Sunday, February 15, 2009

Guide To Ship Things Easily

A while back, I had to ship a big, heavy box. I carried it to the post office and waited in line for an hour to ship it. Since then, I've been looking around for ways to make shipping a better experience. I've learned many things that help me ship things easily - Thanks to all those who helped out.

Whether you need to ship something once in six months or every other day,these tips should make it easy. You might need to return a purchased item, use a warranty service, sell on eBay, or just send someone a package.
This article does not cover businesses with heavy volume of shipping. That's a totally different story.

What You Need To Get Started
- Internet. I guess you have that...
- Printer
. To print out shipping labels.
- Boxes and packing supplies, like tape. Get them free. See below.
- Another thing that will make things easier, but not a must, is a scale. With a scale you will know exactly how much you need to pay for the shipment. If you don't have a scale, you can check the shipping weight on websites such as Amazon. If that doesn't work, you can always just estimate the weight yourself. UPS and USPS don't seem to mind guessing, even if you err on the lower side, as long as its within reason.

Choosing a Shipping Method
Update: For items over 3 pounds, often Fedex is cheapest.
I use UPS and USPS. In general, I would say that UPS is better, but USPS is often cheaper, especially when shipping a light package. So, if you're looking for the cheapest price, check both.

When I ship using UPS, I almost always use UPS Ground.

Within USPS, I use these levels of service:
Parcel Post - Cheap. Can take a long time to arrive.
Priority Mail - More expensive. 2-5 day shipping. It's great for small, heavy items.
Media Mail - For books, CD's etc. Very cheap. Can take a real long time.
First Class Mail - Up to 13 oz. Very cheap. Pretty quick.

I usually ship Priority Mail, unless Parcel Post is much cheaper. Sometimes, Priority Mail can be even cheaper than Parcel Post, because they have Flat Rate boxes for Priority Mail but not for Parcel Post. When its an option, I definitely look into shipping First Class or Media Mail.

If you need the package to arrive by a certain date, then UPS is often better, as when you check the price of a shipment, they tell you when the item will arrive as well. Although their ground service doesn't guarantee the time, it's usually accurate.

If you are shipping something local (within a few hundred miles), it will probably arrive the following day even when using UPS Ground. That's usually quicker than USPS Priority Mail. So check when UPS says it will get there.

Also, if you need to insure the package, UPS might be better, as they include some insurance automatically.

Free Shipping Supplies:
Both USPS and UPS will ship out free boxes and shipping supplies. The free supplies are meant for their more expensive shipping methods, USPS Priority mail and UPS Express.

UPS also has free self-adhesive labels (two on a page) which you can use with a regular printer. I started using it lately and love it. You can always print the shipping label on regular paper and tape it to the box, its just easier with a self sticking label. If you do use regular paper, try not to cover the barcode with tape.

Another way to get free supplies is to save boxes and packaging material, like bubble wrap, when you receive deliveries for items bought online.

Printing Your Shipping Label:
Once you've checked prices and decided on which service to use, simply create a shipment on either or, print out the label, attach it to your box, and give it to your UPS or USPS driver! doesn't let you print out anything cheaper than Priority Mail on their website. If you want to ship Parcel Post, First Class Mail etc, then you can print out the shipping label through Paypal. It's officially meant for when you sell things on eBay, but here is a direct link to print out any type of USPS label, even if you haven't sold anything on eBay!

How To Get The package to UPS or USPS:


They have free Package Pickup, where they will pick up your packages from your house.
Two issues with Package Pickup:
1) You are 'supposed' to have at least one of the items being shipped Priority Mail with every package pickup. The mailman shouldn't mind too much though, if you don't have a priority mail box there for him to pick up.
2) In my experience, the post office is not consistent as to when they come pick up (or deliver) packages. So if someone is not at home/office all the time, that can be a problem. It might be consistent where you live, though.

Ordering supplies from USPS is another way to get a USPS driver to your house.

Alternatively, find out if there are any places around where you live, where you can drop off ready-to-ship packages.

1. Next time you get a package from UPS, just give the driver your package to ship.
How to get a UPS driver to come to your house if you are not expecting a delivery:
- If you have Amazon Prime, just buy something on Amazon for $0.36 or less. Amazon will usually ship it with UPS 2nd Day Air... It can also be an original way to get a shipping box...
- Order some free supplies from the UPS store.
2. Drop off your package at a UPS Drop Off Location.
3. If none of these work for you, then you can request a pickup for $4.

Two additional things to consider getting:

1) Digital scale.
2) Thermal printer. Things will be more efficient that way. Only important for someone who does lots of shipping.

Another tip:
If you get a note saying that USPS tried to deliver a package to your house but nobody was home, and that the package can be picked up at the Post Office, click here to request a redelivery.


Mendel said...

Where can I get a cheap scale?

Shmuly said...


Anonymous said...

Where can you get free tape? I dont see it on either the UPS or USPS websites?

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