“Free” Shipping Boxes!

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An associate of mine has a saying: “Beware of carriers bearing gifts.”  He of course means, there are sometimes unintended strings attached.

USPS offers free shipping boxes of varying sizes for their Priority Mail service.  They are attractive, well-designed boxes that can be used to ship any weight to any address in the US for a flat rate.

Box sizes range from about 8.5” x 5.5”x 2” for a “Small Flat Rate” box to 24”x12”x5.5” for one of the “Large Flat Rate” ones.  When payment is made at the Post Office the postage cost ranges from $5.80 for the small box to $16.85 for the largest box.  They offer a discount of approximately 12% if the postage and label are produced online at USPS.com or at an approved host site.

So just use those free boxes and your troubles are over, right?  Maybe, but it may cost you.

Let’s say you have a four pound shipment going to the other side of the US (2000 miles) that will fit in a Medium Flat Rate Box — that is a great deal — $11.30 on line versus $14.29 (also on line postage purchase) for Priority Mail service in a similarly-sized box you provide that also weighs four pounds.   That’s a nice $2.99 savings,

However, if you have the same four-pound shipment traveling, say 250 miles, the cost of shipping it in your packaging by Priority Mail would be $7.36 (postage purchased on line).   Use the same $11.30 Flat Rate Box for the shipment and the “free” box just cost you $3.94.  In the same example, a “free” Large Flat Rate Box would cost $7.94 more.

It sometimes pays to supply your own boxes or other shipping containers.  Box characteristics should look like this:

  1. Undamaged (and nice looking) box capable of handling another shipment
  2. Limited graphics and labels, remove or cross out bar codes
  3. Multiple sizes – under one cubic foot (12”x12”x12”) if possible (more on that in a later Post)
  4. Smaller boxes for small, lighter weight items

If you are of the mindset to reuse and recycle, there are plenty of ways of getting good boxes – from stockpiling from shipments to you to asking friends and neighbors to recycle their boxes through you.  This should cut down considerably on your need to purchase boxes unless you need specific box characteristics to protect or publicize your products.

Next up – free packaging materials.

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