USPS shipping — SleepPhones Sleep Headphones
We have now moved to using Stamps.com. While we still have some gripes, we do prefer it much more to FedEx or driving to the post office.
Price:With Stamps.com, there is a monthly fee ($15.99) in addition to the slightly discounted postal fees. The discounts are on the Express shipping. Delivery confirmation (domestic only) is free, which is very nice. There are no hidden fees like for rural addresses, and no pick up fees. The same postal lady that delivers our mail pick up our outgoing mail.
Software:The Stamps.com software is only available on Windows at this time. So we end up using my seven-year-old Dell and Jason's linux box with Windows for processing the orders. The software is somewhat finicky. For a while, it wouldn't let us ship international first class. On one computer, the printouts would be consistently on one side of the paper, but on the other computer, it alternates. Postage printed from one machine may not be viewed by the other machine, depending on the software version. If it can be viewed, it may not be complete. I'd use my MacBook with Parallels, but my Windows version on there has a virus, and it starts to slow down and acts strange after 10 minutes. I'm not savvy enough to reinstall it. Plus, it's now Jason's job to do the shipping every day, so I don't need to bother as much with it.
Time for processing:I can copy and paste the entire address into the box. Stamps.com will parse it and figure out the apartment or suite number, city, state, zip, etc. It glitches a bit on the international orders but it does come close, so it's not too bad. All of the information is entered into the same page. Printing it will bring up a pop-up that confirms the corrected address (adds the 4 digit zip code and standardizes the address format) then allow you to send it to the printer. The only drawback with Stamps.com in this is that if you make a mistake, you'd have to ask for a refund of the printed postage. There is no way to easily cancel a printed shipment. With FedEx, you can print all you like, but you'll only be charged if they have to deliver it. For international orders, the customs form for USPS is much easier than the FedEx form. FedEx requires the International Harmonized Code for products. And each country has different Code requirements (different number of digits), so you can't even save SleepPhones with a standard code. You have to search for the right code each time.
Time for shipping:Domestic order take 3-5 days for first class shipping. In our experience, it only takes about 2-4 days for most places. People in San Francisco can receive their SleepPhones in about 3 days sometimes. Since the post office delivers 6 days a week, people almost always receive their order within one week. People in Pennsylvania normally receive their packages in 1-3 days. If people upgrade to Priority shipping, it only takes 2-3 days for all locations, including Hawaii and Alaska, which is amazing for the price. Oh, FedEx considers Hawaii and Alaska overseas, because they are definitely not ground, so charges much much more.
Bookkeeping:We don't need to keep track of how much each order costs for shipping, so being able to buy $200 worth of postage at a time is much easier for bookkeeping. We just see a credit card charge of $200 every now and then.
Service:Our mail lady is nice. Pick up is between 11:30am and 3pm, depending on the day and the weather. We just put the bag of SleepPhones next to our mailbox every day, double or triple wrapped if raining. Pick up is very consistent and dependable. The tracking is less than desirable though. Sometimes there is no tracking information until it arrives at its destination. There is no information about the package for about 2 days usually. International packages are not tracked at all. I'd like it if it would at least be scanned in on arrival at the post office, so we know and the customer knows that the package if out of our hands and in the system to be delivered. But that's usually not the case. It's not consistent either, so we just have to cross out fingers. However, in their defense, there have been very few mistakes. In the past 20 months or so and few thousand packages mailed, we've just received our third non-delivery complaint. USPS says the package was delivered, but the customer has not received it. (I'll take the customer's word usually.) I don't know how that could be, but I don't know the process that USPS uses to confirm delivery. Is it scanned when the postal delivery worker puts it in the mailbox? Is it scanned as the mail is being loaded on to the delivery truck? I don't know. It happened a few times when we were using FedEx too, so the problem is not isolated.
Mailbox delivery:I think that this is less likely to be lost. It's not sitting at your front door, possibly blown away by the wind. I remember living in apartment buildings that received packages for you during the day. Then you'd have to pick up the package from the office. Of course, the office closes at 6pm, so you'd have to wait until Saturday to finally get it. And then they give you an attitude when you go to pick it up. And it's not like you can send a neighbor who didn't work during the days down there to pick it up either.
Environmental considerations:The cute little postal truck has to drive around to your house daily anyway, so it's not making any extra trips. It does everything at the mailbox, so the engine is not left idling for longer than necessary. Compare that to a guy in a big truck having to walk up your driveways to your front door and print off a sticky note because you aren't home to sign for it.
I think that just about covers all of the benefits of using Stamps.com for us.