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Topic: a remedial APC question

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Subject: a remedial APC question
Date Posted: 7/29/2007 11:19 AM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2007
Posts: 63
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Hi all,

I'm trying to figure out all these new postage regulations, and I've been reading up on threads about it here. But I have no idea what an APC is...  Can someone explain to me what this is?

It sounds like its some kind of online postage that will help get around standing in long lines at the post office... if that's true, what's the website?

 

thanks!

Date Posted: 7/29/2007 11:26 AM ET
Member Since: 3/17/2007
Posts: 445
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An APC is an Automated Postal Center...  It's a kiosk in a post office's lobby that allows you to weigh and mail your own packages. You can  print out metered postage in any denomination to affix to your packages.

I don't know how common these are... I live in CT, and only a handful of post offices in a 50 mile radius from me have them - luckily, there is one in the next town over.

They are very convenient.

 

Date Posted: 7/29/2007 2:37 PM ET
Member Since: 12/18/2005
Posts: 1,807
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I'd never heard of  them before either until I wandered into the PO near my new job. I frequent another PO and asked them yesterday if they had plans to install one. I was told they were in there measuring to figure out where to put it!

Date Posted: 7/29/2007 5:15 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2007
Posts: 5,526
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there is one in the post office by me and let me tell you, if you can use it vs standing in line, you will LOVE it!  I will go into the PO and see this loooong line with maybe 2 people working.  I will use the APC to mail a pkg (and now that I know how to buy just postage for books for media mail...) or buy postage and never have to wait in that long line.  sometimes there might be 1 or 2 people in front of me, but that is rare.  plus I like being able to go at night or other times when the PO isn't open.

Date Posted: 7/30/2007 6:10 PM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2005
Posts: 209
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As you've no doubt figured out not all POs have them or will get them.  It's based on customer trafic.  I work in a city with 6 POs and only two have them.  I don't think there are plans to install more here, for now anyway.

Date Posted: 7/30/2007 10:56 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2006
Posts: 315
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My main gripes with the APC are:

  • It will let me buy many things with one card-swipe if I use a credit card, but not if I use my debit card -- so if I want to not have to pay interest charges, I have to swipe my card *over and over*.
  • It takes a very ... long ...time to process requests. Over 2/3 of the time I spend standing in front of the machine, I'm waiting for it to finish thinking about something or other and print my darn stamps so I can leave.
  • Lots and LOTS of USPS employees have really weird ideas what the APC rules are. But that's not the machine's fault. :->

That said, it's better than the alternative.

Like Churchill said: representative democracy is the worst form of government in the entire world -- except for all the others!

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 12:31 AM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2006
Posts: 353
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Eloise, my experience differs with yours on a couple of your gripes about the APC:

"It will let me buy many things with one card-swipe if I use a credit card, but not if I use my debit card -- so if I want to not have to pay interest charges, I have to swipe my card *over and over*."

Whether you pay interest on your charges or not has nothing to do with the APC!

"It takes a very ... long ...time to process requests. Over 2/3 of the time I spend standing in front of the machine, I'm waiting for it to finish thinking about something or other and print my darn stamps so I can leave."

It's never taken me more than a minute or so to print out my stamps - and I've used at least three different APCs. I certainly never felt like I was, say, waiting on an old PC to reboot! ;-)
Maybe there's something wrong with your local PO's machine?

"Lots and LOTS of USPS employees have really weird ideas what the APC rules are. But that's not the machine's fault."

I"ve heard a few horror stories here, but have yet to have any problems myself or hear of any firsthand. Maybe I'm lucky, maybe the ones with very bad luck or over-represented in a forum where questions about problems are typical. *knocks on wood* Watch, I'll probably be here tomorrow with some weird APC problem or other... LOL Regardless, I agree that it's not the machine's fault (which would be little comfort if you were the unlucky one, I acknowledge)

"That said, it's better than the alternative."

Assuming you mean better than regular stamps and waiting in line, I agree whole-heartedly! :-)

FWIW, we like the APC postage for mailing single books, and a combination of Click&Ship and Paypal for bigger shipments, whether books or other stuff.

 

Edit: PS - That Churchill quote is one of my favorites! :-)



Last Edited on: 7/31/07 12:32 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/31/2007 12:45 AM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2006
Posts: 315
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I like printing APC postage (in up-to-1lb-plus-DC, 1-2lb-plus-DC, and 2-3lb-plus-DC amounts, which are the ones I use most often) ahead of time and using it throughout the week, but I've found the hard way that I then have to carry it to a blue box specifically in the zip code the APC was from or risk getting it returned to me by misinformed USPS employees (who, admittedly, are probably doing the best they can on very little training, working from rather confusing documentation).

When school's in session -- I'm going back to college to finish my degree -- this is easy, because the zip code my college is in has an APC, so I can print five or ten of each denomination and just drop it in the box on my way to class. However, we are currently between semesters, so my best option is to just lug it all in ten-book batches (about half a week, for me) to the Oak Park post office and paste the APC stamps on while standing at the machine, without printing any extra.

As far as wait time, I agree, it takes 'about a minute' to print a batch of stamps ... and about five seconds to request them. Meaning I spend 50-65 seconds standing there waiting for it to finish thinking, while the lady in line behind me starts counting how many packages I have to stamp ... usually I can paste the five stamps it printed last batch onto their packages, get them in the box, and be long since done before it's finished thinking about printing the next batch of five. This is true at any of the three different APCs I've so far tried to use, so I presumed it to be universal to the software.

Of course, the folks who wrote the APC software are probably also the ones who decided the poor counter staff have to follow a 45-second clickpath just to print a trackable zero-postage strip, so it's not like they're the brightest crayons in the programming box. :->



Last Edited on: 7/31/07 12:52 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/31/2007 8:21 AM ET
Member Since: 8/24/2005
Posts: 504
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I too learned to multi-task while waiting for the APC to mull over its decision to print stamps for me. I took the stack of books and spread them out ready for postage to be slapped in each corner as soon as it came out of the APC. Once I had the stamps, I entered the request for the next stack of books and put postage on the first bunch, then popped them into the oversized bin next to the APC while the second set was printing.

I developed quite a system but then I discovered the convenience of PayPal and haven't used the APC for books since.

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 9:05 AM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2006
Posts: 315
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I so want to use PayPal, but I hate their stupid unitary shipping label. I love PBS's wrapper, it's easy to read and very clear. If PayPal would just let me print A STAMP -- in any denomination I specify -- then even if it were 4" square and full of two-dimensional barcode, I'd go for it. However, it makes me re-enter all the shipping information and let IT calculate the postage and follow a torturous clickpath, and then it insists I use ITS label and ITS DC, which I just can't handle.

Jenny (Jenny) - ,
Date Posted: 7/31/2007 11:30 AM ET
Member Since: 12/13/2005
Posts: 682
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On the USPS website, you can search for the nearest APC-- http://www.switchboard.com/usps.1355/dir/6_0/index.htm?mem=1355 (and pick the "Automated Postal Center" option).

There's one in my town, and I love the off-hours access. I can stop by on my way to work in the morning and weigh and mail my packages.

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 12:19 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2006
Posts: 1,826
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Last Edited on: 3/29/09 10:13 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 7/31/2007 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2006
Posts: 353
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Eloise - don't you have an APC in the same zip code as your home? Any reason you can't just get your postage and mail from home at your leisure?

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 3:05 PM ET
Member Since: 6/23/2005
Posts: 379
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Yes, Paypal does print out their own DC - but you don't have to use it. You can cut it off when you cut out the label and replace it with PBS DC. Paypal makes you buy DC, so regardless, you've paid for it. I print the PBS label (w/DC) on regular paper, so I can refer to it when making my Paypal label (yes, I hate re-entering the address, but it beats waiting in line at the PO). Cut the DC off the Paypal label and tape on the DC I've cut out of the PBS label. The rest of the PBS label goes in with the book as a backup address in case the label is lost in transit (hasn't happened yet, but I worry)

If I had a local APC, I'd use it. Sadly, I don't, so I use Paypal.

I've had no problems doing it this way, your mileage may vary.

 

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 3:29 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2006
Posts: 315
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Patrick and Chris (Patrick or Chris? :-> ) said:

Eloise - don't you have an APC in the same zip code as your home? Any reason you can't just get your postage and mail from home at your leisure?

Oh, I wish. My options for APC are go downtown, drive out just across the city limit line to Oak Park, or drive at least five miles north or south to the other nearests. I live on the west side, which is an 'economically challenged' area, and primarily non-white in its inhabitants ... therefore, amenities are few and far between.

Also, they took away my neighborhood's blue box, so now, to get to a blue box, I have to drive anyhow. Like I said, when I'm going downtown for school every day anyhow, that's very convenient, but between semesters it's a once-a-week pilgrimage out to Oak Park or so.

As for getting postage stockpiled and then just mailing it from wherever is handy, I've had very bad results with USPS employees thinking (a) APC postage is only legal to mail from the APC's own zip code, (b) the date on the postage MUST be the date mailed, otherwise it's mail fraud, and (c) stranger things I don't need to go into right now. :->

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 5:51 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2006
Posts: 353
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"(c) stranger things I don't need to go into right now."

Well, it IS Oak Park you're talking about, after all..   but hey, at least it's not Niles!

;-)

- ex-Chicagoan, understands now...

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 7:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/17/2007
Posts: 445
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"I love the APC machine................... when it's not out of order!!!   Grrrrrr.  Seems like it's down more often than not."

That is my biggest frustration as well..  Many times I go and it has a message that it can't dispense postage.  Well, what the heck do they think I am there for...a sandwich?!

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 7:53 PM ET
Member Since: 8/24/2005
Posts: 504
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Eloise:

Clearly you are dealing with USPS employees who do not have enough to do. I always thought that everyone at USPS was like the people at my nearest post office, i.e., run off their feet, but that seems not to be the case at yours.

I ship at the regional mail sorting plant and those people have time to make sure everything is stamped properly and that's about it.

Date Posted: 7/31/2007 7:57 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2006
Posts: 315
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Aubrey: I'm not sure what you mean -- I'm sure they're horridly overworked, plus undertrained, plus we all know USPS's official rules and documentation are far from un-confusing. Add to that that nobody gets the rules-about-APC-postage manual except branches that HAVE APCs (less than 1/6 of the total, in Chicago), and you can see a lot of room for entirely earnest misunderstanding. Only they think they have it RIGHT and I, the customer, am trying to scam them.

As far as the APC-date thing, I can easily see how they get confused; it looks like a metered-postage strip, and THOSE can only be mailed the date they're printed. In that case, the date IS a postmark. However, APCs, despite having a date printed in just the right place to LOOK like pre-cancelled postage, are NOT pre-cancelled. They're different. And if a branch has the APC manual, they can find this out. If they do not have an APC (and therefore its manual), they've never been told word one about how APC strips work, and are left to themselves to reason out how to treat it on their own.

Don't hate the cogs, hate the system. :->



Last Edited on: 7/31/07 7:58 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/3/2007 8:07 PM ET
Member Since: 10/29/2005
Posts: 671
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Well, I checked out the one APC in my town (in Northern Calif.) and wouldn't you know, it won't let you send stuff Media Mail, only First Class, Priority, and some other expensive choices.  I went through the process 3 times to make sure I was doing it right and it just doesn't officer Media Mail.  So, I guess it's true what somebody said:  The USPS seems to be trying to discourage people from using Media Mail.  Thank goodness I found out about PayPay shipping that offers Media Mail so I don't have to stand in line at the USPS counter!

Date Posted: 8/3/2007 8:20 PM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2005
Posts: 209
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That's correct Lynn.  The APCs don't offer Media Mail (or a ton of other classes) because of the possibility of abuse or being used when the customer doesn't understand the requirements.  There are some things that still do require a human :-)

What you can do though is buy just postage out of the APC and apply that to your book shipments.  You will need to know the weight and rate schedual to do it but it does work.

Date Posted: 8/4/2007 12:12 AM ET
Member Since: 5/14/2007
Posts: 6
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I'm also frustrated by the new postal regulations.  I've seriously considered removing all 13 oz and above books from my bookshelf so that I don't ever have to deal with it.  I just want to be able to mail the books from my car and not bother with the lines in the PO.  I talked with several postal employees today and media mail option is not available in the PO kiosks or click-n-save online.  Today I used click-n-ship to mail a hardback I'd already said I'd mail to someone and it cost $4.60 to mail.  That was the cheapest way to do it. 

According to the postal employees I talked with today our only option for avoiding the lines is to use something like stamps.com or our own meter.  Sigh!

Marcia

Angie -
Date Posted: 8/4/2007 12:32 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 3,299
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"I talked with several postal employees today and media mail option is not available in the PO kiosks or click-n-save online. "

If by "PO kiosks", you mean the APC, then media mail actually IS available in a roundabout way.

As Steve said, "What you can do though is buy just postage out of the APC and apply that to your book shipments.  You will need to know the weight and rate schedual to do it but it does work."

I personally go when the P.O. is closed because I hate standing in line. I pretend I'm mailing a regular package first class to just get the weight, then once I get the weight, I look it up on my chart if it's not something I have memorized (you could probably print the rates off the USPS website),  then I exit out to the main screen and just go to "print postage". It allows you to print anything from a dollar or something like that to 100 or 200. As long as your package is marked media mail (or first class if that is cheaper), drop it in their box and I'm done.



Last Edited on: 8/4/07 12:32 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/4/2007 1:35 AM ET
Member Since: 2/11/2007
Posts: 808
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You CAN use the APC kiosk to send Media Mail rate material. Angie has summarized the procedure very well. Unlike First Class packages, the kiosk does not supply the actual postage required directly. If you know the weight, and have the media mail rates available, it's a very simple procedure to buy the appropriate postage. I sent a 3 lb package for $3.15 recently from the kiosk, that arrived in less than a week. The transaction took less than 2 minutes.

You can use blue boxes within the same zip code to drop off packages with APC postage as well. It should not be necessary to buy the actual postage at the exact same time you are mailing the book.



Last Edited on: 8/4/07 1:43 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 8/6/2007 7:46 PM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2007
Posts: 63
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Thanks for all this great information!

I used the APC today for the first time, and it worked great.  I live in NYC and there are lots of APCs here, but also lots of zip codes... so it sounds like I need to be careful about where I buy the stamps and where I send the books (if I buy the stamps in advance).

 

Last question, just to be sure I understand this correctly: can I use the APC as postage for books more than 1 or 2 lbs (not just the 13 oz things) and NOT have to wait in line to hand them to a person? I can just drop them in the box?? 

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