN"T EVEN DO PROPERLY NOW.
So how is THIS gonna work any better AND at an extra charge?  Fail

Perminate Link for USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee   USPS Offers Premium Tracking for a Fee

by: purpleiris This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 5 05:49:04 2020

I haven't noticed it, yet, but I wouldn't use it anyway. I always monitor tracking of packages and print the details of the delivery confirmation once they're delivered. It gets filed with the invoice copy.

I have done this since day one and have never had an issue.

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