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Post Office Tips and Tricks

Posted By Jim On 10/08/2005 @ 8:53 am In Personal Finance | 17 Comments

As a former heavy Ebayer, I learned a few tips and tricks at the post office to help reduce my shipping costs and my time at the always apparently inefficient and busy post office. Some of these are well known and some aren’t, those that aren’t were simply told to me over time by the postal worker that I saw every few days and got to know.



1. Printing Postage Online at USPS.com
If you are shipping priority mail or express mail, you can print your label online at no extra charge. Printing online requires a credit card, Adobe Acrobat (available for free online), and a printer of course. There are two huge benefits of printing it online: a) You get the 45-cent delivery confirmation number absolutely free, b) You can drop off the package at any blue box mailbox as long as it fits in the slot. Normally, if the package is over 16 ounces, you always need to bring it to a post office unless it’s been electronically labelled and the shipping is paid for. The free 45-cent delivery confirmation number is just gravy.

2. Insured packages must be sent from a post office
If you insure a package, you must bring it to the post office. If you don’t, the insurance is valueless and you cannot make a claim even if you pay the money. This prevents fraud (shipment of an empty box) and is understandable but when you print postage online, it’s not entirely clear you must do this. I’ve been burned by this once.

3. Use Flat-Rate Priority Boxes and Envelopes
A flat rate priority box and envelope is a single price regardless of weight (the box is limited up to 70 lbs.), which is atypical for shipment. You must use their package for the flat rate and you can’t tape up the seams of the box yourself, your stuff needs to fit inside and close without the help of additional tape. If you do use tape, most of the time they’ll take it but don’t push your luck. The flat rate envelope is under $4.

4. Priority Mail is NOT Guaranteed
Priority Mail has no guarantee on when it will be delivered, unlike Next Day or Express. In fact, priority mail is sent the same way as 1st class mail; when 1st class mail exceeds a certain weight and thickness (beyond a “typical” envelope), it is labeled as priority mail! You are only losing money if you mail a regular envelope via priority mail. Just because it has a fancy sticker/stamp doesn’t mean it’s going to get there faster.

5. USPS Provides Free Boxes for Priority
If you ask, the USPS will provide boxes for shipping absolutely free. DHL, UPS and FedEx will provide padded envelopes up to a certain size but not boxes. I’ve seen Ebay sellers get the free padded envelopes, put them in a USPS box turned inside out and ship my item to me (doesn’t bother me). I usually stock up on Flat Rate Envelopes and ship most of my items out with that method, while I know it’s not getting there faster, the buyers think it does and they’re willing to pay more for the perception of speed.

6. Talk To The Teller/Post Office Agent
Everything I learned here was from talking to the post office agent, talk to them when you’re up there and they’re tallying up stuff. They will gladly tell you anything about the services, what’s better, what’s faster, what’s a waste of money and time; because ultimately it doesn’t affect their pay whether or not you the USPS makes a few extra cents off your transaction. You can learn a lot from them.


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