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The Priority Mail Scam Part 1

June 6, 2010

I really do like the post office. I sell a lot of stuff on ebay, and I buy a lot of stuff mail order.  I have to say that if you want it fast, and shipped for a reasonable price the post office beats the heck out of the competition. A package from the other side of the country to me takes 2-3 days via priority mail, but for more money the same package gets here in a week or 10 days via UPS. So, I dig their service.  And I consider it somewhat of a modern miracle that they can move all that mail (80% of which I don’t want) all over the country day in and day out and do it with a pretty good rate of accuracy.  But here’s what bugs me:

I ship a lot of stuff.  95% of it goes via priority mail. The post office advertises that you can get  “free priority mail shipping supplies”.  In fact, they’ll even deliver boxes, labels, envelopes and more right to your house and not even charge you postage!  Of course you have to agree that you will only use it for sending priority mail packages. You can’t turn a priority box inside out and use it for parcel post, etc. OK. That’s fine with me. But here’s where the problem comes in.

Over the course of time I accumulate a lot of used priority mail boxes.  I save darn near every box that comes into the house because I either reuse it as is, or cut it up into cardboard for backing when I mail a photo, or a record, etc.  So a while back I used a hunk of cardboard from an old, used priority mail box to mail a 45 rpm record.  I folded 1/4 of the box (I used one side) put the record in, taped it up, and sent it off first class.  When it arrived the man getting the record was charged over $3 postage due because I had used a priority mail box, which required priority postage to be paid!  Now, hang on there Mr. Zip! I used 1/4 of an already USED priority mail box, that would have wound up in a landfill had I not reused it.  Not to mention I had sent this first class, taped around the edges with brown sealing tape.  There is NO WAY it could have been determined for certain that this was a piece of a priority mail box unless it was opened or tampered with.  However, it is AGAINST POST OFFICE REGULATIONS to open someone’s first class mail!  Even if it’s ticking and dripping toxic waste, there are a lot of complex hoops to go through before anything that’s not classed as “media mail” can be opened or inspected. So, how did they KNOW?  Second is the fact that they charged him for a service he did not receive!  Priority postage is REQUIRED when priority materials are used — so — ok, this would make some sort of sense if when SENDING the package priority mail postage was demanded, and the package went priority mail.  But when it’s arrived via first class which took a week, isn’t it a bit much to demand getting paid for a service you didn’t get?  So, basically the post office is demanding that ALL priority mail cardboard, boxes, envelopes, supplies, that have been USED not be recycled but destroyed!  I asked if I could return them to the post office, since they insist they still own them, and was told no.   Now remember, I didn’t try to commit fraud by trying to use a new priority mail box to send something in another class, I had used a scrap of a box that would have otherwise been garbage to send something in. By the way, I then wrote to the postmaster of the post office there and he wrote back telling me that someone had overstepped their bounds and he would refund me the $3.05.  I told him not to bother.  But since then I have had two other mailed records arrive to me from other sellers that had been marked “improper use of priority box” so apparently this has become their newest area of enforcement.

So they argue that the cost of the priority mail supplies is figured into the cost of priority mail shipping, so they MUST be used for nothing else.  Ah-HA! So the supplies aren’t FREE as they advertise — you PAY for them when you use them and ship via priority mail.  But if you’ve PAID for them, why can’t you use them as you see fit?  At least, why can’t you use them, once they’ve been used for their purpose once, as you see fit?  But wait just a cotton pickin’ minute here.  Every week I send priority mail packages that use NO priority mail packing supplies at all, simply because the priority boxes are not the correct size.  So, I’m paying priority rate which includes the cost of the packaging supplies, but I’m not getting the benefit of the supplies?  Now, wait just another cotton pickin’ minute here — just today I packed up THREE packages that are going out in USED priority mail boxes that I received items in, so I’m paying full priority rate, which includes the cost of “free” priority supplies, yet I’m not actually using any supplies? I’m getting SCREWED here.  I should be issued a credit every time I ship priority without using priority supplies, or whenever I reuse a used priority box!  I’d be happy if they gave me a free stamp every time I sent something priority and didn’t use a priority (free) box.

It’s all part of the priority mail scam, but you can work within the rules and come out OK if you use your noodle.  Up next: Flat Rate Boxes and how they hurt you! Stay tuned.


From → Consumer Alert!

  1. Martin permalink

    The USPS Priority mail boxes are ONLY to be used for Priority Mail.

    The Box itself is USPS PROPERTY.

    If you Cut and Modified the USPS Property you have committed a FELONY. You have Destroyed Government Property + you have used Government Property for a purpose other than it was intended for.

    You could be charged with FELONY MAIL FRAUD if the USPS wanted to make an example of you to scare others into not doing what you have done.

    I’ll be 100% honest with you.. I would take this site down right now and hope the USPS does not find out who you are.

    • Odd. I have a large quantity of “USPS Property” stacked up in my basement. It’s all been used. They won’t take it back, and have advised me I can throw it away or use it in my fireplace. I can also use any part of one of those used boxes to repair temporarily repair a broken garage window, cover a rusted out hole in my car floor, or store Christmas lights in them in the attic. But should I use so much as a 1% size piece of one of them in a first class package (e.g. as backing for a photograph send in a first class envelope) the world will end if I don’t pay priority shipping for that item. Amazing. Anytime post office representatives would like to stop by and remove their used property from my basement, just give me a call!

      I wonder if the millions of postal customers, who occasionally might use a priority mail box given away for free at their post office, have any idea of the legal ramifications of accepting that box!

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