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Tue Dec 20 2016 17:59:32

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipping?

By: Reader

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Dear Ina,
Here's my latest shipping question:

Last night I sold something on eBay that weighed 3 lbs. It fit perfectly in the medium size flat-rate priority mail sized box. The flat rate postage was $11.xx    

BUT ... based on weight and destination address the NON-flat-rate PRIORITY mail postage was only $8.xx.

Is it "legal" to use the flat rate mailer, but pay the "calculated" priority service postage if there's a savings?

Should I (can I) just "cross through" the "flat rate" markings on the box?    ;-)
Sincerely,
Never without an "angle"
Jim




Comments (27) | Permalink

Readers Comments

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Dec 20 18:20:15 2016

Legal or not we have always done that. We just put those 2 x 3 priority labels overthe flat rate markings. Or we also use brown tape to cover it.

Ask the postmaster about it and was told that they didn't care as long as the flat rate was blacked out. DO NOT DO THIS ON PRIORITY FLAT RATE ENVELOPES OR PADDED ENVELOPES.

Over almost 20 years of doing it we have never had a problem via something coming back to us or something going postage due.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

This user has validated their user name. by: Marie

Tue Dec 20 19:08:25 2016

By doing that, you would be risking your buyer being charged the difference when the item was delivered.  Not a good idea in my opinion.

If you want to ship it via calculated priority mail, just put it in regular manila envelop, box or bubble mailer, whichever is appropriate.  Then write Priority Mail on the front and back of the item.  Sides if appropriate.  Buy your PM shipping and put the sticker on the package.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: HappyOne This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 21 06:29:01 2016

Flat Rate Boxes tops and flaps have ''Priority Mail - Medium Flat Rate Box Postage is required regardless of weight or destination and Misuse may be a violation of Federal law.
Your question is like ''will I get a ticket for going 70 mph in a 55 mph zone?'' Probably not. But it does happen. When it does happen telling the enforcement agent ''but everyone is doing it or I was keeping up with the flow of traffic or people on  eComBytes said it was okay is not going to help.
I personally have a supply of all USPS boxes (regional, flat rate and other free ones)  and various size purchased ones available. For ME, I know what my maximum cost (usually a Flat Rate or Regional  box) East Coast to West Coast is; include it in item price (offering Ebay ''free'' shipping). If something ships closer the little extra is legitimately mine. This saves me time exact weighing of packed item and refunding the excess pennies to pita buyers. Now with the end of DSR's for shipping costs really hurting anymore it isn't as important anymore. Buyer's do not rate ''excessive shipping costs'' in FB when included in price. This works for ME because I sell mostly yard sale finds without the exact same new item being offer by many sellers where price becomes almost the only factor in purchasing.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

This user has validated their user name. by: toolguy

Wed Dec 21 11:31:27 2016

I DON'T do it

But then again I have plenty of USPS Priority Mail boxes.

I even have a few SPECIAL sizes I got years back.

16x6x6, 12x12x3, & 5x5x5

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Dec 21 16:23:46 2016

@Jim (OP) - It appears that you are asking for the acquiescence of the other sellers who comment here for an activity you clearly know you shouldn't be doing.

Besides the fact that you are required to use the USPS' free shipping supplies in the manner they were intended, why would you take the chance that your plan is going to backfire? The best case scenario is that the package is returned to you for misuse of the packaging; worse case is that it arrives at the buyers location with postage due and you get negative feedback as a result (I'd leave you a negative if I was forced to pay an amount over what you had already quoted as the postage cost).

It seems like you want the benefit of free boxes but not the extra amount you'd have to pay in postage to use them. I suggest you follow the rules, and place a box order with ULine.  

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: isaiah1212 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 21 23:36:56 2016

As others have said, USPS offers plenty of free boxes and supplies in many sizes. You can order them on-line, and they will be delivered right to your door. Also, take a trip to your local Walmart after 10pm on a weekend night...and load up on every size box you can imagine, free! Just crusie the aisles; the nigh stockers have them all broken down and ready to go. Want larger, sturdy boxes? Go through the kitchen appliance aisle. Small boxes (6"x4", etc)? Go through electronics. You may eventually pay a much bigger price by being dishonest, in more ways than one.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Wed Dec 21 23:43:40 2016

I wouldn't take a chance on using PM flat rate packaging when it's not being sent at the flat rate. Your mileage may vary, as they say, but just because *your* postmaster says it's ok, do you know what the postmaster on the buyer's end is going to say? If it's different on the buyer's end, your customer may end up paying the full Priority Mail rate (even if flat rate is cheaper and of course there wouldn't be any ''commercial'' discount!).  

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Thu Dec 22 00:12:44 2016

FeelingFroggy has been doing it for 20 years and never had an issue with returns or extra postage collected. That's good enough for me.

(Yes, I have done it in those rare occasions where I didn't have access to a non-flat rate box or the box was a perfect fit.)

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: epuise This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 00:14:18 2016

Overzealous SMALL Post Offices trying to MAKE THEMSELVES VALUABLE {so they are not closed} will ATTEMPT to COLLECT that $3.00 DIFFERENCE {or more, as they collect on RETAIL difference} that the SELLER did not pay on that FLAT RATE BOX that had INSUFFICIENT postage paid {based on weight only}.  

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

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

Thu Dec 22 00:23:15 2016

Just get the same size non-flat rate Priority boxes. They have oodles of them that they will give you for free. But note when you order them on line from the PO you electronically sign that you will use them only for their original purpose. So to be covering them up like your doing is illegal and can give you worse consequences than making an a buyer pay a few more bucks.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Barbbie This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 00:54:06 2016

Not unless I want my buyer to get a postage due bill - or me on the way back when they refuse it!
I feel very fortunate that my post office does not scrutinize my packages for additional postage and I would not want to make them feel that they should.  

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Jester This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 04:25:56 2016

No it is not right to use flat rate boxes for regular priority. It is also not allowed to manipulate flat rate boxes to your own likes. It can lead to your buyer being charged more for the postage and worse. It's not ethical.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

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

Thu Dec 22 05:04:49 2016

I am sure I have read at the Post Office that the flat rate boxes can only be use as flat rate mail. As the others have stated you may or may not get away with it.  

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 05:35:34 2016

Legal or not we have always done that. We just put those 2 x 3 priority labels overthe flat rate markings. Or we also use brown tape to cover it.
^^
This.  I also use the priority mail boxes and cover them with  shipping paper and ship at a lower rate, such as parcel select.
You do what you have to to get a cheaper rate and not have the package returned.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 05:37:47 2016

As others have said, USPS offers plenty of free boxes and supplies in many sizes. You can order them on-line, and they will be delivered right to your door. Also, take a trip to your local Walmart after 10pm on a weekend night...and load up on every size box you can imagine, free! Just crusie the aisles; the nigh stockers have them all broken down and ready to go. Want larger, sturdy boxes? Go through the kitchen appliance aisle. Small boxes (6"x4", etc)? Go through electronics. You may eventually pay a much bigger price by being dishonest, in more ways than one.
^^
This.  Also use poly envelopes and poly bubble envelopes.  Get a variety of mailers/boxes/priority mailers and comparison ship by price.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: salesrep1 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 06:17:52 2016

Regional Ship A has 2 boxes 1 is close in size to the box in question plus the shipping is about the cost of a 2# so  u will save about $5 off the med flat rate in the closer zones and about $2 off the cross country rates. I use this box category the most.Also Wamart sells the exact box its made by Duck for .69 so I keep a few of those handy if need be . Like many have said u use the program the way it wasn't intended the 1 time may backfire ! The feedback or double postage may cause u more grief in the end? We all know things can go wrong any way why stack it against yourself? .69 is about all its worth.
 

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

This user has validated their user name. by: mcfiver

Thu Dec 22 08:42:13 2016

My approach to shipping is pre-packing PRIOR to listing, which ensures accurate postage is posted in the item description and there is zero post-sale surprises to the buyer.

My experience with hiding the flat rate notice on USPS boxes is if discovered or flagged, the post office will charge the customer - so I don't do it. I simply find another box and attach Priority Mail stickers on it.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: Bethofvt This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 09:33:26 2016

Here is what USPS sayus about it. You can use flat rate for regular rates ONLY if the box is ALTERED. this is a copy of the official USPS memo regarding that. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  It is Bulletin 22435 dated 2-18-16 . . . . . . . . . DMM Notice: Proper Use of Flat Rate Containers

Employees are reminded of the proper use of Priority Mail Express® and Priority Mail® Flat Rate envelopes and boxes (containers).
According to Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM®), when sealing a Flat Rate Envelope (FRE) or Flat Rate Box (FRB), the container flaps must be able to close within the normal folds. Tape may be applied to the flaps and seams to reinforce the container, provided the design of the container is not enlarged by opening the sides and the container is not reconstructed in any way. The weight restriction for domestic Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes is 70 lbs.
If an FRE or FRB is presented at the office of mailing and the customer has manipulated or reconstructed it, the container is accepted using weight and zone — not the Flat Rate price. A customer is not required to repackage an item unless the contents are fragile and would be at risk of damage during processing and transit.
Below are a few typical questions and answers:
Q. Is tape allowed?
A. Yes, tape is allowed on the seams and flaps of an FRE or FRB. Tape is allowed to reinforce the flaps of an FRE within its normal folds and of course to properly close a FRB.
Q. How much tape is acceptable?
A. Tape is permissible as reinforcement on the seams and flaps of a FRE or FRB to make sure the container does not break open during processing and transit. However, tape should not “encase” the FRE or FRB. Note that if a customer is using a printed Click-N-Ship® label or PC Postage Vendor label, extra tape is allowed to properly attach it to the envelope or box.
Q. What about bulges?
A. As long as the FRE or FRB can close “within the normal folds,” bulges are not a problem. “Flat” refers to the price, not to the shape.
Q. What if the FRE is too thick?
A. There is currently no maximum thickness for a FRE. “Flat” refers to the price, not to the shape.
Q. What if the FRE is stuffed so full that it’s shaped like a cylinder?
A. As long as the FRE can close within its normal folds, and as long as the sides of the FRE haven’t been reconstructed, for example by being slit and having a gusset inserted, it is fine. “Flat” refers to the price, not to the shape.
Q. What if a skillet is packed in an FRB and the handle sticks out?
A. A small bump-out of the box is okay, but if the handle actually sticks out of the box or the box is reconfigured to accommodate the skillet, it cannot be considered as a FRB.

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: timeaftertime This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 10:37:33 2016

@Chicago 48 (and others)

You said, ''I also use the priority mail boxes and cover them with  shipping paper and ship at a lower rate, such as parcel select.... You do what you have to to get a cheaper rate and not have the package returned.''

Aside from the fact that this is an intentional violation of using Priority boxes,

With all of the automation that will be inflicted on your packages - especially in the cheaper parcel post services -- you are foolish to use paper wrapping!  It just takes one snag on a corner and the paper is ripped off!! Then what ? Even if you were smart enough to write the recipient's name and address on the inside box, it will arrive ''POSTAGE DUE'' and your customer will not be happy!!

To make it worse, they won't have any idea that there was an outer wrap - they will think you shipped it ''Postage Due'' in the first place!!

Now that USPS has teamed up with UPS and FedEx, the handling quality has disintegrated worse than ever!
Even correctly used priority boxes are getting destroyed by the machines! An outer paper wrap is absolutely inviting being torn away!

A few months ago I received my first ever ''Contents Missing'' notice complete with the label off a Small FRB, that had been well taped, but likely succumbed to being eaten by a machine (? contents were never found, so I can't be sure).

Thinking further about it - this appears to be another one of those situations where a few people misusing a privilege will eventually cause it to be discontinued - ruining it for the rest of us who are thankful for something helpful and try to play by the rules.

I have always wondered how long these free boxes will last !!  


 

How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp   How Far Can You Go to Squeeze Savings out of Shipp

by: a_c_green This user has validated their user name.

Thu Dec 22 11:31:48 2016

Of course you can't underpay postage on a Flat Rate box based on light weight. Flat Rate is Flat Rate, the whole point of a Flat Rate box is that weight is not a factor, and it's silly to pretend that there's some question about it.

I only wish that the quoted FAQ above had actually addressed that question head-on, so that we wouldn't have to keep seeing it resurface every couple of months, generally after some seller's been burned by a Neg from a buyer who's miffed about getting his package Postage Due as a result.

Flat Rate packaging is provided free as a convenience, but if you've got a lightweight item that can go via weight-/zone-based Priority Mail, then just find any convenient box for it other than Flat Rate packaging, regardless of whether it's non-FR Priority packaging from the USPS, or something completely different. Only the FR packaging is off-limits if you want to save some money on Priority shipping. This is not difficult.

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