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View Full Version : USPS Packaging and Shipping Questions


dx23
05-10-10, 09:36 PM
I've been an Amazon.com seller for around 7 years now and always shipped using USPS. At first, I used to sent almost everything through Priority Mail but around 2006, the charges started going up and the difference between what Amazon was gave me for shipping and the cost was too much, so I started shipping stuff using USPS First Class Mail at the suggestion of my mailman and another Post Office clerk. They suggested that I use the free large media Priority boxes and use a manila clasp envelope to cover the box and Priority labels. I've done that for the past 4 years without any problems until today.

Last week I sold a DVD to a lady in Florida. I use a Priority box and put it inside a clasp envelope and sealed it with tape all around and sent it First Class mail. she received it today at her local post office and the clerk at the counter told her that she had to open her package in front of him and his supervisor. She obliged and when the clerk saw the Priority box, he made her pay the difference in shipping and wrote my address and according to the email she sent me, they are going to report me to the Postal inspectors.

Several questions:

1- Is what I did illegal? I checked the USPS website and couldn't find anything regarding this topic.

2- Were the clerks right in forcing the lady to open the package in front of them?

3- Are these people overreacting?

4- Has anyone heard about a situation like this before?

Zbu
05-10-10, 09:47 PM
I'm not sure exactly, but a way to get around this (if you're selling books or disc media) is to ship Media Mail. USPS says it takes fourteen days but after a few dozen transactions, it always arrives in a week or a week and a half. Plus it is much, much cheaper.

You have to request Media Mail and they'll give you a spiel if it's books or disc media (or they'll skip disc media to scare you), but it's all perfectly fine.

Texan26
05-10-10, 09:49 PM
The boxes are free because they expect customers to pay for priority shipping.

News article on the subject: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/16072154/detail.html

hindolio
05-10-10, 11:19 PM
...

1- Is what I did illegal? I checked the USPS website and couldn't find anything regarding this topic...

usps priority boxes are only for usps priority shipping. each priority box states on the outside that it is illegal to use them for other purposes.

...

2- Were the clerks right in forcing the lady to open the package in front of them?...

if the story is true, i suppose the clerks assumed a usps priority box was inside the envelope, and they took initiative to get money out of your buyer since it would be nearly impossible to get it from you at that point.

...

3- Are these people overreacting?..

imho, no. but others will prolly disagree with me.

...

4- Has anyone heard about a situation like this before?

first time for me.

with all that said, i believe you should know better. please dont take it personally. i do find it hard to believe your buyers story though. maybe she/he felt you should not be able to get away with using priority boxes for first-class mail and is now trying to get a few bucks out of ya? kinda taking karma into her/his own hands?

TheBang
05-10-10, 11:22 PM
Yes, you were wrong. The free Priority Mail and Express Mail shipping supplies are meant to be used for those respective shipping classes, period. Any other use constitutes theft.

As for shipping DVD's, get #1 bubble mailers. You can get 100 of them for $26 ($0.26 each) at Costco or Sam's Club. Then, send them First Class mail or Media Mail (for single-disc DVD's the difference between Media Mail and First Class is usually something negligible, like 10 cents). Your First Class shipping rate will probably be cheaper than what you were paying before, because you don't have the heavy weight of the cardboard box.

dx23
05-11-10, 12:20 AM
usps priority boxes are only for usps priority shipping. each priority box states on the outside that it is illegal to use them for other purposes.




with all that said, i believe you should know better. please dont take it personally. i do find it hard to believe your buyers story though. maybe she/he felt you should not be able to get away with using priority boxes for first-class mail and is now trying to get a few bucks out of ya? kinda taking karma into her/his own hands?

None of the Priority Mail boxes have any writing stating that is illegal to use them for other purposes. They just state that is a Priority Box that can be used for domestic or international shipping.

And yes, it has crossed my mind that the lady is trying to take matters into her hands and do some type of justice. She says that she has a receipt for what she was charged and I told her to please email me scan of that, but she has yet to do so. It isn't like it was something expensive. The DVD she bought was a new and sealed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon DVD. I remember that someone at this forum got negative feedback on ebay because he sent a DVD using a Priorty bag and then putting it inside a Priority box and the buyer ranted that was the reason why USPS was raising their prices constantly.

Yes, you were wrong. The free Priority Mail and Express Mail shipping supplies are meant to be used for those respective shipping classes, period. Any other use constitutes theft.

As for shipping DVD's, get #1 bubble mailers. You can get 100 of them for $26 ($0.26 each) at Costco or Sam's Club. Then, send them First Class mail or Media Mail (for single-disc DVD's the difference between Media Mail and First Class is usually something negligible, like 10 cents). Your First Class shipping rate will probably be cheaper than what you were paying before, because you don't have the heavy weight of the cardboard box.

I don't like bubble mailers for packaging as a customer, so I'm not going to risk negative feedbacks for using them. They are too soft and stuff tends to get crushed inside due to bad care from all mailing services.

Yes, I may be wrong, but after searching the net, the USPS site and the Postal Inspectors website, I have yet to found any writing regarding the use of USPS packaging. The only thing I found was reacting to the Denver story posted above.

If the woman'a story is true, I still believe that the people at the Post Office have no right to ask anyone to open a package in front of them. All packages and letters are scanned during shipment to ensure that they don't contain illegal or hazardous material. I'll try to see if I can find similar packaging that doesn't have priority label.

gmanca
05-11-10, 05:16 AM
I do know that on all the Priority Boxes I have used, they all say re-purposing the box is not allowed.

A cheap way in regards to getting boxes for your shipments is to find a box that has the correct length and depth and to cut the height accordingly. Or, if you're handy, you can make a completely new box out of another box or cardboard panels.

sandman007
05-11-10, 07:25 AM
None of the Priority Mail boxes have any writing stating that is illegal to use them for other purposes. They just state that is a Priority Box that can be used for domestic or international shipping.

It says it on the inside top flap of the box and you can read about it under using/reusing boxes at their website:

Using/Reusing Boxes (http://faq.usps.com/eCustomer/iq/usps/request.do?session={5febf160-5cf7-11df-4bd1-000000000000}&event=1&view()=c%7Bc8762450-9d6f-11de-f432-000000000000%7D&objectId=&eksObjectId=&objectType=Case&isJumpEnabled=false&isContentJumpEnabled=false&vendorKey=&objTitle=&versionId=3742&searchProperties=type:natural&naturalAdvance=false&allStr=&phraseStr=&anyStr=&noneStr=&keywordStr=&tTitle=&topicFromSub=&topicsORSubUrl=&report(0000)=p{5f198880-6972-11dd-e6c4-000000000000}&bcobjectId={75a1ecb0-6971-11dd-e6c4-000000000000}&search=postal%20store&topicAndSubtopic=Buying$ALL#Using2)

If you were reported to postal inspectors, that can mean a lot of trouble for you if they go through with the investigation since it is a federal law.

dx23
05-11-10, 08:05 AM
It says it on the inside top flap of the box and you can read about it under using/reusing boxes at their website:

Using/Reusing Boxes (http://faq.usps.com/eCustomer/iq/usps/request.do?session={5febf160-5cf7-11df-4bd1-000000000000}&event=1&view()=c%7Bc8762450-9d6f-11de-f432-000000000000%7D&objectId=&eksObjectId=&objectType=Case&isJumpEnabled=false&isContentJumpEnabled=false&vendorKey=&objTitle=&versionId=3742&searchProperties=type:natural&naturalAdvance=false&allStr=&phraseStr=&anyStr=&noneStr=&keywordStr=&tTitle=&topicFromSub=&topicsORSubUrl=&report(0000)=p{5f198880-6972-11dd-e6c4-000000000000}&bcobjectId={75a1ecb0-6971-11dd-e6c4-000000000000}&search=postal%20store&topicAndSubtopic=Buying$ALL#Using2)

If you were reported to postal inspectors, that can mean a lot of trouble for you if they go through with the investigation since it is a federal law.

Thanks for the link.

It seems that actually the buyer is the one causing all the fuzz and I don't doubt she is the one that told the post office about her packaging. She hasn't email me her reciept but now wants the name of the clerk at my post office. I'm not going to do that, since that is crossing the line and will probably cost someone his job for something so stupid.

Ropes Pierre
05-11-10, 08:48 AM
Rip

Troy Stiffler
05-12-10, 12:34 AM
Dude, that sucks. I wonder if they'll actually spend time investigating. I'm going to say that it'll get lost in the bureaucracy (like most things at the PO).

I do have to side with the USPS. They keep Priority Mail charges low (for the respective service ... they murder Fed Ex and UPS' 2-day pricing). And they (supossively) lose billions every year.

I'm sure that they get a good price. But those little 7x7x6 boxes cost around $.30ea at Uline. So it's not like they're not spending money on all of that packaging.

My advice - either us Priority Mail or spend the extra $.20ea on cardboard envelopes. People on eBay sell tons of surplus packaging materials. You can also use Uline.Com.

Troy Stiffler
05-12-10, 12:36 AM
You know, I bet that people don't get 'prosecuted' until your name shows up several times. As it is, they might cut off supplies delivery to your address. And your name/address will probably be entered into their system as an 'offender'. But I doubt it'll go further than that.

RonG617
05-12-10, 03:39 PM
If you were reported to the postal inspectors they will certainly look into it. But unless your other customers step forward and rat you out they can not prove anything. The free supplies are only for the expensive shipping options, not for media mail shipping(which the P.O. makes little to no money on). If the clerk who gave you the bad advice is discovered he or she will be written up but not fired unless there is a bunch of other write ups in the file as well as suspensions. It takes a whole lot of bad to get fired from the USPS.

OldBoy
05-12-10, 06:42 PM
You know you're in trouble if Wilford Brimley knocks on your door.

dx23
05-14-10, 12:10 PM
I received a letter today from the Post Office in Florida saying that Priority Boxes are for Priority use only and that I could not use them for anything else. That was it. Still, now I fell 100% sure that it was the buyer who made all fuzz and rated me out. If so, what a bitch!

SethDLH
05-14-10, 03:15 PM
I'm not getting into the moral side of things other than DX had his customer's best interest in mind, whether it was the "right thing" to do or not.

I'm assuming the customer didn't actually HAVE to open her product in front of a PO employee, there is nothing that would make her legally have to do that. Its pretty stupid on her end to rat out and potentially get a seller, who was trying to protect her product, in trouble.

Anyways, DX since I doubt you want to risk having more action taken against you for future offenses, I've found that lining the inside of a padded envelope with cardboard is almost as effective as a box (certainly better than just the envelope). And for just a single DVD its cheaper to mail it first class than media mail (I think around 5 cents) so that is a better option.

RonG617
05-14-10, 03:29 PM
I'm assuming the customer didn't actually HAVE to open her product in front of a PO employee, there is nothing that would make her legally have to do that. Its pretty stupid on her end to rat out and potentially get a seller, who was trying to protect her product, in trouble.


If DX shipped the item via media mail then the post office has the right to open and inspect the contents. You wouldn't believe how many people try to ship non media items media mail just to get the cheap shipping rates. The post office doesn't inspect much, but they do check a few things from time to time.

SethDLH
05-14-10, 03:55 PM
I'm assuming the customer didn't actually HAVE to open her product in front of a PO employee, there is nothing that would make her legally have to do that. Its pretty stupid on her end to rat out and potentially get a seller, who was trying to protect her product, in trouble.


If DX shipped the item via media mail then the post office has the right to open and inspect the contents. You wouldn't believe how many people try to ship non media items media mail just to get the cheap shipping rates. The post office doesn't inspect much, but they do check a few things from time to time.

I understand they can open it to inspect the contents of any package they feel the need to, but thats different from giving the package to a woman and telling her to open it and then making the recipient pay the difference.

dx23
05-14-10, 03:59 PM
I ship all my items First Class mail with delivery confirmation, not Media Mail. I've used priority boxes most of the time, other times I recycle boxes from amazon.com, dvdplanet, etc, but always ship First Class with confirmation for around $2.77 per package. I'll follow your recommendations for the next occasions.

SethDLH
05-14-10, 04:03 PM
I ship all my items First Class mail with delivery confirmation, not Media Mail. I've used priority boxes most of the time, other times I recycle boxes from amazon.com, dvdplanet, etc, but always ship First Class with confirmation for around $2.77 per package. I'll follow your recommendations for the next occasions.

This seems like the best way to do it as long as you have the extra boxes on hand. I try to recycle them as much as possible as well.

hindolio
05-14-10, 11:41 PM
this works well:

------------
oooooooooooo
o DVD HERE o
oooooooooooo
------------

the dashes represent pieces of cardboard and the o's are bubble wrap. you can place the whole bundle in a regular 9 x 12 inch envelope. or if you really wanna over-do, inside a bubble envelope :D

Living Deadpan
05-15-10, 04:09 AM
I've been selling on Ebay and Half.com for a while, mainly CDs & DVDs (mostly used). Sometimes I recycle box mailers like you, but most of the time I use these: http://www.royalmailers.com/Poly-Mailers.html

And yes, the USPS has been very clear that you cannot apply non-Priority postage to Priority mailers. But there is nothing wrong with using the cardboard of Priority boxes as protective packaging inside a plain envelope/mailer. (You can combine this suggestion with Hindolio's post above)

Viper187
05-15-10, 05:40 PM
The boxes are free because they expect customers to pay for priority shipping.

News article on the subject: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/16072154/detail.html

Wow, that's bullshit. If he's reusing the boxes, that means somebody already paid for them by paying for priority shipping with them. How can these bastards still go after him for something that was paid for? They might as well stop shipping anything that's not packaged in a new box sold by them. assholes

Troy Stiffler
05-27-10, 11:47 PM
To be fair, Priority-sized boxes can be purchased from Uline (or your local packaging dealer ... not a 'pack and ship', but an actual dealer) for around $.40ea.

The PO doesn't allow 'reusing' boxes because anyone can slap around their box and then say it was 'used'. Little by little, they get stuck paying more and more money, because people continue to abuse the free packaging. The newest thing is that they print "USPS" on the inside of the boxes, so people can't turn them inside out.

If's amazing how many people blatantly abuse honest companies and use their 'customer is always right' bullshit against them.

I have approximately 3000 DVD's for sale on Amazon, ship approximately 20 a day, and just use junk cardboard that's laying around my shop. You take a box cutter, any junk box, and cut a 12" x 15" piece. Fold it over, tape three sides and you're done. I also use random manilla envelopes and other junk packaging to do it. Beats paying for all of those boxes.

adrenaline78
05-28-10, 11:14 AM
While I think you might be in the wrong. I think the post office was in the wrong too.. They can't force someone to open a package in front of them and if they tried that to me I'd tell them "nope".