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Local USPS is trying to kill me
Tonearm




msg:3816018
 3:45 am on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Five months ago I moved myself and my online retail operation from southern CA to far northern CA to be near my parents. We only ship via Priority Mail and I can't believe how much slower the packages are getting out of here than they were in southern CA. Before, packages usually reached their destination in 2 days, and sometimes 3. Now, it's 4-5 days minimum and sometimes much longer. It's really ridiculous for a "2-3 day" service.

Yesterday an employee got hassled for dropping off packages at the loading dock instead of at the customer service counter. I'll be talking to a supervisor soon, but dropping off at the loading dock was never a problem in southern CA. I get the feeling they're going to try and make us wait in line every day with 5 huge bags of sorted, postaged packages.

I may be able to get permission to drop off at the loading dock, but I don't know how to speed up delivery so I'm considering moving the operation to a better location. Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland Oregon, and Salt Lake City Utah are all a direct flight away from the local (very small) airport. Which would be best for a distribution center? Portland would be nice because we wouldn't have to pay sales tax, but geographically it's kind of in the corner of the country. Then again, would we still have to pay sales tax in California since I live and work here? Salt Lake City looks like it could be the most geographically ideal but I'm not sure.

How would you guys proceed?

 

jwolthuis




msg:3816036
 4:40 am on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

I would visit usps.com, click "Schedule A Pickup", click the "Carrier Pickup" option, and sleep soundly.

They will arrive tomorrow, collect your packages, and you can relax.

Provide your customers with a delivery-confirmation number. Their ultimate beef is with the government, who provides the Priority or Express service. If it becomes an issue, you have other alternatives.

HRoth




msg:3816328
 4:38 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm with jwolthuis. Use the carrier pickup option. It'll save you and the post office time and lots of aggravation.

Are you using mailing software? Using a delivery confirmation? Or are you getting there to drop packages off in the afternoon? At my post office, they send stuff out to the distribution center at anywhere between 2-4, and that means anything that comes in after that doesn't go until the next day--this might be what's going on with yours.

I ship out of a small town in upstate NY. Everything has to go by truck up to Rochester before it goes anywhere else in the country, but my stuff all gets wherever in 2-3 days. I have 2 day priority mail to Berkeley, CA, from here regularly.

Is there some reason why your mail might be being stopped and examined by the powers that be? This could also be slowing it down.

pageoneresults




msg:3816331
 4:44 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

You may also want to speak with your local Postmaster and establish some rapport. We've had to do that in the past to smooth things over in some instances. We deliver directly to the BMC (Bulk Mail Center) though and that may make a difference.

rachel123




msg:3816351
 5:10 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

FWIW, I agree with pageone - we're out in the boonies too but we get 2-3 day service anywhere in the country. Get to know your local PO people. They will save you loads of money. Ours make us cookies for Christmas and one nice lady there always sends vegetables from her garden back with us in the spring. This kind of rapport can (and has) really help out, especially when you need something from them. And if we have a slow day, we go to the register and get the postage there - it takes some extra time but it helps them make their sales numbers. (they have quotas for selling DC and insurance that they are supposed to strive for).

You standing in line doesn't do them any good if your packages already have postage or if you have 50 million of them.

There are reasons why postal work is a high-stress occupation. Chances are they don't mean to antagonize you. :) you just need to work out a solution with them.

Tonearm




msg:3816454
 7:18 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

Great information in this thread, thank you very much.

I would visit usps.com, click "Schedule A Pickup", click the "Carrier Pickup" option, and sleep soundly.

Unfortunately, there are two problems with that.

First of all, UPS delivers at 11:30AM and USPS picks up at 1:00PM. That means there isn't time to get a received purchase order out in the same day with USPS pickups. Dropping off at the post office can happen as late as 5:00PM.

The second problem is my business's mailing address is at a separate location than my warehouse. It's one of those mailbox places. The return address on the packages matches the mailing address and not the warehouse address. I gave a load of packages to my carrier once and he told me the next day that he got in trouble for accepting the packages because the return address didn't match the address he picked them up from. Again, in southern CA I did that for years with a PO box return address without a problem.

Are you using mailing software?

I'm using mailing software I wrote which ties into the USPS Webtools.

Using a delivery confirmation?

Yes.

At my post office, they send stuff out to the distribution center at anywhere between 2-4, and that means anything that comes in after that doesn't go until the next day--this might be what's going on with yours.

That's very interesting, I thought 5:00PM was the universal cutoff time for USPS. Whenever I've gone to drop off at the loading dock right before 5:00PM, there have been lots of mail trucks pulling in and out and stressed out postal workers on the dock.

The local mailbox store owner is a friend and we've talked at length about how slow USPS stuff is getting out of town. It's definitely a universal problem here. It's a very, very slow town in general.

You may also want to speak with your local Postmaster and establish some rapport.

I had a good thing going with a couple of supervisors in southern CA that developed naturally after doing business there for years, and it was definitely a huge help. Apparently I don't have time to allow that type of thing to happen here. Would you recommend going to the post office and asking for a supervisor? How can I get in touch with the local Postmaster?

We deliver directly to the BMC (Bulk Mail Center) though and that may make a difference.

I see a list of Bulk Mail Centers here:

[usps.com...]

Are those the ideal drop-off locations for packages? Does dropping off at one of those locations mean packages could reach their destination sooner?

rachel123




msg:3816479
 8:16 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

If the delivery window is so important to your business... As jwolthuis said, you have other options.

At our PO, the Priority mail truck goes to Mankato (nearest dist center) right around 2:30. The PO is open til 4:30...priority packs dropped off by then will get the postmark of the current day but won't go out til the morning Priority truck...I think regular mail goes out at 5:00. In So Cal, if it was a busier/bigger community, it is possible they had more trucks leaving at various times of day. My guess is that you're missing the priority truck. I think many smaller POs probably have a small volume of priority mail and one truck may make stops in several towns, and has to be in Mankato by 6. Just speculation based on what I know about our PO.

Finding the postmaster is easy, USPS has a list of them on their website, you can search by city. It will give you the name. He/She works when everyone else works. In our little town, he works the counter with the others. Just ask for him/her. Be pleasant and ask what the system is. Refrain from comparing the new PO to the old one...I'm not sure where your current/past locations were but it may be apples and oranges. I'm not a Californian, but nothing irritates folks in small-town MN like having their government services compared to Minneapolis. Maybe if they processed millions of pieces of mail a day, they'd have a truck leaving every hour. But they don't. :)

I can't imagine that it would be advantageous to pack up the operation (employees?) yet again and move it, rather than to learn the system where you're at and work within it.

rachel123




msg:3816484
 8:19 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

also, may be wrong, but I don't think a BMC will take priority mail?

p5gal5




msg:3816501
 9:16 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

I completely agree with the 'rapport-with-the-postmaster' advice. If you're doing any kind of consistent volume, especially in a smaller area, I'm sure they will be happy to work with you - perhaps even alter their schedule to better-accomodate yours.

We have even been able to make arrangments for USPS to come two or three times a day - once in the morning to drop-off mail, once or twice in the afternoon to pickup items (depending on season/volume).

rachel123




msg:3816538
 11:00 pm on Dec 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

A little Off-topic, but... :) As we speak, my drop-off guy is still at the PO here in MN. They closed a half hour ago, but as we say, it is 'blizzarding' here and he got there at 4:29 with 40 packages. Called to say he got there OK and they are staying late for us. Even gave him a cup of coffee. Now that's service.

(We could have done pick-up, but there are other errands he has to run in town - bank, pay bills, etc. -nothing like year-end tax writeoff desperation!)

Tonearm




msg:3817393
 4:48 pm on Jan 1, 2009 (gmt 0)

I definitely need to figure out what's happening with the Priority Mail cutoff time.

Is there a way to look up a list of Regional Distribution Centers? Are those the places mail is gathered from the surrounding areas for shipment around the country? If so, maybe that would make them ideal dropoff locations for Priority Mail. Maybe I could drop off there as late as 5PM or 6PM and still make the same day's shipment out. I'm guessing the local RDC is about 10 minutes from here in the next town.

Of course, if I could get USPS to pick up around 4PM or 5PM from my location, that would be ideal. People have actually been able to get them to pick up at a specific time? I think they usually charge $12.50 for that.

ispy




msg:3818209
 1:29 am on Jan 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I have seen a previous thread with this question which I believe was your also, so please allow me to respond.

Do you know in fact how much extra time it takes to move the mail from the front room to the loading dock, and if this extra time matters to the departing truck? (the mail may get to the dock sooner, but the truck leaves at the same time).

If you are considering gathering more info. to calculate the question above you could be obsessive/compulsive. What this means is that you spend all your energy on never ending details and things take longer then they would otherwise take and you never arrive at a solution and you eventually get sidetracked.

For each option you mention above it's never optimal. Oregon is ok because there is no tax, but it's in the corner etc. One city is closer to the a airport then another, are you forgetting to factor in the traffic? the time of day for the delivery? the gas price? routing of the mail from local to state distribution centers? is the distribution center in that state open 24 hrs? do the employees there drink decaf? My list could go on forever.

Some customers are never satisfied and you can't win them all. The important thing is to make a reasonable attempt and keep the majority of people satisfied.

jecasc




msg:3818471
 2:14 pm on Jan 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Before, packages usually reached their destination in 2 days, and sometimes 3. Now, it's 4-5 days minimum and sometimes much longer. It's really ridiculous for a "2-3 day" service.

First of all, UPS delivers at 11:30AM and USPS picks up at 1:00PM. That means there isn't time to get a received purchase order out in the same day with USPS pickups. Dropping off at the post office can happen as late as 5:00PM.

Before moving your location you should perhaps check where the bottleneck is. Where are the parcels this whole time?

My guess,too, would be that the truck to the next large USPS hub already has left when you bring in the parcels at 5pm at the loading dock and your parcels sit at your local post office until next day.

I had a similar problem for some time with the postal service here in Germany (DHL). First I would drop off the parcels at the local post office. However the parcels always took longer than expected. Then I found out the reason: I dropped of the parcels at 4 pm. However the truck bringing the parcels from the post office to the central DHL hub for my area already picked the parcels up at the post office at 3:30 pm. So I brought in my parcels at 3 pm from now on.

When the amount of parcels rose I started using the pick-up service. However to my surprise it now took sometimes 2 days longer until the parcel arrived. I asked the guy who picked up the parcels where he took them: It turned out he was simply taking them to the local post office after his tour. Long after the truck to the DHL hub had left. And sometimes he would even drive them around for one more day in his pickup van.

I then contacted my DHL representative and now the truck that takes the parcels from the post offices to the central hub picks up our parcels. So they arrive at the central hub two hours after pickup and are usually delivered the next day.

Tonearm




msg:3818724
 2:31 am on Jan 4, 2009 (gmt 0)

Latest:

We are to drop our packages off at the front counter without waiting in line and without sorting them into California/Non-California as we've done in the past. They say this is so they can check the weight and scan each one into the system. I see from the Delivery Confirmation info that they are indeed scanning each one. Also, the last batch was entirely delivered within 3 days so that's great. Next I need to find out how late we can drop off and make the day's truck.

Tonearm




msg:3825054
 4:02 am on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Good news: 5PM is the cutoff time.

Bad news: I just tracked the last large batch of packages which were dropped off at 3:30PM on the 7th and half of them haven't even been delivered yet (it is the night of the 12th). I'll give them a couple more days to get delivered and then I'll bring this data (nicely) to the postmaster.

Conard




msg:3825260
 1:02 pm on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Here's a couple of USPS secrets or tips.
First, a package shipped by Priority Mail is taken from the local distribution center to the nearest Fed-X distribution center. Fed-X does all the long distance shipping and they move the package to the nearest USPS distribution center of the final destination where it is moved by USPS to the local PO and then to the carrier.

Second, all post offices are required to be empty of all mail shortly after the 5 PM closing time. If there is a truck leaving at 1 PM there will always be another one leaving shortly after 5 PM.

Last, with the shipping rates going up this Sunday 1/18/09 switching to the commercial rate by using pre-paid labels saves a min of .15 a package.

Tonearm




msg:3825429
 4:49 pm on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd love to take advantage of the $.15 savings but I need to use the USPS Webtools (usps.com/webtools) so I can make direct calls to their servers via their API and thereby integrate their system with mine. I end up with a complete shipping label except for postage and I use a Pitney-Bowes meter for the postage.

Conard




msg:3825568
 7:40 pm on Jan 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

I tap into the same USPS API but I now use an order management program that downloads the orders, can get the Priority Mail labels, prints a packing slip or invoice, an inventory pull sheet and now we use an extra function that ties in with an Internet postage site so we can print labels with postage.
Right now the savings is only .05 cents for a 1 lb package but when it changes on Sunday that jumps to .15 for 1 lb and goes up from there.

The savings on postage more than pays for the use of all the extra tie ins.

Tonearm




msg:3826286
 5:34 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Really? I'd love to ditch the Pitney-Bowes meter and use something like that. How does it integrate with your system? Is it Windows-only? What is it called?

Conard




msg:3826338
 6:29 pm on Jan 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I wont post the URL but the order management system we us is named ShipWorks.
There is lots of info on their site as to what carts it works with and the Internet postage sites it will work with.
I jumped on it about 6 years ago when it was sold for $300. It's now a pay per month deal but so far I'm grandfathered in with no extra payments.
It wouldn't take much to figure the monthly cost for a subscription to ShipWorks and lets say Endicia and then calculate out the savings per shipment for a month to see if it would be a profit for you.

Tonearm




msg:3827275
 6:04 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for that, but I really don't like plugging into a bunch of clunky Windows stuff. All of my systems run Linux anyway.

I just did some reading about the automation discount and it seems to hinge on having the required barcode on your label, which mine do since they're received directly from the USPS servers.

[pe.usps.com...]

I just spoke to the USPS Webtools guys and they say the discount only applies to Click N Ship, but the guy I spoke to said I should check with the local post office too.

Hmmm, I wonder if I could link my current system to Endicia via an API....

Conard




msg:3827291
 6:21 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

The discount applies to pre-paid labels.
Click n Ship is the PO set up. There are third party applications that are much faster and don't require so much , if any, hand entered data.
Endicia works off of their "Dazzle" program which will check a folder for an XML file with the shipping info. They offer a Windows or Mac version of the software. They may have an option you could use on your set up but I don't know how it would work.

Tonearm




msg:3827327
 7:19 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Does anyone know of any documentation online about the discount? I need to talk to the local Postmaster and I can imagine her saying something like "Click N Ship only" and I need some kind of evidence that I'm eligible for the discount since my labels include the Postnet barcode. Everything I can find online is talking about letters and flats, but I know Priority Mail is eligible too because Click N Ship and others utilize it for Priority Mail.

Conard




msg:3827348
 7:46 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, there is plenty of documentation on the USPS site. The "Commercial" discount only applies if you use a prepaid service.
The URL will probably truncate but here goes:
[usps.com...]

Tonearm




msg:3827351
 7:53 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks Conard. "Commercial" is the word I was missing in my searches.

Conard




msg:3827395
 8:58 pm on Jan 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Looking at the PDF file listed on that link it says this in the commercial section:
Commercial base prices are available for postage paid through:
Click-N-Ship
Registered end-users of USPS-approved PC Postage products when using a qualifying shipping label
Information Based Indicia (IBI) postage meters (in conjunction with an approved shipping label that includes a confirmation services barcode with a postal routing code)
Permit imprint (DMM 423.1.2).

Tonearm




msg:3827541
 12:51 am on Jan 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Perfect:

"Information Based Indicia (IBI) postage meters (in conjunction with an approved shipping label that includes a confirmation services barcode with a postal routing code)"

I should have been doing this for years. With the USPS rate API, all you have to do is change the service from PRIORITY to PRIORITY COMMERCIAL.

[edited by: Tonearm at 12:53 am (utc) on Jan. 16, 2009]

Tonearm




msg:3831475
 5:44 pm on Jan 21, 2009 (gmt 0)

Actually, I read up on "Information Based Indicia (IBI) postage meters" and I don't think my unit falls into this category:

[en.wikipedia.org...]
[usps.com...]

I have the Pitney Bowes B700 and it seems to print a single-dimensional indicia as opposed to the 2-dimensional indicia which contains the following information in the bar code:

"amount of postage, origin zip code, destination, mail class, weight, confirmation/tracking numbers"

This is not good. My postage and labeling processes are done completely separately and there is no way to inform the postage meter of the destination zip code, mail class, weight, and tracking number without manual entry into the meter.

aleksl




msg:3835283
 1:40 am on Jan 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

Conard: all post offices are required to be empty of all mail shortly after the 5 PM closing time

Not if they have a 24/7 drop off box

Tonearm




msg:3835912
 7:17 pm on Jan 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

BINGO:

[endicia.com...]

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