How Can I Avoid USPS When Shopping Online?
August 11, 2015 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I quit Amazon because all my packages ship via USPS, either directly or FedEx SmartPost. Now I'm looking for online retailers who let me choose UPS or FedEx. Are there any? Also want to avoid SmartPost and its UPS equivalent. (Some merchants tell you a shipment will use FedEx/UPS but you find out after commiting the order that USPS handles the last mile. Right now I'm waiting on a SmartPost package turned over to USPS 150 miles from me and it will take 3 days to get it delivered from there.)
posted by justcorbly to Shopping (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think most retailers will let you choose the shipper as long as you pay for it. When selecting the shipping method, just choose the upcharge and whatever option you like. You only end up in SmartPost land when you're trying to get free/cheap shipping (because it is the cheapest option for the retailer). With Amazon, they don't let you choose the shipping COMPANY, but I have found that their two-day and overnight shipping is very reliable. I'm not sure if you have issues with USPS other than SmartPost, but if it's just a SmartPost issue you should be fine choosing one- or two-day shipping. Whether USPS, UPS, or FedEx (or occasionally some rando company I've never heard of!), my Amazon packages pretty much always arrive within what they say they will, and if they don't you can contact them and they're very responsive (in my case, they add an extra month of Amazon Prime, but I am pretty sure they would refund shipping fees if you're not a member).
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:12 AM on August 11, 2015

Can you tell us why you don't want to use USPS?

Generally UPS and FedEx will use USPS for the last mile in rural areas because the government mandates USPS delivery to all those addresses despite the fact that those routes are unprofitable, so FedEx and UPS outsource the last mile to take advantage of that fact. Quora

I'm not sure that is your problem however.
posted by GregorWill at 6:19 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I feel your pain; USPS does not acknowledge my address exists so courier packages can come to the house but everything else has to to the P.O. Box. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have a self-employed husband with time to go to the post office to pick up packages during the day. I am skeptical of this claim that USPS will deliver where couriers will not as my experience is exactly the opposite.

Drs. Foster and Smith for pet supplies has a check box that lets you say USPS will not deliver to your house and I love them for it. I think I had to call Warby Parker but they were able to add a note saying not to use anything USPS. Paying extra for one day shipping from Amazon has always got me a courier but I don't do it that often.
posted by carolr at 6:22 AM on August 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

With Amazon and a lot of the big, efficient retailers there is absolutely no way to choose how the item is shipped (beyond 1-day, 2-day, etc.). It's part of their optimization processes, and sometimes it just doesn't work for individuals. I had to stop using Amazon a few years ago when UPS refused to leave packages at my building due to risk of theft - basically I would have to go pick my stuff up at a facility five miles away and I didn't have a car. Now my porch is apparently "safe" for all carriers so I am a happy Amazon customer again.

Is the problem with a) things not getting delivered, or b) getting delivered outside of the promised delivery window, or c) just not getting delivered as fast or predictably as you like? If it's c, I think you're out of luck; if it's b you can probably get shipping charges refunded; if it's a, I guess that really ends up being a variation on b, since presumably they will reship things if they don't arrive.

At least you've avoided Lasership!
posted by mskyle at 6:22 AM on August 11, 2015

This doesn't answer your question directly, but if your area is eligible for UPS MyChoice, you can upgrade SurePost packages to UPS Ground, in which case UPS will handle the entire delivery. You can do this a la carte for $3.50 per package if you have the free membership, or upgrade all packages with a premium membership ($40 per year). Premium makes sense if you want to do this often, especially because a lot of retailers will split orders into multiple packages, so you might otherwise end up paying $10.50 to upgrade a 3-package order, for example.
posted by mama casserole at 6:34 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

What happens when you choose 1-day or 2-day shipping on Amazon? Does it still get turned over to USPS?

Is there a business address you can receive your packages at c/o the business? Often business addresses are on UPS/FedEx routes regardless of how rural the location.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:07 AM on August 11, 2015

Response by poster: @rainbrowbrite: I was a Prime customer for about 10 years. All my Amazon shipments came via UPS. No problems. About 18 months ago, all my Amazon shipments switched to handling via USPS, either directly or via SmartPost. Packages frequently are not delivered within the two-business-day deadline. Packages are damaged or lost. Information posted at the USPS tracking site is often erroneous (including assertions that a package was delivered when it was not, that a slip was left when it was not, etc..) The problem is with my local post office.

@GregorWill: See above for my problems with USPS. Mail service is mandated by the Constitution, profitable or not. Amazon did a deal with USPS in 2014, enabling it to shift Prime delivers from UPS to the cheaper USPS. I'm an in an inner suburb of a metro area of more than 2 million people, not out in the boonies. FedEx/UPS vans are on my street daily.

@mskyle: USPS here will often tell the tracking system a SmartPost package has been delivered when its taken off the FedEx truck at the post office. Getting it from there to me -- about 5 miles -- takes 2-3 days usually. I've found it difficult to make a pitch for a refund when USPS tracking shows a package delivered when it isn't.
posted by justcorbly at 7:11 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @Jacqueline: Yes, all my orders for the last 18 months were sent via FedEx SmartPost or USPS Priority Mail, and all were supposed to arrive in two business days.
posted by justcorbly at 7:14 AM on August 11, 2015

Can you get an "Amazon Locker" - these exist outside of some big box stores, and you are the only one who can get at your package once UPS

UPS also has it called "Access Point"

It's not perfect, but it can control your deliveries more.
posted by heathrowga at 7:46 AM on August 11, 2015

This isn't answering your question but if an Amazon prime package misses the guaranteed delivery date, you can get your prime membership extended for a month for free, up to a year total, which could have your membership costs.
posted by carolr at 7:51 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you're willing to pay for UPS or FedEx anyway, which is normally more than USPS, you could try to always order early enough on the day to get free same day (if you're in the right metro regions) or pay the upgrade to next day. That will almost never use USPS. In my experience. It may or may not be cheaper than finding another online merchant.
posted by skynxnex at 8:01 AM on August 11, 2015

@Jacqueline: Yes, all my orders for the last 18 months were sent via FedEx SmartPost or USPS Priority Mail, and all were supposed to arrive in two business days.

Are you complaining to Amazon every time a package is late? They might be able to do something on their end (e.g., switch to UPS) to ensure that they meet their 2-day guarantee.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:37 AM on August 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

If USPS is failing to deliver your mail properly, there are some steps you can take to make them take notice and correct the problem. You are not the first one to experience issues so I'll just point you to the previous threads. It's a pain to have to press USPS on this, but you might have more luck asking them to fix the problem than trying to avoid retailers who use USPS.

Here's the best response.
posted by Tehhund at 8:42 AM on August 11, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: @heathrowga: My issue isn't with UPS. It's with USPS. UPS here is great; same driver on my route for several years.

@carolr: Thanks, but I've already canceled the account. I have to say that no Amazon customer service rep ever mentioned that in all the calls I made. I repeatedly asked for my account to be flagged, in effect, "No USPS" but was repeatedly told it's impossible.

@skynxnex: I'm more than happy to pay for UPS/FedEx. My issue with Prime was the sole use of USPS and no way for me to specify a shipper. What you suggest might work for an Amazon customer without a Prime account. If I can't find an adequate alternative, I might call Amazon and ask if that approach would always avoid USPS.

@Tehhund: Thanks for the links. I've escalated other issues as "Official Complaints" and to regional management, in the past, to no avail, though.
posted by justcorbly at 11:11 AM on August 11, 2015

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