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Topic: USPS Says PBS Could Be Misleading About Shipping First Class

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Subject: USPS Says PBS Could Be Misleading About Shipping First Class
Date Posted: 4/15/2014 2:08 AM ET
Member Since: 5/26/2013
Posts: 16
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I've been having a major issue at my local post office. Just in the past few weeks, I've received at least 3 to 4 "give us more money" slips in my mailbox for packages being mailed to me from other PBS members. I called my post office and asked about the issue. The USPS employee told me that if a package has First Class postage AND includes package tracking, it must meet one of these conditions:
1. The package is 3/4 thick.

2. The package is rigid (cannot bend).

Otherwise, they will bump it up to Priority Mail pricing. She even told me that normal large mailing envelopes are typically not enough to help a package meet the criteria. She said that it's a good idea to stick a piece of cardboard in with thinner, less rigid books. I asked her why I've not had a problem mailing through other post offices. She said that her particular post office is abiding by the rules, while other post offices may not be. She said that her post office even called the USPS marketing office to confirm that her post office is doing it right. Because of the volume of people who are shipping these wrong, she suspected that PBS may not be giving the correct shipping guidelines for First Class labels. So, she asked for PBS contact information and said she would suggest that the USPS marketing office call PBS to discuss this issue. I have personally emailed the owner/founder of PBS and have emailed PBS member services, but have still not heard back from anyone. This is a huge deal for me seeing as how I get a LOT of my homeschool material through PBS and can't afford to dish out a credit PLUS $2-3 extra postage for each book I receive. Anyone else having this shipping issue?

Scott (scalta) - ,
Date Posted: 4/15/2014 6:13 AM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2010
Posts: 723
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The USPS employee you spoke with is correct.  If you use First Class w/tracking, then the mailing must meet eligibility requirements to be considered a package/parcel.

Eligible Items

  • Priority Mail® items - excluding Priority Mail Express™ (at no additional charge)
  • First-Class Mail® parcels and First-Class Package Service parcels (electronic option only)
  • Standard Mail® parcels (electronic option only)
  • Package Services parcels
  • Standard Post parcels (at no additional charge)
  • Parcel Select parcels
  • Mail addressed to most APO/FPO/DPO destinations
  • Package Services and Parcel Select parcels must meet the following parcel / package requirements:
    • The surface area must be large enough to contain completely and legibly the delivery/return information, postage, and any applicable markings, endorsements, and extra service forms.
    • The parcel must meet the minimum size of an inch at the thickest point.
    • The parcel must be prepared in rigid packaging:  the contents must be prepared in a strong and rigid fiberboard or similar container or in a container that becomes rigid after the contents are enclosed and the container is secured. The parcel must be able to maintain its shape, integrity, and rigidity throughout processing and handling without collapsing into a letter-size or flat-size piece.

Ineligible Items

  • Priority Mail Express™
  • Periodicals pieces
  • First-Class Mail® letter-size and flat-size pieces
  • Standard Mail letters-size and flat-size pieces and all Enhanced Carrier Route Standard Mail pieces
  • Package Services letter-size and flat-size pieces
Scott (scalta) - ,
Date Posted: 4/15/2014 6:20 AM ET
Member Since: 2/20/2010
Posts: 723
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You can refer to the following information on how to handle mail received from a PBS member, with postage due:


Cathy A. (Cathy) - ,
Date Posted: 4/15/2014 9:21 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2005
Posts: 4,150
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Here's the information that's in the PaperBackSwap Help Center.


Are there any requirements to use Delivery Confirmation?

Yes.   The package must be at least 3/4 of an inch thick ("at its thickest point"), according to USPS Delivery Confirmation Regulations, and is being sent to a USPS-validated address.

  • If your package is NOT 3/4 of an inch thick, then it must meet ALL of the following criteria:
  1. "rigid" (most books are)
  2. be greater than 6" x 3" x 1/4 " in dimension
  3. weigh more than 6 ounces

If you are concerned that your package does not meet the dimensional criteria above, you can always "bulk up" its dimensions with lightweight material that will not add significant weight (for example, Styrofoam, crumpled plastic bags or paper).

Date Posted: 4/15/2014 10:53 AM ET
Member Since: 5/26/2013
Posts: 16
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Thank you for all the help! It seems to me that PBS might need to throw up a red flag to everyone on this when printing labels, because people aren't getting the message. For me to have gotten 3-4 "need more postage" pieces of mail through PBS in 2-3 weeks time means people are not getting the message. Maybe a pop up window that says "Hey, you must meet these requirements or your package will not have sufficient postage." or something. I don't know...it sure is a pain on my end though :/

Cathy A. (Cathy) - ,
Date Posted: 4/15/2014 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2005
Posts: 4,150
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This is really only a problem for skinny floppy books, which are a small minority of swaps; so if you typically order those, you could consider adding some requestor conditions that say something like "Due to my local Post Office's strict enforcement of parcel shipping rules, please make sure that your package is rigid and more than 1/4" thick. If this is a very thin paperback, you may need to add a piece of cardboard to it to make it rigid."

Date Posted: 4/15/2014 8:32 PM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2009
Posts: 28
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I have several customers that ship collectable magazines from ebay. They, of course, want tracking, but do not want to have to send it Priority mail. There are a few things you can do to make it qualify as a package. You can put cardboard or something in it to make it rigid. But the lighter weight alternative is to put packing peanuts or something similar in with it to make it lumpy and bumpy. If there is more than 1/4" difference between the thinnest part and the thickest part then it qualifies as a package. This is what I usually recommend since it weighs less than cardboard and means less postage.

I think adding an RC to any order you think is something thin and flexible is probably your best bet.

Date Posted: 5/4/2014 5:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/7/2009
Posts: 793
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My post office told me this week that if it is in a padded envelope it automatically is a parcel.  I sent a very small padded envelope (about 3x4) with some coupons in it and was charged approx 2.50 to mail. No DC.   Had I put them in a regular envelope it would have been 0.70.

Date Posted: 5/7/2014 8:38 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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First class parcels are not the same as listed above. If it's more than 3/4" thick it doesn't have to be rigid, I have a business where I send a ton of soft items in a poly mailer. It can weigh less than 6oz too. Regulations for package categories that are NOT first class parcels are being thrown about here but they aren't relevant.

Date Posted: 5/7/2014 9:02 PM ET
Member Since: 7/30/2007
Posts: 4,275
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NO Becca, The regulations posted here ARE for first class packages.  No one said if it's over 3/4" it has to be rigid...They have all said that if it's UNDER 3/4" then it HAS to be rigid. 

To use Delivery Conformation service with first class parcels they have to be EITHER 3/4" OR 

  • it must meet ALL of the following criteria:
  1. "rigid" (most books are)
  2. be greater than 6" x 3" x 1/4 " in dimension
  3. weigh more than 6 ounce

This isn't saying that you can't send something First Class Parcel rate that doesn't meet the criteria, but you CAN NOT use DC if you do.  

Date Posted: 5/8/2014 12:38 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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The only time I've had issues with First Class combined with Tracking, is mailing something small...like would fit in a regular/non-business size white envelope. In those cases I've had to make the parcel rigid or bump to a different size envelope (bigger and/or padded).

I've mailed bunches of PBS books (various pocketbook thicknesses) with zero problems.