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Postage, Shipping and Overnight Services

Postage, Shipping and Overnight Services

Postage - Save Time and Money with Automated Postage
   Postage Meters
   Online Postage
   Mailing Resources
   Ground and Overnight Services - Choosing a Shipper
   Rate and Scheduling Information
   Shipping Services
   Delivery Charges
   Finding Carriers
Packing Tips
USPS Glossary

Postage - Saving Time And Money With Automated Postage

Direct mail advertising, coupons, invoices, statements, payments, account updates. Even in our increasingly digital and paperless society, there are still a number of reasons to utilize hard copy mail services. Upgrades in technology and services have made dealing with hard copy mail easier, more efficient, and more cost effective than ever before.

Automated Postage. If you send out a lot of mail, you should look into online postage or a postage meter. Both can save time and money and give your mail a more professional appearance. Both can also help you track and manage your mailing costs.

Postage Meters

What are they? Basic postage meters include a scale and a printer that prints the correct amount of postage on your mail. Postage meters come in a variety of sizes, ranging for the basic model for small businesses, all the way through high volume meters. Some of the larger machines even address the envelopes, place your logo or an ad on the envelope, fold the mail, and put the mail into the envelope.

Payment. Postage is usually paid for up front and "loaded" into the meter. When the postage in the meter runs out, you pay another lump sum and reload the meter. This can be done over the phone or online.

Save Time and Money. Using a postage meter saves you the time and expense of going to and standing in line at the post office. Postage meters also save money by taking the guesswork out of figuring how much postage you need. The meter weighs your mail and calculates the correct postage for you. Metered mail is also usually delivered faster than stamped mail.

Online Postage

What is it? Several companies, for a fee, offer the convenience of buying and printing mailing labels with postage right from your computer. The US Postal Service now offers this service for free.

Payment. Payment can usually be made online with a credit card.

Save Time and Money. Using online postage also saves you the time and expense of going to and standing in line at the post office, and the fee for service is often less costly than your time to drive to the Post Office and stand in line, and your mileage to drive there. Unlike postage meters, however, there is no extra equipment to purchase or rent. If you have a computer, a printer, and a scale with ounces, you've got all the equipment you need.

Benefits of Automated Postage. Whether you use a postage meter or online postage, the benefits are clear.

  • No more wasted time driving to and waiting in line at the post office.
  • The cost is often less than the cost of mileage and lost time.
  • You get the right amount of postage – there's no more guesswork.
    • No wasted money because you over estimated the postage needed
    • No mail returned because it didn't have enough postage
  • Both options are convenient, quick, and easy.

Mailing Resources

The following Web sites offer valuable information and services to help you with your postal needs.

USPS - United States Postal Service
Use this site find zip codes, calculate postal rates, print shipping labels, schedule pickups, track mail, locate post offices, and a wealth of other information about mail. was the first company to be approved by the U.S. Postal Service® to offer a software-only postage service that lets customers buy and print postage online. The company targets small businesses, small and home offices and individuals

Offers smart solutions that innovatively handle the reception, sorting and distribution of incoming mail, as well as the preparation, folding, inserting and franking of outgoing mail.

Endicia Internet Postage lets you print postage for all your mail. All you need is a PC, an Internet connection, and a laser or inkjet printer.

Pitney Bowes
Postage Meters and other helpful mailing solutions for the small business and home office.

Hasler, Inc.
Offers a broad line of mailing and shipping systems and mail support equipment such as postage meters, folder/inserters, address printers, mail sorting and tracking systems, and mail center management tools.


You've sold your product, now you need to get it to your customer. Fulfillment is one of the most important parts of your business. Timely and undamaged deliveries of a quality product can greatly contribute to customer satisfaction and repeat business, while late or damaged deliveries are likely to cause complaints, cancellations, and lost business.

Ground and Overnight Services – Choosing a Shipper

Small to Medium Packages
There are many things to consider when choosing a shipping vendor, and a single vendor may not be able to accommodate all of your needs all of the time. You'll probably want to utilize a few different vendors depending on a number of factors. Shipping costs vary according to package weight, dimensions, delivery time, and destination, and some shippers are a better choice for certain kinds of packages.

For example, If you're shipping smaller items under 5 lbs, you'll probably want to use the US Postal Service's (USPS) Priority Mail option. It's usually cheaper than the competition and gets there in two to three days. If the item is small but expensive, you may want to choose UPS or FedEx because of their ability to track packages. If the item is larger, you'll probably get a better rate from FedEx, UPS or DHL.

It can get a little complicated, so here are some things to think about when choosing a vendor:

Weight and Dimension. Rates vary according to weight and size. One vendor may have a better rate on one size, but not as good on another. Also, most vendors have a weight limit. USPS, FedEx, and DHL only take packages up to 70 lbs, but UPS will take up to 150 lbs.

Destination. Rates also vary according to destination. It just costs more to ship to certain areas, and vendors have different "high cost" areas.

Also, remember that UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc, usually can't deliver to P.O. boxes, but USPS can. There are some exceptions – DHL, for example, has a partnership with USPS to deliver some kinds of mail through the local post office, which can be delivered to P.O. boxes.

Delivery Time. When does your package need to get there? Shipping costs are much lower if time isn't an issue. Of course you want to get the package there as soon as possible to make your customer happy, but if it can get there in 5 days versus overnight, you'll save a lot of money. Conversely, if it needs to be there in 1 or 2 days, you'll pay a hefty premium. Vendors such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL also offer the option of a specific delivery date.

Processing Time. How much time to you have to deal with shipping? If you don't send very many items out each day, you may have time to go to the post office or shipper's office yourself, but if you don't, look for a vendor who will either make a regular pick-up at your home or office, or whom you can call as needed for pickups. Some vendors will even make more than one pick-up per day. Be sure to find out if there is a fee for pick-up. You'll also want to consider the amount of paperwork required, packing regulations, and whether or not you can print your own labels and schedule shipping online.

Tracking and Verification. Being able to track your packages and verify they got there can help ease your mind, instill customer confidence, and be a great help in dealing with delivery problems. However, depending on the cost of the item, urgency of delivery, etc., it may be more or less important. UPS, FedEx, and DHL track all packages, but USPS has limited tracking ability.

Reliability. Since fulfillment is one of the most important parts of your business, it's important to choose a shipping vendor that gets the job done right every time. Even one mistake can result in lost business and revenue. Realistically, nobody's probably going to get it right every single time, so choose a vendor with a good record and don't be timid in dealing with problems. They're working for you. One small business owner requires the shipping company to call the customer and apologize personally if a problem is the shipper's fault.

Discounts. A small business owner may think he or she is too small to receive shipping discounts, but that may not be the case. Some shippers give you a discount just for opening an account with them. The major carriers have sales reps that can often give you a better deal or more options than you could get by just going to their Web site or calling the 800 number. Make an appointment to meet them in person and see what they can do for you.

Rate and Scheduling Information

The major carriers all have Web sites that contain rate and policy information, so do your research:


1-800-PICK-UPS (742-5877)

1-800-Go-FedEx (1.800.463.3339)

1-800-CALL-DHL (1-800-225-5345)

Shipping Services

If this seems like too much to deal with, or you just don't have the time, there are services that compare the options for you. They gather size, weight, and location information to calculate the cheapest way to send packages. A few to try:
Internet-based, multi-carrier shipping services that allow everyone to conveniently make the smartest shipping decisions. The iShip service lets shippers easily compare rates and services among multiple carriers, including DHL, Fedex, UPS, and the US Postal Service. iShip delivers precise and detailed shipping information all in one easy-to-access, hosted service.
Simplifies the process of customers' online purchase transactions by providing quick and accurate shipping service level options, in real time, while the purchasing decision process is occurring. This real-time information enhances the buyers' shopping experience and creates repeat customers.
The world's first Internet-based shopping service for shipping packages that helps customers make better shipping decisions by giving them the power to quickly compare the rates and services of top carriers and then ship with all of them from one location.

Let someone else do it for you. Can't be bothered with packing boxes and shipping labels? There are stores that, for a fee, will package, label, and ship your items for you.

UPS Store / Mailboxes, etc. /
Caters to the small-office/home-office (SOHO) market, corporate "road warriors," and consumers by providing packaging, shipping and mailing services and supplies; printing, copying, and faxing services; mailbox rentals, notary services, passport and ID photos, and money transfers.

Provides domestic and international shipping with a selection of preferred carriers, custom packing and crating (any size, any weight—air, ground, or ocean), packaging and moving supplies, pick up and delivery, mailbox rental, business support services, and more.

Postal Connections
Serving people with packaging, shipping, mail receiving, fax sending or receiving, duplicating, notary, online access, eBay auction support, packing and office supplies as well as numerous other services.

Post Net
Offers an array of high demand services and products tailored to meet the needs of small business owners and today's busy consumer. Services include packing & shipping, printing & copying, computer, scanner, & fax services, passport photos, shipping & office supplies.


If you have packages that exceed weight limits (70 lbs for DHL, FedEx, and USPS, and 150 lbs for UPS) or that exceed 130 inches when you add up the width, depth, and height, the small package divisions of the major carriers won't be able to help you (FedEx, DHL, and UPS do have freight divisions, however). For these shipments, you'll need the services of a less than truckload (LTL) carrier, a shipping firm that specializes in, as the name suggests, transporting items that take up less than a truckload. These companies commonly ship items weighing 600 to 1,000 pounds, and can be relied on for packages up to 10,000 pounds.

LTL carriers typically operate through a hub system. An LTL carrier picks up packages from multiple companies, transports these items to a local terminal, and then consolidates goods traveling the same route onto the same truck. Not every LTL will carry your shipment from beginning to end. Many LTL carriers only serve specific geographic regions to increase the chance of conveying full loads. If a shipment is sent to a location outside a carrier's normal service area, the trucking company will arrange to transfer the shipment from the edge of its service area to another LTL for final delivery. This practice is called interlining.

Things to consider when using an LTL:

  • Delivery time and interlining. Longer shipping times and more interlining may result in higher costs and create more opportunities for something to go wrong during interline transfers.
  • On-time delivery. This indicates how often a firm meets its declared delivery schedule. A good firm will typically quote on-time delivery rates in the mid to high nineties.
  • Claims to damage ratio. This ratio measures the percentage of revenue paid out in claims for problems caused by loss, damage or theft. The industry average is 1.25%-1.4%. You should use a company with a similar or lower ratio.
  • Air Freight. If your freight needs to be there quickly, you need a "rush job." This can often be accomplished more efficiently and cost effectively by using an air carrier.
  • Shipment tracking. Shippers that offer tracking services have radio networks that keep all trucks in constant communication with headquarters. This allows the carrier to locate your shipment at any time.
  • Always ask for a discount. Simply asking can save you up to 15%, even on single shipments. For firms that ship large amounts, discounts of 35%-60% are not uncommon.
  • Shippers Associations. If you don't ship very often, you can access higher levels of savings by combining your shipping volume with other companies, either by joining a shippers association, such as Merchant Shippers Cooperative Association (603-226-0144) or NASSTRAC (202-393-5505).
  • Establish an account. You can obtain discounts just be establishing an account, and you have the added benefit of paying later rather that up front – a real plus if there is a problem with the shipment.
  • Logistics Management. Another option is to use a logistics management company. These companies place shipments and negotiate discounts based on the total shipping of their client base.
  • National / Regional Carriers. You can often get a better rate by using a regional carrier. If you have to ship over 1,000 miles, you may want to consider a national LTL carrier over a regional carrier. These firms offer the advantage of not having to interline packages traveling long distances.
  • Alternative Programs for Large Shipments. Cost-effective alternatives to LTL shipping are the Multi-weight and Hundredweight programs offered by RPS and UPS. These programs offer a discount for multiple packages totaling 200 pounds or more that are all going to the same address. As long as each package meets individual UPS/RPS size requirements, you will get 10%-20% off the regular UPS/RPS rates. This is often cheaper than sending a full pallet via an LTL carrier, although you will need to individually label and pack each box.

Delivery Charges

In addition to the weight of the shipment and the distance it must travel, you must also specify a shipping classification. Shipments are classified on a scale from 50 to 500, according to a package's density, value, fragility, and storage requirements, with higher numerical ratings indicating higher per pound transportation costs.

To learn the class of your shipment, you can consult an LTL carrier or you can purchase the National Motor Freight Classification listing through the American Trucking Association at 703-838-1700.

The final cost will include accessorial charges. These are extra charges for services such as storage, contacting the recipient or delivery to companies without loading docks.


Finding Carriers

  • American Motor Carrier Directory
  • National Highway Carriers Directory
  • Official Motor Freight Guide
  • UPS Freight Services
  • FedEx Freight
  • DHL Danzas Air & Ocean
  • BAX Global

Packing Tips

  • Place heavier or larger items on the bottom of the box and lighter ones on top.
  • After you've placed each piece of merchandise in the box, put a piece of cardboard on the very top. This way, if your customer gets carried away with his penknife while slicing open the box, he won't slash his brand-new goodies as well.
  • Indicate which end of the box should be opened first or face up. Sometimes breakable merchandise will make an entire cross-country trip in one piece, only to smash on the customer's floor because he opened it wrong side up.
  • Make sure your shipping label is clearly visible to the deliverer. Some shipping companies will refuse to deliver a package if any part of the address is obscured or too small to read.
  • Include all invoices, receipts, thank you letters, new catalogs and other printed materials in one envelope with the customer's name on it, placed on top of the merchandise. This saves your customer the time and frustration of having to dig through packing materials to find these things.
  • Reuse boxes. It's not only ecologically sound but also economically smart. When you reuse a box, make sure all old labels, addresses and postage markings are covered up. Stick another label on top so the delivery person doesn't give your package to the wrong party.
  • Design packing models so your shippers (and you) know how products fit into boxes, how merchandise is folded, stacked or tissue-wrapped, and how packing materials are used. Weigh each packing model on a scale and make sure it doesn't go even one-eighth into the next pound. This cuts postage costs, reduces returns from damaged goods, and adds to your income by creating happy repeat customers.

USPS Glossary

Advertising Mail: A sales product or promotional message mailed directly to customers or prospective clients.

Area Distribution Center: A mail processing facility that receives and distributes mail destined for a range or specific ZIP codes.

Automation-Compatible Mail: Mail that meets postal specifications concerning design, size, and machine readability so it can be scanned and processed by automated mail processing equipment. Discounts are offered to mailers who meet these requirements.

Barcode: A series of vertical bars and spaces that represent a numeric destination, such as a ZIP code or package identification code.

Bound Printed Matter: Material that weighs no more than 15 pounds and consists of permanently bound sheets. At least 90 percent of the sheets are printed with advertising, promotional, directory, editorial matter or a combination of these.

Bulk Mail Center: A highly mechanized mail processing facility that is part of the National Bulk System. This facility distributes Standard mail and Periodicals in forms such as sacks and pallets. Bulk mail is generally rated for postage by weight and the number of pieces being mailed. Discounts are given based on the amount of preparation done by the mailer and where the mail is deposited.

Bundle: A group of addressed pieces assembled and secured together to make up a basic unit of bulk mail for processing purposes.

Classification: How the USPS groups mail by rate categories, according to content, weight, size and preparation standards.

Destination Entry: The process of transporting and depositing mail at postal facilities that serve the addresses on the mail pieces. The mailer receives additional discounts for destination entry mail.

Discount Rates: Reduced postage rates offered to mailers in exchange for higher standards of mail preparation, sorting and destination entry.

Flat: Flat-size mail exceeds at least one of the maximum dimensions for letter-size mail (11 ½ inches long, 6 1/8 inches high, ¼ inch thick) but does not exceed the maximum dimension of 15 inches long, 12 inches high, ¾ inches thick. A flat may be unwrapped, sleeved, wrapped or enveloped.

Machinable: The ability to sort a mail piece by mail processing equipment.

Mail Class: The classification of domestic mail according to content.

Manifest Mailing System: A postage payment system that lets the USPS accept and verify the weight or rate of permit imprint mailings. Often used for non-identical weight pieces.

Media Mail: Consists of books, sheet music, printed educational charts, film, videocassettes, CD-ROMs or other computer-readable media.

Minimum Size Standard: The smallest dimensions allowable for all mailable matter. Except for keys and identification items, a mail piece less that ¼ inch thick must be rectangular and meet the following minimum criteria: at least 5 inches long; at least 3 ½ inches height; at east 0.007 inches thick.

Package Services: Bound Printed Matter, Library Mail, Parcel Post and Media Mail. There is no minimum weight limit for the class of mail.

Postage Statement: Documentation provided by a mailer to the USPS that reports the volume of mail being presented and the postage payable or affixed. The statement certifies that the mail meets the applicable eligibility and addressing standards for the rate claimed.

Presort: The process by which a mailer groups mail by ZIP code to qualify for discount rates.

Pricing and Classification Service Center: A postal service office that provides guidance to employees and customers on mail classification, postage rates and mail preparation.

Prohibited Matter: Any material that is illegal to mail because it can kill or injure an individual or damage other mail. This includes certain poisons or controlled substances and certain flammable or hazardous materials.

Sack: A container generally used to transport flat-size mail, parcels and loose-piece mail.

Sortation: The distribution or separation of mail by ZIP codes, range of ZIP codes or carrier route.

Standard Mail: Regular Standard mail, Nonprofit Standard mail, Enhanced Carrier Route Standard mail. Circulars, printed matter, pamphlets, catalogs, newsletters, direct mail and merchandise can be sent as Standard mail.

Tray: A container used by the USPS and mailers to hold letters and First-Class mail flats. It is a basic unit of mail quantity for purposes of preparing mail to qualify for discounted postage rates.

ZIP+4 Code: A nine-digit, numeric code that identifies the individual delivery station, sector and segment assigned with an address. It is an enhancement to ZIP code processing.


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