While there is always a risk when shipping products—whether for sale, evaluation or simply between offices—there are a few things you can do to help make for safer shipping. As part of my continuing series, I’ll look at options you have when it comes to making those shipments a little less painful. Today we look at the USPS.
The United States Postal Service
Despite the bad rap that the USPS gets (including from me) it is actually a very good service, and is among the most affordable options for sending packages. I recommend the USPS for all small- to medium-sized packages, and it is among the most reliable and affordable for delivery across country in two to three days.
- Flat rate options – the USPS provides flat rate boxes, and this is actually the best-kept secret of U.S. Mail. The boxes are roughly the same size as the normal Priority Boxes, but as the name suggests carry a set price. For $9.80 can you could fill it with gold bars and ship it domestically for the same price as a box filled with feathers – there is a limit however if you use the boxes for international shipments. Strangely, however, the post office doesn’t go out of the way to advertise these boxes or shipping options.
In fact, I’ve been to post offices and asked for the flat rate boxes and been told, “We don’t leave them out because people take them.” Imagine that, people using the boxes! Isn’t that what they are intended for? But in seriousness as with other postal boxes you can order these online. The catch is that only the Priority and Express Mail (for next day delivery domestically) are free.
- Order supplies online – if you have space in your small office/home office order the supplies online. As I just mentioned all the Priority and Express Mail boxes, envelopes and other shipping containers are generally free. The catch is that you have to use that shipping method—and I stress that it is illegal to use the shipping containers for any other purpose. This includes turning the box inside out after it already has been used once for Priority Mail. Thus, these boxes are not easily recyclable.
- Use automated shipping or print labels at home – not only can you save time by using the automated shipping options, including printing postage online or at the automated machines, but it aids in ensuring that the package goes to the right destination. Because you enter the zip code when using either option to determine the postage rates, this information can be printed on the postage sticker/label. This can help ensure that the package goes to the correct post office. However, the downside is that a typo here can delay the shipment because this zip code will be scanned first – and most times won’t be matched by eyeballs to a hand-printed address label.
- Use of non-USPS packaging – here is another irony of the USPS. The signs at the post office say that all shipping containers (boxes or otherwise) must be free of any outside markings. The official statement from the USPS Web site is: