This guide addresses the changes in USPS shipping rates, effective January 22, 2012, and is written primarily for smaller sellers and our buyers.The changes are mainly small increases, which we will note in this guide. Express rates are not addressed here. See the USPS website for details,
First, some USPS shipping history. In 2007, USPS not only raised their rates, but also changed the method by which those rates are computed; placing their emphasis on the shape and size of packages, and machinability, rather than solely on weight. The theory is that costs can be contained by rewarding machinability; so the automated scanning and processing machines can be used to the fullest, and to reduce the need for human intervention. A small fee is charged for non-machinable packages. In 2011, USPS is focusing on reducing returns and passing the costs of returns and rerouting on to the consumer.
ACTUAL DOMESTIC MAILING COSTS = The changes in a nutshell:
before 1/2 eff 1/2/ +change
Media Mail 1 pound $2.41/+$.00
maximum 70 pounds; some shapes, such as tubes and square envelopes, may require additional postage
Priority Mail- There are discounts for Commercial packages with an approved payment method, such as using PayPal shipping and printing machinable labels. USPS has added a padded flat rate envelope, and a legal size.
Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope $4.95/$5.15/+$.20 Change
Priority Mail Flat Rate Legal-size and Padded envelope $4.95/$5.35/+$.40 Change
Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box regardless of weight or destination $4.95 / $5.35 /+$.40
Priority Mail Flat Rate Medium Box regardless of weight or destination $10.35/$11.35/+$1.00
Priority Mail Flat Rate Large Box regardless of weight $14.95/$15.45/+$.50; a little lower for APO/FP/DPO addresses: $12.95/$13.95/+$1.00
First Class (formerly known as First-Class Mail commercial parcels and now a Shipping Services product) will see an overall price increase of 3.7 percent
Delivery confirmation Free for Priority services[; all others $0.80; no change. free for First Class mail.
EBay requires any Insurance costs to be included in the postage quoted to you; sellers can no longer charge as a separate service. The USPS charges sellers $1.75 up to the first $50.00 of value/varying amounts for each additional $50.00 in value- no change; but many sellers no longer offer insurance.
How does this affect domestic BUYERS? The concerns for buyers have not changed:
1. Be aware of how much shipping actually costs and be on the lookout for sellers who charge excessive rates and handling fees. E-Bay has tightened their shipping guidelines, so this is less likely to happen than in the past.A few dollars for handling is fair, but $5 or $10 extra is gouging. If you don't read the seller's shipping policy before you bid or buy, then you have bought the inflated shipping cost as well as the item! Do an informal survey on the item, read the various seller's shipping policies, and get a feel for what to look for in a FAIR policy, and what to steer away from. Sellers sometimes charge a handling fee and shipping together as a flat rate, citing the cost of packing materials, the value of the labor for packaging an item, gas to go to the post office as reasons for the additional charges.
2. eBay has made it easier for buyers to report unfair shipping practices, responding to complaints about excessive shipping as they have in the past about other improper practices. If you encounter a listing with what seems like excessive shipping, drop the seller a line informing them that their shipping charges appear excessive, and ask for an explanation. Sellers are generally very helpful about answering questions, and clearing up any misconceptions about their policies. How a seller approaches your question is a good indicator of their general business philosophy. If you get a prompt, pleasant response, you can probably expect a smooth transaction, and I am sure you can fill in the blanks about rude or curt responses... there is a link on the bottom of every listing so you can make a complaint about excessive shipping.
HOW MUCH RISK ARE YOU PERSONALLY PREPARED TO TAKE? In a perfect world, we would all suffer no losses; whether we are acting as buyers or sellers. Customer service policies would be enforcable but enforcement would be unnecessary because everyone would treat everyone else fairly. Unfortunately, eBay is no more perfect a world than society at large, and nothing is simple. How much risk one will take is a subjective, peronal decision, as is the decision about how much one will try to take advantage of others and the point at which one believes he is being taken advantage of. For example, personally, as a seller, I choose to insure any item valued above $50.00.
WHAT ARE THE CHOICES?
AS A BUYER-
- How do you protect yourself. Ask questions if you have them, and if you choose to buy from that seller, don't expect different terms if there is a problem. Don't use feedback as a weapon- it is against eBay's policies. Although the feedback rules do not let sellers leave negatives, sellers are not required to leave feedback.
- If the seller does not include insurance in the shipping costs, you may still be covered for loss if you pay for your purchase through PayPal or a credit card, ot if you purchase eBay's buyer protection. Keep an eye on the time as there are waiting periods before a claim can be filed, and also time limits after which you have not recourse.
AS A SELLER-
State your terms clearly and follow through. Be clear about whether insurance is included in the shipping costs; and what your policies are regarding items that are lost in the mail or damaged in the mail.
3. Know your shipping service. Media Mail and Parcel Post are good bargains, but they are not Priority Mail services. USPS estimates 4-10 days for delivery by non-Priority mail. Realistically, it can take up to 5 weeks for domestic mail delivery during holiday times, or if the package is traveling between distant points like New York and Alaska. That is because it does not have a reserved place on a truck, and must wait for the first available space. If you need an item faster, for example, a gift for someone or a textbook for a class- you would be better off using Priority or First Class Mail and paying a little more for the faster delivery time of 2-3 days.
4. When you find a seller with fair policies, and good merchandise, BOOKMARK the store or seller for future reference.
SELLERS may profit in the short term from gouging on shipping, but they do so at risk to their reputation (negative feedback) and ultimately to their detriment in the long term (loss of repeat business, sanctions from eBay). Such practices undermine the force of our community, and profit the competition.
Ways for sellers to keep shipping prices low:
1. Use creative packaging: recycle, reuse boxes, bubble wrap and peanuts. It's good for the environment and saves on retail packaging purchases. Save film canisters, pill bottles with tops, and clean plastic bags for protecting small items. Buy a shredder and shred newspapers and junk mail for packing material.
2. Connect your errands and plan your route to save time and gasoline.
3. Use USPS “Click'n'Ship to print your postage and pay less for postage, and for delivery confirmation. For multiple orders, use PayPal MULTIORDER SHIPPING. which allows you to print all of your shipping transactions and packing slips at once, and you can select an option that produces a scannable number that ties all of the delivery confirmation numbers together as a single file. The postal clerk only has to scan this one form for all of your items to be entered as mailed.) You can schedule free carrier pickup- free if you have at least one Priority or Express Mail package.
4. Offer discounts for multiple-item purchases.
5. Explore prices of shippers other than USPS (UPS, FedEx) as they may be a better buy for certain types of mail (for example: very large or weighty packages).
INTERNATIONAL RATE CHANGES- January 2nd brings up to 9 rates within designated countries, similar to what we already used for Canada and Mexico.
Priority Mail INTERNATIONAL: this will give a general idea. For detailed questions, consult the USPS website or your local post office.
Remember that although this is a COMMUNITY- it is also one of the largest marketplaces in the world. There are good and bad elements in proportion to those that exist in the real world. BUYERS-If the buy seems too good to be real, if it defies common sense- you probably ought to pass on it. SELLERS- If the temptation to push a sale feels sleazy, it probably is- remember that relative anonymity doesn't hide your actions from the one person that really matters to you- yourself.
Now- Go forth and eBay!
Thank you to my sources: US Government The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act text, USPS guide Rates and Fees effective Jan 22, 2012, ; e-Bay and the Bay sellers shipping board, and PayPal.
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