11:36 - The USPS Click-N-Ship website is still not accepting payments. I’ve done everything I can think of on my end. I’ve tried using two different browsers on two computers. I’ve cleared the cache and cookies. I’ve tried paying with three different credit cards, all of which are good and none of which worked, and I’ve tried paying via PayPal. No dice. The USPS website simply refuses to accept payments. I even created a new USPS Click-N-Ship account in Barbara’s name. It does the same thing. I’ve emailed USPS and gotten no response. I’ve called them repeatedly and spent long times on hold before finally giving up and trying again later.
As it turns out, I am able to ship some kits by using the PayPal shipping feature, but it’s less than ideal. It provides only some USPS Priority Mail options. The only two useful ones are the USPS PM Large Flat-Rate Box and the straight distance/weight Priority Mail option. Notably absent are the Regional-Rate Box options, and we use RR boxes for about 90% of our kit shipments. I just used the distance/weight PayPal PM option to ship a kit to Florida in a regional-rate box B. That would have cost $8.10 in postage if the RR box option was available with PayPal. It isn’t, so I shipped via the standard PM distance/weight rate, which was $8.55. The extra $0.45 on this shipment isn’t too bad, but that’s because it’s a nearby destination. The RR box B rate is the same as the 4-pound distance/weight PM rate, but our kits range from 5 to 7 pounds. The one I just shipped was at the 5-pound rate, but the differential increases rapidly with each extra pound and each additional zone. A typical kit is going to cost me several dollars extra to ship via PayPal’s USPS PM option relative to the USPS price for a RR box. But at least I can ship the kits. The problem is that PayPal has no International PM option. I’ve had a kit sitting waiting to ship to Denmark since Monday, and no way to generate postage for it.
As I was fuming about this problem yesterday, I had a scary thought. This is happening now, during a very slow time for kit sales. What if it happened in July, August, or September, when we might be shipping 50 or 100 kits a week? Right now, the problem is annoying; if it happened in August, it’d be disastrous. I simply can’t afford to take that risk.
So yesterday I looked again at UPS and FedEx. I set up a UPS account, and I intend to get set up to begin shipping via UPS Ground. (Air isn’t an option at this point because of UPS restrictions on hazardous chemicals.)
Comparing shipping costs between USPS and UPS is complicated. USPS provides free boxes. With UPS, I have to buy boxes, which cost around $1/each delivered. For our typical kits, which weigh 5 to 7 pounds, USPS Regional Rate costs from $6.16 for nearby zones to $14.42 for zone 7. For zone 8, we use Large Flat-Rate Boxes, which cost $15.80, versus $16.28 for a RR box B to zone 8, including Alaska and Hawaii. UPS Ground costs $7.30 to $11.61 for similar distance/weight, except that shipments to Alaska or Hawaii cost from $34.36 to $45.76. None of those include the numerous surcharges that UPS applies, including fees for picking up from or delivering to a residence, delivery area surcharges, package tracking surcharges, fuel surcharges, etc. etc. And UPS also charges to pick up the packages here, which costs $10 to $20 per week.
Just eyeballing things, my impression is that UPS will cost considerably more than USPS for shipments to the lower 48 states, and for 2 to 5 day delivery times versus 1 to 3 day for USPS. For shipments to Alaska and Hawaii, there’s no contest. USPS charges $15.80, while UPS will cost at least $40 and probably $50, $60, or more. International shipments are even worse. A kit that costs us $50 to ship via USPS Priority Mail International will cost two to three times that much via UPS. And that doesn’t count the very high customs brokerage fees that UPS charges and USPS doesn’t.
You know what? I just talked myself out of using UPS. Costs much more, slower deliveries, more hassles. Worst case, even when the USPS website isn’t working properly I can use PayPay to ship via USPS Priority Mail distance/weight or flat rate, at least to US addresses.