Send your products by UPS, Fedex, or USPS?

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(We had several newsletter-related questions about which shipping carriers we use. Here’s a quick reply.)

One thing hasn’t changed since I started mailing out products in the early 80s: I hate it when others grossly overcharge, or overcharge at all, and I simply vowed not to do it.

So the issue has been less the cost (we try to charge what it costs us, with about 25 cents more for the labor and stamping, and not worry if we lose a few cents in the process) than it is to pick the best service.

Actually, we give the buyer these choices: media mail (USPS) or priority mail (USPS)—plus UPS or Fedex if they select it and pay the cost. If we get oversea orders, we tell them the actual cost by email, then send it according to their choice. Overseas shipping is paid in advance by credit card.

All of that refers to single orders. For multiples, we add just figure out the amount (if it’s more than $1 more) and charge them.

And when they order through 1 Shopping Cart, our process charger, that adds $3.50 for media mail and $5 for priority mail (with small increments for multiples) to the credit card order.

What about large shipments to resellers? Again, they tell us. Most have UPS accounts so we send it collect. Most of the rest use media mail—and we all hold our breath. We mail Amazon.com orders by media mail.

Our experiences with the three? Oddly, the Bank of America just did a test (on 11/24 on AOL), with results that were almost identical to what we’ve found. There, USPS cost about 40% of what the other two cost; UPS and Fedex had virtually identical rates. They gave a wee nod to Fedex over UPS.

But Fedex doesn’t have a local six-day or ground pick-up in any of the boxes (nor any office) in Novato, CA, so the only time I see them is when somebody else sends me express or overnight delivery that way. If folks ask for Fedex, I explain this, then send it by UPS.

UPS has been the most reliable workhorse, without a damaged delivery either way so far. Only once did a box come back though the address was correct. They apologized and rushed it right back to the patient recipient. There are five local delivery stores, one nearby, and they will pick up too. Best of all, they will leave deliveries by the door out of the rain if we ask. We have an account so we prep and label here. Almost all deliveries are sent 6-day ground. Couldn’t be easier. But it isn’t free, and the prices just keep rising.

The Post Office is the most irksome for package shipping—but the price is far better. It’s said that they hate boxes (ours particularly since they usually weigh 42 pounds). That’s precisely how they treat them: almost always dropping (denting) them along the way, with the box broken about 15% of the time. Three times contents were missing (5-16 books); once a complete box disappeared.

Then it stopped when we put a green 80-cent tracer on each parcel and wrapped each box with twice as much double-strength tape. We’re not sure if it’s coincidence, they fell in love with our boxes, or our loud and insistent complaints got attention.

What they think of media mail can be seen by the fact they won’t let you use it in the automatic stamping machinery in the lobbies.

Incidentally, we have no postage meter or in-office apparatus for U.S. postage. We just use stamps, so we keep a box of weird assortments that we add to every few months.

USPS delivery time is in the hands of the gods, but often mainland U.S. deliveries arrive the same time that UPS does, once or twice earlier, and never that I know of longer than 10 days. We warn the person choosing media mail, and ask them to email us if there are any problems or it isn’t there in 10 days.

Since 95% of what we send are books, those are always shrink-wrapped. That cuts the returns for damaged contents to almost nothing. A few books a year, which I give away at seminars or to the library.

The last observation is that while the costs are high and always rising, delivery has been less a problem the past two or three years than at any previous time. A lot of that comes from the fact that half of our deliveries now are electronic downloads. If we could just get that to 100%…

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

P.S. If you’re not getting our free newsletter, this is the sort of thing I discuss related to publishing, writing, speaking, and product development. It’s usually a bit more exciting!

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