Why can you print every kind of postage except the reasonably priced ones???
June 26, 2011 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Shipping dilemma: I have 30-40 boxes at my house I need to ship via parcel post. I thought I could print the labels at home and then have them picked up for a fee by the post office, but I've hit a snag...

I'm moving and am shipping all my personal belongings via the post office. I thought I could use the USPS shipping assistant and a shipping scale to print out all the labels for my boxes and then pay to have the post office pick up the boxes. However, upon closer inspection it appears that I can only ship my belongings via priority mail, which is double the price and not an option.

As far as I can tell my only option right now is to slowly haul two or three boxes at a time to the post office in my car and then stand in line. Not only would this be very difficult and time consuming (and not really time I have) I can only really carry one box at a time, which would mean I would have to ask someone in line to watch my boxes for me as I run back and forth to my car. Not exactly ideal on many fronts.

So are there any options that I haven't considered that would allow me to print a parcel post shipping label at home or any reasonably priced services that would pick up my boxes? I'm doing this by myself and would really like to avoid having to call up one of my male friends to come and save the day. I've considered offering to pay one of my unemployed friends to help me, but I know he would never let me pay him and I feel really bad taking advantage of him like that.

Hope me metafilter!
posted by whoaali to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
And if I were to pay my friend what would be a good hourly rate? $50 an hour fair?
posted by whoaali at 1:33 PM on June 26, 2011

Paypal has a Multi-Order Shipping feature that you can use to generate USPS labels. You can do Parcel Post or First Class (not just Priority) but you do have to pay the extra 19 cents (or whatever) for Delivery Confirmation.

After you generate the label you can usually drop off the boxes at the post office without waiting in line. It depends on the office. Some of them near me have a spot at the counter for dropping packages, and some don't. Also, if the boxes are not that big, you can drop them in the drop box if they have one of the Automated Postal Centers.

One thing to keep in mind is they can get picky about mailing date and location, so only print the labels when you are ready to ship, and make sure you put in the right originating post office ZIP code.
posted by cabingirl at 1:34 PM on June 26, 2011

I don't have an answer for you in terms of the labels. But my friend shipped as many boxes from CA to NY when she was moving. Three of us went to the post office together. They have larger carts you can ask for so you don't have to carry them individually. We got two or three carts and then got in line together, with one of us going back for the remaining boxes while the other two stood in line. It wasn't too much of a hassle (except for the poor lady at the counter).

If you want to pay your friend, $50 for the whole process would be fine. I imagine it would take you 1-2 hours. (don't go when it is busy)
posted by Vaike at 1:38 PM on June 26, 2011

I was about to suggest getting yourself a Magna Cart. I have one and it's AWESOME for stuff like this -- assuming you have to carry stuff to the PO yourself. My post office doesn't have carts as far as I know -- Vaike's post was the first I'd ever heard of that. Anyway, as far as hand trucks, the magna cart is great because it folds up very compactly. I use mine frequently.

You might also be able to rent a pickup truck or other big car to get everything to the PO. It may not be as expensive as you think. (Definitely bring helpers though to help you manage at the post office end.)

Another thing you might do is go to your post office (or call your local postmaster), explain your situation, and ask what they suggest. There may be some other option we aren't thinking about.
posted by pupstocks at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the answer so far! I'm looking into the paypal thing. My issue is that I don't have anyone to help me. I do have friends I could beg, but I would feel awful doing so because they are extremely overworked and busy, not too mention with this little notice it may simply not even be possible. I've chosen to move on the cheap, instead of getting movers, and I feel bad inconveniencing a lot of people because I didn't want to spent 3-4k to get real movers.
posted by whoaali at 1:50 PM on June 26, 2011

Have you called over to your post office? A good friend of mine is a postmaster and they have TONS of services hardly anyone uses because they don't know about. So call over and find out about cart availability, multi-box shipping, drop off, etc., at your nearest post office. They will also tell you, if they can't do what you need, what the nearest office that can is. You will definitely be one of the most normal calls they have all week. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:57 PM on June 26, 2011

You could just plain ol' hire someone from 3 hours. We have also used the work places in front of Home Depots to get someone hourly. You just pick them up and drop them off.
posted by Vaike at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2011

30-40 boxes at my house I need to ship via parcel post.

30-40 boxes? If you are able to pack this on or two pallets then I am sure you would get a _very_ reasonable LTF-"Less than Freight" quote from uship.com. They would deliver from door to door. But they are NOT a moving service. They would load and unload only the pallets!
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:59 PM on June 26, 2011

I once spent something like 300 bucks to have one or two pallets shipped from California to Maryland (yes, no kidding).
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:00 PM on June 26, 2011

The uship.com thing looks really interesting, I'm just worried that I wouldn't be able to set something like that set up in the next 3 or 4 days and I'm moving to a big apartment building right in the middle of DC and I don't think the big trucks can go into that part of DC.
posted by whoaali at 2:05 PM on June 26, 2011

When using the Automated Postal Center machine (many larger branches have them in the lobby), even if the package is too big to fit in the dropbox, once you print the postage you can usually just hand the box over to any postal employee (skipping the line).
posted by jessicapierce at 2:11 PM on June 26, 2011

The paypal multi order shipping looks like it will probably work and it says that I can get a pickup if I have at least one piece of priority mail, which is fine. Thank cabingirl!

Does anyone have any experience using this feature and getting pickups? I think I'm going to call the post office tomorrow just to verify that everything will work like i think it will, so that I'm not stuck in a lurch at the last minute.
posted by whoaali at 2:12 PM on June 26, 2011

If the deal with the paypal and the post office doesn't work out, you could look into shipping them UPS Ground which has the advantage of guaranteeing the delivery date. With an online account (linked to a credit card), you can print the paperwork and schedule a pickup.
posted by DrGail at 3:06 PM on June 26, 2011

USPS carrier pickup includes Parcel Post and Media Mail packages up to 70 lbs. as long as you combine them with at least one thing shipped using a more expensive service to be picked up at the same time.

This is directly from the USPS FAQ on carrier pickup (which doesn't seem to allow direct linking):
Parcel Post® and other packages may be picked up also when combined with Express Mail, Priority Mail or International Mail requests for pickup
I have personally used this service for home pickup of a truly ridiculous number of very heavy boxes of books, by adding a single Priority Mail flat rate envelope. There's a field to enter comments when you schedule the pickup on USPS.com — I used this to add a note saying that there were many heavy boxes, as a courtesy to the carrier to let them know what to expect.
posted by RogerB at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2011

As DrGail said, UPS does this. I have shipped tens of boxes at a time this way.
posted by procrastination at 3:49 PM on June 26, 2011

Thanks for all the advice!

I considered using UPS but it appears to be significantly more expensive than parcel post and when parcel post will already probably be costing me close to $1,000 for all my boxes, it really adds up...
posted by whoaali at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2011

Oh hey, don't forget that you can use Media Mail for books. It's cheaper than Parcel Post.
posted by cabingirl at 4:05 PM on June 26, 2011

I ship USPS and frequently will have a smattering of Priority mail packages as well as Parcel Post boxes. Despite the fact that my Parcel Post boxes likely outweigh some of your moving boxes, our mail carrier has never balked at picking them up.

I suspect I am helped in this regard by being a friendly person who learned his name, says hi "NAME" whenever I see him, and try to put the packages out in the most accessible way. But in general, I think that is just part of the job.

Also, when I have shipped scads of boxes (and driven them to the PO myself) the post office has been very helpful, often offering me a cart when it became obvious that I had a ton of stuff to move.

I think that were I moving I would get some friends and take it to the PO all at once at a non-busy time (Mondays and Fridays and Saturdays, in my area, are bad. Lunchtime is bad. 45 minutes before close is bad. 10 minutes before close is very, very bad).
posted by arnicae at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2011

You could probably engage a trucking company to do them all as a pallet or two for less than USPS, just fyi.
posted by Slinga at 7:24 PM on June 26, 2011

So just a tip for anyone who might look at this thread in the future. If you don't use pay pal often you might forget that you can't load money onto your account with a debit or credit card and transferring money from your bank account takes 2 - 4 days.

So say you don't realize this and are trying to print and pay the night before everything is picked up, you have to get these ridiculous pre loaded money pak credit card things, but you can't buy them online. You must find a dodgy CVS that sells them. And the ATM in the dodgy CVS will not be working and of course you can't pay with debit and credit will have crazy fees. So you walk across the dodgy parking lot to another ATM at midnight and withdraw $1,000 and pray to god you don't get mugged.

But the really impressive part is how the guy at the register didn't so much as blink when I threw down $1000 worth of $20s on the counter, even though I felt like some kind of criminal.

Of course you'll then get home and paypal is running a "random" security check on you account which you can't clear until you send them a photocopy of a picture ID.

Here's hoping their verification process doesn't take too long....
posted by whoaali at 12:19 AM on June 29, 2011

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