on Mar 21st, 2011 in Post Offices & Retail Network | 31 comments
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"]I[/dropcap]n fiscal year 2009, the U.S. Postal Service spent more than $149 million in manufacturing, shipping, and fulfillment costs for Express Mail® and Priority Mail® packaging supplies. The Postal Service, like FedEx, provides these supplies at no cost to customers and the public. The packaging is Postal Service property and, therefore, should only be used to send Express and Priority mail packages. However, some customers use the boxes, envelopes, and labels for other purposes and in some cases, customers use the packaging to mail items using the Postal Service’s competitors. This adds additional costs to the Postal Service and violates federal law. The question is balancing the desire to control costs with maintaining the convenience that customers desire. The Postal Service must ensure the supplies it provides are used appropriately, but what’s the best way to do this? Are the savings worth the logistics and costs of monitoring and the inconvenience for customers? How do competitors monitor the use of packaging supplies? This topic is hosted by the Office of Audit Field Financial – West team.
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I purchase a lot from sellers on eBay and I am constanty amazed but the sellers use the free express mail boxes as packing materials indide the shipping boxes and how many times they use two or three express mail envelopes when they are sending old stamps that I purchase. Totally out of control.


go to this link... tons of vidoes on how to get "free" graffiti slaps/stickers from usps. what a waste of our supply monies!

I know lots of people who order these boxes to store things!! there sturdy and uniform, the boxes stack well. our red ink is sitting in her attic.

Each package should be labeled on the inside as Priority or Express.Many boxes are being turned inside out to hide the fact they are priority. Some of the boxes currently have this feature but most do not. The should also eliminate boxes wrapped in paper. Too many of the USPS boxes are being used then wrapped in paper to hide they fact they are priority boxes.

Yes. I recently loaded a pickup truck full of Priority boxes ordered by an individual. To date the person has not Mailed a single box out. What on earth are they using them for? The ability to order supllies should be tied to the number of click-n-ship parcels they send out.

The PO should charge the for the flat rate boxes avoid the confusion. similar to the foever stamp

A surcharge should be implemented for all mailpieces that are clearly violating the proper use of Priority/Express supplies. A charge of maybe around $20 for every piece detected, enough to discourage anybody from trying it.

to many of the products (Boxes) wind up in UPS package stream,something should be printed on the inside of boxes to keep box from being used as packings for other types of shipping

I used to be a mail carrier, and I have seen a lot of customers using Express and priority boxes for other things. One guy had organized his garage with them. And also, at craft sales, venders store their goods in them and also pack fragile items for customers. Inter-office mail is another use I've seen while delivering. Having some kind of scanner the customers use when taking the boxes might help study how much is taken and not used.

The waste of the boxes is a lot. My coworker saw a former customer of ours using all the large flat rate boxes in his shipping container as he was moving to the mainland. I have sent the priority tyvek bags back to the customer needing more postage as he had used it for first class. Even after being returned to him, he continues to use it but luckily one of the more diligent clerks caught it and returned it again.

I have inspected media mail parcels and the flat rate boxes have been used.

The worst offense is seeing the customers wrap the flat rate boxes in brown paper and then mailing it at priority rate rather than the higher flat rate. Also seen and very common is having it wrapped and then paying the local rate which is waaaaaaaay cheaper than the flat rate boxes.

I think the boxes should be prepaid for up front whether it's paid at the counter or online. The postage for a lesser size flat rate is all too common revenue loss which I see everyday. In a way, we are just screwing our own selves up by having so much different boxes and pricing. Most clerks don't have a clue if the correct postage has even been applied. Now we have the padded flat rate envelopes but the customers are paying for flat rate envelopes only.

In a way, the forever flat rate boxes will eliminate some problems.
Something must be done to control the problem. Common problem is the customer using the other companies packaging then understating the weights. I pretty much can flag those parcels as underpaid in that if they are cheating by using the other guys stuff so they will cheat us also and I am usually right. :)

Make the boxes a "deposit" system - charge a dollar for the box, then give a $1 postage discount to anyone using a Postal-sourced box.

The box is still free in the long run, but only to those who are using it properly.

Completely agree with the deposit idea. But you would have to implement some sort of ID (barcode) for each individual item that there was a deposit on to keep track if that deposit had already been paid back or not. I reuse boxes that I receive for shipping other stuff so I shouldn't get a deposit return on those.

As a mail service provider, I have been sent USPS in excess of my needs. I have two pallets of Priory Drop Ship Open and Distribute tray boxes that I do not use. I have had them in my warehouse for almost two years.

I have contacted the USPS in an attempt to return the materials, but oddly there is no system for returns for this materials.

I have cartons of flat rate Priority envelopes and boxes as well left over from mailing projects.

I must have several thousand dollars worth of postal packaging in my warehouse not creating anything but cost to the USPS.

I know of a number of businesses that use postal products for other things. One example is a business that used to buy bubble wrap. Now they use the postal bubble padded evelopes to package thier delicate items and place them inside postal priority boxes to mail them.

Why are we giving out free boxes and labels? Your hurting the packaging industry.

This is frustrating for somebody who works in the industry to get prices low and make our products visible to the public.

I have seen people order USPS supplies, then ship packages with UPS, you go and report this and the only response you get from management is a shrug of the shoulders. Its easier to waste money then try to resolve problems, I guess. Whether its a deposit, or prepaid packages or something else, The USPS needs to do something and not just sit there and do nothing.

Both Priority and Express supplies should be labeled on the inside so they cannot be used for other types of mail. They are used for media mail rates-even when the contents are not media mail. Repeat offenders should not be allowed to use on line postage accounts nor order supplies on line.

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Please see "Penny for your thoughts"..

JBeck post of 10/26/10 & my associate reply 01/28/10

I have delivered boxes to homes, only to see those boxes, later used in garage sales, and as storage boxes. I think that the boxes should still be free, and delivered to customers, but only after pre-paid postage is bought for them.

sorry, J Beck's post was dated 10/26/09.

There is a lot of abuse of this process. Fix or eliminate it.

While I agree that abuse exists, controlling/policing this issue can cause even worse problems and spend even more money. I can't help but wonder that when a someone uses a USPS box and then uses FedEx or UPS to ship it that there isn't some way we could get reimbursed from FedEx or UPS. They are our business partners, and I would think it would be obvious to them when a USPS package is in their mailstream. A business partner should be just that, a partner and work with us to deal with this issue.

Why make things more complicated, more management and admin....I say focus on cuts and keep it simple!

When you receive something (via USPS) in a USPS supplied box, is it still illegal to use that box for something else??

Maybe charging for the materials, or only making them available at USPS locations would stop some of the abuse. Thanks.

UPS and Fedex you have to have an account to order supplies. When you do order, they review it and check your shipping history. If you're consistanly ordering supplies and continue to ship nothing air, then they cut you off.

There is a local private postal/shipping store in my city. If I bring USPS flat rate packages to their location, is it legal for them to ship at a higher rate? They told me flat rate is not a service that they offer. That may be legal, but is it legal for them to then charge by weight, as if it were not a flat rate package, even though I'm using the flat rate packaging? How do I report this if it's not legal?


Thank you for taking the time to notify our offices of this occurrence.

The role of the USPS Office of Inspector General is to investigate waste, theft, fraud and abuse within the Postal Service (USPS). Unfortunately, this issue falls outside of the jurisdiction of this office.

However, please contact your local Postal Service Consumer Affairs Office at 1-800-275-8777, so they can look further into this matter for you.

This is a tough one. As a customer, I very frequently receive packages from eBay sellers, etc, where the seller has used free USPS products for internal padding, etc. this always really bothers me, and seems like theft to me. However, I'm not sure it would be cost effective to actually attempt to monitor the use of the products you supply. My advice would be for you to make a very clear and accessible policy that your free products are to be used as external packaging only, and only for items shipped via USPS, and that doing otherwise will be considered theft. Then ask that customers report to you (with photos, possibly?) when we receive a package where the seller has violated those policies. After that, a letter that threatens legal action might do the trick. ( would it be considered fraud by mail?)

Are you kidding me on this blog? You can't even get the danged packages DELIVERED in a TIMELY FASHION, even when the correct boxes are used. Worry not about this. Go back to basics and just do the job you are obviously overpaid for.

As I sit with yet another one of my packages stuck in another sorting center...2 weeks overdue.... sheesh

I spent half an hour using the USPS search engine to try to find guidelines or regulations on the use of the "free" shipping supplies (boxes and mailers) provided by USPS. I googled for another hour and still could not find a statement with guidelines, penalties or anything else. If it's there, it's very hard to find (I'm still looking).

This issue comes up frequently on eBay and there are many sellers using bubble mailers and boxes as internal packing instead of buying packing materials but, without a definitive statement from USPS, it's difficult to have a discussion with the many who justify misuse of materials or who claim that USPS says it's okay to use these as internal packing.

Could we get something in writing please that not only 1) clarifies what we can and can't do but which also 2) says something about the impact on USPS of this very widespread practice not only of using these as packing materials, but as household storage containers or garage sale boxes on a large scale and 3) which specifies penalties for misuse.