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How Does Shipping Work With The USPS?

Updated on November 15, 2012
A postal worker sorting mail at the post office. Can you imagine how much mail they see every day?
A postal worker sorting mail at the post office. Can you imagine how much mail they see every day? | Source

Shipping with the USPS can be confusing for an amateur buyer or seller. Some who think they are experienced may not fully understand all of the many aspects associated with packing an item and having it shipped to the buyer. Understanding how this process works will make you a better buyer, seller, and shipper. There are many ways that you can ship an item, and the best method depends highly on how large, heavy, and expensive it is, and of course where it is going. In this hub I will be covering many aspects to help explain how the process works!

How large is it?

In many cases, a large item can ship very cheap. In fact, when shipping with USPS, the size of the package does not matter as long as it is not "oversize". An oversize item according to the USPS, is an item that is "over 108 inches but not more than 130 inches in combined length and girth." Generally speaking, from my experience, shipping larger or heavier items makes more sense to ship with UPS.

How heavy is it?

The heavier the item is, the more expensive it will be to ship. This is always the case with one exception. The USPS offers flat rate boxes and envelopes. Flat rate shipping is great in so many ways but it is rarely applicable and only really makes sense if you are shipping an item that is fairly heavy and going a long distance. You can get as many flat rate shipping boxes as you want shipped to you for free. Go check out the USPS website for more information.

Large boxes can be purchases online or gotten for free from some businesses, but the USPS will not supply any that are this size
Large boxes can be purchases online or gotten for free from some businesses, but the USPS will not supply any that are this size | Source

Do you have boxes?

As I have mentioned before, you can use the USPS website to order free boxes. There are times when you will need another size, shape, or perhaps a stronger box or an even smaller box. For times like this, you should check out this hub where I explain how to get free boxes. You can ship priority mail with your own boxes that you supply, but you can not ship parcel post with a USPS box that they supply for priority mail shipping. You must use the boxes they supply only for priority mail! Boxes can be expensive and good boxes can be very expensive if you don't know where to buy them. Do NOT go to UPS because you will horribly over pay for their boxes. 90% of the cost of anything in their store for shipping is the price of convenience.

Books should always be shipped with media mail unless you need to ship them expedited
Books should always be shipped with media mail unless you need to ship them expedited | Source

Does it qualify for media mail?

Media mail is the cheapest way to ship books, cds, dvds, and VHS, Cassettes, and records. If you are shipping these items and they weigh more than 9 or 10 ounces, and the speed of the shipment is not important, then media mail is the best way to go. I ship a lot of media mail but it is mostly books and some VHS. While media mail is the cheapest method, it is also the most abusive method. Items shipped by media mail should be very carefully packaged! They get thrown around, crushed, and abused more than any other shipping method and can be traveling around in a truck for up to several weeks. There's nothing more frustrating than receiving a package that was sent media mail inside of an envelope! Please, for the sake of everyone, pack your shipment properly!

Parcel post

While I rarely use parcel post shipping, it does have some uses. Generally speaking, parcel post is standard shipping for the USPS. This shipping takes 2-8 days and is a bit more rough than priority mail, but less than media mail. I don't use parcel post often because the USPS does not supply boxes for it. Also, it is generally only just a little bit more to ship with priority mail for a safer and quicker travel. Parcel post works well for items that are traveling a long distance and are fairly heavy. I would still compare UPS rates, but parcel post can be a better option sometimes. The thing to remember with parcel post is that you have to supply your own box and it is slower and more risky if you are shipping fragile items because it travels by truck the whole way.

Does it qualify for regional box A, B or C?

The USPS offers regional boxes A, B, and C. These boxes ship priority mail and the cost to ship them varies by weight and distance. Regional boxes will ship at a cheap rate but they will only be usable if you are within a certain distance of the destination. Regional box A is small, B is medium, and C is quite large. You can pick these up at the USPS website for free as well. These boxes are very useful if you ship a lot because you can sometimes but rarely use them to save money.

Flat Rate Envelopes

The padded flat rate envelope is by far my favorite way to ship. For about $5 you can ship anything that fits in the envelope anywhere in the US, and it's shipped priority mail!. My favorite item to ship in these is large baseball gloves because they fit perfectly. You can fit all sorts of things in these envelopes very easily. The important thing to remember is that you need to pack things safely. It may fit, but if it isn't safely padded then your item may break.

Delivery confirmation and signature confirmation

Delivery confirmation confirms that the shipment has arrived in the area code and the shipment is scanned in at various locations leading up to this point. A customer will sometimes claim that they did not get the package despite the fact that the item was shown as being delivered. For this reason I use signature confirmation on all orders around $100 or more. Signature confirmation requires a signature from someone at the address. If your shipment has been signed then can be 100% certain that the item has arrived at its destination. If you are shipping with Ebay or Amazon, customers can sometimes scam you by saying they did not get the item. Ebay and Amazon will side with you if you show that it was confirmed as a signature confirmation.

Pack your shipment safely

Fragile items should obviously be thoroughly padded and have space between the box and the item. Coins should always be wound up in plastic wrap and taped so that they are not stolen in transit. Any jingling can alert a dishonest worker. Plastic wrap also works very well to keep things together from rattling around and shifting. Remember that your package might see abuse and it should be ready for it. You should be able to drop your item from 6 feet in the air and it should not break. I feel that this applies to most items that you ship. I think that if you are shipping a HD TV however, it might be difficult to protect it from that sort of harm! Any knives or other sharp items should be covered with rigid cardboard and taped thoroughly. Basically, use common sense and always be safe now rather than sorry later.


Insuring a package can be tricky with the USPS. When you ship with UPS you are covered for up to $100 standard on all shipments. With the USPS you have to pay for any insurance. If I was shipping something very expensive or very valuable to you I would not use USPS. Either way, it is nearly not worth it for Insurance from what I have seen. I have shipped thousands of items and never had one arrive broken or damaged. They will only pay on the insurance claim if they judge that you have packed the item correctly. When I ship my books I make sure they can be thrown against a wall or run over without damage. When I ship vintage items I always pack carefully with extremely light bubble wrap. Insurance is nearly always unnecessary.

I hope you enjoyed this hub! If you liked it would you subscribe for more? Do you love treasure hunting, selling on Ebay, or just learning about cool vintage stuff? Check out my youtube channel for tons of videos about my adventures and hauls as well as tips, tricks, and countless bits of information!

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    • PickingProfits profile image

      PickingProfits 5 years ago

      You know, I am really not too sure. I can say that regional boxes work if the state is about 3 states away but no further.

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Thank you for writing this very informative hub. I have a question for you. Regarding regional rate boxes, where can I find a chart that illustrates the radius within which the various regional rate boxes can be shipped?

      I look forward to receiving your answer. Aloha!