The Post Office is the only government agency most people deal with on a daily basis. It can be frustrating, confusing, a time consuming — but imagine dealing with the IRS everyday instead of once a year. That said, in today’s day and age, you don’t even have to go the Post Office anymore. Start off with the Post Office’s own website, which offers a wealth of information and free services. You can print your own postage with Click-N-Ship, and get a discount on Priority and Express mail, then you can schedule a pick-up with Carrier Pickup. You can also purchase stamps at the Postal Store.
I have never had a problem with the Post Office mailing a parcel, and neither should you. You have to know the difference between the products and services offered, and what to expect from each product and service. Be sure to visit the Postage Calculator which will give you the current prices for the products and services I will explain below.
Express Mail is the premiere shipping product of the Post Office, in most cases it will be delivered the next day by noon, and to more remote parts of the country the following day by three. This service also includes $100 of insurance against lose of damage. It also is the only money back guarantee you will get for delivery time. Save your receipt after mailing, if it is delivered 1 minute after the guarantee you get the postage back. When heading to the Post Office be mindful of the cut off time, some Post Offices might not guarantee next day delivery after 5pm weekdays, or 1pm on Saturdays. You can check the cut off time at: http://webapps.usps.com/expressmailcommitments/landing.jsp. The Post Office will also deliver Express Mail on Sundays and Holidays for an added fee, something no other shipping company does. If you absolutely can not have any delay in getting your package to it’s destination use this product.
This is the most common shipping product offered by the Post Office, and usually the fastest and most economical. When you mail something Priority, the clerk will usually say it will arrive in 1-3 days. This is just an estimate. There is no refund if it takes longer, and a package isn’t officially considered lost until 21 days after mailing. Even after 21 days you will receive no compensation for the postage unless you purchased insurance. The biggest value of Priority Mail comes from the free shipping supplies. While Parcel Post might cost you less money, you will end up spending about the same for the postage and the box. You can add Insurance and Delivery Confirmation to Priority Mail.
Parcel Post is least expensive product offered by the Post Office for shipping merchandise, but it has the least amount value. It is, on average, slower than Priority Mail, and does not include free boxes. Usually when you add the cost of the box and the label, the difference you’re saving by shipping Parcel Post is negligible. You can add Insurance and Delivery Confirmation to Parcel Post.
Media Mail can only be used to send books, records, CDs, DVDs, and the like. It is the slowest, and cheapest product. Media Mail is also subject to inspection, so you can’t mail a T-Shirt and claim it’s a book. This is perfect if you’re mailing a book and don’t care when it gets there. The heavier the parcel, and the greater the shipping distance, the longer it will take to arrive. You can add Insurance and Delivery Confirmation to Media Mail.
Delivery Confirmation exactly what it says Confirmation of Delivery, it is not tracking. You drop the package off in your local Post Office, they scan it once. It goes through the mail plants, and sorting facilities and gets to the letter carrier to be delivered, it’s scanned again. There is a possibility the parcel is scanned in between, but it’s not too likely. The only information you get is the date, time, and zip code of delivery. If the package disappears between points there is no tracking it down, and unless you purchased Insurance you will receive no compensation. Delivery Confirmation is available for Priority Mail and Parcel Post.
Insurance is for the loss or damage of your package. You can only insure the package for it’s current value on the date and time it was shipped. If the package is damaged the Post Office will keep the package and pay you. If the package is lost you have to wait 21 days to file the claim. The person with the original mailing receipt is the one who can file the claim, in addition you will have to provide evidence of value (ie. eBay, or PayPal receipt). Even though the insurance label has a bar code and a number, you can no use this to track the item, or see when it was delivered, for that you need to purchase both delivery confirmation and insurance. Insurance is available for Priority Mail and Parcel Post, and $100 is included with Express Mail. Not everything can be insured, for example if you mail an airline ticket, and it gets lost you will not be reimbursed the entire price of the ticket, but only the cost of issuing a replacement. The insurance claim form is PS Form 1000.
Signature Confirmation is a complete waste of time. The only people who use this are mail order pharmacies. If you needed further proof you’re dealing with a government agency you can waive the signature requirement for the Signature Confirmation service.
Certified Mail / Return Receipt
Certified Mail requires a signature, ans also provides you with the date and time of delivery. If you add Return Receipt you’ll get a green post card back in the mail with the signature of the recipient. Certified Mail goes through the same mail stream as whichever class of mail you used, it receives no special handling until the time of delivery. This service is mostly used by people who still mail in their tax returns. Related to Certified Mail is Certificate of Mailing, for a fee the clerk will Postmark a form that proves you mailed your letter to an address, this service is used primarily by lawyers.
I really think that expectation is key to understanding the Post Office. If you choose the right product and service to get your package from Point A to Point B you should run in to no trouble, and if you do, just remember the words of Jerry Seinfeld “Newman!”