I recently received an email from USPS that has me a bit concerned. It's about their "Click-N-Ship" service, and it claims that if they notice a discrepancy "during the shipping process" they will send an email to the sender and will bill you for the additional postage due.
I always carefully weigh packages and do not "cheat" on the weight when I purchase a label. If I were to take a pre-paid package to the post office, and they said that the weight I entered was incorrect, I would ask them to double check, and then could make my decision if I wanted to pay the extra cost or not ship the package.
My concern is that if USPS thinks they're going to verify the weight and other information "during the shipping process," what recourse do I have if they incorrectly measure a package or flat-out lie that it's under paid?
I had an issue several years ago at a post office where I was over charged for several packages (not pre-paid - I was paying at the post office). I knew roughly what each one should cost, and they seemed to be coming up slightly higher. Finally, a tube was weighed and the clerk said it was too heavy to be shipped first class. I knew that wasn't the case, so I told her so. She got a small set of weights out to verify the scale, and sure enough, the scale was improperly zeroed. She did correct it, but refused to fix the parcels that were already weighed. I asked for the postmaster, but he wasn't there.
I later contacted the Department of Weights and Measures, and they said that while it was illegal for her not to have corrected the original packages, their department had no jurisdiction over the USPS.
This is a tough enough issue to deal with when I'm in-person at the scale/register. What will I do if the USPS claims my package was heavier than marked after the package is out of my hands? How will I prove my case that it was weighed correctly?
I understand that there are people who deliberately mark lower weights in hopes of saving a little money. That's why I have no problem with the clerk weighing the package when I drop it off. If he/she asks for more payment, I can refuse and take the package back, if that's my choice. Or, I can ask that they check that the scale is zeroed properly. I can't do any of those things once I no longer have the package.
If the USPS notices that a pre-paid package is under-paid after the customer has left, they have the option of returning it to the sender. I've had this happen once or twice with no mention of why on the package (they usually mark the package with the reason for return - under payment, refused, no such address, etc.) In these cases, I was able to get the post office to process the package again without re-paying, after they verified that the information (weight, etc.) was correct.
However, if they are now going to start billing the sender rather than returning the parcel, the opportunity for fraud on the part of USPS (whether accidental or intentional) is huge.
Note from the editor: Here's more information about the new USPS Automated Package Verification System that will roll out on August 1st.