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.

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