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This was taken from the blog at http://www.consumerist.com

Postal Employees Ordered To Stop Offering First-Class Mail [Usps]from Consumerist by Carey

Postal employees have been ordered to upsell pricey express or priority mail services to anyone sending anything more than a letter, according to an anonymous tipster. The directive comes straight from Washington to help combat the Post Office's $1.1 billion operating deficit. To avoid the upsell, specifically ask if there is a cheaper way to ship your package. The anonymous tipster's letter, inside...

Hi, I work the counter for the United States Postal Service and right now we are in a really big financial mess, they claim to have lost about one Billion dollars this past fiscal year. I was told yesterday by my supervisor (and I saw the written memo from the District) that stated we are not to offer first class, parcel post, or media mail.

If a customer comes to the counter with anything other than a letter, we are not to offer anything other than Express Mail or Priority mail.

So if a customer comes to the counter with a 5 ounce small package I am supposed to say "Good Afternoon, would you like to ship this Express Mail overnight guaranteed, it includes $100 of insurance and free tracking for only $16.50?"—Customer looks at you like you are crazy, especially if the package is just going across town—"Ok, then we can send it Priority Mail and it should get to its destination in 2-3 business days for $4.80 and we can add insurance for loss or damage, and for an extra 65 cents you can add delivery confirmation." At this point I am supposed to shut up and let them either be duped into paying at least $4.80 or wait until they say - how about first class, or is there anything cheaper?—at that point I can offer the first class postage. For the package I described, a 5 ounce parcel, the cost would be $1.85 or almost $3 cheaper than Priority Mail. My advice is to always ask if there is a cheaper way to ship. Once asked we can tell you, but we won't volunteer the information.

Some tips if you are going to the Post Office, Express Mail will get it there overnight. Priority mail AND first class will usually get it overnight if it is going within your city or usually within your state. If the package is going farther than a neighboring state the Priority Mail will get there in 2 or 3 days, with first class usually a day or two later than Priority. We are not supposed to offer parcel post mail—I do agree with that, parcel post is usually within a dollar or two pricewise of Priority Mail and will take anywhere from 7-14 days or even longer to get where it is going. If you are only sending books, media mail is the ultimate cheap way to go, usually 1/3 the price of parcel post. A warning though—media mail can be opened, and we do open it if we suspect it is not media mail. In that case the person recieving the package will pay the difference in price.

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I should add as well that living in the UK I have never had any difference in speed or reliability between things sent as 1st class or priority from the US.
Holy crap, I've been noticing that clerks have been asking if I want the express option only. Making it seem like it's the only option.

Thanks Nicole for the info. It is much appreciated.
That is LAME. I have posted this to the Zine World blog -- I'll share my comments here, too:

Just one more reason why you should DIY — do it yourself. Buy a scale and weigh your envelopes and apply the postage yourself. Use the USPS website (”domestic” for First Class; “business” for Media Mail) or our U.S. Postal Rates sheet to calculate your postage. If you have a PayPal account you can use it’s shipping feature to ship any class, including Media Mail. (How? Log into your PayPal account, then use this link: https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_ship-now ).

If you must take your envelope/package to a postal counter, know the various options available to you and tell them exactly what you want: First Class Mail (which has different rates for letter, large envelope, and package), Media Mail, or Parcel Post. See the Zinester’s Guide to U.S. Mail for more info. (I still need to update that re: Bound Printed Matter, but the rest is accurate.)
I agree with Jerianne that is it so helpful to educate ourselves about the postal rates, options, etc. I am really lucky that the folks at my post office know me and are nice and friendly to me. They seem to appreciate that it makes their life easier when I march up to the counter and tell them exactly how I want to send things. I don't think I've mailed anything since this up-selling policy has kicked in, but I am interested to see if they will make such suggestions to me.
Now that's just messed up.

This is why I do have a scale that I use and an ass-ton of Forever stamps....
Even the clerks who know me have been saying their spiel to me lately. Sometimes they just start it before i open my mouth. I assume they are doing this because they are afraid a supervisor can hear them or something of that nature, because i know they know me and my mailing habits.

I like to do traveling journals... and i was sending one to a friend in Australia. The lady (who is not a usual employee of the PO i frequent) only gave me the priority option which was $23. She said it very matter of factly, like that was the price i HAD to pay. I said, "No, please send it First Class." It ended up being $10.30 for a package 15.40 oz to Australia. That is more like it! If i was someone not educated in my mailing options i totally would have been duped into paying the $23.

Chantel G. said:
I agree with Jerianne that is it so helpful to educate ourselves about the postal rates, options, etc. I am really lucky that the folks at my post office know me and are nice and friendly to me. They seem to appreciate that it makes their life easier when I march up to the counter and tell them exactly how I want to send things. I don't think I've mailed anything since this up-selling policy has kicked in, but I am interested to see if they will make such suggestions to me.
Thanks for the heads up! Don't know if it was my imagination but I seemed to notice the upselling last time I went to the post office, a couple weeks ago, and was very puzzled by it and then promptly forgot it.
So, I have a question, it's not related to zines, but it is related to mailing.

I have a box to mail to a friend down in Texas and a poster tube to mail to a friend in Wisconsin. How would I go about making sure that they don't try to rip me off and make me pay more than I need to? I do not have a scale that can properly weigh the box as it is the kind of box that you would buy bulk printer paper in. So, what could I do to make sure that the PO doesn't trick me into paying twice as much as I should be paying?
Wow, I ship so much stuff from home that I haven't noticed this. This is really upsetting. I guess it goes to show how important educating yourself about the postal system is.
darlingdisasters said:
So, what could I do to make sure that the PO doesn't trick me into paying twice as much as I should be paying?

I think just tell them that you want to ship it via the least expensive means possible. If you ask them to tell you all the options, they have to.
Slightly off topic, but can you print out Paypal shipping labels on normal printer paper and tape the fuck out of them, or do you have to buy label/sticky paper? I don't see how it makes that much of a difference, unless covering the label with tape voids it or something.
I took a couple of packages to the post office today: 2 with zines and 1 with coffee. I was asked first the 'fragile, liquid, perishable, hazardous' question, then I was asked "Do you want 1 day deliver or 2-3 day delivery?" I asked for parcel post on the first one. So he rang it up as parcel post (but then he put a priority mail sticker on it... weird... not sure why). Then he asked "what about these two?" I asked for media mail, and that was that.

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