Thursday, December 12, 2013

Time Saving Tip: Possibly Never Go to the Post Office Again (UPS/FedEx Stores too)


It's that season again where seemingly everybody in the U.S. ships packages and letters en masse. Given this surge in demand at the Post Office, UPS Stores, and many others, your average wait time will go up as well. If you don't mind waiting in line this can be a great time to catch up with your favorite mail clerks, but I'd guess that most people can't stand the idea of waiting in line for more than a minute unless you're under 25 waiting for a hip club or show.

However, for free beyond the cost of postage*, you can easily print postage labels from your home or office and avoid all of these trips. Beyond a computer and your package/envelope(s), all you'll need to have is access to a working printer, scissors, packing tape and optionally a scale.

How To Do It
1. Register an account at Paypal.com.
2. Add a debit card, credit card, or bank account from which you will pay for shipment.
3. Go to this link paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_ship-now
4. Select either US Postal Service (USPS) or UPS as you prefer.
5. On the next page Fill out the information for your address (which will be stored for future use and save you time), your addressee's information, the package information, and any additional services you require, and click continue.

5. Proceed again if the information looks correct and Paypal will withdraw the postage amount from your chosen method of payment.
6. Choose Print Label and select your printer if you have one. If you don't have a working printer but know a person, office, library, or business where you can print, choose to print to PDF (it's an option if using the Google Chrome browser) and then save your PDF in an email or cloud storage location and then print a hard copy of that PDF next you can use a printer.
7. Use scissors to cut out the shipping label and put it on your package or bubble mailer with clear tape. Be sure the label -especially barcodes and addresses - is visible and any previous shipping labels or addresses on your package are covered up to allow for a smooth delivery.
8. Request a pickup online: Go here for USPS and here for UPS (may require a UPS account which is free to register for).
9. Place your package where you said you would in the pickup request (say front door, mailbox, porch, etc.) before your mail carrier comes on the pickup date requested.

Why You Should Do It?
You'll potentially save a bunch of time by not having to drive to and from the Post Office, nor wait in line, and may even save some money on USPS postage and added features (Delivery Confirmation/Insurance) when purchasing it online instead of in store.

Overall, it usually takes me about 5 minutes to get a label printed and taped, pickup requested, and package left at the front door or in the mailbox. To each their own, but I suspect this method could save many folks time and headache during this already busy time. If you have any questions, run into any problems, or have any suggestions please leave a comment, email me, or contact me via social media.

Additional Tips, Tricks, Advice, and Notes
  • What if you're only shipping letters and only need stamps or if you need flat rate boxes or envelopes? Order them online and have them delivered for $1 for any size order of stamps or for free for flat rate packaging from USPS.
  • I recommend bookmarking the Paypal Shipping Link, paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_ship-now, for future use or you can always Google "Paypal Ship Now".
  • If you're shopping based on lowest price then USPS is generally cheaper than UPS for most packages under 4 lbs in my experience and vice versa above, though there are certainly exceptions. Check the USPS calculator and UPS one too.
  • If you need to change between using USPS or UPS after selecting one in Paypal, you can do so by clicking Choose a different carrier on Create Your Shipping Label page.
  • You can reprint a label once if you have any problems printing it or the label is damaged once printed.
  • If you need to void the label due to not being able to successfully use it you have 48 hrs from the time you printed it and the label can't have been used and can do this online.
  • If you don't have a scale to weigh your items, frequently you can find the weight of items online or compare it to other things say in your kitchen that you know the weight of.
  • If you'd like to ship via FedEx, they aren't integrated into Paypal but you can print postage for free and pay a nominal fee for pickup if you register for a free account at FedEx.com. In my experience their costs are similar and sometimes below UPS's.
  • Other online postage printing services like Stamps.com, Pitney Bowes, and Endicia certainly have their merits but they usually have a monthly fee, so unless you're shipping for a business I imagine this Paypal option would suffice.
*UPS will charge you ~$3 for a pickup fee so that's really the only additional expense. The Post Office picks up any number of items for free and even offers discounts on postage and additional services like tracking purchased online instead of at the post office.

Update: My friend, Jonathan Dyer, notes in the comments that USPS.com is a good resource to use as well for printing USPS Postage, though I believe you can only print Priority and Priority Express (Overnight) postage from their site and lower-cost options including first-class mail and Media Mail are unavailable. See this walk through explaining more about USPS.com's Click-N-Ship program.
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