Category Archives: Shipping–Mailing

USPS Shipping Zone Tool

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2009


Visit our Etsy shop: GoTo

Here’s a handy little shipping zones tool from USPS:

http://postcalc.usps.gov/ZoneCharts/Default.aspx

If you are shipping First Class domestic the rates are the same anywhere in the US & its territories, but for Priority Mail, Parcel Post & Media Mail seeing zones can help you understand the rates.

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics



Visit our Etsy shop: GoToSupplies

Postal Rates Going Up–May 11

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2009

Postal Rates Going Up–May 11

A little reminder that the rate for First Class Mail is going up 5 cents May 11, 2009 but…

it only goes up for the first ounce. The additional ounces rate stays the same so a 1 oz package will only be 5 cents more than it was before the change, and a 6 oz package will only be 5 cents more than it was before the change. Not so bad!

Standard Mail, Periodicals, Package Services & Extra Services are also going up. There’s a little info here about how the rates have changed:

http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2009/pricingfactsheet2009.htm

See this page for full details:

http://www.usps.com/prices/pricechanges.htm?from=prices&page=NewMay09Prices

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Do I need a customs form?

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2012-2015
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

I’ve heard this question many times unfortunately the answer folks get is rarely accurate. The misunderstandings are sometimes perpetuated by postal clerks, so going to the post office for answers is not always more helpful than asking in forums.

The short answer is:

You need a customs form if your international package has
“potentially dutiable contents”.

It doesn’t matter:

  • how light or heavy it is,
  • how big or small,
  • if it is a gift or something you sold,
  • what mail service level or company you send it through.

If there is something that might require either duty or taxes (like sales tax) to be paid on it, it needs a form. Personally, I don’t know which goods are charged tax in different countries, so all our international packages get customs forms. Plus it can speed the way through customs if a package does get stopped (and an enclosure with the price & buyer info will help too).

You can see that answer directly on the US Postal Service website and be confident you have the right answer–the key is not to look just at the chart, but also the fine print below it. The chart:

http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc1_009.htm#ep1000983

The fine print:

Customs forms are not required on certain First Class Mail International mailings:

• Weigh less than 16 ounces and do not have potentially dutiable contents.
• Weigh 16 ounces or more; do not have potentially dutiable contents; and are entered by a known mailer.”

In both of the above options, the important point is about potentially dutiable contents–if the package has any, then it should have a customs form. The package should also have something that confirms the value & purchaser inside the package (like a receipt) in case customs inspects it.

The chart page above has sections that tell you which customs form you need based on:

  • type of mail service you are using (First Class International, Priority Mail International, etc.), and
  • the declared value of the items in the package (while some countries also tax the shipping cost, the customs form value doesn’t include postage–so don’t add that in).

If you are having trouble seeing where it says you need a customs form, these images have those parts highlighted in yellow for First Class International and Priority Mail International:

First Class International
Priority Mail International

So the only packages that can travel internationally without a customs form are shipped First Class International and are either:

&#149 Under 16 oz and have no potentially dutiable contents,
&#149 Over 16 oz, have no potentially dutiable contents and are shipped via ‘known mailer”.

If you’re looking for more details on custom form use & requirements see here:

http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc1_009.htm

If you are looking to print First Class International labels without a paid subscription service, check out the following post–the customs form gets printed right on the label automatically too:

International First-Class Mail:
Print Labels From Your Computer

How to handle a package with a customs form:
Handwritten customs form = present to a clerk

Electronically submitted customs form:

Under 13 oz with only postage stamps = drop in any box
Over 13 oz with only postage stamps = bring to clerk
Any weight with electronic payment = drop in any box

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics

Getting a PO Box

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2008

Have you considered getting a post office box to protect your personal information? The USPS website now has a search engine that allows you to find information about local post office box sizes, availability and pricing:


https://poboxes.usps.com/poboxonline/search/landingPage.do

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics

Shipping Through Paypal


Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2009-2012

If you have a Paypal account and a scale, you can take advantage of Paypal’s shipping label service. This will help you set up your account to print labels with postage:

1. Log in to Paypal, you’ll be on the “My Account” tab viewing the “Overview” page.

2. Click the “Profile” link to go to the Profile Summary page (the main link, not one of the options on the pop up menu).

3. On the left click “My selling tools”, and page down to “Shipping my items”, and see the “Shipping preferences” entry–click link on the right side to “update”.

4.There you can select your default shipping carrier and opt to display the ship button next to transactions on the “My Account” page. Save each of your changes.

5. At the end of that page, see “Display Ship Button”. Check the boxes you’d like, then click the orange “save” button. This will enable the button on the main “overview” page next to applicable transactions.

6. Now go back to the “My Account Overview” page. You should see a column that is labeled “Order status/Actions”, in it a drop down menu for printing shipping labels should now appear for payments you’ve received (you also have the option of just adding tracking info or just marking a package as shipped).

If you click the link and ship the package through it, the ship button will change to say Shipped, Track. Clicking “Track” will take you to the tracking page for the service you sent the package through.

    Important Notes:

  • Every domestic label you print through Paypal will get Delivery Confirmation automatically–you can’t opt out of it.
  • Delivery Confirmation is free on First Class packages & Priority Mail packages.
  • First Class Mail Envelopes/Packages with Delivery Confirmation must be at least 3/4 inch thick or in a rigid mailer (see here for 10.2.2 Eligible Matter), or it will be bumped up to Priority Mail. (And it may arrive “postage due” for the amount between the price you paid and the rate for sending the package Priority Mail.)

You can even use Paypal shipping if your customer didn’t pay you using Paypal–see here:

Shipping Through Paypal
Regardless of How the Customer Paid

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics

Getting a Handle on International Shipping

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2011-2015
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Before we get to postage there are two important things about packaging your international shipments:

1. Always use a customs form, and if it is something you sold you should check the box for ‘merchandise’ or ‘other’, whichever your form has on it. The “gift” option on a customs form is only for when you are sending a gift free of charge from yourself to someone you know, both buyer & seller can get in trouble if they are caught using it inappropriately–see FabricOverspill‘s post here.

Customs forms are easy to fill out so don’t let them scare you away from international shipping–to & from names, addresses, package contents, monetary value & then you sign it. More help for customs forms here: Do I need a customs form?

When paying for your postage at the post office counter, the clerk will need to manually enter the info that you wrote on the customs form into their computer so allow a little more time for going to the post office.

When using electronic/online postage (like through USPS.com’s Click-N-Ship or Paypal & Etsy’s labels services) the customs form will be automatically generated & electronically submitted when you create the label, so you can just sign it (you can also set your accounts to automatically sign the customs form for you) & drop it in any mail receptacle or take it to the counter where the clerk should just scan it in & the customs form data will already be in their system.

For First Class International (which includes Priority International Flat Rate Envelopes and Priority International Small Flat Rate), the online postage’s customs form & label will all fit on the half-sheet label (or a half sheet of paper if you don’t use labels).

When shipping all other services you’ll need the more complex customs form–just as easy to fill out, it’s just that it is in triplicate (carbonless copies) when you fill it out at the PO so it prints out on several sheets of paper when you generate it at home on your printer.

You’ll need to secure the pages in a sleeve on the outside of the package that customs can open if they see fit. The PO supplies them free–you can get them at the counter (even before you need them) or order them online to be delivered free to your home (just like you can get Priority Mail boxes delivered to your home for free): Customs Form Envelope

2. Always include a receipt that reflects the contents & the price as seen on the customs form (having the recipient info there is good too–both for customs and in case the package/label gets damaged in transit).

I know a lot of folks don’t bother with receipt of any kind when mailing out their goods, but with international packages it is important to have it in the package–and required by law in some countries. If you are shipping to Germany–be sure to include 2 copies of the invoice on the outside of the package in an accessible sleeve/envelope. More on that here.

If customs decides to stop your package (they do random picks), they will try to confirm the package value, and if your package has supporting documents inside that match what the customs form declares, they will usually go with that. If you don’t have the price & description of the goods inside, or are missing a customs form and/or receipt all together, they can guess at the value, and it is usually a much higher guess than what was actually paid causing a hassle for your customer.

Pricing Your Shipping

We struggled with setting prices for international shipping, but after some research we came up with this breakdown of the rates–one for domestic packages & three for international destinations:

• United States (on Etsy you’ll also need “United States Minor Outlying Islands” and US Territories each as its own entry at the USA rate, shipping USPS the rates are the same as domestic zone 9 shipping)
• Canada
• Mexico
• Everywhere Else

(There are easy to read charts further down the page–after all the details of why this is how to easily set it up with reasonable accuracy…)

A lot of that decision was based on this info, looking at shipping via International First Class:

Size:
• Packages up to 4 pounds
• No more than 24 inches long
• No more than 36 inches in combined length, height, and depth
• At least large enough to accommodate the postage, address, customs form, and other required elements on the address side.

Source: USPS International Mail Manual
From the “240 First-Class Mail International” page, from the “241 Description and Physical Characteristics, 241.242 Dimensions” section: http://pe.usps.gov/text/imm/immc2_016.htm#ep2368227

(There’s more info there about other packaging too if you need it.)

I took a look at the country list here:

Country Listing:
http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immpg.htm

and saw that for First Class International, Canada and Mexico were the only countries in zones 1 & 2 (respectively). All other countries are in zones 3 through 9. Then I looked at this chart:

First-Class Mail International:
http://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/notice123.htm#2949345

and saw that for packages up to 2 oz, the rate was the same anywhere in the world.

For packages over 2 oz, zones 1 & 2 are significantly less expensive than other zones–that’s Canada and Mexico respectively, our North American neighbors. We give them each their own rate in our listings.

Everywhere Else: For packages over 2 oz shipping out of N. America, there are only two price groups for First Class. All other countries fall in zones 3 to 5, and zones 6 to 9 but the rates for those two groups are pretty similar, with less than $1.00 difference between the two groups for all weights up to 4 lbs.

Since there are so many countries with rates that are nearly the same for zones 3-5 and 6-9, I just lump them together as Everywhere Else and charge based on zone 3-5 rates (the higher of the two groups). That way we’re never shorting ourselves on shipping charges, and the over-charge is never more than $1.00.

If you look at the chart below, you can see how the zones compare (rates effective May 31, 2015):

~~~ Click image for a larger view–opens in a new tab or window ~~~

International First Class Packages

(Click for a larger view)



You can confirm those rates–as you should all info you get from unofficial sources–in this official PDF download from USPS:
http://pe.usps.com/cpim/ftp/manuals/dmm300/Notice123.pdf or on their official website here: USPS Price List.

What if someone buys 2 items???? See these posts:

How Etsy’s “Secondary Shipping” works

Figuring Out Your Secondary Shipping

Now that you have a feel for the international shipping zones & package size restrictions, you don’t even need the USPS website’s shipping calculator to estimate your shipping costs, which often hides the First Class rates.

If you don’t have a scale to weigh your packages you can take them to the PO and get weights for items that you’ll typically ship, but a scale is really worth its weight in gold for the convenience of printing out shipping labels (through Paypal Shipping, USPS Shipping Assistant, or other services from home).

Need to insure your International First Class package?

USPS doesn’t offer insurance for this service but you can insure through third-party insurers for less than USPS charges for domestic packages. See the “Shipping Insurance” post on the main Shipping page of this blog–link on the right in gold under “Pages”, or click here:

Shipping Basics

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2011-2015
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

International First-Class Mail:Print Labels From Your Computer

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2011-2012
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Print Labels for First Class International Mail
(and all other services)

If you like printing your shipping labels from your computer & want the option to ship to buyers via First Class International Mail without a subscription to a postage service (since Paypal labels with postage doesn’t offer First Class International labels yet & neither does USPS’s online Click n Ship service), the free, download-able program Click-N-Ship® for Business can help (formerly known as the USPS Shipping Assistant).

Using a Mac? See below, as the Click-N-Ship for Business only works on Windows computers.

It is a small program that you download from the USPS website, and it allows you to print labels for both domestic and international shipments. You can ship First Class, Priority Mail or any other service the USPS offers with labels generated through this program. It’s free and easy to use. (If you are having trouble getting it to work, please see the info below for Mac users–even if you are using Windows.)

What’s the catch?

You can’t pay for postage with it (unless you have a subscription postage service). You just affix postage stamps to the package in addition to the label. When I am at the post office, I pick up some stamps of varying values to cover the bases–75¢, 45¢, 20¢, 10¢, 5¢, 2¢ and 1¢. I keep enough on-hand to make up postage for any combo I might need plus, I think it’s kind of fun to get a package with a fun mix of stamps on it.

Please note: All packages heavier than 13 ounces with only postage stamps to cover the price of shipping must be taken to the post office to be shipped, both for domestic and international mailing.

Then why use it?

  • You get a nicely printed label for your package to help speed it through the system & the discounted electronic rate for Delivery Confirmation for domestic mail (free).
  • You get the shipping history for your packages in the program that you can also export as an Excel file.
  • You can easily recreate labels for repeat customers so you don’t have to re-input their address (be sure to check they haven’t moved before you print!).
  • It prints the customs form right on the label for international & APO/FPO/DPO* labels.
  • It electronically submits your customs form data, which means under 13 oz packages with stamps for postage & these labels can be dropped in any mail box/left for pick up.

Shipping internationally?

When Click-N-Ship for Business prints the customs form right on the label for you–it has lines for the information as you fill out the label details–it submits the info to USPS online and prints the label out ready to ship, except for the postage, of course!

Click-N-Ship for Business–download it here:

https://www.usps.com/business/click-n-ship-for-business.htm

Helpful tip:
For packages going to the
UK use Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Got a Mac?
While you can’t use the downloaded version of this program you can print the same labels online here (thanks for the tip FGVminiATURES for the tip):

https://webapps.usps.com/customsforms

This tool also electronically submits your customs form data, which means under 13 oz packages with stamps for postage can be dropped in any mail box/left for pick up.

For more shipping tips see our main “Shipping” page–see the gold links on the right or click here:
Shipping Basics

*APO/FPO/DPO destinations come at the end of the list of US States in the domestic label form.

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2011-2012
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

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