Another Government Rip-off

I was at the Post Office yesterday, waiting for the clerk, so I leaned over the counter to read this sign I saw posted. What it said, basically, was that clerks should try to sell customers the most expensive shipping service possible. First, they will ask you if you want Express Mail, and if you decline (which you should) they'll offer you Priority Mail. The sign also said not to offer Parcel Post, which is the cheapest option. If the customer asks for it, the sign said, try to convince him/her of the benefits of Priority Mail before granting that rate. Outrageous! Here's more, and apparently the USPS won't offer you First Class, either. (In addition, and partially unrelated to this, if you ship books or CDs, you can send them "media mail," which is pretty inexpensive. The USPS doesn't publicize that too much, either).

I read the sign, but I didn't catch its full implications. I shipped an international package, and when my shipping options came up on the little screen, there were only two options, Express and Priority. I guess I figured that Parcel Post didn't apply internationally, so I went Priority. I also didn't think that "not offering cheaper services" included not listing them on the little screen. Upon coming home and checking rates online, I found that I could have saved $9 by going First Class. Of course, the package would have taken much longer to get there, but that's a price I'm willing to pay.

Businesses also try to upsell you, but that's not objectionable. First, they don't hide items behind the counter and not tell you about them. Second, businesses don't consistently make you stand in line for 15-20 minutes to use their services. If the USPS wants to act like a business and raise revenue, they should act like a business throughout the organization, by cutting costs and improving customer service, not just by trying to increase revenue.

If you are going to send something this Christmas season, or anytime, be sure to ask if there are cheaper options available than Priority. If they resist, you should insist. And tell them Craig warned you about theirlittle scheme.


  1. Our Post Office here always lets me know the price differences and all the mailing options. 'Course this is kind of like Mayberry here, and the counter guys know me by name.

    (I can't believe they actually posted these policies!)

  2. last time i was at the post office, i asked if i could mail my package first class. i was told NO, it's the same thing as priority. i didn't even think about it...but now i am totally mad. did i get hosed?

  3. I knew it! I can't believe that sign. Check your options online at http://postcalc.usps.gov/ before going to the post office.