Sunday, December 21, 2014

USPS Mailing Tips

My packages awaiting pickup.
It's that magical time of year when often people show their worst side while standing in the dreaded Post Office line. In Charlottesville, you are guaranteed a long wait at any of the three main offices. Some of the best post offices to go to during the Holiday season are the small rural stations. My personal favorite is in Ivy. A teeny post office conveniently attached to a cute garden center out of a scene from Dr. Zhivago or It's a Wonderful Life.

If I had to go to the USPS 365 days a year.
After years of selling online, I have acquired many tips from my mail carrier. Last year I set the goal to sell one item each day and I actually exceeded this goal. Driving to the post office 365 days a year would not only be insane but time consuming! I would have shut my business down or gone postal if I had not changed my shipping habits. Standing in line is one of my least favorite things to do (inherited from my Grandmother English who was a notorious butt in liner). The only thing I miss about not going to the Cville Central Post Office is that I no longer run into Charlottesville's finest. On several trips, I wished I had taken my camera. I never figured out why the lady with the pink curlers was in the line to get a passport photo!

My vintage mailbox, an old door knob as the pull handle.
If you mail a lot of packages your first step is to upgrade to a bigger mailbox. I found our jumbo box at the Habitat Restore. When stuffing in the packages, arrange it so they all can be seen or attach a note with the package quantity (a substitute carrier missed one of my packages that was hiding in the back dark corner).

Debbie my exceptional mail carrier with my packages.
My mail carrier is what I will call a "full service carrier". I complained to her that I had to go to the post office and stand in line to get stamps. She looked at me and said, why did you do that, you know I have you covered! I never knew that stamps and other postal products can be ordered directly from your mail carrier! She handed me an orange envelop that can be filled out and placed my box along with a check. You can even request specific types of stamps, I think we often forget that behind the mailbox is a person that can make your life easier. In a pinch, you can also get a first class (.49 cent stamp), at the grocery store.

Gazing over Forsythia Hill instead of driving to the USPS.
Even with a big mailbox, often packages are too large to fit. After complaining AGAIN to my mail carrier about the long lines and wait, she told me to just pop the flag up and slip a piece of paper in my box saying there was a package at my door and she would drive up and get it. She always says, we want your business! Prearrange this process with your carrier, it's been working smoothly for 2 years for me on Forsythia Hill.

My organized shipping supply closet.
In four years of online selling, I have never purchased boxes, bubble wrap, wrapping paper, or peanuts. I have a strong commitment to reusing shipping materials. It not only saves money but it's environmentally responsible. Materials can be found on freecycle and from local businesses. My mother picks up boxes from a local optical shop in Roanoke and they are happy to unload them. My father has dementia and removing the labels is a way for him to participate in my business venture and he looks forward to it!

Sylvie my Shipping Manager oversees the action.

Because I recycle so many boxes, I asked my carrier what would happen if I mailed a package First Class but the box had a Priority Mail sticker left on it. She said the postal carrier would have to collect the extra postage on the other end! So if you are recycling boxes, make sure you remove all the old stickers!

My biggest dilemma was how to ship golf clubs. One day when browsing through the FREE USPS mailing boxes. I stumbled upon a FREE box that holds such a thing! EUREKA! Some items are what they classify as flat rate which means there is a set mailing price regardless of the package weight (if it fits it ships for that flat price), others are just priority boxes and you will be charged a varying priority rate based on the weight.

Don't be a chicken - just ask!
You can print mailing labels from your home in paypal. There are also online companies that you can buy insurance from, often cheaper than the postal rate and less of a hassle if you have to file a loss. Instead of buying expensive sticky labels, I print directly on a regular piece of paper and use shipping tape to completely cover and adhere it on to the package.

Don't be afraid to talk to your mail carrier. It can be a game changer and make your life so much easier!



  1. When I ordered a ton of FREE priority boxes from the USPS back in the day, the mail carrier who delivered them asked me what they were for. I told him I was doing charity auctions, and the next time he delivered he brought me a mail crate to make my trips to the post office easier and a whole bunch of labels and other goodies. So nice!

  2. We are lucky to have such outstanding mail carriers!


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