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Topic: Priority Mail Flat Rate Experience and ?

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Subject: Priority Mail Flat Rate Experience and ?
Date Posted: 6/10/2015 12:06 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2013
Posts: 1,388
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Hi everyone, hope your Wednesday will be wonderful. I posted this originally in CMT yesterday. It is not intended as a vent just as a share, ?, and to hopefully save some of you time and money! Bonnie kindly suggested I repost in here to get clarification, so here goes.

 I have used the priority mail flat rate cardboard envelopes ($5.75 ones) many times. I appreciate being able to stuff them and know it is still one rate, that has saved me a lot of money. As recently as a few days ago at the PO closest to me, a clerk after weighing my package that was inside a regular bubble mailer recommended I use a flat rate envelope to save money. There was no line behind me and she so kindly took the time to get me the envelope and even put a couple pieces of mailing tape across the top to extra secure.

This morning (yesterday) I wanted to mail another friend a variety of things (DVD, CD, along with 2 Christmas Ornaments, one of which was heavier and a little bulky in shape. I did wrap both in bubble wrap to make them more even. I packaged everything up in a bubble mailer and brought it to the same PO as a few days ago. There was thankfully no one in line at the time and just one clerk. She weighed the package as it was and told me that would cost just under $9 to mail! I thanked her and said I would put it into a flat rate envelope. She told me that would be fine as long as it would fit. I ended up taking the contents out of the bubble mailer and they did fit inside the $5.75 envelope. Yes, there was a bulge due to the one ornament. I had tried removing my mailing label from the original envelope to put onto the new and that tore part of the address. I am blessed to live about 5 minutes away from this PO so it was not that big a deal coming back home and the returning. I wanted to add one strip of mailing tape across the envelope anyway. This is where the issue started. The clerk told me my package was fine to be mailed as it was. The top did close flat as it was. I just wanted to add the tape for the sides really. She told me should I choose to add any tape my package would disqualify from the $5.75! I told her my experience from a few days previously to which she told me, that clerk was wrong to do that. I thanked her and went home.

I did call the 800# for USPS and waited to talk to someone. I wanted to be clear I understood again as I do use the flat rate often. The man I spoke to confirmed as long as the tape itself did not change the shape of the package it should be ok. He understood it was not my intent to call out anyone or be confrontational, I truly wanted correct info. Money is a huge issue for me and I need to save where I am able.

I ended up taking the package to a different PO because it was near Kmart where I was going. That PO is bigger than the one closest to me. They usually have a clerk who goes through the line and checks what you are mailing to be sure it is ready to go when you are called to the counter. She took one look at my package and said rules had changed and you are no longer allowed to jam whatever into those envelopes. The overall shape has to (I think) still be flat and even straight across, no bulging or anything bulkier. She gave me a free priority flat rate bubble mailer and that was how I ultimately mailed my package. This cost 35 cents more than the other. Instead of $5.75 this was $6.10. Plus now I know that bubble mailer is also free. On the tape? It sounded like on the cardboard mailers, tape is no longer allowed. Anyone on here work at the PO to confirm this? I would appreciate also hearing if it is okay for example to stuff one of envelopes with stationery stuff (cards and stickers) as long as the distribution is overall even across.

Thank you so much and for reading all this! God Bless. Happy Wednesday. :)


 

Date Posted: 6/10/2015 5:41 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 703
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That clerk was wrong.  It is a flat RATE envelope, not an envelope that has to remain flat.  "If it fits, it ships, for a low flat RATE."

Date Posted: 6/10/2015 8:23 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 703
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You can order those padded Flat Rate envelopes on line.  https://store.usps.com/store/browse/uspsProductDetailMultiSkuDropDown.jsp?productId=P_EP14PE&categoryId=priority-mail  They are technically not supposed to stock them at PO's but I always ordered them at home & kept a few at the PO.  Also, there is a Legal Flat Rate envelope that is a little bit longer, like a legal pad vs a regular letter size pad.   https://store.usps.com/store/browse/productDetailSingleSku.jsp?categoryNav=false&navAction=push&navCount=0&productId=P_EP14L&categoryId=priority-mail 

Date Posted: 6/10/2015 11:46 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2007
Posts: 2,471
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We use the legal size tyvek ones at work. We send reports to clients. Reports are 9 x 11 comb bound books anywhere from half an inch to over an inch thick. We put 1, 2 or 3  of them in the mailer and when it's closed fold over the extra on two sides, taping it down with clear package tape.  With the USPS account we get a small discount for printing the labels ourselves. I order the envelopes in the flat cardboard letter size, the letter size padded and the legal size tyvek. I also get the tube mailers and medium and large boxes. We keep a supply of all theses sizes plus a couple others (small boxes, cube, etc.) so we'll have it on hand if needed. Orders take a week or so but the supplies are free with the account.

I also have an account I use for mailing books from home when I need to send larger books or odd sizes. It's worth it to me to spend $5.05 (I think that's the amount, it may be slightly different) in a tyvek mailer (wrapped snugly and taped around the books) since there's insurance along with the DC.



Last Edited on: 6/10/15 11:55 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 6/11/2015 11:18 AM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 703
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The legal size Tyvek are not Flat Rate, though.  They go by weight/zone.  They are lighter than a box though, so that is in their favor if you're not mailing something fragile.

Date Posted: 6/11/2015 12:35 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2013
Posts: 1,388
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Thanks, Diane and the ad jingle made me smile. I truly thought the same thing about whatever fit inside was good to go (that was the whole point)! I do understand that what I was shipping was bulging and also a bit fragile so not quite the same as just paper related stuff. I think the clerk felt I may have been trying to cheat (I wasn't at all) the PO out of money by intentionally doing that. She did make it sound as though the rules had changed because of the PO taking a loss. I would not have normally though to send what I did in a cardboard mailer but because of the bubble wrap and to save over $3 I was willing to do that just fine. I don't plan to mail anything else priority mail for quite a while. that package will be a sticker and possibly card one so would be much more even then the one the other day. I'll let all of you know if that is allowed still or not.

Thanks also for the link to the padded mailers. Are those free to order? I had never seen those out at the PO. The first clerk (at PO closest to me) never told me of that option. She just said my choices were to send as it was no tape for $5.75 or as I had originally had it for almost $9. Second PO said $5.75 was no way allowed and package would come back to me and then I'd need to pay like $11. They did say the first clerk should have told me about the padded envelope.

Linda, I did recently find out there is an online discount for shipping. The cardboard mailer I was referring to that costs at the PO $5.75 is indeed $5.05 online. I just am old fashioned and prefer to limit online ordering but certainly if I had a business or was doing a lot of mailing that is awesome to know.

Thank you both :)



Last Edited on: 6/11/15 12:35 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/15/2015 8:21 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2014
Posts: 855
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Last Edited on: 7/15/17 11:52 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 6/20/2015 6:24 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 600
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Yes, the padded flat rates are free to order online or via phone. You don't normally see them in POs, Postmasters cannot order them from their accounts, and they aren't really supposed to stock them in the lobby. 

Generally the PFREs are a better choice for bulky items, but as others have stated, the normal FREs do not have to be flat. 

Date Posted: 6/21/2015 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Unfortunately your experience is not uncommon.  USPS staff training at USPS is inconsistent and you may well receive different answers from branch to branch, or even clerk to clerk in the same branch.

Date Posted: 6/21/2015 11:17 PM ET
Member Since: 5/7/2009
Posts: 793
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Definitely buy your Priority Mail postage online at the USPS website.  The discounts are worth it and insurance is free up to a certain amount with priority mail.  

Date Posted: 6/24/2015 11:47 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2013
Posts: 1,388
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Thank you all of you for these extra replies. I apologize for not checking this section until now! The PO closest to me may be on its way out not sure. Keep in mind I live in LA and in a big area of the city. This is a smaller (in comparison to others) PO. Lately there are only 2 clerks and a long line. The automated machine is often broken too. I think PO is getting busier (in general not just at this location), less staffed, and I do feel badly for the workers as it seems they are overworked. Of course training should be across the board!

Gordon, that is a good idea on the label and tape. Also that way the label (ink) is more secure. As I said originally, I think the issue may have been the bulkier Christmas ornament but still as Diane reminded us :) "if it fits, it ships." It did fit. I know there is a bin for packages along with a  narrow mail slot. I don't think I have ever seen a designated package counter drop off area.

Thank you, Becca that is good to know. Actually yesterday I was at this same PO and one of the clerks gave a customer one of those envelopes. She said they normally do not have them. I have never seen them out and didn't until I began this thread know they existed. I will often bring a non sealed FRE the $5.75 one to the PO to just weigh on the automated machine's scale to be sure it does exceed $5.75. I will be observant that way with bulkier items should I have anything like that to mail again.

Thanks to Denise and Theresa, too. Next time I have more stuff to mail, I will check out USPS online. I'll also be more careful in packaging as well.

All the above said, I do still enjoy sending out cheer via snail mail and love finding friendly mail in my box too :)



Last Edited on: 6/24/15 11:48 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/1/2015 8:27 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2013
Posts: 1,388
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I finally went ahead and created a USPS.com account. I ordered a package of 10 of those flat rate padded envelopes. I tried getting them (I only need 2 right now) at 2 different PO's and neither carries them. the PO closest to me said they only get them when a customer brings them in. I wonder if folks are even told of that shipping option? One question about buying postage online. When I am ready to purchase postage ($6.10) stamp for one of those bubble mailers, I am guessing I go through an ordering process, payment and then print out something similar to a PBS label that I tape onto the package? I am wanting to be sure I don't need to go buy any type of sticky paper to do this. Thanks everyone and Happy July! :)

Date Posted: 7/1/2015 11:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2007
Posts: 2,471
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Yes, the labels through USPS are a half sheet and you can print on regular paper, which you can tape on or use a clear sleeve to stick it on. But since we use them at work we also have FedEx labels (provided from FedEx if you have an account with them). So I print them on that paper so they're self-sticking. You can buy the label paper at USPS and I think Avery sells label paper too.

Date Posted: 7/2/2015 2:18 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 600
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Yes, you can tape a paper label on just like you do with PBS, and it is only $5.70 if you buy the postage online :)

Date Posted: 7/2/2015 11:31 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2013
Posts: 1,388
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Thank you Linda! Dollar Tree is where I get regular address label paper. I will have to check if they offer bigger sticky sheets as well.

Thank you, too, Becca. For me every penny really does count so that is good to know. :)