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You better believe there was interest in the subject from the members of our group. Many wanted to hear whatever my research turned up. Some good-sized operations got no discount.
UPS does give some individual business discounts. They usually are small, a few percent, and sometimes include free computer equipment. I think the biggest anyone reported was about 17% for a company doing nearly a million with them.
My sense is that discounts are bigger nowadays. They certainly hinge on local competitive factors and on the UPS services you use. Expect better deals on international, air, and hundred weight than on domestic ground delivery (which is the backbone of what we use).
I always heard that the U.S. Postal Service is prohibited by law from giving discounts. It has certainly been suggested that the Post Office would be better able to battle private competition by providing discounts and other special services to large commercial mailers.
Anyone know if the USPS now gives volume discounts?
Sometimes the best efficiency you can get in s&h savings is to setup distribution in zones that are closest to your customer base. zone 1 to 5 is 3x the cost of zone 1 to 1 and such.
I would recommend you work out a spreadsheet that has your annual shipping expenses and try and match the savings of a low x% discount or optimizing your distribution and saving on cross zone shipments. (which would net a discount across all carriers)
You can also receive "discounts" by consolidating your shipments through third-party brokers that charge you by weight instead of package.
USPS rules about Flat Rate Envelope are also more relaxed. Its amazing what you can fit inside an envelope with a proper supporting flat box. My heaviest envelope to date has been 8 lbs (metal brackets). UPS will re-categorize an envelope as a package if it has any bulkiness and charge you accordingly. As long as you adhere to the USPS rules for mailing flat rate envelopes, you can take advantage of the flat-rate pricing.