PostalWatch: Priority Mail Sham
PostalWatch.org is accusing the USPS of executing a massive
deceptive advertising campaign. Citing the Postal Service's own
data, PostalWatch reports that First Class letters, at nearly
one-tenth the cost of Priority Mail, often arrive sooner than
Priority Mail letters.
The PostalWatch.org report is the latest in a series of reports
from various organizations that have all come to the same general
conclusion: The Postal Service is advertising a product that costs
almost ten times as much as First Class mail and in many cases is
actually slower than First Class mail. The reports accuse the
Postal Service of misleading advertising. In actuality, the
reports themselves are misleading in many ways.
touched on this story in an
the Postal Service's somewhat controversial Mystery Shopper
program. Shortly afterwards, the Postal Rate Commission and
the USPS Inspector General's office were asking questions and
issuing their own reports. The Wall Street Journal also reported
on the subject. Despite these reports, the USPS has been able to
brush these criticisms aside. There has been no popular public
outrage. Priority Mail remains popular, and even preferred among
many shippers. Why is this the case, despite evidence directly
from the USPS that apparently supports these claims? Where's the
Actually, there's a
good reason why there isn't any outrage. Priority Mail is a great
bargain and postal customers realize this!
In Defense of
First, it is unfair
to compare a 37 cent First Class letter at one ounce with a
Priority Mail rate that is good for up to two pounds. Who sends a
traditional size letter via Priority Mail? Most people are smart
enough to know that a 37 cent stamp will suffice in this case.
Priority Mail is
primarily used for shipping small to medium sized items - books,
videos, clothes, multi-page documents, online auction items, etc.,
- not one ounce letters. Many of these items are in the half pound
to two pound range. A 13 ounce letter at the First Class rate is
$3.13 for example -- a lot closer to the Priority Mail rate of
How does one arrive
at the $3.13 First Class rate for a 13 ounce letter, for example?
First, the letter must be weighed, which requires a scale. Second,
a rate chart/rate calculator is required. A post office clerk can
provide both. However, who has the time anymore to drive to the
post office and stand in line? The Priority Mail rate is a
standard $3.85 for one pound or less. No hassle, no time wasted
searching for weight and rates. Just slap $3.85 on the box and
Speaking of the box,
the Postal Service provides free of charge all of the Priority
Mail boxes anybody could ever want. (In fact, some postal
customers on the Priority Mail box auto-ship program have been
inundated with boxes - because they overestimated their
requirements). Free boxes are also a great convenience in this day
and age. The alternative is to go down to the local store and
buy boxes, or search the closet for old shoe boxes.
In addition to the
box being free, the box is also designed with bold colors and is
emblazoned with "Priority Mail" on the cover. It's sure to be
noticed by the recipient! The free boxes also come in many
different dimensions for a variety of mailing needs.
factors have made Priority Mail the preferred mailing choice for
many postal customers who regularly ship items throughout the
country. It's not because the Postal Service has duped a large
segment of the mailing population with deceptive advertising. It's
because Priority Mail works! David Steiner, in an
article at AuctionBytes.com, notes:
"Those of you who
sell online regularly know the challenge of packaging items safely
and trying to fit a wide array of oddly shaped auction items
snugly into Priority Mail boxes. I frequently buy merchandise at
Estate sales and flea markets that I'm excited about... until stop
and think, "How the heck am I going to ship this"? Since Priority
Mail seems to be the overwhelming method of choice when shipping
most items because of the 2-3 day shipping (usually), fair rates
and most importantly, free shipping supplies, I thought it might
be time for a primer on Priority Mail packing."
Priority Mail also
has another competitive advantage: In many cases it's cheaper to
mail an item using Priority Mail than by using UPS or Federal
Express. This is especially true with items weighing just a couple
of pounds. See "Shipping
Options: Priority Mail or UPS?" at AuctionBytes.com.
Priority Mail is used
by millions of Americans, not because they've been duped by slick
advertising, but because of a number of competitive advantages.
- Cost competitive: In its most popular mailing category -
packages weighing just a few pounds - rates are comparable with
First Class mail and rates are (on average) dollars cheaper than
UPS and FedEx.
- Convenience: Free boxes and simple rates. Convenience, in some
cases, is also a cost advantage: Companies can streamline their
shipping departments with simple rates and free shipping supplies.
- Impact: Priority Mail is aptly named. Priority packages convey a
sense of urgency, importance and priority to the recipient.
- Speed of Delivery: Two to three days is great! Most Priority
Mail packages are delivered in that time period. Plus, the average
customer realizes that "2-3 days" is a guideline, not a guarantee.
Most customers are still happy with the service even if it takes
"3-4" days for delivery. As for the claim about deceptive
advertising, the USPS advertises "an
average of 2 to 3 days."
- Priority Mail is delivered on Saturday!
Lesson to be learned
from Priority Mail:
- First Class mail is faster than Priority Mail? Of course it is.
We don't need a report to state the obvious. First Class mail is
the Postal Service's flagship product. It's success should be a
credit to the Postal Service, not a standard to be used to
denigrate Priority Mail.
- The simplification of postage rates could increase mail volume
and revenue for the Postal Service by making it more convenient
for customers to mail items.
- Customers will pay for convenience. It should be noted that some
private mailbox centers charge $5 or more to send a $3.85 USPS
Priority Mail package. (The private mailbox centers pocket $1.15
just for accepting the package and affixing a $3.85 meter strip.
When convenient, some customers don't seem to mind being charged
$5.00 for Priority Mail!)
All in all, Priority
Mail is a great deal. That's why millions of Americans continue to
use it for their shipping needs.