Tag Archives: Post Office

Free shipping for the holiday

Courtesy: FedEx

Courtesy: FedEx

If your shopping isn’t complete, the shipping deadline for holiday items is approaching. As a last push to get you to shop, an estimated 2000 retailers will participate in Free Shipping Day on Monday, December 17.

The Free Shipping team put together a handy list of shipping deadlines by retailer. Some say standard shipping orders placed by December 20th will arrive in time for the holiday. The  majority list earlier dates including December 16th and 17th.

It’s amazing the differences in shipping when you order from different companies. Continue reading

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Do it yourself bride: invitations and postage

Our wedding. Destin, FL.

I’m back! Sorry for the hiatus, but I’ve had so much going on. Planning a wedding is so time-consuming. I spent months planning, and it was all over in a matter of hours. I think all the special touches made it a memorable weekend for us and our guests who traveled so far.

So many people have told me to share all my money-saving wedding tips and ideas, and I plan to do that over several months. I won’t do it all at once so I won’t bore all of you who are not planning a wedding.

The Do It Yourself trend is not just for home improvement — it’s big in the wedding industry. There are businesses who cater to the DIY bride.  It will save you money, BUT understand what you are undertaking. You will hit roadblocks. Be prepared, and give yourself time to work through them.

I decided to tackle our save the date cards, invitations, place cards, and programs as stationary and printing will cost you a bundle. I remember walking into a stationary store last winter just to get some ideas. It’s a small store so the consultation area is right there as guests look at products. The bride told the consultant her stationary budget was $1500 and the consultant mentioned it was doable but not a lot. For $1500, you get pretty basic invitations. It’s a price I was not willing to pay for something most people are going to eventually throw in the trash. The others may sit in a drawer somewhere and collect dust.

Doing it yourself takes lots of preparation and thought. I did lots of research to figure out an invitation I could execute, and thought about the invitations I’d received. Which ones did I like or dislike and why? I wanted a quality product that organized the wedding details and RSVP card in a neat way. I hate opening an invitation and having it all fall onto the table in a million pieces.

The other problem is that so many invites are crushed and bent by the time you receive them in the mail. One reason is that brides rarely use two envelopes anymore so there’s less protection for the card. Also, the invites are simply thinner material. I wanted something to protect my invite.

I decided on a square pocket invite. It would keep everything organized with the pocket, plus, offer some protection to the invite itself. While I found a very reasonably priced pocket from Cards and Pockets, little did I would make up for those savings in stamps because of the size.

I took a sample to the Post Office to make sure it would fit with one stamp. A postal employee told me it would be fine, so I ordered all the invites. When I was done assembling them, I was once again told one wedding stamp would work. The clerk was confident, but wanted to verify it with a supervisor. That’s when everything changed. The supervisor informed me that my invitation was too big, and I’d need additional postage. It wasn’t like five or ten cents. It was a significant cost. My invitation fit in a 6.5″ square envelope, and the Post Office dimensions go to 6 1/8″.  It was just barely over, but that small difference makes a big difference in price.

So, take five minutes and check the dimensions of your invite with the dimensions at the Post Office. Don’t count on a clerk giving you accurate information. Do the research yourself. After all, you are a do it yourself bride.

Stop phone book delivery

Just as we’re all doing some spring cleaning, the clunky phone books appear in our yard, porch, or doorway. Who really uses these anymore? When I need a number, I look it up online or on my smartphone.  The phone book companies make big bucks off these phone books whether you look at them or not. We’ll probably continue to get these books until companies stop advertising in them or people start opting out of receiving the phone book.

The Encyclopedia Britannica stopped publishing copies of the research book because of slow sales. In Ohio, the white pages are also no longer printed. However, there is a big difference between the white and yellow pages. With the yellow pages there is big money attached as sales of ads are upfront.

Phone books are nothing more than junk mail to some consumers. They want to do everything possible to stop receiving these products, and there are ways to opt out.

The site, “Yellow Pages Opt Out” allows you to stop receiving phone books. For my work zip code in Cleveland, I’m scheduled to receive four phone books. You have to register to un-subscribe.

While smartphones and the Internet make it easy to search for phone numbers, some people still like to browse the yellow pages. You can also do that online. AT&T offers the “Real Yellow Pages.” You can download the directory and virtually search page by page. It’s like you’re flipping through the phone book, but doing it online in a green way.

As with most things, there are two schools of thought on these movements to stop production of junk mail or phone books. Many jobs are supported by the phone book and junk mail. With the stop junk mail efforts, counter movements have popped up to continue production of the mail to support jobs and the Post Office.

Depending on where you fall on the issue, you can take action either way. If you still want the phone book to support jobs, then recycle the phone book when you’re done with it. Cleveland has an entire recycling program for phone books, and many other communities do too. Click here to find a recycling option in your community.

Related stories you may like:
Getting rid of junk mail 
Post Office wants to keep junk mail
10 consumer reports you should check

Post Office wants small businesses to keep sending junk mail

Consumers often look for ways to get rid of all their junk mail. It not only reduces waste, but it also reduces your risk for identity theft. Those pre-approved credit card offers are a dream to a thief looking to steal your personal information. There are agencies that help consumers get rid of this unwanted mail. As those campaigns have grown side campaigns like Mail Moves America have kickstarted to stall the stop junk mail efforts. Now, the Post Office is directly appealing to small businesses to continue sending that mail.

The Post Office launched the web-based service, “Every Door Direct Mail.”  It’s a way to market to small businesses with a simple way to reach every address every time.  The Post Office campaign says for as little as $14.5 cents you can send mailers to everyone in a neighborhood. No need to know the names or addresses of the people living in that area.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and the Postal Service plays an important role in enabling their growth and commercial success,” said Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer, U.S. Postal Service.  “We are providing a suite of mailing and shipping services tailored to the needs of small businesses to help them compete for customers and run their operations more efficiently.”

If you’d like to join the cause, there are sites like Mail Moves America that promotes the jobs associated with the direct mail industry. The companies say 3.5 million jobs are connected to direct mail, and that more than 300,000 small businesses depend on this type of advertising.

If you’d still like to get rid of that excess mail and stop the constant shredding, opt out for pre-approved credit cards and insurance offers. You can do this by calling 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or opt out online. You will need to give your social security number as it’s linked to your credit report.

The Direct Marketing Association, which coincidentally runs the “Mail Moves America” campaign along with businesses, also supports consumers with a Preference Service that allows you to get your name off lists for catalogs and the like. The catch here – it costs a $1 to opt out by mail.

The Postal Service is in desperate need of business as it faces closures. Will this be the lifeline that saves it or have too many people already dismissed excess mail as junk?

Related links you may like:
Steps you can take to protect your good name
10 consumer reports you should check

USPS charges money to change your address

I went to the Post Office looking for a change of address packet, only to find the colorful flier to the left. I was surprised the Post Office was so advanced and accepting change of address requests online. I moved just a year ago, and could only fill out a paper form and mail it in.  Little did I know, the online form would cost me money.

You go through several screens of the online address change request before you realize there is a fee. It’s only $1, but it’s the principle of it. The Post Office says the fee is charged to your credit or debit card to verify you’re who you say you are, and prevent fraud. It matches the address you currently live in or the new one with the address on file with your credit card.

Why can’t the Post Office just put a $1 hold on your account to verify it’s legitimate? Hotels and gas stations do this to make sure you have enough money in your account. Maybe this wouldn’t make the banks too happy since there ultimately wouldn’t be a charge on your account, but there has to be a better way. Even better disclosure would work for me. The card you pick up at the post office says nothing about a $1 fee.

They say it’s to verify your request against the address on file with your credit or debit card. However, why can’t they just put a $1 hold on your account to verify it’s legit and then refund it?

You can also change your address on the phone, but it won’t save you the $1. The only way to avoid the $1 fee is to mail in a form that you print off online. It’s called Form PS 3575. Your local Post Office may have it, too, but good luck having someone find it for you. You can also ask your mailman to deliver the form to your address. Then you can deliver the form to the Post Office or mail it.

If fraud is a concern at USPS, why don’t they ask for your identification when y you try to change your address with the paper form? Why is it only online? If fraud is really the main concern, maybe everyone needs to be subjected to scrutiny not just the users who submit the form online. Maybe then I’d feel that my $1 really serves a purpose and isn’t just  way for USPS to make money off me and other movers.

What will the Post Office sell next?

If you’ve been to the Post Office lately, you’ve been greeted with an onslaught of questions. The postal clerk is now a salesman. They’re not just asking you if there’s anything liquid or hazardous in your package, they are asking you if you’d like stamps, delivery confirmation, or any other upgrades.

I feel bad for the clerks because they’re ignored and get a bunch of No’s from customers who really want to say “ENOUGH. Just mail my item.”

Now, the Post Office clerk will try to sell you a new item. Gift cards will go on sale at  2,000 Post Offices in May.  If your Post Office sells greeting cards now, you’ll likely get the gift cards. About a thousand more locations will get the cards in October just in time for the holidays.

The test will run two years and include open loop cards. This means you’ll see a bank logo like American Express or Visa. You won’t be able to buy a gift card for your particular store.  They will come in fixed and variable amounts. The fixed card will be sold for $25 or $50 and the variable amount will have a minimum of $26 on it or a maximum of $100. You can add value to the card in $1 increments.

The Postal Service doesn’t expect revenue to be more than $10,000,000 in any given year of this test. They’ll make money off the fees that are charged. For a $25 fixed card you’ll pay a $3.95 activation fee, $4.95 for a fixed $50 card, and $5.95 for a variable gift.

The Post Office is also raising the price of some services April 17th as it tries everything possible to remain in business.

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