I had intended for a small box containing two shirts to wing its way over to England, as my son had left them behind in San Francisco at Christmas but needed to wear them for all-important job interviews. Arriving early enough to see the Golden Gate Post Office on Geary Boulevard locking up on a Saturday late afternoon, but too late to get inside, I made my way instead to the nearest FedEx just around the corner.
No thanks, FedEx
The counter staff asked if I wanted to open a FedEx account. I declined. They pointed at two fairly lengthy forms in triplicate to be completed for overseas shipping. Aside from the obvious address and details of the contents necessities, there were several unexpected questions, one requiring the email address of the recipient. Completed paperwork in hand, a value of $20 declared (the shirts were not new), I returned to the counter for the mailing labels and passed the package across one more time for regular, not expedited, shipping. Then came the surprise. With a straight face, the clerk asked me for exactly $101.00 for postage. My credit card remained squarely in my pocket. Would anyone actually fork that amount over? Flabbergasted, I went home to tweet and post on Facebook about it.
Monday morning it was back to the U.S. Post Office where a rather delightful woman took my package, suggested that it go into a smaller Jiffy bag, affixed a label, quoted an expected arrival in five to ten days (it arrived in six) and requested $20.45. I am not a math whiz, but at a quick glance it sure looks to me as though FedEx is a ripoff. Not at double the price, not triple, but at a remarkable five times the price. Wouldn't you walk around the corner to save $80.55?
Save the US Mail
Now we know that late last year it was widely reported that the USPS postmaster general announced a loss of $16 billion dollars for fiscal year 2011-2012. We absorbed the news that our nation's Saturday mail deliveries, in force since 1863, are being eliminated to cut costs (which does mean that jobs will go as well). We all know that far fewer letters are written these days. However, way more packages are sent due to massive growth in internet shopping. Yes, we also know that in 2006 Congress saddled USPS with further costs under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act.
But, we can read Wall Street reports indicating that FedEx and German-owned DHL are reeling in hundreds of millions of dollars in profits. Perhaps all those profits are not due to $80 overcharges to members of the public, but keep this in mind when Christmas rolls around. Early planning to use the USPS could personally save you bundles; get there before 4 p.m. on a Saturday, if they still have any weekend hours.