How to mail my possessions across the US?
July 28, 2010 6:32 PM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of boxes. I want to ship them across the country and pick them up at the post office on the other end. What do I do?

I am in New Jersey right now. I have a bunch of boxes that I am shipping (to Oakland, California) because I am moving cross-country. I am currently planning to use the US Postal Service to do this. I will be transporting myself and some of my possessions by airplane, but the things I want to take exceed airline luggage allowances and the amount of luggage I own.

But if I ship the boxes to my new address in Oakland, they might come when nobody's home. (I have future housemates who might be there, but they might not.) I'm not sure if USPS will leave packages at the front door at my new place, and even if they will I'm not sure I want them to.

So I would like to be able to send my boxes (by USPS parcel post) and pick them up at the post office at the other end of my trip. Can I do this? If so, how do I indicate to USPS that this is what I would like to do?

Ways to solve the same problem of getting my boxes there using FedEx Ground and UPS Ground (which are roughly the same price as USPS parcel post and take roughly the same amount of time) would also be useful to me.
posted by madcaptenor to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Ship to the Oakland post office care of your name. Then you go to the Oaklamd post office when you get there, show them some ID, and pick up your boxes.
posted by dfriedman at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2010

Your Name
General Delivery
City St postoffice-zip
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:45 PM on July 28, 2010

Is general delivery a valid option for packages? I thought you could only do it for letters? (although the USPS site makes it seem like I'm wrong here)

UPS and FedEx will let you ship your stuff to one of their retail locations. This is how touring musicians generally receive new equipment and merch while on the road.
posted by schmod at 8:53 PM on July 28, 2010

I think you could ship them "signature required," and then USPS attempt to deliver them. If no one is there to sign, they should leave a slip and you can pick the packages up at the post office. But if you do this, be careful about leaving them at the post office too long, because at a certain point they will get shipped back.

(For what it's worth, a package I just had shipped this way from Baltimore, MD to San Francisco was sent on 7/22 and arrived in SF on 7/28.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:13 PM on July 28, 2010

Do you have an eBay account? If so, try to sign up for a UPS account through eBay. You'll get a discount on UPS Ground that will make it significantly cheaper than USPS Parcel Post for heavy packages. With UPS you can specify "Hold for Pickup" if you want to pick it up at the customer center of the nearest delivery hub.

Based on it is likely this is your nearest hub: 8400 PARDEE DR, OAKLAND, CA 94621. Call the UPS 800 number for exact instructions. I think you just use the hub address and include your name and phone number on each package.

Also look into UPS Hundredweight Service. It gives discounted rates for multiple packages going to the same address. If you have a lot of heavy packages this may save you more money over UPS Ground or USPS Parcel Post.
posted by reeddavid at 12:27 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: needs more cowbell: since what I'm shipping is a significant portion of All My Stuff (well, of All The Stuff I'm Bringing), I'll remember to pick them up.
posted by madcaptenor at 4:42 AM on July 29, 2010

I have done this with general delivery. I did call the receiving post office and double check as to the length of time they would hold the packages before returning them to sender. I also got the name of the person I spoke to, I was sending to rural post offices so was able to give them a heads up. This made me feel a tad bit more comfortable with having my stuff sitting there.

I have also done this with UPS and mailbox type retail locations. Search your send to geographic location find locations and give them a call to find out the details. This option was more expensive then the Post Office.
posted by flummox at 6:11 AM on July 29, 2010

I moved like this last year (with USPS), and it was an enormous pain in the ass. Any subsequent cross country mailings have been through UPS. It's still not a whole lot of fun, but they're a little more reasonable.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:56 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: In what way was USPS a pain in the ass?
posted by madcaptenor at 6:59 AM on July 29, 2010

I didn't mean that you might forget to pick it up but that you'd need to make sure the dates worked out so that you'd be in Oakland soon after it got delivered, and err toward the side of caution (with stuff possibly arriving after you arrive.)

Also, random note: I don't think the track & confirm option offered by the USPS for Parcel Post is true tracking - it lets you know when the item was accepted by the USPS, and it lets you know when it arrived at the destination, but it does not show things like "5:14 am, package is in MiddleofNowhere, AR" like some services do. (I think the USPS does offer that sort of tracking with some types of shipping, though.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:41 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: That's good to know about the tracking. I like the idea of having tracking, even though it doesn't actually help stuff get there sooner, because it will make me less nervous.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:42 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: flummox: The UPS Store's web site indicates that most of their stores will only receive packages for mailbox holders, which I am not. (And I don't intend to become one; in general I'll be able to have packages shipped to the office.)

If you mean doing what reeddavid suggested, shipping to the Oakland UPS hub, that is an option I'm considering.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:31 AM on July 29, 2010

Response by poster: Followup: the question is irrelevant. I realized that I wanted to send at least one box directly to my office at my new job. So I called and asked if my new job would be willing to receive all my boxes, and they said they would. I'll pick them up there.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2010

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