Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The USPS and shipping changes

On May 14, the United States Postal Service (USPS) changed a good deal about their shipping policies. What's very well known (at least here in the states) is that the basic first class stamp price went up two cents from $0.39 to $0.41. Still a far cry cheaper than any postage system anywhere else in the world, from what I understand, but since the rate went up from $0.37 to $0.39 just over a year ago (in January 2006) you can understand why there's some grumbling.

But more significantly, at least for me, were some major changes that affect how I ship things.

First of all, international shipping has been completely revamped. There no longer is such a thing as "Airmail Letter Post", which is how I used to send my cards to non-US customers. Now there is what they call "USPS International First Class". It's slightly more expensive (that rate went up as did all the others), but more importantly it means that EVERY SINGLE EBAY LISTING I HAVE IS MESSED UP! Every card I had up in the store listed "Airmail Letter Post" as a shipping option. Now that this does not exist, I have to edit every one of these listings and add the new International First Class option. I would think it would be easy enough for eBay to just edit this automatically, but NO, that's not how they do things. To make matters worse, if I have listed say 10 copies of a card as a single listing, and one has sold, I can no longer edit anything except the quantity and price of the item. So anything like this I have to end the listing and relist (being hit with a listing fee again). And remember that I have in excess of 3000 cards listed, so this is going to take a while. eBay's bulk editor doesn't really do me too much good because of the number of cards that have to be taken down and relisted. One bright note is that because of all the recent stock I've added to the store (see my previous post), I have to edit a lot of these listings any way to add the new inventory, so it's just one more thing to edit.

The other major pain is that in addition to raising the rate for first class mail, the USPS has also changed how they charge for items. Now your postage depends not just on the weight of the item, but it's size as well. There's a postcard rate, a regular envelope rate, a large envelope rate and a parcel rate - all for first class. If I send a single card in a puffy envelope, it's less than one ounce. But I can't send it for $0.41 - it's classified as a "large envelope" because it's larger than 1/4 inch thick. If it were over 3/4 inch thick it's classified as a parcel - even if it's under 1 ounce! And to add insult to injury, in order to get the nifty tracking number I get when I print shipping labels through PayPal, I have to send it at the parcel rate even though it isn't that thick(technically you can't get a tracking number for first class large envelope). So what used to cost me $0.66 to mail ($0.39 for postage, $0.13 for a "nonstandard envelope" and $0.14 for a tracking number) now costs me $1.31 ($1.13 for the first class parcel rate and $0.18 for a tracking number). Basically my shipping doubled!

Now, I only charge my customers what it costs me to mail these cards, so I'm not a seller who gouges on shipping to make money. But it certainly seems that way now to a potential buyer, I'm afraid! I may have to decide to do away with the PayPal labels and tracking numbers and drop down to hand-addressed "first class large envelope" rates. That would only be $0.80 for an envelope under one ounce.