Small business needs to keep postal mailbox costs low
November 3, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I need to receive business shipments. How can I keep my postal mailbox costs low?

I’m getting started as a small part time importer of items to resell online. I need to have an address at which to receive business shipments that come in perhaps once every 3 months and for my return label to customers. Although my use of the box would be minimal, I feel the need to have a business address in order to appear professional, both to the public, and to a lesser extent, to the manufacturers I work with.

UPS and FedEx charge high prices for business mailboxes, while a PO Box through the US postal service is very reasonable. However, I’ve been told that you cannot receive UPS or FedEx shipments to a PO Box, so that's a big negative since all of my shipments are sent through these two companies.

Assuming this is true, is there any good reason why I should not have the occasional manufacturer shipment delivered to my home via UPS (or whatever freight forwarder the manufacturer selects) and then to use a PO Box for the public/customers? Does a PO Box give a business the required legitimacy that a home address wouldn’t, or would a UPS box be better since it would come with a Suite #? Does US law prohibit the receipt of small (both in size and dollar value) business shipments at home?

Other than renting a PO Box, are there any options for receiving the occasional business package at a reduced price? $24+/month adds up quickly, especially when you are operating on a small scale and want to keep your overhead low.
posted by mintchip to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I used to deliver for UPS, and we occasionally delivered to a few home-run businesses. I don't remember there being anything particularly unusual about the procedures for those customers. You might run into some trouble if you wanted to schedule regular pickups there, but that's a different question.

Generally speaking, I've been told that it's a good idea to direct business correspondence through a PO Box, although vendors shouldn't bat an eye upon seeing different Bill-to and Ship-to addresses. It's extremely common in the business world.
posted by schmod at 1:18 PM on November 3, 2010

There's no reason that your home address would appear unprofessional. Just put something like:

Mintchip Enterprises
Attn: Ms. AB Mintchip
123 Main St.
Anytown, NY, 12345

I can't think of any reason that wouldn't be okay, unless you're operating some sort of business where you want to keep your identity a secret from the vendors and customers you deal with.
posted by decathecting at 1:22 PM on November 3, 2010

I don't see any reason why you wouldn't receive shipments at home but have a PO Box for your return address on things you ship out and for business correspondence. This is what I do. I don't want my home address out for anyone who buys something from me to see so I have the smallest PO Box offered but all my vendor shipments are sent to my house (usually via ups or fedex).

If receiving business shipments at home was illegal I think we'd all be in trouble.
posted by magnetsphere at 1:25 PM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

What magnetsphere said. That's what I used to do. Works fine, and is pretty much the cheapest solution available.
posted by spilon at 2:03 PM on November 3, 2010

Mom and Dad ran a business off their house (farm really) for 15 years, and UPS delivered most every day to the house, and no one ever bitched. Send to the house.
posted by deezil at 2:05 PM on November 3, 2010

If you live in a neighborhood with an HOA there may be prohibitions on running a business out of the home. There may also be zoning issues to deal with. Cash strapped locales are looking under rocks for income. Unlicensed businesses running out of a home are a prime target.
posted by COD at 5:03 PM on November 3, 2010

UPS and other commercial couriers definitely can't deliver to US post boxes.

What everyone has said is true about the pros and cons about using a home address. In weighing the cost of the box at a UPS store or the like you might also consider:

- UPS, for one, charges a residential delivery surcharge in some cases. You may find that your vendors are getting nicked for more money for deliveries, and 99 times out of a 100 they are putting that cost on your bill. It's a fairly significant increase.
- security. Especially if you develop a pattern of receiving deliveries, you may be a target for getting packages boosted. Courier drivers are uneven about following instructions about not leaving stuff without a signature, and in any case if you're gone a lot you'll wind up not getting your stuff. OTOH, at a UPS store your packages will be secured until you come for them.
posted by randomkeystrike at 5:57 PM on November 3, 2010

"The magnetsphere method" is what I have always done, as well. It's your customers you don't want knowing your home address. There's no problem with UPS knowing it.

I did want to mention that, were you to get a business mailbox (through FedEx or UPS or one of those Mailboxes Etcetera places), the amount would be tax-deductible as a business expense. IF you're doing your taxes that way. And even so, doing something just because it's tax-deductible is kind of a sucker's game if you ask me.

But if you wanted one, you could justify it to yourself thusly.
posted by ErikaB at 6:01 PM on November 3, 2010

« Older Looking for a vaguely remembered book...   |   Book recommendation needed Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.