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PO’d at the PO

Oh, USPS, it is hard to love you, or even like you.  We seem to have more and more packages going AWOL.

And while for years the USPS has been plagued by lower volumes of first class mail, the drop box at our local main post office might indicate otherwise.  This is what I found as I went to drop off a customer package this morning.

We aren’t talking about a small box.

More often than not, this is how I find it, full to the brim.

While USPS is still the cheapest option for us to ship, it does come with drawbacks.


There is still time to order for Christmas (12/12/22)


Our orders typically ship the next business day from when placed.  I did a little reality check today and look at at some orders shipped in the last couple of weeks to see how long the USPS is taking to deliver packages to various parts of the US.  Our shipments from from Nevada.

NY: 2 days
NJ: 3 days
NC: 2-3 days
GA: 2 days
AZ: 2 days
ID: 3 days
VA: 4 days
ND: 2 days
PA: 3 days
MA: 3 days
MO: 3 days
OR: 2 days
CA: 2 days
NE: 4 days

These are pretty stellar results; anywhere in the us in 2-3 days for the most part.  The USPS is back to the normal First Class shipping time we were blessed with in 2019.  Compare this to 2020 (1-2 weeks for delivery) and 2021 (3-5 days for delivery).

Based on the above results, you can likely order through this weekend for delivery next week before Christmas.

That said, the USPS is famous in the last couple of years for the occasional package taking a wrong turn.  Here is a perishable order I am waiting for.

Caveat emptor.


Beware the blue postal mailboxes

I’m not sure if this is about another USPS failure, or a general commentary of our time, and the rising crime rate.  Years ago, after getting my mail rifled through and some Netflix DVDs stolen (that’s how long ago it was) I switched to a locking mailbox and only dropping off mail in the blue USPS mail drop boxes.  Later, I switched to using a UPS store mailbox, but I still drop my mail in the blue USPS mail drop boxes.  But apparently, those are no longer guaranteed to be safe.

Sigh.  I guess I’ll be more careful to drop my mail directly in front of the main post office, where I hope the mailboxes are secure, or later in the afternoon, closer to the 5pm last pickup of the day.  Not to pick on the USPS, but our post office has two blue drop boxes, one extra large, and one just large.  The extra large one is often full right up to the spout, where someone can easily grab letters out of it.  I’m not sure if that is a testament to the USPS not going a good job emptying it (or having enough boxes) or of a somewhat absurd level of trust of people that no-one will take their mail that is within easy reach.  After all, I’m guessing most people that use the blue letter boxes are doing so because of a bad experience with leaving outgoing mail in their own mailbox.

Anyways, we can always look forward to some entertainment from packages that go on unexpected trips around the world over the holidays.



A word about returns

Some years ago, before getting married and having a family, a woman I was dating was almost obsessed with returning a can of paint to K-Mart.  The gallon of paint cost $12 and some change.  For whatever reason, it took four trips to finally get the return done.  To her, it clearly wasn’t about the money (she undoubtedly spend more time and (gas) money effecting the return than she got back); it was about the principal.  She had been given the wrong color or something and she was determined she get her money back.

With that in mind, I have a comment about sending returns back to us.  Let me say that we are happy to accept returns, do the degree that we will refund everything but what it cost us to ship the part(s) to you.  Even that doesn’t really cover out cost of sending orders, as our fulfillment costs (labor + postage + packaging) are more than we charge for shipping on every order.  But that’s fine, we’ll take that hit.  And I should say, if the incorrect order is our fault (something more than a customer not fully reading our website product description), we’ll cover the shipping too; it’s the right thing to do.

What surprises me is when people send low cost items back and it costs them more postage than they will get as a refund.  For example, we recently received a return for a hardware set that we sell for $4.49, and the shipping on the outside of the return enveloped was for $4.50.  I have to wonder what was gained by sending the return back.  Perhaps it is a principle thing.

On that note, if for some reason we mess up and send you the wrong part, you may find that we may want you to just keep or dispose of the wrong part, rather than send you a return envelope; if the cost of all that return shipping is more than the cost to produce the part, it just doesn’t make sense from our perspective.



Beware of porch package theft

Given the prominence package theft from porches has seen the last few years, I probably don’t need to remind anyone to take care in removing your delivered packages from your porch as soon as possible after delivery.  But I will anyways, given that we’ve had a number of packages delivered to the correct address go missing in the last couple of months.  There are some easy things you can do to better protect yourself.

– Get a camera or video doorbell on your porch. We’ve all seen plenty of videos of people stealing packages, that seem to be aware of the cameras, but at least this gives you some certainty that a package was stolen, and not mis-delivered, and gives you photos and video to submit along with a police report.

– Talk to the drivers.  We’ve tried to talk to our delivery drivers from Fedex, Amazon, UPS, and USPS to ask them to put packages behind the columns on our porch and not right in the middle where they are prominently visible, and many of them do this consistently, so that is worth a try.

– Install a package drop or package delivery box.  At a former house we installed a package drop slot that went into our garage, for smaller packages and it worked well.

– Use a separate mailing address.  We also maintain a UPS store mailbox account, and whenever we are on vacation, we divert all deliveries there.  We also take care to have any high value items delivered there.


The USPS has done great this holiday season

I am happy to report that we haven’t had a single lost or detoured package over the last two months.  And by all indications, the delivery times are pretty close to the revised 3-5 day window for first class mail.  Compared to the 2020 holiday season, 2021 shipping with the USPS went really well.

I don’t track UPS and Fedex as closely, because we rarely ship using any service other then that USPS.  But I can tell you that for the last couple of months, we’ve personally experienced a lot of delays with orders from Amazon; perhaps as much as 25% of our orders haven’t made their expected delivery day, and we’ve had a few that were very significantly delayed, and two that never showed up.  Compared to Amazon, the USPS comes out very much smelling like roses.


USPS shipping update – there is still time to order for Christmas!

We’ve issued a number of notices to order early for Christmas this year, based on the disastrous shipping situation that everyone experienced last year, with many standard First Class packages taking 3 or 4 weeks to arrive when ordered in late November or December 2020.

I’m happy to say this year things are going much better.  I just checked some recent shipments that shipped from our fulfillment contractor in Reno Nevada.

  • Shipped 12/8 to California: arrived 12/11
  • Shipped 12/8 to Montana: due to arrive today 12/13
  • Shipped 12/9 to Tennessee: due to arrive today 12/13
  • Shipped 12/9 to Austin, TX: due to arrive today 12/13
  • Shipped 12/10 to Illinois: due to arrive tomorrow 12/14
  • Shipped 12/10 to Minnesota: due to arrive tomorrow 12/14

It seems like all across the continental US, packages are arriving in 3-4 calendar days.  We have also not had any reports of any packages getting lost in the USPS system, or taking inadvertent long trips to places they aren’t supposed to go, like Guam or Hawaii.

As a comparison, we’ve personally had quite a few orders from be significantly delayed, or never arrive.  I’d say the USPS has really done a stand-up job of pulling their act together this year.

So you still have time to order from us and receive the package for Christmas.  But don’t wait too long!


USPS changes

The USPS recently implemented new standards for First Class mail.

Single piece first class mail traveling within the same region will still have a delivery time of two days.

This affects only letters and flats, not packages.  They are apparently still holding the standards the same for First Class Packages (2-3 days).   I don’t think those standard are anything close to the reality.  In our recent shipping time review, we found that even within the same region we ship from (west coast) still took an average of 3 1/2 days, not the two they claim, and cross country packages took 4-5 days on average.

Price hikes: They’ll be in place until at least Dec 26. And it could cost anywhere from 25 cents to $5 more to ship packages depending on the service. But don’t expect costs to go down much in the New Year: the agency plans to adjust prices twice a year, in January and July.

Since our shipping cost calculator queries the USPS system in real time, orders will reflect any price increase by the USPS.

Over the holiday season, postal performance sank: 71 percent on-time delivery for two-day mail and 38 percent for three-day mail during the last week of December.

Like we said, order items for the holidays very early this year.


Shipping companies release holiday ship-by-dates

We recently wrote about the current state of USPS shipping (which is how most of our orders are shipped as it is the lowest cost for packages of the size we ship).

An article in the Wall Street Journal today presents the official ship-by-dates as release by the USPS, UPS, and Fedex, for packages to arrive by December 24th, in time for Christmas.

The U.S. Postal Service is recommending domestic mail for destinations in the contiguous U.S. be sent by Dec. 15 for those using its ground service. The recommended date is Dec. 17 for first-class mail, Dec. 18 for priority mail, and Dec. 23 for priority mail express.

If this holds true, it will present a much better picture than last year, where many of our shipments shipped in early December took 2 weeks or more (some took 4 weeks) to arrive.  But I remain skeptical given the general disarray that is all things supply chain, are this year.

My advice, order by late November to insure delivery by Christmas, just to be sure.