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Our other shipping costs (Labor, Materials) have not changed much and after analysis, probably can't be reduced.
We are looking at shifting the majority of our shipping business to USPS even though integration looks less than ideal and might cost us more in labor. Also we would have to take all our packages and drop them off at the post office.
We are not thrilled with the idea of losing real-time tracking as we currently have with UPS,FedEx or DHL, but it appears we may have to make some sacrifices just to keep the cost from getting out of hand.
What are others doing ?
We have enough that the regular mail carrier will not take them when he delivers our daily mail. I talked to the postmaster, however she was sympathic to the carrier.
[edited by: Ledfish at 4:27 am (utc) on June 3, 2008]
Are you living in a small town, by any chance? Sometimes post office folks in small towns are not so informed as they should be. When I wanted to know if I could get a first-class delivery confirmation on a rigid envelope, me and postmaster had to go over the postal regulations together, because he didn't know. Also, when I first started using carrier pickup, my carrier returned a bunch of my internationals to me because the clerk downtown told him that she could not stamp them through the plastic they were in. I asked him why she couldn't just take them out of the pouch? He was surprised and did not know they were IN a pouch, and neither did she, even though this is the regulation customs pouch provided by the post office.
My carrier does not have any problems picking up international. You just have to be present, according to the post office. It says that right on the web, so you can show it to them.
Even with all the hassle, it still looks to me to be more economical to switch to USPS. I was just wondering if other people have gone the same way or if people are just grinning and baring the cost of ship via UPS, FedEx and DHL?
I have pretty much always used USPS. I started to do it because they provide free boxes for priority mail, but I also liked that there is no surcharge for delivery to a residence and their rates are generally cheaper than UPS unless you are shipping really heavy things. Customers like this also. I sell a whole class of small widgets that I can offer a flat rate on that is only $3.50, and this includes a delivery confirmation. That's pretty good as web shipping goes. I also found that using software set up for USPS made the job very much easier than using the USPS site, which is slow and poorly designed. However, there is no tracking for international shipments unless you use the high-priced methods, like international priority and express. No evil eye, I have had only one thing get lost in the past five years.
The USPS has a commercial division that caters to small business. We actually have our own account rep who is our advocate with the PO. Pretty amazing, but we like them better than UPS. As to pickup, our PO WILL pickup international along with the rest of our stuff, and no charge for pickup either.
In our area we can not get the carriers to take our packages. The only way we can have the pick up is if we do a carrier pickup for the correct amount the day before. Since we ship the same day this obviously doesn't work. We have two carriers. One who is extremely lazy and leaves the packages while making a scene and the other carrier who just leaves them without comment. It amazing that they get paid for what they do...
Note: free, any amount of packages.
As for pickups - yeah, ours travel in a station wagon, so we're a bit more comfortable driving them to the office, it's only 2 miles.
USPS even though integration looks less than ideal
Not sure what you mean here, the API is pretty specific and you can get any info you want, almost down to the penny. You have to specify confirmation and tracking services if you want a tracking number. The UPS tracking numbers are only accurate when everything goes right anyway, see previous discussions on this matter.
As for pickups, as other have said, you just need to make sure that they know it's their job to do a free daily pickup, regardless of how many packages you have. Each state has a USPS Consumer Affairs office that acts as problem solver for the local branches. Find that number and call them. We also have a dedicated account rep at the USPS and they're great to work with. We have a USPS truck that comes by at 4:30 each day, drops off big orange rolling carts and takes our full orange carts. They are separate from our regular postal carrier.
As mentioned: Free boxes. Free Priority tape too if you've got a good relationship. Twenty-four rolls to a case. It's a supply that you can't order, but they can get if for you if they want to.
We can get internationals picked up with no problem. They are all done online; we just give them their copy of the customs form separately.
Tracking is non-existent and their recently introduced Acceptance Scan Form is a joke attempt to mimic tracking. But you do get Delivery Confirmation included, and packages very rarely go missing, so the lack of real tracking is not an issue for us.
USPS is FAST (though often not as fast as they claim) - and customers love that.
Many postal workers can be quite ignorant and seem to know very little about their own rules.
For integration, take a look at Dazzle by Endicia.
I have worked with numerous branches, and currently have regular contact with three. One is so-so. One doesn't have a single employee that I would give you a nickel for. The third is unbelievable. I would hire every single person there if I could. Each branch has its own culture and attitude and it always shows. If you've got a bad one, then you have suck it up, smile, and do everything possible to build a positive relationship. You need them - like it or not.
We are not thrilled with the idea of losing real-time tracking...
Mostly overrated for our purposes. Our shipments arrive before people feel any concern about looking for them.