The USPS is making changes to shipping zones, which determines the rate shippers pay (for certain services, the farther packages travel, the higher the cost). With zone changes coming, sellers will see either higher or lower costs for some of their zone-based shipments.
As we reported last week
, the Postal Service said it would update the way it calculates the distance between origin and destination ZIP Codes in determining zone assignment. "Rather than using the distance between origin and destination plant, the Postal Service will use the distance between 3-digit ZIP Codes to determine zone on July 10, 2022."
We followed up with the USPS to see if that would result in higher prices. USPS spokesperson David Coleman provided the following explanation:
"Postal Zones are defined in the Domestic Mail Manuel section 608.9. The Postal Service is removing the dependency on plant location from the zone calculation to provide more stable zone calculations for our customers.
"In most instances, this will not make a difference in price because for most ZIP Code pairs the zone is not changing. For some 3-digit ZIP Code pairs, the zone will change, going either up or down. It depends on distance from the plant and the orientation between the plant and the ZIP Code.
"For instance, if the origin ZIP Code was on the far Eastern side of the origin plant and the destination ZIP Code was on the far Western side of the destinating plant, then the price may go up one zone. But, if the origin ZIP was on the far Western side of the origin plant and the destination ZIP Code was on the far Eastern side of the destinating plant, then the price may go down a zone.
"The DMM updated zone definition will provide more details and will be published in the Federal Register soon."
To see how USPS zones impact rates for some services, check out this 2019 EcommerceBytes article
where Stamps.com's Eric Nash explained how new 2020 rates were set to impact shippers (for example, Priority Mail Regional Rate Box A increased up to 90 cents depending on the zone).
As we previously noted, the July 10th rate changes will have a big impact on Market Dominant services (and some ancillary services), while they'll have minimum impact on Competitive rates. The zone changes are a wildcard until sellers know specifics.
With lots of changes at the post office these days thanks to the USPS 10-year plan, it's one more uncertainty to deal with.