Shipping Resources

shipping-boxWe’ve all been there.  You’ve decided to expand your business to the internet which means you’ve got to ship those packages.

As the price of gas has climbed over the past several years, carriers have more than doubled their surcharges. And the change from actual weight to dimensional weight has made the shipping charges skyrocket to the point of being unreasonable in many cases.  If you don’t make the right decisions, your package can cost more than the gift itself.

Shipping those packages doesn’t have to break the bank or scare off your customers though.  Having a little bit of information and surfing to the right websites can save you time and money and keep your customers happy.

First, where do you buy those boxes you pack the gifts in?

Check your yellow pages for local suppliers to save on shipping.  But then also check for great prices and quick shipment of boxes of all sizes.  Even with the cost of having them shipped from Los Angeles (and they have shipping locations all over the country) to Flagstaff, their boxes are much cheaper than I can buy locally.  For the large rolls of packing paper which are HEAVY, I take advantage of Nashville Wraps occasional free shipping offer and place a large order which includes several rolls of that packing paper.

Now that DHL is no longer in business, shipping options are UPS, Fedex, or USPO.  Deciding on which carrier to use for which size package and which delivery service means navigating an alphabet soup of options.  You just don’t have the time to figure out which service delivers the best value.

Shipstation is a website that you can join for $9 a month that will give you the shipping costs for the companies that you use and will prepare the labels for you to print.  I’ve found that the ups shipping rates via shipstation are discounted.  Shipstation pulled in my already discounted rates from UPS so there was no additional savings for those shipments.  I don’t use fedex so don’t know if their rates are discounted via shipstation.

I save on shipping charges by doing all my shipping labels online and am fortunate enough to have a UPS Store (where you can drop off packages with internet generated labels at no extra charge) and the Post Office located just a few blocks from me.  I do a once-a-day drop-off and save the UPS daily pickup fees.  The Post Office picks up my packages at no charge when they deliver my mail as long as I leave a note in my mailbox.

If you’re shipping smaller packages (such as the teddy bears that I ship from my website, you’ll find priority mail shipping to be very reasonable and there are no surcharges for home delivery.  You can also order FREE shipping boxes of various sizes from the Post Office website and even have them delivered free to you.  But it is a federal offense to use these boxes with any other carrier.  Using priority mail, I can ship smaller size gifts (such as those created in the small boxco boxes) from Arizona to the East Coast for less than $10 and have them arrive in 2-3 business days.

If you’ve found other ways to save on shipping, please share them with us in the comments below.



The Other Shipping Company

Shipping packages is not cheap.  Once DHL Express dropped out of the market in January, Fedex and UPS took advantage of it by imposing the highest rate increases in history.

But there is another option.  It doesn’t work for all packages and it’s not always the cheapest way to ship.  But many times, it costs much less than either of the two private shipping companies.  The U.S. Postal Service has developed some competitive shipping options and pricing incentives that benefit all of us.  And it is going after business in a big way–including television advertising.

I’ve found that I’m using the priority mail as my shipping choice more than ever.  The Post Office offers FREE package pickup six days a week.  You just have to get your request in by 2:00 a.m. that morning.  There are post offices everywhere, so it’s easy to drop off a package if you’ve missed the pickup deadline.  And they can do things that neither Fedex nor UPS can — provide free Saturday delivery, deliver to P.O. Boxes and residential mailboxes and they don’t charge extra to do it.  And they provide FREE shipping boxes in a variety of sizes.  Gifts created in the small Boxco boxes fit perfectly inside the new Shoebox size boxes.

For packages that are less than 1 cubic foot and weigh less than 2 pounds, the postal service is hard to beat.  Heavier products that can fit in one of the Flat Rate Boxes (and there are three different sizes), can be shipped inexpensively (not cheap — no shipping is cheap–but inexpensively) and arrive from one coast to the other in 2-3 business days.  Ground shipping with either Fedex or UPS will take 5 to 6 business days. 

Sign up for the USPS online service and receive a discount of approximately 5% off post office prices for Express Mail and 4.7% for Priority Mail.  I can print out my postage online, order a FREE pickup, or drop it off at the post office (with no standing in line) when I’m out and about.  If you’re a high volume shipper, the discounts are even greater.

They’re not perfect by any means.  Processing your postage online includes free delivery confirmation but unless you stand in line and have the package checked in at the counter, the shipping receipt time is not recorded.  And unlike the other shipping services, you can’t really track the package until it has been delivered.  For other than express mail, delivery times are not guaranteed.  However, with a few rare exceptions, delivery from Arizona to the Northeast has been as little as 2 business days for many of my packages.  But for those occasions when a package has to be there on a particular day, I still pay the extra charges and use UPS with its guaranteed delivery date. 

For your bigger gift baskets, UPS or Fedex is going to have cheaper shipping in most cases.  But for those smaller gifts, the USPS is hard to beat.  Compare prices the next time you ship and you may be surprised.