Order fulfillment plays a crucial role in meeting the needs of your customers. Your deliveries must be affordable, reliable, and made on time. Delivering according to the agreed terms and conditions results in happy and satisfied customers. Satisfied buyers often return if they want to acquire items you have in your stock.
We all want our parcels to be delivered safely and on time. Whether it is a letter or a package with essential contents, your recipient must receive it within a reasonable period and while it is in good condition.
United States Postal Service (USPS) offers excellent package delivery services. USPS delivers your parcels to recipients at affordable rates and with favorable terms. Shipping with USPS may at first seem like a challenging task. However, it is easy if you leverage their options and prepare your packages properly before delivering them for shipping.
This article will guide you on how you can ship a package via USPS.
Choosing A USPS Shipping Method
USPS provides its clients with many shipping options. Each comes with its rates, terms, and benefits.
1. Retail Ground: The Most Affordable Option
Retail ground, formerly called standard post, is the cheapest shipping option by USPS. Its rates start from as low as $7.35. The rates increase depending on the zone of the recipient, the size of the package, and its weight.
Retail ground shipping method is not ideal for parcels that you want to be delivered quickly. The delivery period ranges from 2-8 business days. However, it can go as far as 14 days on some occasions. Only packages weighing 70 pounds (32 Kilograms) or less are eligible for Retail Ground shipping.
USPS offers free tracking for packages you choose to ship using this method.
Packages that meet any of these conditions are subject to additional charges
- Measure more than 108 inches in combined girth and length
- Have unusual shapes, such as rolls or tubes
- Measure more than 84 inches in combined girth and length, and are less than 20lbs
Retail Ground Features
- Delivers to all U.S. addresses, including military and postal addresses
- Provides the best economic value if you are sending general merchandise and large or small gifts within the U.S.
- Comes with free tracking service
- Available at the post office near you
- Parcels weigh up to 70 pounds and measure a maximum of 130 inches in the combined distance around the thickest section and length
- Free residential and Saturday deliveries
USPS offers the rates of this shipping option for the mailable items you send to zones 5 to 9. However, exceptions for the following packages are applicable.
- There is an exception when the oversized price applies. Items that have a combined girth and length of more than 108 inches, but less than or equal to 130 inches qualify for these charges.
- There is an exception where balloon price applies. Parcels measuring above 84 inches, but below 108 inches in combined girth and length, and weigh below 20lbs are eligible for these prices.
- There is an exception when shipping live animals by ground and valuable items that you must only ship by surface transportation. Additionally, there is an exception for hazardous materials that you can move by ground transportation. In these cases, you can use USPS Retail Ground rates to send your package to all the zones.
- There is an exception if limited overland routes (LOR) rates apply. This category is for Retail Ground parcels that USPS delivers from and to specific ZIP codes within Alaska, and that are not linked by LOR.
- These rates are not limited to live animals, hazardous materials, or other items that USPS ships using ground transportation.
- The LOR rates are not available through commercial postage payment or online platforms.
USPS Retail Ground rates are only available in zones 1 to 4 if the package meets one or more of these conditions. USPS upgrades those items that do not qualify for Retail Ground prices to their Priority Mail service without imposing additional charges.
2. Priority Mail: Provides A Flat Rate For All Packages
USPS delivers parcels in this category in 1 to 3 days. It takes a shorter time for deliveries for zones that are near each other and might take slightly longer for zones that are further apart. USPS charges a fixed rate for packages that fit their standard boxes and weigh up to 70lbs.
These flat rates enable you to get value for money. The price for boxes in this category begins at $7.35 in online platforms and post offices near you. All the envelopes and packaging materials for this category are free.
Priority Mail Features
- Delivery is in around 1 to 3 business days
- No extra charges for rural, residential, or Saturday deliveries
- Regional, prepaid, and flat-rate pricing are available (retail only)
- Free tracking of packages
- Free pick up of your parcel from your office or home
- Insurance cover of up to $50 with most shipments (USPS has some restrictions for coverage)
Priority Mail Options
USPS offers several options in this category. Choose one that is ideal for the weight and dimensions of your package.
- Flat Rate Cardboard Envelope. For this category, an envelope should measure 12.5 inches by 9.5 inches. It is the right choice for letters, manuscripts, and documents. Its commercial rate is $6.95, and it goes for $7.35 at the post office or online.
- Legal Flat Rate Envelope. A parcel in this category has dimensions of 15″ × 9.5″ and is an excellent option for legal documents. Its commercial rate is $7.25, and it goes for $7.65 at the post office or online.
- Padded Flat Rate Envelop. In this category, the envelope is waterproof and measures 12.5 inches by 9.5 inches. It is ideal for books and boxed jewelry. Its commercial rate is $7.55, and it goes for $8.00 at the post office or online.
- Small Flat Rate Box. In this category, the box comes with a flat rate regardless of the weight of your items. You must use the one USPS provides, which has 8″ × 5″ × 1.75″ dimensions. It is ideal for small electronics and brochures. Its commercial rate is $7.50, and it goes for $7.90 at the post office or online.
- Medium Flat Rate Box. In this category, you can package your items using the two sizes of boxes that USPS provides, measuring 11.25″ × 8.75″ × 6″ or the one with 14″ × 12″ × 3.5″ dimensions. These containers are ideal for shoes and office supplies. You can load the former from the top, and it goes for $12.80 at commercial bases and $14.35 at the post office or online. You load the latter from its side, and it goes for similar rates as the other box.
- Large Flat Rate Box. This option is the largest by USPS. It measures 12.25″ × 12.25″ × 6″ and is ideal for laptops and gifts. Its commercial rate is $17.60, and its price at the post office or online is $19.95.
Restrictions For Priority Mail
You must fulfill these conditions to qualify for Priority Mail.
- The packages in this category should weigh 70lbs or less
- The maximum combined girth and length of the box should be 108 inches
- The flaps of the box or flat rate envelope should close within their usual folds
The flat rate of Priority Mail is appealing to senders that want to pay a fixed charge regardless of the weight of their parcels. They enjoy this benefit once they fulfill the requirements set by USPS.
3. Express Mail: Option With The Fastest Delivery Time
Express Mail is an excellent option if you want the package to be delivered to your recipient the following day. However, in some cases, it takes up to 2 business days for the parcel to reach its destination.
You have to ensure your box is scanned at the post office before 3 p.m. to increase your chances of the delivery being made by the following day. The deadline depends on the post office location. It is the most expensive option by USPS, but it is worth the extra dollars if your recipients receive your mail the following day.
This option provides flat rate boxes for parcels weighing 70lbs or less. Express Mail comes with a money-back guarantee. In case the package does not arrive as USPS promises, you must file a dispute with USPS before 30 days from when you sent it elapses to get a refund.
Express Mail Features
- Free pick up of the parcel from your office or home
- Free tracking of the mail including the time and date of the delivery or an attempt to deliver
- There is an option for the recipient to sign upon delivery (you must request it while purchasing)
- Most shipments have an insurance cover worth up to $100
- You can pay extra to get overnight delivery (is done before 10.30 a.m. of the following day), holiday and weekend deliveries
4. First Class Mail: An Excellent Option For Parcels Weighing Less Than 13 Ounces
First Class Mail is the cheapest option by USPS and is a quick way to deliver packages that weigh 13 ounces (0.0625 pounds) or less. USPS guarantees that the delivery for First Class Mail takes between 1 to 3 business days.
The shipping company offers an insurance cover of up to $5000 for items that get lost or incur damages while in their possession. If your parcel weighs more than the set limit, you must upgrade it to the Priority Mail option or pay additional charges.
You pay an extra $0.15 for parcels that cannot be sent using the automated machines at the post office. The shape of your letter will determine whether you will pay this amount or not. The First Class Mail option provides additional features that come with slightly higher rates.
USPS has signature confirmation and tracking for the packages in this category. You get Certified Mail for all parcels sent using this option.
Features Of First Class Mail
- Affordable rates for mails weighing up to 13 oz
- You can combine the option with other services to confirm the receipt of the package
- Delivery is within 1-3 business days
- You can get 3.5 ounces for free with cards and commercial priced letters
- Merchandises get insurance of up to $5000, which covers losses or damages
Conditions to fulfill before qualifying for the First Class Mail option
- The envelope must have maximum dimensions of 15″ × 12″ to avoid the rates of the package being higher.
- The parcel should be at least 0.25 inch thick. USPS returns packages that fail to meet this threshold or upgrade it and demand extra payment.
5. Media Mail: Suitable For CDs, Books, And Other Media
USPS offers this cost-effective option for sending educational materials and media like video and audio recordings on sheet music, disks, and medical binders. The shipping services provider has a maximum limit of 70 pounds for parcels that qualify for Media Mail.
Delivery takes between 2 to 8 days. The rate for this category begins at $2.75 in post offices. USPS has strict regulations for packages that are eligible for Media Mail shipping. The post office workers check that your parcel qualifies for this option before allowing you to ship using this method.
You can send the following items using Media Mail:
- Books of 8 pages and more
- Medical binders and loose-leaf pages
- Sound and video recordings
- Printed test and music materials
- Printed educational charts
- Computer-readable media
Note: Digital drives, computer drives, and video games are not eligible for shipping using Media Mail by USPS.
Packaging And Sending Your Parcel
There are a few steps that you can take to safeguard your package and prepare it for shipping by USPS. They include:
1. Put Your Items In An Envelope Or Box And Seal It
You may add cushioning materials before sealing it. These actions ensure that the parcel is in the best condition possible during shipping. They protect it from access by people other than the recipient and ensure it is safe from shaking of the vessel for transportation while in transit.
You should also add tape around the sides of the mail, especially at its bottom, to avoid the items falling to the ground. Use boxes that do not have hanging strings, tapes, and twines as they can cause damages while sorting them with the equipment USPS use.
2. Fill Out The Address Of The Package
You are free to write on the box or use label stickers to write the delivery address of the parcel. Failure to indicate the address can result in missed deliveries, which inconveniences the recipients and you, the sender.
Indicate a return address and proper ZIP codes so that the shipping services provider can return the mail to if it fails to reach its intended recipient. You should use a permanent marker as its ink does not smear over the address and writings remain legible throughout the delivery period.
3. Take The Package To The Post Office To Weigh And Measure It
You must pay the correct shipping charges to avoid incurring extra costs later or issues that can delay the delivery. The weight and size of the package are critical in determining the rates for your parcels.
USPS workers take these measurements and advise you on the amount you should pay. The post office is reliable and uses current rates. Furthermore, they check your mail to ensure you have prepared it correctly. Leverage it to avoid inconveniences that may increase the delivery period or lead to unnecessary charges.
4. Purchase The Right Postage And Apply It To The Mail
The postal worker will inform you on the appropriate postage, buy it and put it on your parcel. Ensure it is in a visible position. Make the label easy to scan by putting it in an area that is easy to find. USPS scans the barcode to process the package while in transit.
Go through your options with the postal worker and, if possible, leverage their expertise and experience by allowing them to apply the postage to the box or envelope. However, if you want to do it yourself, postage goes to the top-right corner of your envelope, but the location can vary for packages.
For the postage that you print using regular paper, cover it with clear tape so that it will not get too wet to scan or read.
5. Leave Your Parcel With The USPS Worker At The Postal Office's Retail Desk
Once the postal worker confirms that your package is ready and the two of you apply the correct postage, leave it at the counter. You can confirm that they scan and process it. You may also obtain a receipt for the process.
6. Get A Tracking Number
This number allows you to monitor the package while it is in transit. Some USPS options provide this service for free while others offer it at a slightly higher rate. However, it may be worth it as you will know the status of the parcel throughout the delivery period.
The U.S. Postal Service currently has close to 157 million delivery points in the U.S., no other organization in the U.S. has this kind of penetration especially in remote areas. USPS offers some of the most affordable rates and shipping terms in the market that you can leverage to get value for money.
Additionally, USPS continues to offer a reliable service critical to all retailers in ecommerce. Using shipping services by USPS is relatively easy and there are many options you can choose from to cater for your various shipping needs.