Wednesday, 16 April 2014

By on April 16th, 2014 in business

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.

20 Comments and discussion on "Wednesday, 16 April 2014"

  1. OFD says:

    Wow, what a PITA. Could it be that USPS is dependent, like a bunch of other organizations still, on some older version of IE? (I’m assuming you’re using FF or Chromium or Opera or whatever on Linux machines…)

  2. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Supposedly, the USPS Click-N-Ship “upgrade” back in January required users to upgrade to IE 8, but lots of people on IE8 through the current version are still having the same problem. I don’t believe this is a local issue. This is caused by the site itself.

    In the past, it’s sometimes been non-functional for days on end. Other times, it’ll let me generate a label with no problems and then if I try to generate another one 10 minutes later it’ll blow up. I’m beginning to think that USPS employed web programmers who were Obamacare site rejects.

  3. OFD says:

    Good theory.

    But hey, listen….ObummerCARE is a huge success now! 70-million have signed up! Oh wait…that’s 7-million….or maybe just seven. Yeah, seven.

    And I see that hordes of middle-aged white wimmenz is pushing HILLARY! for all they’re worth now…they don’t care about her miserable record, evidently, gotta have her! I woulda expected some noise by now concerning the Mooch being a candidate but nary a peep so far. In any case, it’s just a carnival side-show.

    31 here today, bright and sunny with blue skies and a wintuh wonduh-land! 18 tonight with a “Real Feel” of 11, LOL. Happy Easter!

  4. Alan says:

    Worst case couldn’t you just show up at the post office with 50 or so boxes on a mail cart? Just don’t get in line in front of me 😉

  5. MrAtoz says:

    Mr. Bob have you considered some shipping software? Your volume may make up for the monthly cost. I use Ship Station which lets you use your UPS, Fedex and other shippers, plus you can add Express1 and Endicia for USPS shipping. I ship a lot of books UPS Ground and SS lets me use a thermal printer for labels. Sometimes I ship up to 30 boxes at once. Express1 gives you a small discount on regular Priority Mail, but I don’t know about Regional. I know cost is important, but the USPS site sounds extremely frustrating.

  6. MrAtoz says:

    This Detroit bailout better not happen. What a disgrace if we the people have to pay for Detroit’s greed.

  7. Ray Thompson says:

    Oh you fail to fully understand the bailout. What the federal government would be doing is giving money for Detroit’s remediation. The money the feds give would not be going to the retirement funds.

    This will allow Detroit to divert money that would have gone to the remediation into the retirement funds. So Detroit is the one that is paying the retirement funds, not the feds.

    It’s all how you spin the money in the buckets.

  8. Chuck W says:

    Seems to me that stopping that is going to be like stopping a freight train, or something like the investment banking system bailout. All the players are going to leverage their weight for all its worth, and big bankrupt cities are going to throw a lot of weight into the equation — more than the little people, who will have no more say about this than we do about foreign military spending, Guantanamo, or Goldman-Sachs bailouts so they can go back to overpaying top exec salaries.

  9. ech says:

    USPS may not charge customs fees on international shipments, but the recipient will. Their package will likely be held hostage at a customs office and they will have to go with a receipt and pay. However, if you put an invoice on the outside of the box in one of those clear pockets, in many countries the recipient will get a customs/VAT bill and can send in a payment to get the package delivered. (This is based on experiences of gamers in the UK and EU ordering wargames from a US company.)

  10. bgrigg says:

    Having been on the receiving end of a shipment from Bob, I can state that I did NOT pay customs fees on the shipment, but have been able to pay at the door for other international shipments. This is not unexpected by those of us who order from the USA.

  11. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The problem with UPS and FedEx is that they collect the customs fees (plus a large cut for themselves) from the shipper. With USPS Priority Mail International the national post systems may or may not collect customs fees/VAT, etc. directly from the recipient. If they do, it’s much, much less than UPS/FedEx charges.

  12. bgrigg says:

    FedEx is IMHO the worst. I’ve never received an US shipment without paying some fees if they’re the courier. UPS is hit and miss maybe 50/50, while USPS is the least expensive, although the slower option.

  13. brad says:

    What I love about UPS and FedEx, speaking as a recipient, is that they apparently charge both the sender and the receiver for customs clearance – on top of whatever the actual customs charge may be. Packages shipped through the post office may have customs, but there is no additional processing fee.

  14. ech says:

    Packages shipped through the post office may have customs, but there is no additional processing fee.

    Depends on the country. I read that the UK post office adds a processing fee that may exceed the VAT charges. It is somewhat hit or miss as to whether a USPS shipment gets tagged for customs/VAT charges when sent to the EU or Oz, but reports are that they are getting better at catching them.

  15. Lynn McGuire says:

    And I see that hordes of middle-aged white wimmenz is pushing HILLARY! for all they’re worth now

    Not my daughter, my wife and my mother. Of course, they all live in flyover country and regard her as a total failure.

  16. OFD says:

    Yeah, I should clarify that: hordes of blah-blah-blah on the coasts and in the cities are pushing…etc. “Flyover country” would probably elect Palin, which would also be a boffo laff riot.

  17. Chuck W says:

    I’m willing to try it. She doesn’t have a law degree. That’s qualification enough for me.

  18. Lynn McGuire says:

    I’m willing to try it. She doesn’t have a law degree. That’s qualification enough for me.

    Another constitutional amendment that I have been pushing, no lawyers in elected office anywhere in the USA.

  19. OFD says:

    The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.

    Even five-hundred years ago they were a well-known problem/issue.

    I don’t really care anymore who gets into the WH; the worse the better as far as I’m concerned. Bring it.

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