Online Shipping: It's Easier, Cheaper, and Faster than Traditional Shipping
Quit Wasting Time in the Post Office: Print and Purchase Labels Online
As an Ebay seller with more than three years experience in selling online, I discovered that most online buyers (and very probably most Americans) today still use conventional methods of mailing. They go to the post office, fill out forms, wait in long lines, and have their mail processed by the post office clerks. When returning their product for whatever reason, buyers typically overpay postage at their local post office because they use unnecessary services. For example, the mailing of a product that cost me only $4.60 cost from $8.95 to $11 to customers in order to return it with the same service. Conventional mailing method is a time waster and often costs more. And you don’t have to be an online seller, to take advantage of online shipping.
Saving time and money, when mailing, doesn’t require extensive knowledge. All you need to know is how to print and pay for your postage online and how to choose the most cost effective service. For many services, you’ll also need to use a weighing scale (many inexpensive types of shipping scales are available).
Printing Labels and Paying for Postage Online
In the United States there are many websites of carriers that provide for printing of labels, paying for postage, and scheduling pickups. The DHL (http://www.dhl-usa.com), UPS (http://www.ups.com) and FedEx (http://www.fedex.com/us/) websites provide these services. Because carriers like DHL and UPS offer a comprehensive tracking system, I recommend you to use these carriers only when you have to ship something very valuable like an expensive notebook for example. The tracking systems of these carriers always use tracking numbers while USPS tracking system usually assigns delivery confirmation numbers.
Using USPS Online for Shipping
For most of your mail, you’ll only need USPS. The online services provided by USPS are as effective as other carriers but they are less expensive. There're two free online tools you can use to ship online through USPS – the USPS Click-N-Ship Tool and PayPal MiltiOrder Shipping Tool.
For most of your domestic shipping, it’s better to use the PayPal tool because you print labels, pay for labels, and obtain delivery confirmation number for First Class Mail – a very cost effective service for packages weighing 1 oz to 13 oz. First Class Mail delivery confirmation numbers can help you make sure that important letters arrive at their destination. In addition, there're other domestic services available through the PayPal tool – not available in the USPS Click-N-Ship tool: Media Mail (2-9 days), and Parcel Post (2-9 days).
The USPS Click-N-Ship tool (https://sss-web.usps.com/cns/landing.do) gives you less service options for your domestic packages- you can ship either with Express Mail or Priority Mail. However, the Click-N-Ship provides international services for all of which you’ll receive special online discount – another incentive for you to ship online. The international services offered by USPS Click-N-Ship are Express Mail International, Priority Mail International, and Global Express Guaranteed (available to certain participating locations).
Using the PayPal MultiOrder Shipping Tool
In order to use PayPal MultiOrder shipping you’ll first need to sign up for a PayPal account (https://www.paypal.com/) – which is easy and fast. It’s a good idea to choose to open a Premier or Business account (rather than just a Personal account because you’ll receive more free services) in order to have a full access to PayPal Merchant Services, part of which is the MiltiOrder Shipping Tool.
Once you have a PayPal Premier account, you’ll be able to take advantage of the MultiOrder Shipping Tool. This tool was created in order to help online sellers but you can use it to ship any mail that you’d normally have to process at your local post office. To locate the tool - go to your paypal account, click Auction Tools button, and click on PayPal MiltiOrder Shipping Tool link under Free Tools for Ebay Sellers.
After opening the tool, click the File link (upper left-hand side corner) and choose Create New Orders. The pop-up window will open and you’ll be able to choose a domestic service for your package and fill out the Ship To and Ship From Address boxes. After that, you can click the Save and Close button. Then click the Print and Pay button. You’ll receive a delivery confirmation number automatically and you’ll be able to print the label.
The PayPal tool is a little hard to navigate at the beginning but it’s really worth it. And it has many other useful features like the option to void labels or upload multiple orders.
Using the USPS Click-N-Ship Tool
To use the USPS Click-N-Ship tool you’ll need to create a USPS account first. After creating your account, you can go to www.usps.com, click sign, and click Click-N-Ship (Print a Shipping Label) link. The system will automatically use your address as a return address and you’ll be able to create an address book to save time creating lables.
It’s really easy to pay and print international labels with Click-N-Ship. You’ll even complete the customs forms online. Just remember to click OK to the message after you print the label. If you don’t click OK – the system will automatically void the label and a charge will appear on your credit card (you’ll receive your money back but after a while).
Other Tips for Online Shipping
Weighing and Measuring Your Packages
Generally, for small packages you can use your kitchen scale and for larger once your bathroom scale. It’s recommended, however, to purchase a shipping scale. Whether digital or mechanical, it’s better if your scale has a bigger capacity.
For some services, Parcel Post at PayPal MultiOrder Shipping Tool for example, you’ll also need to measure the size of your package and input the information at the system to calculate the price. Most of the time the system will ask you to measure the length, width, and height.
Dropping Off Packages
Although since 9/11 USPS has required that packages weighing more than 16 oz and international packages be dropped off at your local post office, you can drop off packages at the nearest blue USPS drop off box even if they are over 16 oz. or are international. But it’s better if the mail deliverer who’s responsible for collecting the mail from the blue drop off box knows you.
You can also hand your package directly to your mail deliverer. But if you can’t, you can either schedule a pickup (both the PayPal MultiOrder Tool and the USPS Click-N-Ship Tool have schedule-a-pickup-option) or drop off your package at your local post office. Don’t forget that you don’t have to wait in line like everybody else – you can just go ahead and put your package on the counter saying “That’s ready to go and paid.”
First Class Mail
First Class Mail is the most cost effective service for small packages in the United States. Remember to use the PayPal MultiOrder Shipping Tool for First Class Mail. You can obtain a tracking number for 18 cents – even for letters. The size is almost unimportant as long as the package does not weigh more than 13 oz. Plus you can drop off First Class Mail packages at any blue drop off box instead of going to the post office.
If you regularly send First Class Mail packages, you can purchase padded or unpadded envelopes at an amazing price on Ebay. To find cheap envelops, go to Ebay and search for poly mailer envelops (unpadded) or bubble mailers padded. You can buy 100 bubbled mailers for a little over $20 or you can find 100 unpadded poly mailers for around $10 – it’s worth it.
Priority Mail service is very reliable and fast – from 2 to 3 days after mailing. Online you always receive a free delivery confirmation number whenever you purchase a Priority Mail label. For this service you can use both the MultiOrder Shipping or the Click-N-Ship.
Although you can use your own packaging, USPS provides a variety of free Priority Mail packaging. You don’t have to go to the post office every time you need USPS packaging. Just order them online absolutely free – just go to the USPS online store and order: http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductCategoryDisplay?langId=-1&storeId=10001&catalogId=10152&categoryId=13354 Each Priority Mail packaging has a fixed price when mailed – click on each package picture to see details about the size and price of label. Some boxes and envelops are prepaid.
Flat Rate Envelops are the most inexpensive Priority Mail packaging. You can put up to 70 lb inside and you’ll pay only $4.60 domestically. Remember you don’t have to use a flat rate box (which costs $8.95) if you can mail your package with flat rate envelop for only $4.60.
Parcel Post is a little less expensive than Priority Mail but tends to be slow. The postal service estimates that your package will arrive in 2 to 9 days after mailing. You can try the service with the PayPal MultiOrder Shipping Tool to see if it works for you. There’s no available free packaging for USPS Parcel Post.
You can use USPS Click-N-Ship tool for international online mailing. The tool makes it very easy to print labels, pay postage, and fill out customs forms. When you get used to sending international mail online with USPS, you’ll never go to the post office for processing your mail - that's for sure.
If you never purchased and printed labels online, it’ll take some time to learn both systems. When you gain experience, it’ll take you only a couple of minutes to process your mail – and you can drop off your package on your way to work at the nearest USPS blue drop off box. You’ll be surprised at how much time and money you’ll save. Besides if you ever need to sell something online – on Ebay, Amazon or other online auctions website, you’ll have a fast and reliable mailing system that will help both you and your customers track packages.
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