Sealing Envelopes and Packages

May 5th, 2017 Comments off

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You may not give much thought to the act of sealing up an envelope or package, but that doesn’t mean it’s a trivial step in the mailing or shipping process. We’ve created this FAQ to answer all the questions you may have about sealing shipments before handing them over to the USPS.

What’s the right way to seal a box?

According to USPS, you should tape the opening of your box and reinforce all seams with tape that is 2 inches wide.

What kind of material should I use to seal a box?

You’ve got a few options—USPS says you should use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape.

Packaging tape—plastic, pressure-sensitive tape is easy to use, readily available, and versatile. It easily adheres to multiple surfaces, so can use it to seal boxes as well as poly mailers.

Reinforced packing tape—this tape contains fibers that make it stronger and a good option for heavier shipments.

Paper tape—also known as kraft tape, uses a water-activated tape dispenser (water is what helps bond the tape to the boxes). Paper tape sticks to cardboard but doesn’t adhere to poly mailers or other non-paper surfaces.

Is there anything I can’t use to seal a box?

You should refrain from using twine, cord or string—these materials can get caught in the mail processing equipment. You should also avoid using masking or cellophane tape, as they’re not strong enough for this purpose.

Can I use extra tape to reinforce an overly full USPS envelope or box?

When sealing Priority Mail® or Priority Mail Express® Flat Rate boxes and envelopes, the container flaps must be able to close within their normal folds, according to this USPS publication. You can use tape on the flaps and seams to reinforce the envelope or box, but you cannot reconstruct the packaging in any way.

How much tape is TOO much tape?

When using a Flat Rate Envelope or Flat Rate Box, using tape as a reinforcement on the seams and flaps is OK in order to keep the item from breaking open during transit. Encasing a box or envelope is NOT OK. No matter what packaging you use to ship, using too much tape can cost you in more ways than one—first, you’re using up your supplies faster than necessary, plus the extra weight from excessive tape could push you up to a higher weight category.

Can I use tape to affix a shipping label?

Anyone shipping with a PC Postage label (we’re talking about you, Stamps.com customers!) can use extra tape to properly attach a printed label to an envelope or box. However, you should avoid covering the barcodes on a USPS label, as the tape creates a glare that can make it hard for barcode scanners, thus messing up your tracking. Sick of taping labels to packages? Visit the Stamps.com Store to order adhesive labels.

 

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Priority Mail Flat Rate Best Practices

April 28th, 2017 Comments off

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Compliance with USPS rules and regulations is an important aspect of being a successful seller and shipper. One rule to definitely keep in mind is that Priority Mail Flat Rate® Boxes must be used with Priority Mail Flat Rate postage. For example, if you have a Medium Flat Rate Box handy, remember that only a shipping label for a Medium Flat Rate Box can be affixed to it! You cannot apply Small Flat Rate Box pricing onto a Medium Flat Rate Box. You cannot apply Flat Rate Envelope pricing to a Legal Flat Rate Envelope, which has a separate pricing structure and is a separate and distinct mailpiece.

The box or envelope you use indicates to the USPS what service you are using. As always, if you are using a barcoded shipping label with Stamps.com, you will receive the discounted Commercial Base rate.

To summarize:

  • Priority Mail Flat Rate prices can only be used with USPS-produced Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes and Envelopes. The pricing category (Envelope, Legal, Padded, Small, Medium, Large) must match the Priority Mail Flat Rate mailpiece.
  • Priority Mail Express Flat Rate prices can only be used with USPS-produced Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Envelopes. The pricing category (Envelope, Legal, Padded) must match the Priority Mail Express Flat Rate mailpiece.
  • As stated by USPS, “Priority Mail Express packaging provided by the USPS must be used only for Priority Mail Express. Regardless of how the packaging is reconfigured or how markings may be obliterated, any material mailed in USPS-provided Priority Mail Express packaging is charged the appropriate Priority Mail Express price.”

A second caveat: Do not use non-Flat Rate postage on Flat Rate pieces

The opposite is also true. For example, if you use a Priority Mail Flat Rate Box or Envelope, you would not be able to apply a non-Priority Mail Flat Rate label to it. A good rule of thumb: not all Priority Mail is the same, and keep in mind that in addition to Priority Mail Flat Rate pricing there  are also Priority Mail zone/weight-based rates. Tyvek envelopes like the Priority Mail Tyvek Envelope are not Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes and do not have their own flat rate mailpiece category in the Stamps.com software—you would select “Large Envelope/Flat” as your mailpiece.

Why is this important?

You definitely want to avoid a scenario in which your recipient or customer has to pay to make up the difference between a Flat Rate service and the postage that was affixed on the mailpiece, or a surcharge that represents the difference between a zone/weight-based rate and the price of a Flat Rate mailpiece.

Avoid postage-due markups! When the USPS receives a shortpaid mailpiece with Commercial Base pricing, it is obligated to charge the difference between the Commercial Base price and the full retail price of that item.

Affixing the wrong postage to a mailpiece may also generate negative seller reviews or cause delays in shipment, as the local Post Office may hold the piece until the surcharge is paid. The good news is that Stamps.com is here to help prevent those pitfalls by making it easy to restock your USPS shipping supplies. To order free USPS packaging, log into your software and click on “Online Store,” which appears beneath “Buy Supplies.”  Click on the “Free USPS Supplies” tab and order the right box or envelope for your mailing needs today!

 

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USPS Package Pickups and Drop-Offs

April 21st, 2017 Comments off

Getting Packages to USPS

You may have seen warning notices posted on mailboxes that discuss the 13-ounce rule. Normally, if your mailpiece weighs over 13 ounces, you would not be able to drop it off in a mailbox, lobby mail slot, or blue collection box due to security policies.

However, the good news is that this rule does not apply to PC Postage users like Stamps.com customers. The security policies are met when you use Stamps.com. Being a Stamps.com customer means that you save time and have access to multiple drop-off options!

Scheduling free USPS pickups

With Stamps.com, it’s easy to schedule a free USPS pickup through your software. We recommend scheduling a pickup request in order to alert the Post Office and so the carrier can make appropriate preparations. The service is available for Priority Express Mail, Priority Mail, Priority Express Mail International, Priority Mail International and Global Express Guaranteed. Have a package at another mail class? Not to worry: as long as your pickup request includes at least one qualifying class, the mailpieces with non-qualifying mail classes will be picked up as well.

To schedule a USPS pickup, follow these steps in Stamps.com:

  • Click “USPS Pickup” from the “View History” menu on the left navigation bar.
  • Check the boxes next to the mailpieces that you want picked up.
  • Click the “Schedule Pickup” button.
  • Verify the information.
  • Click “Submit” and then print the pickup date/time and confirmation number that appears.
  • Click “Done” to return to the “USPS Pickup” screen.

SCAN form

If you need acceptance scans of your packages, we recommend using the Shipment Confirmation Acceptance Notice (SCAN) form feature. The SCAN form is designed to record package acceptance events in the USPS tracking database. The carrier just needs to scan a single barcode on the SCAN form to activate an acceptance event for all of the packages associated with the form. Just print a SCAN form after all of your shipping labels for the day have been printed. Then, schedule a free USPS pickup and make the powerful Stamps.com software work for you!

Dropping your packages off

If your packages have domestic shipping labels, you can drop them off at USPS collection locations without waiting in line. If the packages fit, you may drop them off at blue collection mailboxes and Post Office mail drop slots.  Some Post Offices may also have a designated spot on the counter for prepaid packages. If you have a large number of packages, you may be asked to bring them to a rear loading dock. Remember that each Post Office is different and may vary in terms of volume and staffing.

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How to Measure Irregularly Shaped Items

March 30th, 2017 Comments off

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You’ve probably already realized that not every mailpiece is going to be a perfect cube or rectangle.  Sometimes an item you need to send is going to have an irregular shape: a fishing pole, a tire, a hatbox.  How do you measure irregularly shaped items so that you remain compliant with USPS regulations and add the correct amount of postage to every shipment? We can help!

You’ll probably run across the term of measurement known as girth. Critically, the total size of the package is the length plus the girth. Calculating the length and width of a package seems straightforward enough, but what about calculating its girth?

Girth

Girth is the distance around the thickest part of a parcel. For example, if you’re mailing a guitar case, this would be the measurement around the part of the box that contains the body of the guitar. Depending on the shape of your package, this will be calculated differently. Check out these illustrative examples here: http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm100/tips-measure-packages.htm

When calculating the girth of a square or rectangular package, use this method:

Girth = (2 x Height) + (2 x Width)

To calculate the girth of a triangular package, use this method:

Girth = Sum of the 3 sides of the triangular package

For tubes, the girth is the circumference of the tube (π x diameter). In this case, pi or “π” is 3.14. The diameter is the “circle,” the distance across the flat, circular side of the tube. Yikes! You didn’t think you’d have to worry about circumferences and diameters ever since you took geometry in high school.  Not to worry—you can also measure a tube’s girth with measuring tape.

Length, Width and Height

Length is the longest side of the parcel–if you have a fishing pole to send, this would be the length of the rod.

Width is the second longest side of the parcel—if you’re sending a shoe box, the side of the box that faces the heel seat or heel base.

Height is the “standing” side of the parcel—if you’re measuring a tire, lay it flat on the ground.  You can use a ruler to measure the tire’s height from the ground.

Check out this USPS resource regarding Physical Standards for Commercial Parcels: http://pe.usps.gov/cpim/ftp/manuals/qsg300/Q201e.pdf

Total Size Limits

When using the Stamps.com software, you may spot some size limit warnings in the mail class descriptions. A mailing rule to live by: every USPS mail class will have different limits in terms of total size. For international mail, the limitations regarding total size will vary by country and by class. Before printing your postage, we recommend verifying the limits for your country of destination here: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/ab_001.htm

You may also want to keep in mind certain USPS surcharges (dimensional weight, balloon and oversized package surcharges) may apply to your package. Check out our helpful support article on this topic here: https://stamps.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/169/kw/Girth/session/L3RpbWUvMTQ5MDYyODk5NC9zaWQvX3V4eE9CZW4%3D

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How to Mail Unconventional Items with No Packaging

March 23rd, 2017 Comments off

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Can you attach postage to a rose and send it with no packaging? How about a feather duster? Or a golf club? The answer is: the USPS would strongly recommend boxing or at least wrapping all of these items to prevent denting or scratching during transit. Regulations regarding certain items do apply, such as perishable Items—learn more here http://pe.usps.com/text/pub52/pub52c5_toc.htm.

USPS – Does every item need to be placed in a box to be shipped?

To test the limits of what one can mail with the USPS with no packaging, the Improbable Research Team (they’re the team who hold the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremonies) once conducted an experiment involving unwieldy, potentially suspicious, and disgusting items.

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the items were delivered successfully, as they had the correct amount of postage attached to them. However, for many of these items, USPS clerks did recommend wrapping them. An unboxed football arrived successfully after six days in transit. Strange items, such as a deer tibia, a large wheel of cheese, and a dead fish, did arrive but had to be picked up at the mail station. An attempt to mail a helium balloon failed at the originating Post Office, perhaps unsurprisingly.

Want to mail a coconut? The Post-a-Nut Program offered by the Hoolehua Post Office on the island of Molokaʻi in Hawaii allows you to mail a coconut to any location in the world. Just pay for the postage and the Hoolehua staff will provide you with a free coconut, art supplies with which to decorate your unique mailpiece, and an agricultural inspection stamp.

Using Stamps.com to mail unconventional items

If you need to mail a brick, a ship’s wheel, a Frisbee, an orange, or a pillow, we can help! As a fun gift, many people choose to paint flat stones and mail them with the correct amount of postage.

With Stamps.com, you can print stamps at various denominations with our flexible and handy NetStamps feature.

Need a shipping label with tracking? As a Stamps.com customer, you’ll receive the discounted online postage (Commercial Base) rate, so you’ll save money when you print postage with us! With Stamps.com, you can send First-Class Package Service with barcoded shipping labels as long as your package does not exceed 15.99 ounces (the maximum weight at the Post Office is 13 ounces if you pay retail prices). If you do decide to box your item up, we also allow you to easily order free USPS supplies like boxes and envelopes from the Stamps.com Store. Have fun!

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