going postal

I wrote 2 posts in the last 2 days, but I found them lame and unamusing, so I deleted them. At the end of the day if I have any computer time, I read other people’s blogs they are infinitely more interesting than my life. So, I have a shiny new webpage and boatload of shiny toys but alas . . . I still have to ship with the same crappy old United States Postal Service.

The USPS, our quasi-governmental agency continues to come up with new and original ways to separate you from your money and packages. I have been shipping books mail order since around 1980, and I could always depend on them to lose one package a year. Never more or never less. But never enough to demand adding extra insurance and the like. Even when I was shipping 200 books a week, I only bothered to track and insure items that would have been painful to replace.

But some how magically since June, the post office has lost or undelivered 9 packages. I have tried looking for patterns and I can’t find one: some were priority, some where international, some where sent using the APC machine, some over the counter, some even had tracking on them. To be fair I can’t blame the post office 100%, one package had the wrong address because the customer mistyped it, I still replaced the entire thing, since it hasn’t come back to me yet. One package had an old address on it, since the customer hadn’t updated the one in paypal and I shipped through them, that package is still sitting on a post office shelf, one international just came back as unclaimed. I just lost one to Saudi Arabia and I can’t make that customer understand the US simply doesn’t want it’s citizens shipping outside of the country and WILL NOT track international first class or priority. In self defense, I am no longer shipping outside the US unless it is someone I know, or I can afford to lose the package. There just isn’t enough profit in the gamble.

As far as stop loss on domestic packages, I have finally started using as many online services as I can to layer tracking. The USPS’s own click and ship, is convenient yet problematic, it only does Priority and Express, but will give you a ship label with postage and tracking. However it does eat labels once in a while and refunds take 10 days., oh joy. The USPS Shipping Assistant, is a rather annoying little tool, which lets you get a lovely label with tracking but alas NO postage. So you still have to take it to the PO or put stamps on it, and who among us every has exact postage?

There are other third party online shipping tools, two sprint to mind – Stamps.com where you prepay for your postage and then draw down against the balance…hmmm I love other people get to keep my the interest on my money. And then there is Endicia.com, oh yeah, please let me pay $10 bucks a month for the privilege of printing US postage at my desk. Where do I sign up? If I were taking in enough cash to offset theses expenses it would be different story.

Meanwhile, I HATE to say this . . . .so far my shipping of choice is through Paypal, yeah, yeah I know Paypal stinks, Ebay stinks, Amazon stinks, but when the air is the only thing to breath it smells just fine. Paypal shipping lets you ship first class, media mail, parcel post, with tracking or insurance – I print the whole thing on paper, tape it to the box and leave it out for my Mail Carrier – who so far is the only USPS employee I trust.

Much to my surprise I have just been introduced to from where I have been told I can ship NON Paypal processed orders, sounds like the best of both worlds. Guess I will be trying that out today. I guess I am slow on these things because I trash damn near every email marked Paypal to the spam filter.

As far as other methods, unless you ship hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth every week, using UPS is akin to burning your money on the front lawn. Their service is less then desirable and it costs way too much. Ideally all the shipping in the world would be done by DHL, who know their way around the globe and are cheaper than Fedex and UPS, but still aren’t in the household delivery business yet. See : The Great Package Race, conducted by Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, who sends identical boxes by UPS, DHL and FedEx to remote locations all over the world. DHL kicks serious ass.

Gone are the days when I could just haul my packages to the Post Office, shoot the breeze with the clerks, hand them over to trust worthy civil servants and not have to worry that they would end up in a landfill somewhere. Now, I am lucky if they even come back to me. I swear if I were the paranoid sort, I’d swear that there is a subversive and deliberate increase in package losses just to force us to insure everything. Nothing like getting us to spend more money for the same services.

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