Will you be shipping any packages this holiday season?
Watch out: The US Postal Service is raising rates for the holidays starting in October, and other shipping services are no bargain, as one woman just learned.
Linda Gee recently sent a care package to her sick brother. Shipping candy and a photo album in an average-sized box.
But when she got to her local shipping store, she couldn't believe the prices.
"They told me that overnight shipping was 400-something, next day air was $300, and the 3-day ground was $183.78," she said.
She chose the ground option, her receipt showing the $183 she paid.
Why so much? The store manager told us she "can't comment on customer transactions."
Shipping prices are all over the map
But Mason McCarty, manager of another shipping store, Safe Ship, says some stores charge big money to pack a box, and many add extra fees.
He says if a price seems unusually high, you may want to try another store, as franchised shipping stores are allowed to add extra charges.
"You can put a certain percentage surcharge on an item as a business owner," he said. "You are allowed to do that as a shipping store."
He says his store keeps surcharges to a minimum but hears complaints of other stores charging much more for packaging and handling.
And as we near the busy holiday shipping season, finding cheap rates won't be easy this year.
The Post Office, usually the cheapest option for small packages, announced temporary rate hikes for the holiday season, starting October 2nd.
Things you can do to save money
So what can you do to keep those rates down?
Kate Hoots with Merchant Maverick.com says if you're shipping with UPS or FedEx, use their free materials, which can keep your shipping rate down.
"They like their boxes. They're shipped to fit into their shipping scheme, so it'll ship for cheaper and faster, and you're not paying for shipping materials at all."
Hoots suggest you:
- Compare the big three services (Postal Service, FedEx, UPS). An independent shipping store will be able to use any of them.
- Ship as early as possible.
- Use the smallest package possible without damaging what's inside.
- Use recycled materials, like the cardboard dividers from the liquor store.
"They're clean. They're free," she said. "Why not?"
Also, USPS, FedEx, and UPS now have calculators on their websites, where you enter the size of your package and how far you are shipping it.
We checked Linda Gee's care package, where it appears the price should have been just $45 by 3-day ground.
However, looking over the various calculators, it appears Gee may have been given a "guaranteed" 3-day delivery option, which could have pushed the price to $183.
Gee says she will shop around next time, having learned a lesson about independent stores.
"They can charge whatever they want," she said.
If you are quoted what you feel is a ridiculous price to ship a package, say 'thank you' and try another shipping store so you don't waste your money.
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