COVID-19 Ripple Effect Continues

We’ve grown accustomed to rate increases over the years. It’s expected that prices will gradually rise overtime. The key word is “gradually.” What we’re experiencing as the world slowly enters the back side of the pandemic is a rapid rise in inflation and it’s being felt in every aspect of business. Inflation rate has climbed to 7.9% and surpassed the previous record mark of 7.5% in January 1982. We’re seeing price increases everywhere from the gas pump and grocery stores to shipping and retail merchandising.

The major shipping and package handling carriers like FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL traditionally raise their rates in January, something that happened on schedule at the beginning of this year. What was out of the norm was how much they raised their rates. FedEx, UPS, and DHL increased their general rates by 5.9% this year, which is a full percentage higher than normal. While most shippers won’t notice much of a change in general shipping, they will see a drastic change in large package shipments. For example, UPS increased rates between 8-16.7% for large packages, between 5.2-13.9% for additional handling fees, and between 9.23-11.63% for deliveries to rural addresses.

USPS also increased rates (3.1%) on Priority Mail services, but there are more increases coming on April 3 of this year. Customers who ship large items will want to be aware of these new rates aimed at large packages taking up excess space on the carrier vehicles. These packages leave little room for other packages, which results in USPS spending more on transportation costs with extra trips to collect, sort, and transport all the packages. USPS will introduce the Nonstandard Fees surcharge on April 3 for packages with a length of 22-30 inches. The fee is $4. The fee for any package longer than 30 inches will be assessed a $15 fee. There will also be an additional $15 owed on packages that have a volume over two cubic feet. These fees will be applied for Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Package Service, USPS Retail Ground, and Parcel Select.

The second USPS surcharge coming on April 3 is the Dimension Noncompliance Fee. This fee will be assessed when dimensions are missing or entered incorrectly when processing a shipment. Expect to pay $1.50 if you forget a dimension or enter the wrong dimensions on Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, and Parcel Select packages larger than one cubic foot (12 x 12 x 12) or longer than 22 inches. More people are utilizing the online feature of generating their own shipping label and then dropping the package off at the Post Office. There may be a temptation to assume you can sneak omissions past the Post Office, but not with their Automated Package Verification System. This system scans packages on all sides and measures it simultaneously. If it determines the numbers are incorrect, the person who generated the label may be charged the fee on their account or on a future shipment.

Shipping isn’t the only area where customers are seeing rising prices. Retail merchandise is also seeing prices increase. COVID-19 sent shockwaves through the supply network chain and continues to wreak havoc as companies all over the world grapple with moving forward. The strain on the supply chain has been a unique situation probably never before seen. Economists have predicted this to be more than a short-term headache and will probably be more of a long-term environment.

A lot of factors have led to a rise in prices. Plastics, paper, and wood have seen an average increase of 10-20% and beyond in some cases. Minimum wage has increased to $15 or higher in most states on top of sign on bonuses. There is still a need for skilled labor despite the overall labor force seeing fewer workers. A smaller labor force means goods are not moving as quickly. Factor in circumstantial delays like weather, quarantine time, or a pandemic and the supply chain quickly grinds to a snail’s pace. Ocean freight containers can run between $2,000-$22,000 on top of a share of Premium rates. It all equates to customers paying more at the register.

There’s also been many cases of “shrinkflation” across the country. Shrinkflation occurs when companies remove or downsize packaging to maintain a consistent price. In other words, while the price you pay at the register remains the same, the amount of what you get is less. Doritos is the most recent example of this process. Frito-Lay announced they would remove five chips per bag in an effort to control rising costs. Crest toothpaste is one more example. The brand is shrinking their tubes from 4.1-ounce containers to 3.8-ounce containers. Other examples include Charmin, Bounty, and Gatorade.

It all makes for a confusing and sometimes frustrating time for consumers. There are things you can do to avoid mental headaches. When shipping items, make sure you’re packing items in a box that doesn’t have a lot of void space. There’s no sense paying for unused volume. Fragile items should be packed appropriately to prevent damage, but there shouldn’t be a lot of open space in the box. If you generate your own shipping labels online, double-check and make sure your dimensions are accurate. When purchasing retail items, considering buying extra (so long as it’s within your budget of course) so you don’t have to worry about future price increaes.

Navigating these changes times can be difficult. Your local pack and ship (and retail!) store is here to help you. We can show you how to resize boxes to down on volume, recommend the right size box to ship with, and so much more. Stop in and see us soon!

Tips for Holiday Shipping

The holidays are here once again! If it seems like Thanksgiving and Christmas have arrived sooner than previous years, it may be due to the urgency to get gift packages shipped out right away. All the major carriers like UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service have urged customers to ship early to avoid delays in December.

We’ve come up with a short list of tips for all the do-it-yourself packers out there. If you plan to pack your own shipments this holiday season, we recommend you follow these guidelines to ensure your gifts arrive in one piece.

Tip #1: Make sure the item(s) can be shipped

This may seem obvious, but you may be surprised by what can and can’t be shipped. All the carriers have published lists on their websites of what can and can’t be shipped. Some carriers, like USPS, have more restrictions than others. For example, shipping a bottle of wine is permisable with UPS, but not USPS. Other items may be shipable, but must be done in a specific way, such as firearms. If you’re not sure if what you’re shipping is allowed, visit the carrier links below or contact your local pack and ship store for more information.

USPS: https://pe.usps.com/text/pub52/welcome.htm

UPS: https://www.ups.com/us/en/help-center/shipping-support/prohibited-items.page

FedEx: https://crossborder.fedex.com/us/assets/prohibited-restricted/united-states/index.shtml

Tip #2: Consider your shipping container and packaging

There’s always a strong temptation to reuse any old box we have around the house. Recycling is great, but consider this when reusing an old box: Boxes lose 60% of their strength after the first use. This means the liklihood of your items getting damaged during transit is higher in a used box than they are in a new, unused box. If it’s not packed properly, those odds are even higher.

Plain, unmarked cardboard boxes are the best to use. If you do elect to reuse a box, make sure all old labels are removed or blacked out. This includes warning labels that do not apply to what your shipping like hazardous or perishable. Using containers not encased in cardboard (transit cases, wood crates, plastic totes, etc.) will incur an additional handling fee from the carriers.

Tip #3: Pack the item(s) securely

How you pack the item is just as important as the shipping container you use. If you’re shipping anything fragile, the carriers require you have a minimum of two inches of cushioning around all sides of the item. Acceptable cushioning material includes polystyrene sheets, packing peanuts, brown kraft paper, air pillows, bubblepack, or soft foam sheets. The goal is to immobilize the item(s) in the center of the box away from all side walls. This helps protect against compression and shock. For extremely valuable or breakable items, you should pack the box into a secondary box to further protect the contents.

Never overfill a box to the point the flaps don’t meet in the middle. If your box is too small, it’s best to use a larger box or pack your items into separate boxes. It also helps the package handlers and drivers manuever your box better when there’s less weight. For UPS and FedEx shipping in the United States, packages must weigh less than 150 pounds and must not be larger than 165 inches length plus girth (the measurement around the thickest part of the box). USPS boxes must way less than 70 pounds and must not be larger than 130 inches length plus girth.

It’s better to use more cushioning material than not enough. Not sure if you used enough? One trick is to hold the box and gently turn it end-over-end. You shouldn’t hear anything moving around inside (unless you’re sending LEGOs or a puzzle, of course). Another question to ask yourself regarding your packing job is, “If this box fell off my kitchen counter, will the contents surive the fall?” If you hear the items sliding around or answer “No” to the kitchen counter question, add more cushioning.

No one wants to process a claim in December. Make sure you follow sound packing techniques so the gifts arrive in one piece.

Tip #4: Confirm the receiver’s address and contact information

If you’re shipping to a relative or loved one you haven’t shipped to in awhile (or ever), make sure you have a correct address for them. Sometimes addresses are updated or changed. Perhaps the person you’re shipping to has moved since you last visited. Make sure there are no unique features for the address like an apartment number, specific location to deliver the package, or other information critical to the carriers.

Another important thing to have is the receiver’s phone number. Your local pack and ship store will ask for this when generating the shipping label. This helps the driver if they’re having difficulties delivering the package by giving them the means to contact the receiver.

Your receiver can also recommend a preferred carrier. Some areas are better handled by one carrier over the others. They may also have an agreement with a regular driver to have packages dropped off at their back door for package security reasons. You can also ask your receiver if you need to have a signature required to prevent porch pirates from stealing the package.

Tip #5: Include the destination address inside the box

Accidents happen; even at Christmastime. Shipping labels may sometimes be decimated or torn off during transit. It’s a good idea to write the receiver’s address on a piece of paper or note card and include it inside the box.

This will help the carrier deliver the box should something unfortunate happen to the shipping label on the inside of the box. It doesn’t happen often, but precaution is the best defense against an abandoned shipment.

Tip #6: Ship early to avoid expected delays

Christmas 2021 figures to be as unique as last year. All the carriers saw record volume numbers last holiday season and are expecting the same–if not more–this year. They’re encouraging shippers to get their gifts out early to better ensure on time arrival for Christmas. Unexpected delays are likely this year as supply chains continue to buckle under the global pandemic. The shipping carriers have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic, but even they are not immune to having drivers and handlers quarantine.

Inflation is another concern as shipping rates have increased in the last year. USPS raised prices for select services on August 29 while FedEx and UPS issued new rate structures just ahead of this year’s holidays. Shoppers began purchasing items as early as October in hopes of beating the traditional holiday rush and to avoid supply chain delays and additional price increases. According to US News, Home Depot reported a 9.8% increase in retail sales while Walmart reported a 4% increase in October. Fuel has increased by 46.8% compared to last year and has been reflected in rising shipping costs.

The chances of a traditional Black Friday where eager consumers camp outside the store are highly unlikely this year. Retailers have spaced out their Black Friday specials with some beginning even before the Halloween candy was put away. More consumers are ordering online and taking advantage of programs like Amazon Hub Counter where their orders get delivered to a local neighborhood business where it’s held until the customer can pick it up free of charge.

With higher volume already entering the shipping stream, the carriers are stressing people ship their packages as soon as possible to lighten the burden being placed on their vast infrastructure.

If you need any assistance with packing or purchasing the right materials for a successful shipment, we recommend you visit your local pack and ship store. They can help you pick the materials and give you additional tips based on what you’re shipping. Don’t have time to get all those gifts packed? They can do that for you, too!

We hope these tips will help you have a safe and successful holiday shipping season!

In the Face of Change

When the calendar flipped to March 1, few, of us imagined where our country and the world would be at the end of the month. All of us were planning gatherings with friends and family, purchasing tickets to sporting or other entertainment events, and expecting life to continue as normal.

Then everything changed. We started hearing phrases like “social distancing,” “quarantine,” “safer at home” and “stay in place” as the coronavirus gradually grew and turned into a pandemic that swept the nation. Schools were closed. Business held out as long as they could before closing. Much of the sports world paused their seasons or cancelled headline events. Suddenly we were encouraged to stay home and limit our trips to essential businesses only.

It’s been an interesting month for those of us at The Mail Box Store. When the month began, we were examining where our company was and revisiting our goals for the year. There was also self-examination: What makes us unique? How can we better serve our customers? Are we delivering an excellent customer service experience? What makes this family function?

We were also preparing to host a second spring conference for other stores in our industry in April. We were successful with this event last year and the anticipation of putting on a second, bigger and better event was on the forefront of our minds. Our theme this year was about vision, since this year is 2020. The goal was to help stores get focused and figure out who they are in 2020. COVID-19 quickly changed all that as we decided to postpone our conference to October.

Suddenly, we tried holding tightly to anything that would anchor us as the winds of change blew our community and country in every direction. Ironically, some of the questions we asked ourselves at the beginning of the month are being answered during this unprecedented time of upheaval to “normalcy.” It’s also encouraged us to refocus our vision and find ways to help our communities.

Here is what we’ve done so far this month to help our customers and communities.

Increased Cleaning Procedures

Our store qualifies as an essential business as we are needed by the community to maintain a functioning society. We immediately put in place updated cleaning and sanitizing procedures to keep our staff and customers safe. Following the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control continues to be a top priority in our stores. Signs are posted encouraging customers to maintain a respectable distance from fellow customers.

Free Package Pick Up

FreePackagePickUp-01The State of Illinois put a stay in place order into effect earlier this month, which encouraged residents to stay at their home and limit their trips to essential businesses only. We understand some people prefer to stay home for their safety, but they still have items to ship. To help our community stay safe and still get packages shipped, we’ve suspended our normal pick up fee. Customers can visit our pick up website and schedule a FREE pick up with our store. We’re picking up prepaid shipments as well as items that need to be packed and shipped anywhere in the world. To schedule a pick up, visit bit.ly/TMBS_PickUp.

Digital Mail Box Service

DigitalMailboxRental-01Digital mail boxes are a great way to receive your mail at a physical address and have full control over what happens to the mail or packages. Our digital mail box service allows you to see an image of all mail received at our location as well as options to manage the mail. Options include opening and scanning, forwarding, recycling, and shredding. This allows our store to act as a filter for your mail by enabling you to get only the mail you actually need. You can manage every piece of mail without ever seeing it!

We have standard plans on our digital mail box website, but we’re excited to share a new plan specifically for this quarantine period we’re experiencing. It’s a great option if you’ve ever considered a digital mail box, but didn’t want to commit long term. Visit the link below and select the “Quarantine 2020” plan for details on pricing and allowances.

https://themailboxstore1.anytimemailbox.com/signup

Free Print Delivery

PrintOrderDoorstepDelivery-01Not only do our customers still need packages shipped out, but some need important documents printed. This is another area where we’ve shifted our focus to allow for free delivery of print jobs. It doesn’t matter how many documents you’re printing. If you need us to delivery your paperwork to you, we are more than willing and happy to do that! This allows you to stay in place and stay safe while still getting your work done.

Visit this link to schedule a print order for FREE delivery: bit.ly/PrintOrderForm

Maintaining Normal Hours

We’ve been fortunate enough to keep our doors open without changing our hours or staffing situation. Our store is committed to helping as many people as possible during this time of uncertainty. Our goal is to remain operational despite the pandemic while maintaining safe practices to keep our staff and customers safe.

As a country, we’re now a couple weeks into the COVID-19 quarantine and collectively doing our best to maintain a calm atmosphere. We hold onto hope that medical professionals will find a cure to the virus. For your friends at The Mail Box Store, we remain committed to doing everything we can for as long as we’re able. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who may be on the front lines of this pandemic.

All of us are in this together. It’s time we look out for and look after each other. It may be the greatest lesson we take out of this experience.

Stay safe and well!

The New Nomad

women-4631494_1280There is a growing community within the workforce that combines fun and adventure with earning a paycheck. “Digital nomads” is what they’re being called. They are people who have left behind the typical 9:00-5:00 workday at the office for a more independent schedule allowing them to travel.

No single definition fits digital nomads, whom research says number at about five million independent workers. They are represented by all types of age, gender and race. Most are young males, but a 2018 study by State of Independence in America found that 31% are female and 54% are over 38 years old. They’re individuals looking for a better balance between work and life. People are placing a higher value on experiences (mainly travel), and being a digital nomad offers the freedom to achieve this balance.

Digital nomads combine working remotely with travel (“workcation” as some describe it). It can last for several weeks or months; there’s no standard time frame. In rare cases, some work for many years as a digital nomad while traveling through different countries and earn a living throughout the journey.

So who are digital nomads? Most are freelancers, independent contractors, self-employed, writers, designers, editors, content creators, IT professionals, and more. The common denominator with these professions is all can be done remotely thanks to cloud-based file sharing and other digital tools. They can work anywhere in the world if they have an Internet connection.

It’s a growing trend with digital nomads at the forefront as more work shifts to mobile. A Gallup poll recently found that 43% of Americans work remotely at some point. Companies are beginning to recognize the shift to digital and have grown comfortable hiring digital nomads. Digital nomads have grown in popularity to the extent that about 17 million people said in the 2018 SIA survey they plan to leave their traditional job in the next 2-3 years to become digital nomads.

How do digital nomads get important information like their mail if they’re living remotely? That’s where companies like The Mail Box Store come in.

Our locations offer a great digital mail receiving service that enables our customers to travel and keep track of their mail. Once you sign up for a digital mail box, you can have all your mail sent to our location. You get a real street address, so you don’t have to worry about carriers not delivering packages to us. We take a picture of your mail and upload it to your personal digital mailbox platform. This allows you to see what mail you received and gives you control of what happens after that. You can choose to have us open and scan, recycle, shred, or forward the mail to your current location.

Many postal customers have found a benefit with USPS Informed Delivery which tells them when a package or mail piece is expected to arrive and what it looks like. As of 2017, over 15 million users have signed up for Informed Delivery just to see what mail is coming. A digital mailbox does all that and more! The best part is anyone can rent a digital mailbox! You don’t have to be living the digital nomad lifestyle, although we find our nomadic friends really get the most value out of a digital mailbox.

Digital mailboxes also offer privacy and security. Our stores are under 24-hour surveillance and all mail is stored in a locked, climate-controlled room. You don’t have to worry about mail or packages being left out in the rain or getting snatched off the porch while you’re away.

If you would like to learn more about digital mailboxes or to sign up, please visit www.anytimemailbox.com, click the locations tab and select Illinois. Choose either Bethalto, Highland or O’Fallon and sign up today!

Shipping Revolution

Ask anyone on the street to name a popular shipping company and you’ll likely hear “UPS” or “FedEx.” Few people would answer “Amazon.” That may change very soon.

Amazon has been bolstering its logistics network the last several years. They now operate over 400 warehouses and 185 fulfillment centers in the United States, have a cargo fleet of 60 planes operating from over 20 airports, and run 20,000 delivery vans. You may have noticed more of your Amazon orders showing up at your door without a UPS label. That’s because Amazon’s goal is to be its own delivery company.

The global leader in online retail is well on its way to doing just that. It’s estimated that one in every five deliveries is an Amazon package and 60% of them are delivered by an Amazon driver. The company spent $27 billion last year to ship items. That’s enough motivation to invest in their own network to keep that profit in their pockets instead of in UPS and FedEx.

amazon-prime-air-plane-on-runwayUPS and FedEx are middlemen in the equation. We all know one goal in business is to remove the middleman from your operations. FedEx saw the writing on the wall and ended its ground contract with Amazon in August after suspending the air contract in June. FedEx stated the earned revenue from the contract was less than 1.3% of their total revenue. They also stated wanting to focus on the broader e-commerce market rather than one specific company.

Ironically, it wasn’t long after the breakup that Amazon announced it would help third-party businesses develop their own surface delivery networks as part of their Delivery Service Program. FedEx then announced it would expand delivery services to seven days a week starting in January 2020.

Amazon has drastically changed the way businesses operate. Remember when Amazon debuted free two-day shipping with a Prime subscription? It wasn’t long after other retailers like Walmart and Target began offering free or discounted two-day shipping if a minimum order amount was reached. Retailers are trying to take a page out of Amazon’s playbook. Walmart now has 6,000 delivery trucks while Home Depot is developing its own supply chain and delivery system.

It once seemed laughable that Amazon could compete with UPS and FedEx, especially after DHL tried and quickly decided to stay in the international market. It’s no longer a laughable matter as Amazon has started referring to UPS and FedEx as “competitors.” It’s now a question of “when,” not “if.”

Amazon certainly has the money to be successful in developing their own logistics programs and software. The company reported $140 billion in revenue last year. It’s estimated that Amazon could save up to $2 billion if it can bring more shipping needs in-house. There’s no telling what that would do to UPS and FedEx. The shares of the latter companies dropped 20% in 2018 right as Amazon began handling more of its shipping logistics.

The Post Office could stand to take a hit from Amazon’s growing logistics network as well. They currently deliver 40-45% of Amazon’s packages in the final stage of delivery (also known as last mile delivery). While USPS is great at delivering to difficult or remote addresses, Amazon may do some of that themselves with their growing fleet of delivery vans. This would result in USPS losing even more mail pieces and revenue than what’s already been reported.

While Amazon may be a long way off from equaling the number of flights UPS and FedEx conduct every day or reaching the package volume of those carriers, there is no doubt they are affecting change in the industry. More businesses look to Amazon as a model and will adopt their strategies to reflect the giant retailer, whether or not it includes UPS, FedEx, or USPS.

Amazon may not completely remove the middleman from the industry, but they will cut a hole in his pockets and take whatever falls into their hands.

 

Sources

https://www.newsmax.com/newsfront/amazon-worlds-biggest-shipping/2019/09/25/id/934197/

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/07/fedex-to-end-ground-delivery-contract-with-amazon.html

Boxed In: Avoiding an Amazon QR Code

no qrAmazon has grown to be the biggest online retailer we’ve ever seen. Their retail value reached about $178 billion in 2017. They’ve become a game-changer in the way other retailers handle their online business (notice the prevalence in free two-day shipping lately?) and have begun competing against UPS and FedEx with their own delivery network.

As amazing as online ordering is, it does come with some drawbacks. Sometimes what you ordered isn’t what you hoped it would be. Items may be defective, not look like picture, is too large or small, or arrives damaged. There are several possible scenarios for why an item needs to be returned to Amazon.

Returning an item through Amazon’s site is fairly quick and easy . . . until you go to your local shipping store and learn they can’t scan the QR code that Amazon emailed you. If you speed through the return process, you’ll likely select the default option that says, “No Printer? No problem, print @ The UPS Store.” This option generates a QR code that gets sent to your email on file. You simply take the QR Code into The UPS Store, show them the code, they scan it, and get your items shipped out.

The only problem is not everyone has The UPS Store nearby. Some live in rural areas with the closest location several miles away. So, what can you do?

One option is to contact Amazon and request a shipping label be emailed to you in place of a QR code. Print the label out and take it to any store that offers UPS shipping. This option has fewer steps, but it my take longer to get a representative on the phone and to explain your situation. There is a second option if you prefer to do-it-yourself.

When you get to the screen asking “How will you mail your return?”, look below the default option for The UPS Store. You should see a list of alternate options or a link with a number for “Other Return Options.” Select that and then choose “UPS Dropoff.” Continue with the return and choose the option to “Email copy of label.” You’ll receive an actual shipping label in your email or, if you don’t have a printer available, select the option to send it to a friend (like your neighborhood shipping store!) and they can print it for you. This gives you the option to take your package to any location that offers UPS shipping.

If you do decide to use the QR code, make sure you are going to “The UPS Store.” Just because you see a UPS logo on the outside of the building, it does not mean it’s The UPS Store. There are hubs, Authorized Shipping Outlets, distribution centers, and drop boxes all designed for different purposes. To save yourself time and frustration, call the location you plan to visit to ensure it is a corporate UPS Store that accepts the QR codes.

Don’t let returns become a frustration for you. Visit your local neighborhood shipping store if you need assistance with your returns. You don’t have to get boxed in with the returns process.

We’re here to help you sort it out!

Why Us?

TMBS Color (New)Finding an exceptional store to offer your business is a challenge people face every day. New options seem to pop-up overnight, changing and reshaping the retail landscape (or cyberscape) of where you can go to have your needs met.

Our store, The Mail Box Store, offers several services. Our customers often say the same thing after a few minutes of browsing: “Wow! You guys do a little bit of everything!” We do that intentionally; not because we can’t make up our minds as to who we are or what we’re about. Our goal is to make it convenient for our guests to do as much as they can in one place. That’s why you’re able to rent a private mail box, send a fax, get a document notarized, copy it, ship it at the speed and carrier of your preference, purchase office supplies, rent a U-Haul for the move you’re about to make into that beautiful new home you’re doing all this paperwork for, and much more.

There are many places you could go for all those services. That brings us to the title of this post. Why should you choose to spend your hard-earned money with us?

Allow me to be honest for the sake of respect and transparency. We are not the cheapest option available (for most services). The most common question we hear when shipping an item is, “Are you the same price as (insert carrier name)?” The answer is no, we are not. There are several reasons for this, but the main reason is we provide more services with our pricing. You work hard for your money, so it’s only fair we do the same to earn your business.

We offer to help carry your package(s) into the store, tape up the package(s), provide multiple carrier options, email you tracking numbers, and handling any issues that arise during transit. We provide you with the direct phone number to our store if you need assistance tracking your package. You don’t have to worry about calling an 800- number and jumping through hoops or talking to someone in a different country just to get an idea of where your package is located. Don’t feel like packing your item? Bring it to us and we’ll pack it for you with our expertise.

We’re trained professionals at what we do. Our staff are continually learning new skills and receiving training in packing and shipping. We attend regional workshops and national conventions every year to gain wisdom that will allow us to perform better and better.

Our managers recently attended the Retail Shippers Association Expo in Orlando, Florida this May. We learned about where the packing and shipping industry is going, studied the impact of e-commerce on the marketplace and how it effects all of us, tested new products for packing, and gained valuable insight on how to wow our customers with an unmatched experience.

Why do we do this? One reason: YOU. You, our customer, are our top priority. You are who we serve. We understand that a delightful experience for you is a benefit for everyone involved. Our goal is to offer the best experience possible. We call this our E5 Promise: Execute . . . Every Day . . . Every Hour . . . Every Customer . . . Every Time.

We’re not perfect. We make mistakes and have bad days like everyone else. Our intention is never to fail on our promise, but if we do, please tell us so we can take care of you and grow as a business and, more importantly, people in our communities.

The community is an important reason why you should chose us. When you choose us for your packing, printing, or shipping needs, you are supporting a local, family-owned, small business. Most of your hard-earned money goes back into the community where we live and work. We believe in supporting our community through donations and working with charitable organizations and non-profits to best meet their needs.

I’ve been a member of this team for eight years. Our store has grown through great and difficult times. When I started working here, I had no idea how long I would be part of this team. I can say with gratitude that I’m honored to be part of the staff at The Mail Box Store. I believe in our store and I believe in what we offer our customers and community.

I hope you will give us an opportunity to serve you. We would love to help you see “why us”!

Sincerely,

Barry Pfeiffer

Alternatives to Home Delivery

thMTKUZJSIOnline retail continues to grow as more and more people are ordering their goods and services online. Shorr Packaging reports that 37% of online shoppers shop online one to two times per month and 41% shop online three to five times per month (see the second link at the bottom of this post for more). The growth of e-commerce has bolstered the rapid expansion of online retailers like Amazon, Zappos, and others. Some major businesses have accepted the shift in consumer behavior and closed hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores to focus on a greater online presence.

Everyone has taken notice of the convenience of online shopping. You could be flying at 30,000 feet and order a new pair of shoes and have it arrive at your house in a day or two (maybe before you get back from your trip!). You could be lying on the couch, get out your smart phone, and order your groceries without driving to the store or moving your feet. While its made life seemingly easier, there is a price to convenience.

If you do not select to sign for your package upon delivery, you run the risk of the package being stolen . . . right off your doorstep. Most packages are delivered when the receiver is at work or during the day when they’re not home. Because of the high volume of packages, major carriers UPS, FedEx, and USPS cannot have their drivers knock and wait for someone to come the door on every package and still get all their packages delivered in a timely manner. What typically happens is the driver will knock or ring the doorbell, put the package on the porch, and leave; something they are within their right to do if a signature is not required. If you’re not home, the package has the potential to fall into the hands of a “porch pirate.”

This latest type of piracy is increasing across the country and becoming a common crime as goods are delivered instead of being purchased at the store. Porch pirates operate in a couple different ways. Some will follow the delivery trucks around and steal a package they think may be valuable once its been left on the porch. Others will wait at the end of a street for hours until a package is delivered and they feel its safe to steal it. The stolen items are then kept by the thief or sold online through eBay and other auction sites.

A recent article reported that in Denver alone there were 264 stolen packages in 2015. They estimate that number to be over 400 this year (you can read more about that in the article at the end of this post). Nationally, there have been an estimated 23 million packages stolen.

So what are consumers to do? How do you defend your castle from the invading commerce pirates?

The quick answer suggested by many retailers is to buy a home security system (irony). That’s certainly an option, but it does not guarantee your package will stay safe. Do a YouTube search of “porch pirates” and you’ll find countless videos of people stealing packages off of the porch despite the obvious surveillance. In some cases, they look at the camera before taking the package!

The problem with surveillance is the thief rarely has a clear, visible identity. Police have to either catch the pirates red handed or know someone who knows the person in the video, which makes catching them that much harder.

There is a better solution to ensuring you get your stuff. Below are five alternatives to receiving your home delivery package.

1. Get signature required on the package.
This is the easiest and fastest solution. There is a fee associated with this, but it can well be worth it depending on what you’re having sent to your house. Most people don’t get signature required because they can’t afford to stay home all day from work and wait for a package. That’s a very legitimate concern, which brings us to the rest of our list.

2. Utilize the UPS Access Point system.
UPS has recognized the growing problem of stolen packages and has come up with a creative way to ensure you get your items. They have reached out to local retail stores in your neighborhood (or close to it) and requested to use them as an alternate drop point for shipments.

It works like this: The driver leaves a door tag on your front door telling you they made a delivery attempt and gives instructions where you can retrieve your package (usually by the next business day). You take the door tag and your ID to the retail location and pick up the package where it’s being held safe and secure. The associate at the store has you sign a small terminal and releases the package to you after verifying your information. Granted, this will cause you an extra trip or delay delivery by a day, but it’s better than having no package at all!

There is no cost to the receiver for this program. It’s a great way UPS has recognized the problem and stepped up to make sure you get what you ordered.

3. Rent a Personal Mail Box (PMB) at your local pack and ship store.
This is not the same as a PO Box at the Post Office! PO Boxes will not accept UPS and FedEx packages. Your local neighborhood pack and ship store can (among other carriers)! This gives you the benefit of having all your packages delivered safely and securely to your PMB where they will be held until you pick them up. This is a great service because you don’t have to rearrange your work schedule or daily plans just to wait for a package. You also get a real street address to use!

There are rental fees and various box sizes to choose from, but it certainly costs less than reordering all your items again or buying a home security system and figuring out how to use it.

4. Have the package delivered to your local pack and ship store.
If you get a lot of packages delivered, renting a mail box is the way to go. If you rarely order packages and don’t want to rent a mail box for an extended time, contact your local pack and ship store about their package receiving service.

Most stores will let you have your package delivered to their location for a nominal fee. Make sure you contact them for their specific directions on how to address the package and what the costs are for using their location.

5. Have the package held at the local distribution center.
If you don’t have a local pack and ship store near you, you can reach out to the carrier and request the package be held at their distribution center. This requires you to go to the hub and pick up the package. An ID is typically required to retrieve the package.

These methods may have a fee associated with them or delay your receiving the package, but it’s a much better alternative to taking a risk and having your valuable items stolen from your porch. The retailer likely won’t send you a replacement for free, the carrier won’t be able to do much because a signature was not required, and the police will have little information to work off of as suspects are usually disguised and park near the end of the street out of the range of surveillance.

Don’t be the victim of porch piracy. Your local pack and ship stores, like The Mail Box Store, are here to serve you and make sure you get the items you paid for.

http://kdvr.com/2017/06/25/denver-porch-pirate-caught-on-camera-stealing-packages-from-disabled-veteran/

http://www.pymnts.com/news/ecommerce/2017/porch-pirate-theft-threatens-thriving-ecommerce-ecosystem/

The New Kid in Town

bn-pg492_amazon_m_20160805015636In the late night hours of Tuesday, August 2, a secret operation began in Rome, Italy. The mission: depart from Griffis International Airport, fly over 5,600 miles under cover of darkness heading west toward Seattle, Washington, arrive before dusk, and never be seen. It sounds like a CIA operation or a secret military objective, but it was far from it.

The team carrying out the mission was that of Atlas Air, their ship a Boeing 767-300, and their destination a hanger at Boeing Field. The mission was not planned by the government or military, but by Amazon. So why all the secrecy?

Amazon is making significant strides toward self-sufficiency in terms of their delivery network. Currently, the e-commerce giant uses UPS and FedEx to deliver their products to consumers. One goal of every business is cutting as much expense as possible. Amazon may have not only found a way to do that, but also put a challenge to the big shipping giants by creating its own shipping and delivery infrastructure to get packages from Point A to B. Hence the secrecy.

Amazon revealed their new cargo jet, complete with “Prime Air” in decals on the fuselage, on August 4 inside the Boeing hanger. The plane will be one of 40 in the newly formed fleet of planes, trucks, and drivers. The announcement came days before the Boeing Seafair Air Show in Seattle, where the plane was to be showcased.

The plan comes on the heels of Amazon testing innovative delivering methods. Innovation can propel a company forward and change the way business is performed. This is exactly what Amazon wants to achieve. If they’re successful, it will certainly change the way the world does business.

Using airplanes is not the first time the Amazon logo has filled the sky. Certain parts of the country are serving as test areas for 30-minute delivery to local addresses. Customers go online, order a product, and select the 30-minute delivery option. Amazon sends the package (weighing up to 5 lbs) to the consignee via an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or “drone.” The drone only has a range of 15 miles, so don’t plan on ordering a package in Ohio and expect it to make it there in 30 minutes from Washington.

The drones use sense and avoid technology to monitor the flight and can see objects miles ahead to ensure a safe delivery. Once the UAV reaches the consignee, it identifies a safe area to land, drops off the package, and returns to the distribution center (see the video below for a demonstration).

It may sound like science-fiction and not reality, but the fact is this is where the world is going. UPS and FedEx have been locked in a decades long battle for supremacy. No one has been able to compete with them. DHL tried in 2007 and quickly realized they couldn’t crack the domestic arena. There have been regional carriers such as SpeeDee and OnTrac that serve different localities, but none have the infrastructure to make a run at the big guys (nor do they want to on a head-to-head level). The question some are asking is whether Amazon could be a potential competitor to UPS and FedEx.

Amazon has not announced whether it will try and compete with the carriers. At this point, the goal is to do more of the heavy lifting and cut costs. It’s hard not to ponder what it would be like to have an alternative to UPS and FedEx when Amazon adds a fleet of 40 planes, increases distribution centers across the country, and unveils new technology.

Whether UPS and FedEx are going to have another competitor is unknown, but it would serve both companies well to look at what Amazon is doing. If they looked in their rearview mirrors they would see Amazon closing fast (in a truck, plane, or drone; you pick). They may not be directly competing with the carriers, but they are certainly leading the way in new technology and services.

 

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

What Am I Paying For?

cashpayment

With a new year comes new things: Plans to get healthy, start a new career, take a dream vacation, and if you’re in the shipping industry, a General Rate Increase (GRI).

Shipping rates have climbed steadily over the last decade and there does not appear to be an end in sight for future rate increases. Retail Shipping Associates reported in a recent issue of RS News that shipping via air service has risen by a total of 62.8% for FedEx and 66.1% for UPS, respectively. Ground service for both carriers has risen 54.9% in the last 10 years.

GRI will happen despite any economic growth, lower fuel prices (like we saw this past holiday season), or how well the market is doing. GRI is determined by one thing: Volume.

This year’s GRI, for example, was 4.9%. UPS and FedEx study where their packages are going and how frequently they’re going to a given location. Some areas will see their shipping cost rise by 8% because they’re in a high-volume area. In contrast, some will see a small change in price because they’re in a low-volume area. Others will see no change in price.

The carriers describe a GRI in terms of an “average” or “percentage.” By raising rates in heavily trafficked zones and not raising them at all (or not by much) in low trafficked zones, UPS and FedEx can say rates are only increasing by an average of 4.9%. That sounds better than 8%; especially to the paying customer at the counter.

Keep in mind the rate increase is solely based on transportation; it does not include surcharges the carriers use. Below is a list of charges that make up the overall shipping price:

  • Fuel Surcharge – Carriers will charge a small percentage to offset the cost of fuel to move packages.
  • Declared Value – Most commonly referred to as insurance. UPS and FedEx cover the first $100. The rest will cost about $3 for each $100 of coverage after that.
  • Dimensional Weight – Also known as Volumetric Weight. This is a calculation used by the carriers to determine how much weight a package will hold. You multiply the length x width x height and divide by 166 (194 for USPS) for domestic shipments and a divisional of 194 for all international shipments. Shipping price is based on whichever is higher: the actual weight of the package or the dimensional weight.
  • Address Correction – If you need to change the delivery address expect to pay nearly $15 depending on the carrier.
  • Residential Fee – It costs more to deliver to residential addresses than businesses. Businesses are typically easier to find, have someone there to receive the package, are located around other businesses where packages are delivered, more secure, etc.
  • Signature Fee – To ensure your package gets delivered, the carrier will charge anywhere from $3.00-6.00 depending on the carrier and the type of signature you choose.
  • Oversize Fee – If your package weighs more than 150 lbs or is greater than 130″ (length + girth), you will be assessed an oversize fee. Carriers are charging nearly $75 for each package that you send oversized.
  • Delivery Area Surcharge – This fee occurs when the delivery destination is in a remote, difficult to reach, or sparsely populated area. Cost varies depending on location.
  • Additional Handling – Packages not incased in cardboard or that do not lie flat (i.e. shipping tubes) are accessed this fee. Large packages that require two people or extra equipment like a hand cart or forklift to move fall under this area as well.GRI will likely never go away.

As you can see, a lot goes into shipping a package. Factor all these prices into the picture and then add the fact that every person who handles the package must get paid, you start to see why it can cost so much to ship.

The best we can hope for is a low average increase in price. What we can do is better educate shippers on how to utilize every inch of their package to get the most bang for their buck. Can the box be cut down? Can items be combined into one box? Can you ship to the person’s place of business instead of their residence that’s in a DAS?

Those are a handful of ways to navigate higher shipping costs. It becomes an annual New Years tradition for the carriers and shippers alike. The carriers raise rates and shippers come up with creative ways to keep their customers’ cost low.

Your local pack and ship store exists for this very purpose. They will happily help you get your items packed properly and shipped at a fair rate. As far as building your dream home, taking a grand vacation, or losing weight in the new year you’re on your own . . . unless it’s dimensional weight you want to lose.