Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.
Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.
The first thing to remember is that U.S. Territories are considered domestic mail, so you would use the Stamps.com domestic sections for sending mail to these locations. Due to USPS requirements regarding tracking barcodes, we recommend using the “Packages” option within the Stamps.com software if the thickness of your mail piece is over 3/4″.
Like U.S. states, territories and possessions have two-letter codes and each address will be matched and cleansed according to USPS mailing standards. The codes are:
AS – American Samoa
GU – Guam
MP – Northern Mariana Islands
PR – Puerto Rico
VI – Virgin Islands
UM – U.S. Minor Outlying Islands
Do I need customs forms?
This will vary according to the location. You do not generally need a customs form for mail headed to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. See below for all other U.S. Territories.
Preparing your Customs Forms and Shipping Labels
You will always need a customs form for all the other U.S. territories. Stamps.com takes the guesswork out of this process. When printing a shipping label, the Stamps.com software will automatically alert you or convert the label into the appropriate Shipping Label/Customs Form when you enter a territorial address!
Alternatively, you can manually select Stamps.com’s Online Customs Form (2976-A). This form for Priority Mail combines postage and customs forms into one convenient label and you can print this on plain paper! You can fill out the required customs form information electronically on our software. How? Follow the simple steps below:
– Select your content type.
– Enter your itemized package content details and click on “Add Item” for each separate type of product/article you are shipping.
– Enter an ITN number if your package’s total value exceeds $2,500 or if your particular goods require an export license.
Stamps.com’s Online Customs Form (2976-A) option can be found under the software’s Packages and Batch sections. Once you enter an address for a U.S. territory, you’ll see “Plain Paper 2976-A 3 sheets per label” appear on the drop-down Printing On menu.
Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands
Wait, aren’t the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands independent countries? Yes, but they have a special arrangement with the United States known as the Compact of Free Association, and use USPS domestic mail service. They also use 2-letter state codes:
FM – Federated States of Micronesia
MH – Marshall Islands
PW – Palau
To send mail to these countries, you may use the Domestic options within the Stamps.com software.
Shipping your packages to U.S. Territories with Stamps.com
So you have your label and package ready to ship. What’s next? In the Stamps.com software, you can schedule a pickup for these mailpieces if your request includes at least one or more Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express mailpieces.
After sending out your packages, just keep in mind that shipment times to destinations outside of the contiguous United States may be longer than normal. While delivery time is never guaranteed, your Priority Mail package to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands may take up to 3 days to reach its destination, whereas it would have taken only 2 days to reach a destination within the contiguous states.
A smooth shipping process not only helps streamline your operations as an e-commerce seller, but also ensures your products reach your customers without undue delays. Moreover, you can focus your efforts on growing your business instead of dealing with customer complaints and questions around package delivery status or postage due at the time of delivery.
What can you do to ensure a seamless shipping experience from the time your package leaves your hands and reaches your customer? Follow these five easy USPS shipping guidelines!
Pay Attention To Your Package
Guideline #1 – Round up on Weights: Did you know that the USPS rounds up package weights to the nearest ounce or pound depending on the mail class used? To avoid underpaying for postage or even worse having your customer pay postage at the time of delivery, always round up your package weight. As an example, if your package weighs 10 lbs. and 5 oz., you should use the shipping rate for an 11 lb. package.
Guideline #2 – Check the Dimensions: Your package size can make a difference in how much you pay shipping! Dimensional (DIM) weight may apply to a USPS package that is larger than 1 cubic foot (12″ x 12″ x 12″). Pay attention to the dimensions of your package and avoid unnecessary empty space to lower shipping costs.
Does Your Shipping Label Match Your Package?
Guideline #3 – Verify the Mail Class: What mail class should you use to ship your package? This depends on the weight of your package, how soon you need it to be at its destination and also how much you want to pay for shipping. Remember, each mail class allows packages up to a certain weight limit only. Choose First Class Package Service for packages weighing up to 13 ounces and Priority Mail for packages over that weight limit!
Guideline #4 – Double check the Shipping Zone: USPS Shipping Zones are calculated based on the distance between the origin and destination addresses. Stamps.com customers should verify that the origin zip code (the zip code for where you ship your packages from) is set up correctly.
Guideline #5 – Match the Label to the Packaging: Your shipping label should match your package! For example, based on the package weight, size and shipping zone of your package, if you have decided to use a Flat Rate Priority Mail Box for your package, make sure to choose the corresponding mail class while printing your label. Also, your Flat Rate label must only be used on a Flat Rate box.
USPS Shipping Made Easy With Stamps.com
When you ship with Stamps.com, you don’t need to worry about underpaying for postage. Use your Stamps.com digital scale to accurately weigh your package and the software will automatically use the rounded up weight and charge you the appropriate shipping rate. Next, enter the package dimensions so Stamps.com can determine whether or not DIM weight applies to your package. Select the correct package type or enter the dimensions of your package. Also, make sure to set up your origin zip code correctly. When you enter the destination address, Stamps.com automatically calculates the correct shipping zone for your package. Finally, choose your mail class and Stamps.com will print the appropriate USPS shipping label for your package.
If you need to send a manuscript, set of reports, or sheaf of bills, you’re going to need something a bit larger than a normal letter-sized envelope. The USPS recognizes a category of Flats which can comfortably house numerous sheets of paper, magazines, journals, books or other material, without needing to fold the items.
The key thing to remember is that flats must always be flexible and uniformly even and smooth with no large bumps. Are you sending a license plate in an envelope? Is your envelope wrapped so tightly in plastic that it can’t even bend anymore? Are you sending a box or parcel? Then none of these mailpieces would be considered flats.
The USPS maintains a consisting standard to determine whether something is considered flexible or not. The official “flexibility test” states that a mailpiece is considered flexible “if both ends can bend at least 1 inch vertically without being damaged.” The USPS has a useful guide that shows you how you can perform your own Flex Test.
The official definition of a flat is that it must have a minimum height of 6-1/8″ and a maximum height of 12″, and a minimum length of 11-1/2″ and a maximum length of 15″. The minimum thickness is ¼” and the maximum thickness is ¾”. Anything exceeding these measurements will be bumped up to the next mailpiece of Thick Envelope/Parcel.
Besides the standards by which there is a minimum and maximum thickness for flats, there are two other regulations to consider:
- The ¼ Protuberance Rule
¾ of an inch thick is the maximum thickness for flats, but keep in mind that there is an additional and separate regulation regarding uniform thickness. Your flat has to be uniformly thick, so it can’t have any bumps, protrusions, or bulges that cause more than a ¼-inch variance in thickness. Even if your flat is less than ¾ inch thick, it may not always be a flat. If it contains an item inside of it that is creating a bump that is more than ¼ inch thick, then the mailpiece would not be considered a flat. Therefore, the key thing to prevent is from the mailpiece becoming nonuniformly thick with bumps, bulges, lumps, and prominences.
- Content Shifting
Because of these thickness and protuberance rules, flats are best used for sending documents, but if you want to use flats for non-paper contents, you should secure the items to prevent shifting. This is because there is an additional postal rule that states that non-paper contents cannot move inside the flat to such a degree that they would create a bump or protrusion, or cause the items to burst out of the flat. The official maximum for content shifting is 2 inches, so your items cannot move inside the flat for more than that distance.
Sending Flats With Stamps.com
Stamps.com makes it easy to send to flats! You can print postage for flats in a number of different ways depending on how much information you want on your label.
#1. Need just a stamp?
In your Stamps.com software, select “Stamps” on the left side of the screen and then select “Large Envelopes and Flats” under the drop-down Mailpiece menu. You can then select your mail class: First Class (up to 13 oz.), Priority Mail, or Priority Express.
#2. Want to print postage for a Flat with the delivery and return addresses included?
In your Stamps.com software, select “Envelopes” on the left side of the screen and then select “Large Envelopes and Flats” under the drop-down Mailpiece menu. You can print to a wide variety of labels, such as SDC-3110 or Avery labels like Avery 32403.
#3. Printing First Class, Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Shipping Labels for Flats?
Find these mail class options under the “Packages” option on the left side of the screen. Just look for the mailpiece called “Large Envelope/Flat.” These can be printed on plain paper, Stamps.com labels such as the SDC-1200, or Avery labels like Avery 32402. Tracking is available for Priority and Priority Express Shipping Labels for Flats.
Planning a wedding can be stressful, especially when you’re on a budget. One of the essential tasks during wedding planning is selecting and sending out invitations to your guests. Keep your stress levels low and be prepared by learning how much you’ll need to spend on postage to mail out your wedding invitations!
What You Need To Know About First Class Mail Postage
A standard First Class Mail envelope measures between 5” and 11.5” in length, between 3.5″ and 6.125” in height and between .007” and 0.25” in thickness with a maximum weight of up to 3.5 oz.
Postage for your First Class Mail wedding invitation is determined by how much the envelope weighs. You get a 1% metered mail discount if you use online postage with Stamps.com.
Extra Fee for Square and Odd Shaped Wedding Invitations
Wedding invitations (and even holiday greeting cards) may not always comply with the USPS standards for First Class Mail. If your custom invites are square, odd-shaped, or have non-standard closures like clamps or strings, the USPS will charge a $0.22 surcharge per mail piece. The additional surcharge fee can add up quickly if you are sending invitations to a large group of guests. Often times, square shaped wedding and greeting cards are discounted, but if you don’t want to pay the additional surcharge fee, stick to the standard envelope size for First Class Mail!
How To Mail Wedding Invitations With Stamps.com
To make things easier, you can weigh your sample wedding invitation using your Stamps.com digital scale. This way you’ll also know exactly how much it’ll cost to mail all your invitations.
Save money and eliminate trips to the Post Office by printing postage for your wedding invitations right from your computer using Stamps.com.
We hear you – managing returns is frustrating. It can feel complex, time consuming, or even like the death of a sale. That said, 60% of shoppers who make at least one return to an online store, a whopping 95% of them will purchase from that store again if the return experience is positive. Moreover, if those shoppers feel that their return or exchange was an easy process, 64% of them will refer that online shop to friends. So even though returns may feel like an e-retailer’s nightmare, they can actually be the catalyst for more sales and new customers. In order to win back those sales, you have to make sure your return process is a walk in the park.
Here are 3 simple ways to guarantee a better return experience for your customers:
#1. Make It Clear
Your return policy must be easy to find on your site, with all policy information clearly stated. Be detailed and include all rules, like what you will provide (return postage, for example), and a step-by-step guide on how to proceed with the return. If you’d like an example, Zappos.com has a detailed and clearly outlined returns process that appears simple for the customer. Model your return policy webpage after theirs.
#2. Know The Worth Of Returns vs. Customer Service
Figure out ahead of time the value of letting buyers keep the original item and sending them a replacement, vs. asking that they go through the return process. There are some cases where it is actually better for your company’s reputation, even if you end up eating some of your profit. See below for an example from Practical Ecommerce’s 4 Tips for Better Ecommerce Returns and Exchanges where this special circumstance played out:
A guitarist for a popular party and event band recently ordered a new guitar strap from a merchant on the Amazon marketplace. Unfortunately, there was an error in the shipment, and the merchant apparently sent a shorter strap than expected. When this guitarist contacted the seller about an exchange, he was told that a new strap would be shipped that day and that he could simply keep the smaller strap.
This solution was great for the customer, who did not have to repackage the strap or arrange for a carrier to pick it up. He was generally happy with the experience. This was probably also better for the merchant, who might have simply been able to order a new guitar strap from its distributor for about the same cost as having the strap returned.
In order to determine whether or not you can provide this kind of special customer service, you need to know all applicable variables. This includes cost of return shipping, cost of processing the return and profit lost on the item. Sometimes, a small (or fairly insignificant) loss will lead to a huge gain later. A customer could be so impressed with your service that they will not only shop from you again, but they’ll refer friends. Don’t forget, 64% of buyers will speak highly of retailers that gave them a positive return experience.
#3. Bring The Policy To Them
You already know not to bury your return policy landing page somewhere on your website where shoppers will have a hard time finding it. To keep them in the loop, consider posting (just once) on your social media sites either a link to your return policy page or a cliff notes version for them to quickly scan. Doing this will communicate that you are on their side and want them to be happy with their purchase – and if there is an issue, you want to make the return easy for them. This can be especially timely during the holiday season, and may be a smart post for December 26th. Drive it home with a follow up post inviting social media followers to share pictures of themselves with their new products. The more you can establish an emotional connection between your business and your buyers, the better your business will perform. According to a 10-year study conducted by Hiebing, brands that evoke a strong emotional response can sell more, drive customer loyalty and successfully charge up to 200% more than competitors.
With these tips in your back pocket, you can simplify the return process for your e-commerce store. Your buyers will appreciate it, and so will your bottom line. Of all the customers who make returns, are you ready to bring back the 95% who will shop from you again?
Ecomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for ecommerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end ecommerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.
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