The United States Postal Service (USPS) created a business service that set the stage for affordable shipping for businesses of all sizes. Over the last few years we have seen an explosion in the ecommerce world from the small home based business to giants like Amazon.com.
Forums on eBay.com, Etsy.com and others have encouraged mechants to use the USPS Express Mail and Priority Mail services because they save on postage and on packaging material overhead.
The USPS model is sound, but it is based on honesty. Unfortunately there has been a growing trend of people using the ‘free’ USPS boxes and packaging materials for their own personal use. The cost of boxes and packaging material adds up quickly. If suddenly business had to pay for these supplies, some merchants would be adversely affected without the ‘free’ Priority Mail boxes that the US Postal Service provides.
Back in 2010 the USPS spent $158 million for Express Mail and Priority Mail supplies. Fiscal year 2014 the amount was $192 million and the amount is expected to rise even more in fiscal year 2016.
Consider the thoughts of the USPS Inspector General about a sustainable strategy of providing boxes to mailers:
The Postal Service offers packaging supplies for its domestic and international Express Mail and Priority Mail products free of charge. It gives packaging supplies away to attract and retain new customers, increase on-time performance with clearly marked packages, and reduce the number of weak shipping containers in the mail. Free packaging differentiates the Postal Service from its competition.
However, because the supplies are free and readily available at all post offices, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes, such as shipping with competitors or using the labels for an art form known as graffiti slaps.
Do you think free packaging supplies for Express and Priority Mail is the right strategy for the Postal Service? Are there alternate shipping containers that are economical to produce, yet more sustainable?
A simple Google search of ‘usps graffiti slaps‘ results is a disturbing trend. People are sharing tips on YouTube, Instructables.com, Wikipedia and many more mainstream sites on how to use the boxes to make furniture.
The increasing costs might cause the USPS to start charging for the boxes and supplies. With the Postal Service forced to reverse the 2014 exigent rate increase, we should not be surprised if this cost-cutting idea is entertained in the near future.
The USPS Office of Inspector General website is asking for your ideas.