the mail of the species
July 31, 2005 8:46 AM   Subscribe

Is there a site that tells you how much it costs to mail (US Postal Service) various items?

I want to mail individual CDs to many different people (in cardboard sleeves, not jewelcases), and I want to know how much it will cost per CD.

I know that there are sites where you can calculate this by weight, but that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for sites with lots of examples, i.e.

1 paperback book -- $2
1 CD in standard CD mailer -- $.60
1 t-shirt in manilla envelope -- $2.50

...examples of common items that people mail and aproximate costs.

I know I asked specifically about CDs, and that IS my immediate need, but I'm also interested in a more general resource.

I put this question in the "grab bag" category, because no other category seemed to fit. Should there be a 'units and measurments' category or something like that?
posted by grumblebee to Grab Bag (14 answers total)
How would this works since the cost is dependent on distance? Isn't what you need a site that tell you what various items weight? CD's can go at book rate if you are not in a hurry.
Sorry for not having a better answer.
posted by Ferrari328 at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2005

I know that in this age of computers, we rarely think to use the phone for things like this, but i have found 1-800-ask-usps very helpful for this sort of thing in the past.

If you are looking to send CDs or books on the cheap, media mail is definitely the way to go. Sending books home priority would cost around $9 a set, but when i send them media mail, it's more like $2.50.
posted by bryak at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2005

this just takes a bit of effort - you have to find the weight of your item and size (really only applys if your item is oversized, i.e very large or a very odd shape) and then .. well... calculate the rate... by weight like you already said. A Simple list like that I'm sure does not exist and if it does is probably not accurate... do some simple research or like Bryak said, call USPS
posted by crewshell at 9:11 AM on July 31, 2005

Lots of post offices have these great new kiosks that will weigh your item and give you a breakdown of shipping costs (for various speeds and zipcodes.) Perhaps make your own list? Take a bunch of stuff to the P.O. and experiment...
posted by Vidiot at 9:24 AM on July 31, 2005

Send it Media Mail, and it will be $1.42 because CDs are definitely under 1 lb. USPS's Customer's Guide to Mailing is very useful. Although it will be cheaper if you send it a different way.

Your problem is... you want examples of things people sent and for what price, but since postage is often calculated by weight, that doesn't work. Take your paperback book example... paperbacks can be many different sizes and weights, you can end up paying more if it is heavier... so anecdotes such as "I paid "1.42 to send a paperback via media mail last week" would not apply to you and your paperback which may be different.
posted by banished at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2005

It’s weight thing. I mail out hand-stamped single CDs in these very typical plastic cases, no inserted paper, just a mailing label and taped shut; they weigh 3.1oz. It costs me $1.06 to send them anywhere in the US First Class; at this weight, Media Mail would be both slightly more expensive (minimum is $1.42) and much slower. More info here.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:44 AM on July 31, 2005

Um, it’s A weight thing... and it’s the cases that are hand-stamped.
posted by dpcoffin at 9:49 AM on July 31, 2005

Thanks. I realize that it's weight-based. Maybe there are too many variables to make a useful site. But I still think you COULD make a site like this, and I wish one existed. I know it wouldn't be exact, but I would love some aproximate prices.

I sometimes find myself far from a post office or scale (i.e. when I'm at work), and I need a rough ballpark of mailing costs.

I'm dumb about estimating weights (REALLY DUMB!), so if you tell me it costs 30 cents to send an ounce, or whatever, and I have a paperback book to send, I can't estimate the price because I have no idea how many ounces the paperback book is. I know some people could just hold it and estimate by how heavy it feels, but I can't seem to do this.

Ferrari328, if you're mailing in the US to another US location, you don't pay by distance. It costs the same amount to mail a package from one location in NYC to another location in NYC as it costs to mail the package from NYC to Oregon.
posted by grumblebee at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2005

Ferrari328, if you're mailing in the US to another US location, youdon't pay by distance. It costs the same amount to mail a package fromone location in NYC to another location in NYC as it costs to mail thepackage from NYC to Oregon.

You are right about First-Class mail here, but if you're sending any package over one pound, it goes Priority, and the rate for Priority mail does change based on distance.
posted by pikachulolita at 10:48 AM on July 31, 2005

As someone who sends a lot of books out by USPS mail, there is no real way to tell how much it will cost to mail a book without a scale. If it's the same book then you only need to weigh it once, but a 16 page difference between paperback books could change the cost from $1.42 to $1.84. Or even a difference in paper can tip the scale to the next higher price. I don't know if the same problem plagues t-shirt manufacturers or music places, but if you see a list and it only has one entry for books- beware!
posted by rodz at 2:35 PM on July 31, 2005

I suggest just buying a small scale. Coincidentally, small scales are often sold as "postal scales". They're also handy in the kitchen.

For what it's worth, the second tab on the USPS web site is "calculate postage". They have an online postage calculator which will tell you the postage required to send something of a given weight and size from one zipcode to another. They also have the actual postage rate schedules available for download. You can't get much more authoritative or accurate than that.
posted by hattifattener at 2:41 PM on July 31, 2005

Sorry if this is a bit offtopic. It seems like you might be better off in your quest if you knew how to calculate an ounce and then could ballpark from there. $1.42 for less than a pound is a good place to start because it's easy to find a one pound item at a supermarket and compare, more or less.

So, 20# bond paper weighs in at six sheets to the ounce, or five sheets + envelope = one ounce.

Weight/fees are also easy to detemine for brand-name items, more easily that generics. See, for example, GameBoy cartridges. has an approximate list for some of the items they broker postage for, but their general gist is to make sure the price is covered not that it's 100% accurate, so it runs high, but you can get an idea.

The upshot is that an ounce is a pretty teeny thing to estimate but it can make a big difference in terms of postage rates. If this usually happens to you when you're at work, you could invest in a small postal scale [$1-3, cheaper if you buy the ones for the kitchen which seems to be a little lower-tech] and build up a personalized list that works for all the stuff you commonly mail.
posted by jessamyn at 3:49 PM on July 31, 2005

I want to mail individual CDs to many different people

If it matters this much to you, that "many" sounds like a lot. Check out the USPS Bulk Mail home page, and Business Mail 101 (which has a Decision Tree feature -- apparently broken in Firefox). If you're sending more than 300 CDs, you could presort and qualify for a bulk rate -- but you have to deliver them in bulk, too. And, um, presort. The annual fee for this service is $150, so you'd better be saving at least that much to make it worthwhile.
posted by dhartung at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2005

For standard mail, we figure that roughly 1100 pieces a year is the break even point for the price of an annual standard mail fee. For standard flats, like your cd case, the minimum mail size is 200 pieces.

I work for a USPS Business Mail Entry Unit. Emial me if you want any more information, or call your local BMEU. They're in the phone book and will be glad to answer your questions. Our unit has a monthly class dealing with getting people started.
posted by faceonmars at 7:54 PM on October 16, 2005 [1 favorite]

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