Beware Secret Surcharges On USPS Mail At UPS Stores

UPS lets you send USPS Priority Mail at their walk-in locations, but a New York Times investigation found Manhattan locations charging up to 140% more for the favor.

It’s perfectly legal, and the amount is up to the discretion of the store, which are independently owned and operated franchises. However, it’s not disclosed beyond a notation on the receipt. Save your cash and ship via USPS at the the post office.

Paying More to Send U.S. Mail at U.P.S. Stores [NYT] (Thanks to Jason!)

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  1. pepe prawn says:

    just found this out this weekend: if you ship priority mail via usps and do the work on-line, you get a 15% discount.

    • kateblack says:

      That’s IF you opt for Delivery Confirmation.

      FYI, Delivery Confirmation is just that. It’s not tracking info if purchased digitally – USPS locations can opt out of scanning it if you did it online, versus purchasing one of their hot pink barcode stickers (for 4x the price of digital DC). Many locations DO use DC as tracking, but some won’t. Wildly erratic service.

      You can also pay for shipping via PayPal. First class, or Priority Mail. Delivery Confirmation is available on all domestic package shipments, but not on cards/FC envelopes or flats under a certain thickness.

      I prefer http://Endicia.com for shipping, because it fills out those annoying customs forms for me, and the software is faster than going through the websites for USPS or Paypal. But that’s a pay-option, so it only makes sense for folks who ship a lot of stuff.

      • pepe prawn says:

        ummm… the delivery confirmation was free.

        • CTAUGUST says:

          Um, call me nuts, but since this was not about DC, kateblack seems to be posting an ad for Endicia.com, not actually contributing to the conversation at hand.

          • kateblack says:

            Check my posting history. It’s not spam just because someone recommends a product or service. I do not work for Endicia. I do not get kickbacks from them. I pay for their service & it’s worth the money. I highly recommend it to anyone who does a lot of shipping.

            DC is $0.19 on First Class packages. (It’s free with domestic Priority purchased online, but still an opt in service.) It’s $0.70-$0.80 retail — those little pink stickers I mentioned in prior post. http://www.usps.com/prices/extra-services-prices.htm

        • RandomHookup says:

          Yep, Delivery Confirmation is free with online Priority Mail purchases.

      • Verdant Pine Trees says:

        I use Endicia and have spent thousands with them, so I would second the recommendation if you ship a lot – especially over Stamps, who I had more trouble in getting postage misprints refunded.

        Having said that, you don’t need that. Use Click n’ Ship through the post office website – if you’re sending Priority Mail you’ll get the same kinds of discounts. https://sss-web.usps.com/cns/landing.do

  2. admiral_stabbin says:

    I’m also going out on a limb and guessing that “The UPS Store” locations may not offer the most competitive pricing on cardboard boxes either. I paid $12ish for a box just this fall. It was admittedly an odd, over-sized box, but I knew I was paying for convenience.

    • scoosdad says:

      Are they even the best deal for using them to ship via UPS, versus doing the paperwork yourself online (www.myups.com) and then just dropping off the finished package at any outgoing UPS shipping point?

      My suspicion has always been that there may be a bit of markup there too, on their UPS rates.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        There is – which is not the case with FedEx locations. Which is why I have a FedEx account, can print out my labels at home, and just drop them off at any FedEx location.

      • RandomHookup says:

        I know they had a huge UPS markup before UPS acquired them (they were Mailboxes Etc). I wouldn’t be surprised it’s not 100% markup, but still healthy.

        • n1kt0 says:

          Former UPS Store employee here. There used to be a surcharge on UPS shipping (shortly after UPS bought Mailboxes Etc), but the store owners complained about this, and UPS Store shipping rates are now the same as you’d pay if you went to a UPS corporate-owned customer counter.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      http://www.uline.com/Product/Detail/S-4247/Corrugated-Boxes-200-Test/24-x-24-x-24-Corrugated-Boxes

      Just an example – I buy my boxes from these guys. As you can see, a 24″ cube is $2.63.

      …naturally, you can’t just buy one box of that size from a distributor like this, but to your point – yes, there’s a huge markup on boxes.

      Depending on the size of your item, boxes are free at USPS.

      • thompson says:

        Oh hell yes. ULINE is the best for getting moving boxes. You’ll likely end up paying more in shipping than the boxes cost, and STILL end up saving about 50% per box versus Staples/OfficeMax/etc.

        Not to mention they’re NICE boxes, good and sturdy.

        • YouDidWhatNow? says:

          I’m lucky enough to be within driving distance of one of their locations – no charge for pickup.

          • kateblack says:

            So. Jealous.

            I wish people who buy me frivolous presents like frufru bath stuff and designer purses (none of which I use) would just buy me a carton of bubble mailers from Uline.

    • Kitamura says:

      Most postal and courier outlets are not “competitively” priced for shipping supplies. They’re like convenience stores, they’re mostly selling to people who are “oh shit, I don’t have time to goto store X and buy a box” and need the supplies right there and then.

  3. Skankingmike says:

    FYI most if not all UPS stores are NOT corporate owned but franchised. They will vary in prices for ALL of their services.

    Also most mail box ect. and the likes that ship ups/usps/fedex/(exdhl) charge extra for shipping or charge a convenience fee. Better to go to the source on any of those.

    Cheap boxes for shipping? try a Storage Place or Home Depot.

    I do not suggest this for everybody but calling local retail places and asking if they have boxes they can have, will often work.

    • Powerlurker says:

      This is also important because, though the name of the store may lead you to think that you’re actually dealing with UPS, you aren’t, and thus the store is the shipper of record, not you. This means that you can’t initiate your own insurance/refund claims for damaged or delayed packages. I’m kinda surprised that someone hasn’t filed some sort of deceptive advertising claim based on this.

      • lilabnershmoo says:

        If the store employees were doing their job they would inform the customer of this fact when the customer asked for insurance.

  4. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    ..and you know that bottle of windshield washer fluid you bought at the gas station… Well it really doesn’t cost $6… you can get it for $2 at the autoparts/hardware store.

    Yes, folks, we all pay a premium for convenience so use your brain, plan ahead and save a bundle.

    • RPHP says:

      Everyone knows there is a convenience charge for things at a gas station. Not everyone knows that is the case when they are shipping USPS from the UPS store.

      What is likely happening here is someone who does not ship much goes into a UPS store and says “How much to ship this package?” UPS then quotes their rate. The customer hit with sticker shock says “Wow – well how much would that be if I went to the post office?” UPS then responds with “We can do that here but it is actually cheaper if you use UPS and you get extra services blah blah etc.”

      The issue is UPS does not say that it is only cheaper with UPS because they are charging a huge markup on the USPS rate. The customer has the right to know that if they choose to they can ship for cheaper though it may be less convenient.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        Why wouldn’t there be a markup? If I mail an item that has $10 in postage, that $10 goes straight to the USPS – why would UPS do any work for free?

        • RandomHookup says:

          There should be a markup…but an astronomical markup is something else. And I’m sure the UPS Stores get a cut from USPS … just like the retailers that sell stamps.

          • full.tang.halo says:

            Nope, USPS doesn’t discount stamps or postage, you buy postage to be put on a Pitney Bowes machine at $1.00 to $1.00, AND have to pay PB to rent the meter. Stamps, either you have the person that picks up the mail bring you them and pay face value or drive to the post office yourself and buy them like any other person.

            Who is to determine what an “astronomical markup” is get in the real world, business are out to make money.

            Charge even $0.01 over “face value” for USPS and people who know with bitch and complain, those people can wait in line at the post office. It’s a balancing act with USPS, you wanna make it worth your while when people use it, and leverage it to get people to use USP where you’re margins are way better because you have an actual “wholesale” cost to mark up. Most UPS stores charge the “counter rate” now a days, that’s what you would pay if you went to the UPS hub and shipped it there. It was at the time I moved on about a 35-40% markup for the stores, and trust me, the owners arn’t “getting rich” on those margins.

  5. morganlh85 says:

    I remember once I bought a frickin stamp at the grocery store and they charged me 50 cents. WTH? I really don’t think it should be legal to add surcharges to government services.

    • kateblack says:

      If they can’t make a profit on it, they won’t sell it.

      I’d rather pay $0.06 more and be able to mail a bill without standing in line at the USPS for 45 minutes or more.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        …maybe it’s not common, but I take it for granted now…Wells Fargo ATMs dispense stamps at normal rates. No need to ever go to the PO to buy stamps – at least for WF customers.

        • kateblack says:

          I have never seen a Wells Fargo location in person.

          • YouDidWhatNow? says:

            …are there no other banks that do that?

            • kateblack says:

              No idea. I’ve never thought to buy stamps at a bank.

              If I’m out & need a stamp, I’ll hit a bodega or supermarket sells them. If I’m home, I print postage online with my Endicia account.

        • azntg says:

          TD Bank also offers a book of stamps at their ATMs. They’re regular first-class stamps though and not forever stamps. Better pray that the USPS doesn’t go nuts on raising prices though. Those 1, 2 cent stamps get mighty annoying after a while.

    • Bargaineering.com says:

      If they couldn’t add a surcharge, they just wouldn’t offer it.

    • Hitchcock says:

      They’re not charging extra for a government service. They’re charging extra to cover the expense of buying, storing, and dispensing the stamps at their retail location.

      If you don’t want to pay extra, buy your stamps at the post office.

      Me, I’m willing to pay a little extra to save me the drive to the post office.

      • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

        Yeah, there’s a place I can walk to from my house that adds like a 2 cent per stamp surcharge which is frequently worth my effort. If I’m going to the post office anyway I try to buy a couple books of forever stamps but if I happen to run out, 2 cents per stamp is worth the amount of convenience of the closer location.

        • AnthonyC says:

          Why buy forever stamps? By law, the price of stamps can’t rise faster than inflation.

          I mean, clearly it isn’t a big deal in dollar terms unless you send aLOT of mail, but it is definitely cheaper (if less convenient) to just keep a bunch of 1 cent stamps around each time they raise the price.

          • Chuck Norris' wig says:

            I only use the forever stamps because at the rate in which i use stamps, perhaps 1 every other month, it takes a while to get rid of a book.

            I got stuck with half a book of christmas stamps a few years ago that had their denomination printed on them and it was a pain to get 1 cent stamps since they yanked out all the stamp machines from the post offices.

          • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

            Ummm…. no.

            You’re right that the price of stamps cannot increase faster than inflation by law. You’d be right if you said it was silly to stockpile forever stamps. But buying them to meet your short-term stamping needs is the only sensible thing to do. They cost the same as regular stamps, so you’re not going to lose money on them. If you have X regular stamps left over when they switch the price then you have to buy X stamps in the amount of the price increase. If you have X forever stamps left (assuming you don’t change your stamp-buying habits, because you shouldn’t) then you spend $0 on penny stamps.

            At worst you break even with forever stamps, at best you save a few cents; they aren’t about the money, they’re about convenience. Don’t stockpile them, but don’t eschew them.

  6. Dutchess says:

    Save even more cash and go to USPS.com

    I walked to the post office near my house on saturday and there were over 150 people in line. I grabbed some priority mail supplies walked home, packed my items, printed the postage at home walked back and dropped my packages in the bin and walked right past many of the people I saw there the first time.

    PLUS, printing online I saved like 10% on the cost of Priority mail plus got free delivery confirmation.

    Going to the post office has never been easier!!

    • Veridian Dynamics says:

      If your USPS has the automated postage center you can send it from the terminal and not have to wait in line also. Those have to be the best thing the post office has introduced in a long time.

      • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

        Hell yes, I love the APC. Plus the lobby to my post office is open 24/7 (not sure if that’s the case everywhere), so I can send my priority mail any time I want to.

      • kalaratri says:

        I love the little terminal. I just wish it would dispense a whole roll of stamps so I didn’t have to buy a whole stack of booklets.

    • VA_White says:

      You can also schedule a carrier pickup right from your house. The postal carrier will stop at your house and pick up your outgoing packages. This is a FREE service.

    • LESSTHANKIND says:

      You didn’t even have to walk back (if your packages could wait a day). You can schedule a Carrier Pickup online and your mail carrier will pick up your packages from your home. Free of charge.

  7. AngelaS says:

    How is it secret? It would make sense… UPS is a “store” offering non-owned shipping options. USPS “locations” are all “company owned”. It just makes sense there would be a surcharge. UPS store shipping through UPS is also more expensive than just going on UPS.com and printing a label. Better yet find a company offering shipping discounts like allproshipping.com and you save 30% off that. I do most of my shipping between UPS.com, paypals multi order shipping (USPS services, love the $.18 delivery confirmation and discounted rates) and Allproshipping.com. Getting a digital scale was one of the best $17 purchases I’ve made.

  8. VA_White says:

    You can pre-print the shipping label and pay for postage online at USPS.com. You get a discount on postage and you can schedule a carrier pick-up right from your house. Or you can drop the pre-paid priority mail package off at UPS store for no charge.

    You don’t have to stand in line at the post office and you don’t have to pay exorbitant fees at the UPS store. Online payment is the way to go.

    • MyTQuinn says:

      At least around here (Central NJ), you don’t have to wait (long) at the post office either, if you’re using a prepaid shipping label. Just wait for a window to open up, place your prepaid packages on the counter and tell them it’s prepaid. They’ll ask the usual “Anything liquid, fragile, hazardous or perishable?”, and if you say no, then you’re on your way.

      Regardless… involving a third party in any process, and not expecting to pay extra, is naive at best. A 140% markup is extreme though.

  9. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    Sadly it gets worse. UPS shippers/stores also get a “discount” on the packages they send out. So when they charge you, say $8.63 for shipping, when they get their invoice, that’s what’s written on there, but at the bottom, where the total is, they receive a discount. We used this when I worked in the mailroom to back charge the different depts. If they requested a copy of their shipping charges, the UPS computer we had would print out all the vital stats, including the price, but that’s not what we paid to UPS. I sometimes miss that job when a company won’t send me a pre-paid shipping label, as well as when I need to pay my bills/buy food.

    • full.tang.halo says:

      Really a business is paying X for a service and charging Y, which includes overhead and profit? CRAZY TALK I TELL YOU CRAZY. Everyone should just do everything for free….. I managed a Postal Annex for 3 years, guess what if you wanted to ship USPS damn right we marked it up, I had to pay rent, employees, insurance, utilities, and make a profit. But guess what that markup bought you, not having to stand in line for 30-45 minutes from dec 10 – dec 24 at the local post office that was recently built and was too small for the community the day it opened. If you valued your time at $0 an hour then go and wait, but my customers would gladly play for as other posters have put “CONVENIENCE”.

  10. Spider Mann says:

    I use Endicia.com for my Postal Mailing needs. Seriously, I save a buttload off of even USPS.com and get free Delivery Confirmation out of it.

    Not for those who don’t ship a lot during a month though, as you do have to pay $16 per month. Still, the savings rack up.

  11. nycdesigner says:

    There soon might be more UPS stores than USPS “stores” as post offices close. Sometimes it may be worth the extra $ to avoid waiting over 1/2-hour at an urban post office.

    • Britt says:

      I will openly admit to working at a Canadian UPS Store location. This season, loads of people have paid a few bucks extra because the lines at Canada Post are absolutely nuts, and the packing supplies and knowledge are sparse. If UPS doesn’t fit the budget, Canpar works great for saving money on in-country shipments. We also deal with DHL. I’ve had customers come in and ask for a shipping quote. Sometimes they ship elsewhere, but more often than not they come back.

      I once shipped a box to the Netherlands using Canada Post. It cost $40 and took two months to get there. For the same price, I could have used UPS and had it there in five days. Granted, if I’m sending a a small box not worth much to the next province over, I’ll probably use Canada Post.

      Is there a mark-up? Absolutely. I work for the owners directly. It’s because of that markup that a store and a job even exists. Our location and services are convenient to many. If I were the type of person selling heaps of junk on eBay, I’d have my supplies on hand. To busy folks working downtown, the assistance of The UPS Store at an extra cost is a life saver.

  12. supernova87a says:

    yes, get ready to be bent over big time if you ever should have the misfortune of needing to have something boxed and shipped by a UPS or Fedex store. They charge you whatever they want for the service of wrapping it up, and then give you the undiscounted UPS shipping rate (like the hotel’s rack rate that no one pays).

    Wrap it up and print out the label at home at the UPS web site, please. Save yourself some $.

  13. johnfrombrooklyn says:

    What amazing investigative reporting from the New York Times. A small business marks up a product to make a profit. What next? Are we going to find out that the $2.00 Coke from the Deli costs them LESS than $2.00.

    • RandomHookup says:

      What the article is saying is that it’s more like paying $4 for the soda. Maybe that is worth it to you, but most people have no idea what shipping a package at the PO costs, because they don’t do it enough. They take advantage of the infrequent needs of most people to ship packages.

      • captainpicard says:

        that argument is flawed. There are many things (big & small ticket items) that you don’t buy on a regular basis but should still do research on. This is not wrong / illegal / unethical, it is business.

        • RandomHookup says:

          Obviously it’s noteworthy enough for the New York Times to write about it. If nothing else, it’s a caveat emptor.

  14. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    It’s good to remind and educate people – but I clued in to this upcharge over 20 years ago.

  15. Suulia says:

    I have learned my lesson, and will never, ever ship anything from a UPS store ever again.

    UPS stores are indeed 3rd party franchises, and as such, you are at the mercy of the individual store’s policies, which are completely different than if you shipped directly with UPS/USPS/etc.

  16. INsano says:

    I used a UPS store last year for the first time, mailed an 8 ounce package and then received an invoice for my 14.5 lb. package. Their customer service is very difficult to contact, anyone you call needs “to transfer you”. Took about 8 weeks to get the simple mistake of theirs resolved. They were going to send me to collections because I wouldn’t pay their overcharge. Bad, anecdotal experience, but I certainly will never use them again.

    • feckingmorons says:

      I didn’t think the UPS stores invoiced. I thought you paid at the time you shipped. UPS Stores are the old Mail Boxes Etc, not the UPS package drop off locations or corporate customer counters.

  17. feckingmorons says:

    Why would they not charge a surcharge? They are not the post office.

  18. lilabnershmoo says:

    I worked (past tense) at a UPS Store for 3 years so I want to address a few things that have been commented on.

    The postage markup at UPS Stores does vary store to store. But it exists so the store can make money. The USPS does not give UPS Store any kind of “wholesale” price on postage. It costs the same amount as it does for everyone else, The store has to be able to make SOMETHING from it otherwise they would just break even. While yes, the price is going to be higher than going straight to the Post Office, most of the time it is more convenient to go to a UPS Store as they are generally not as hectic.

    UPS Shipping rates will be the same at any UPS Store or UPS Hub though. They are locked and controlled by UPS Corporate.

  19. TJMeier says:

    My buddies dad owns a UPS store which was previously a Mail Boxes Etc. They make absolutely nothing on people making prepaid purchases online and dropping them off at the store. Many of them are hurting because of this because they ARE independently owned stores. So if you want to help out a local business, make your purchase in the store. You could actually save some money if you are over estimating on your package(s) weight online. (i’m guessing most people don’t weigh their packages in their homes)

  20. skapig says:

    I’m a former UPS Store employee…

    First, as others have pointed out, UPS Stores are franchised. Therefore, your experience will vary for sure.

    What the UPS Stores sell is METERED MAIL. The owner pays a surcharge for the purchase of postage through the meter which is passed along to the consumer along with a little profit. Essentially it’s a convenience thing. I always made it clear that they are meter mail rates are higher, but there are certainly associates who don’t. Why on earth you’d go to a UPS Store to ship via USPS rather than the post office is beyond me. Yes, you may want packaging service, but you can get that and still ship it yourself at the post office.

    Here’s their logic: the USPS does not give the UPS Store a cut even though its employees do the processing, paperwork, and whatnot.