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Shipping alternative for eBay sellers - USPS Legal Flat Rate Envelopes

Be careful how much is stuffed into a flat rate mailer.
Be careful how much is stuffed into a flat rate mailer.

eBay sellers are always looking for ways to cut costs without sacrificing service to their customers. Many sellers are familiar with the cardboard Flat Rate Envelope (FRE) and the padded Flat Rate Envelope, but may not be aware of the Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope. The legal size FRE was designed for legal documents, but as long as the guidelines are followed, almost anything can be shipped in this mailer and the cost to ship is $5.75 regardless of the weight. eBay sellers may receive a discount depending on if they are Top Rated or other criteria.

The USPS Priority Legal Flat Rate envelope measures 15" x 9-1/2", or 2 ½ inches longer than a regular FRE. The legal size can be useful for larger items that won’t fit into a regular size FRE or padded FRE. Some clothing items such as jeans would ship well in the legal FRE, or items like larger magazines or other media items that do not qualify for media mail. (Media mail is for media items that do not contain advertising.)

Be careful not to over-stuff the legal FRE. This is becoming a common issue among eBay sellers who are a little too eager to save a couple of dollars and shove too much into a flat rate mailer. The cardboard and padded mailers can explode if stuffed too full. The USPS rule on FREs is as follows:

“Any amount of mailable material may be enclosed, as long as the envelope is not modified, and the contents are entirely within the envelope with the adhesive provided as the means of closure.”

This statement is printed on older FREs and is found on the USPS website in the Prices and Eligibility section. In other words, it is not permitted to wrap the envelope with layers of tape like this seller demonstrates in a YouTube video – the envelope must close on its own. Not only does the finished package violate USPS guidelines for FREs, but it is overstuffed and could explode in transit.

If the FRE is stuffed too full, consider what the customer’s impression of the item when he receives it. Sure, it is great to save the customer money, but you don’t want to make him mad either. Some of the Regional Rate boxes are a good alternative when a FRE just doesn’t make sense. When shipping an eBay item, consider all options on the shipping workflow page. You don’t want the package to explode or have an angry customer on your hands just because you tried to save a couple of dollars. The slogan "If it fits, it ships" should be carefully considered.