eBay Sellers Tune in to Webinar on USPS Rate Hikes
By Julia Wilkinson
Questions about the big rate hike in the new First Class Package International service, the Parcel Select mail class, and all kinds of box and packaging-related issues were top on sellers' minds in the webinar, "A to Z Breakdown of the 2013 USPS Postage Rate Changes," co-hosted by Eric Nash of Stamps.com and Mark Le Vine of Bubblefast.com, who provided "in-the-trenches" commentary on what worked best in his high-volume packing-supplies business.
The webinar began with a general rundown of the new mail class types and prices, and by how much they had gone up. Nash explained that while the postal service raised some rates more than others, they were restricted by law to raise prices more than the Consumer Price Index, or 2.57%, for their "market-dominant products," meaning products where they have no competition, such as First Class, Standard, and Media Mail. Their "competitive" services, where they compete with companies such as UPS and FedEx, however, have "no cap" on how much they increase.
While retail rates are those at the post office, there was good news about commercial base, or online, pricing for postage: the discounts are getting larger, such as up to 63% off Express Mail International. Another type of pricing the USPS uses is "commercial plus," which is discounted more deeply, but is only for high-volume shippers. eBay Top-rated Sellers will qualify for these discounts and can get them via eBay's shipping, said Nash.
But while there were such bright spots in the 2013 Postal changes, the questions reflected frustration with the relatively large jump in the international first class rate, now called "First Class Package International," which went up overall by 59.6%. One of the questioners said that since he sends a lot of low-weight items, between about three and 10 ounces, he was looking at an increase of more like 100% rather than 59%.
"Unfortunately, it's gut-wrenching to look at the new prices for First Class (Package) International," said Nash. Le Vine pointed out that eBay sellers were not being "picked on" with the new rate; it affects everyone using this service.
Another seller wanted to know if the reason First Class International "skyrocketed" so much was because delivery confirmation had been added?
Nash explained that this was not the reason, but it was rather a reflection of the "state the USPS is in," and "how they're comparing those rates against what UPS and FedEx offer," as well as how they deal with external countries' posts. He emphasized that right now, other than to Canada, First Class Package International does not include delivery confirmation, and it is still the "lowest-cost among all international shipping services."
A seller who was eager to know if there was a list of the future destinations that would have USPS First Class Package International delivery confirmation, was told by Nash that it would be pretty much the "more advanced" countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Ireland.
Another wanted to know why packages weren't tracked once they leave the US? Nash explained that unlike companies such as UPS, which operate in other countries, when you ship with the USPS, once your item gets to another country it is handled by that country's postal system, which is essentially another company.
None of the panelists knew yet if eBay would accept the new First Class International delivery confirmation (as it becomes available to more countries) as proof of item receipt in the event of a dispute.
While Parcel Post was becoming "Standard Post," Nash explained that in terms of buying ground postage online, sellers would be dealing with the newly-named "Parcel Select" rates. eBay will not have Parcel Select postage available via its site until March 2013, but sellers can purchase Parcel Select from Stamps.com, said Nash. (Other postage providers have also made Parcel Select available to customers, including Pitney Bowes, Endicia and ShipRush.)
He also pointed out that Parcel Select was cheaper than Standard Post for packages up to 28 pounds; heavier than that, and a Post Office trip may be "right for you." Le Vine mentioned there were size issues as well, with different rates such as the "balloon rate" (which applies if an item's length plus girth are between 84 and 108"), and said he highly recommended the shipping calculator on the USPS.com site.
Le Vine suggested sellers try to use regional rate boxes as much as possible where they make sense; of course an item has to fit into one of these boxes for this to work. Nash said sellers are not supposed to modify the shape of USPS-provided boxes such as leaving flaps open and covering them with tape. Le Vine said one of the products Bubblefast offers, the "Scotty Stuffer," was born of a request from sellers to have a box that fit inside the Priority Mail padded flat rate envelope, so fragile items could be sent this way and still have extra protection, for example. (Ten Scotty Stuffers cost $16.95).
The fine line between a "large envelope" and a "package" was also discussed; if an envelope is over 3/4 of an inch, it is considered a package.
Nash's advice for a questioner about postal zones was to use the USPS zone chart calculator on the USPS website; just type in the first three digits of your zip code and it "will spit out zones," he said.
Also see last week's EcommerceBytes news article, USPS Price and Service Changes Impact eBay Sellers.
About the author:
Julia Wilkinson is the author of "The eBay Price Guide" (No Starch Press, 2006) and "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks" (Wiley, 2004-6). Her free "Yard Salers" newsletter is at available at YardSalers.net where you will also find her latest ebook, Flip It Again.
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