USPS Delivery Confirmation is an extremely useful tool, but both buyers and sellers on eBay should be aware of its limitations.
The terms "Delivery Confirmation" and "Tracking" are often used interchangeably (I confess to doing this myself), but they are NOT the same thing. When UPS or FedEx "Tracks" a package, it KNOWS WHERE IT IS AT ALL TIMES. It knows what room of what building it is in, where it came from, who has physical possession of the package, who touched it last, stuff like that.
Delivery Confirmation will usually acknowledge that the package ARRIVED at the destination zip code. It will also note if delivery was attempted but not successful. However, the details are often fuzzy after that. If "delivered", was the package left at the doorstep? Did the postal worker leave it at the neighbor's house? Delivery Confirmation often will NOT help you in those sorts of situations. It is possible to have a lost package with DC showing "delivered" at the same time.
Another limitation of Delivery Confirmation is that it is OFTEN NOT SCANNED. This is particularly true of the black-and-white printed DC bar codes that users of online postage produce. There have been many reported instances where a seller prints a Delivery Confirmation notice, hands it over to their trusty postal employee, only to find later that the package was NEVER SCANNED, either on the pickup side or the delivery side or both. When they look up the DC number online, it simply says "Label Printed".
This is less likely to happen with the bright day-glo puke green Delivery Confirmation stickers used at the physical post offices. However, these cost more to use (45 to 55 cents vs 13 cents or free) AND waiting in line at the post office can eat up valuable time which could be used selling.
If you do take the time to stand in line at the Post Office, be sure to SAVE YOUR RECEIPT and keep it handy. It will have all kinds of useful information, such as the time you mailed, the person who accepted your package, the DC and/or Customs number of the various items you shipped, the zip codes you shipped to, and so on. This is a FEDERAL DOCUMENT and can definitely come in handy when tracking down a stray package.
Some sellers using online postage have taken to using a bright green marker and/or printing bright green "PLEASE SCAN ME" stickers to accent the black-and-white printouts that would otherwise appear on their packages. If you are having problems with not scanning, it is highly recommended that you talk to some of the people working at your local post office and alert them to the issue.
Does the USPS offer true "tracking"? Yes, but only on its EXPRESS mail service. In the USA, this means spending $13.95 and up to ship an item. Overseas, the cost is usually around $20. Express mail also includes $100 of insurance for free, with the option of buying additional insurance for $ 1 per $100.
Other things to note about delivery confirmation:
* USPS Delivery Confirmation on FIRST CLASS mail is restricted to items which are AT LEAST 3/4 INCHES THICK. If the item is less than 3/4 inch thick, you must upgrade to PRIORITY MAIL to use Delivery Confirmation. Because of this, some eBay sellers will add a packing peanut or two to your package, even if the actual item being mailed is perfectly flat.
* USPS Delivery Confirmation is NOT AVAILABLE to APO, FPO or any US Territories except Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU GET A "WHERE'S MY STUFF" eMail:
* EMPATHISE WITH THE CUSTOMER - let them know you understand how frustrating it is when a package does not show up when expected and that you are willing to help them sort this out.
* FIND THE DELIVERY CONFIRMATION NUMBER for the package and enter it into USPS dot com to see what might have happened.
* KEEP YOUR CUSTOMER UPDATED on any developments, or even any lack of developments if a few days have passed.
* BE WILLING TO FILE A LOST MAIL CLAIM at the appropriate time. Let your buyer know that if the package does not arrive by x date, you will be willing to file the appropriate paperwork with the post office. BTW, you CAN file a "dead mail" claim even if you didn't purchase insurance. It will take weeks or months to resolve, and probably won't resolve to your satisfaction, but it will show your buyer that you are "doing something".
* KEEP ALL PAPERWORK HANDY. It is sometimes useful to email a jpeg of the Delivery Confirmation or Post Office receipt to your buyer. Other times, just being assured that you really did mail the package and that you are willing to help is sufficient.
Most of the time a package will arrive a day or so after the "where's my stuff" email. Sometimes, there actually was a mix-up. Often, the mix-up is on your end or on the recipient's end. Delivery Confirmation can be extremely helpful here. For instance, if you don't have any evidence the package was mailed, then you know to look in your car or the closet or something. OTOH, if there is evidence the package was delivered, sometimes the buyer will find it soon afterward. Often times, a friend or relative took in the package and forgot to mention it. At least, that's the way it will be explained to you later. Good luck!
USPS DELIVERY CONFIRMATION is NOT TRACKING mail postal
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December 4, 2005
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