Saturday, February 02, 2013

Please Mr. Postman

It has taken me a while to get this post together to share with you. It's not so much that the world of shipping has set me behind schedule, but more that my schedule wasn't aware I had intended to post sooner. lol.

So, I'm not certain that anyone out there doesn't already know this stuff... but I didn't. Having never tried to ship anything from home, I had no idea what would be involved. This is what I learned.
Keep in mind there are other options out there... UPS, FedEx and even DHL, I think? I didn't even go into researching my options with them. I knew there was a way to use the United States Postal Service (USPS) to ship from home, and personally liking the way my packages are received from USPS more than some of the others was enough. I hopped into my digital pickup truck and set out on my fact-finding mission.

I started by making an account on the USPS website. (Register on the USPS website.) Then I began digging into all of the FAQ pages and charts. I had a few things I really wanted to know before I bothered with spending much time on the idea of shipping from home.
How much is it going to cost me? Can I really do everything from home and my computer? Will I need some sort of postage scale? --- Okay, I admit it... I made my first stop at the pricing charts.

After looking at all of the options (this is the best chart I found), I determined that First Class Mail or Priority Mail would have to be the right choice for me. Express Mail, and most of the others are wonderful services I'm sure, but they would cost me more in shipping than I foresee any of my merchandise even costing. The short story is that a 13 oz. package would cost $3.77 with First Class Mail, and $5.15 with Priority Mail. But the short story doesn't really give you the whole picture.

With First Class Mail: You need to provide your own box, tape, etc. You also will need to sort out your own system for weighing your package and dealing with postage stamps and such. The only other option is to buy one of their special postage meters, since they don't offer a way to print postage online. You are limited to 13 oz., anything over that will not qualify for the First Class rates. If you want tracking, or delivery confirmation, it will cost you an extra 90¢. So, I'm not sure how much those plastic bags, boxes, and packing tape would cost, but with delivery confirmation added- you have 48¢ left for those things before the price becomes the same for the two services. Factor in your time and trouble for purchasing those materials, weighing everything, and licking 6 or 7 stamps... I started looking more closely at the Priority Mail option.

The first thing I noticed with Priority Mail was that I wouldn't have to ever even visit the post office.  Postage can be printed online, and they will deliver everything you need direct to your door. There's some pretty neat stuff I keep wanting to add in here, but I'll try to stay with our 13 oz. package, and mention the rest afterward.

Our 13 oz. package... the box (with cool tape strips attached) and the delivery confirmation label came right to my door, for FREE. I can print the postage ($5.15) from their website (on plain old copy paper) and tape it to the box. I can even get back on their website and schedule a pickup by my mail carrier. I can leave my packages on my porch or ask that they come to the door to pick up from me directly. Tracking is included, and a confirmation number is given to you when they pick it up. Wow... How easy is this?

I had found my solution. Check out all the supplies I had my mailman bring to my house. Yep... overkill. But the boxes have a minimum amount you can order, so I went with the smallest quantity I could get... ten. I got a little of each of the things I thought I would use. Small and medium flat-rate boxes, delivery confirmation labels, Tyvek envelopes (no-tear, woven fiber, paper-like), and some normal address labels.
---Update: USPS has switched from delivery confirmation labels on Priority Mail, to offering the more complete tracking labels. With delivery confirmation you had almost all of the benefits, but with tracking... you (or your customer) can check on your shipment's progress along each step of the way. (I've already ordered new ones. lol)---

Not all packages are this super-cheap rate, I found, but you have some options there too. The SMALL flat-rate box they provide ships online at $5.15, but the medium box is $11.30. Wow! I was a little upset to find the cheapest way I could ship a standard 8"x10" picture frame would be over eleven dollars, no matter how easy it would be. I clicked back over to their price calculator and found another option. If you want to provide your own box (Yes, I know, now we are having to go to the box store. lol) the price drops like crazy! $5.84 online, to ship your own box, up to 70 lbs! They will send you the labels (for free) that make your carton into a Priority Mail package. Hmm... $5.84 from $11.30... I think I can find a box and tape somewhere for less than the $5.46 difference. They do stipulate some dimensions. "The maximum size is 108 inches or less in combined length plus girth (distance around the thickest part)" -

I think the small flat-rate box will handle most of my needs. I tried to show you how big it is but I'm not sure my phone makes for a good size comparison. They say it measures 8-5/8" x 5-3/8" x 1-5/8".
In the meantime, I'll be keeping my eye out for inexpensive cartons that are a little bigger than this. But my plan is to use the Tyvek envelopes for anything that wont fit in the small box.

Let me tell you a little about these magic envelopes made with DuPont's Tyvek. The USPS labels them as durable and water-resistant. Basically, it's breathable but water wont seep into it and you can cut it easily with scissors, but ripping it is a chore. The pictures don't show it as clearly as I would have liked, but surely you've come across this material before. Please don't tell the Postal folks that I wasted one of their cool envelopes just to take destruction-resistance photos. Okay? Thanks! 

So... the really cool part is... They are free! Just like all the rest, right? Nope!
The rest of the "free" cartons and envelopes the USPS offers are FLAT-RATE containers  Meaning, you have to pay the prescribed fee to ship them. ($5.15 or $11.30 for small and medium boxes, remember?) Not the Tyvek envelopes. They would ship with the rate that your own, non-standard (empty VCR box) container would ship for, i.e. $5.84 online. Since they obviously will hold more than the small flat rate box, I would consider that quite a deal! They won't offer the rigid protection of a cardboard box for something like the 8"x10" frame I mentioned, but I bet I can fit a lot of crochet work into one.

Looking ahead... I managed to get the shop open over on Etsy! Did you see my awesome little graphics over there in the sidebar now? I'd love it if you would come visit me there, or maybe pop over to my facebook?
I'll be working on my next post in my free time, I think I'd like to share how the whole shop-launching process went for me.

Hope to see you back here soon. :)
With respect- @ndrea

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