Sunday, April 16, 2017

Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Confusion

Several years back, the United States Postal Service rebranded Express Mail as Priority Mail Express.  The names are too similar, and inexperienced sellers can easily confuse the two services. Inexperienced sellers are the ones most likely to rely on post office supplies for mailing packages, and they are most likely to choose Priority Mail. Those pesky Priority Mail Express supplies are displayed right next to the Priority Mail supplies.  I actually wonder if the USPS wanted the confusion so that they could charge postage due on lots of Priority Mail packages sent accidentally with Priority Mail Express envelopes.

Priority Mail Express is a one-day service.  Postage cost is $25-$35 for the first pound, and the price depends upon whether a flat rate or non-flat rate envelope is used.  It is a very expensive service, and it is a very costly error to get caught accidentally using a Priority Mail Express envelope or box for another class of mail.  This is a Priority Mail Express envelope.

Priority Mail is a two- to three-day service and costs $6.65 and up, depending upon weight and whether a flat rate envelope is used.  This is a Priority Mail envelope.

I had to pick this package up at the post office since it arrived postage due.

The seller was inexperienced, and she probably had no idea that Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express are different services.  She paid $6.65 for a Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope.  She used a non-flat rate Priority Mail Express envelope.  For the envelope the seller used, the postage cost should have been $34.60.  I was charged $27.95, which is the difference between $6.65 and $34.90.

To say that this made me unhappy would be an understatement.

The book was not even quite worth what I originally paid, but it ended up costing $27.95 more on top of the original amount.  This is totally unacceptable.

I have mixed feelings in that I am upset both with the seller and with the postal service.

I did send the seller a message informing her of the problem.

"The package arrived with postage due of $27.95, so I had to pay $27.95 to pick up the package. A Priority Mail Express envelope was used to mail the book, and the postage paid was for regular Priority Mail. Since the Priority Mail Express envelope was used, the post office assessed the postage due at the much higher Priority Mail Express rate.

I attached a photo showing the package and the receipt for the $27.95 payment to the post office. I expect a refund of $27.95 on my order, since this was an unexpected extra charge. Thank you in advance, Jennifer"

The seller did not respond.  I waited two days.

Two days later, I sent this message.

"I sent you a message two days ago informing you that the package arrived postage due of $27.95 due to the misuse of a Priority Mail Express envelope. Please refer to the image sent in that message. Due to the error, I had to pay an additional $27.95.

I should have refused the package, causing it to be returned to you. I decided to pay the postage due since it would save you an additional loss. If I had refused the package, you would have had to pay the $27.95 postage due in order to take possession of the package. You would then have had to pay shipping again to send the package to me a second time.

I understand that this is a really bad situation, but on eBay, the seller is the one who must take responsibility when this type of mistake occurs.


Finally, the seller responded.  "I m gonna take this to the post office and see why this happened and also contact eBay cuz this was purchased with their postage in very very sorry"

I knew from the response that she wasn't going to refund me.  I had already explained the problem, so having the seller put it on eBay and the post office told me all I needed to know.

Unfortunately, buyers have no recourse when packages arrive postage because eBay buyer protection only covers non-receipt of purchases and purchases that are significantly not as described.  Postage due is neither situation.  All a buyer can do is appeal to the seller and hope for the best.

I waited 10 days, just to give the seller a last chance.  I then left her the following neutral feedback.

"Paid postage due $27.95 due to misuse Express mail envelope; no refund given"

I didn't give a negative feedback simply because I feel that the seller made a mistake, albeit a very bad one.  The USPS is also partly to blame because of the confusing names of its services, and I do think they may have caused the confusion on purpose so that they could assess postage due on lots of packages. 

A neutral feedback is enough to get buyers' attention, so at least I have placed a warning in the seller's feedback.  The seller is selling Nancy Drew books on eBay, so make sure you check feedback before bidding or making a purchase.


Michael Nabholz said...

Thanks for sharing this bizarre tale.
Did the package actually receive express one day service, or did it arrive in 2-3 days (priority)?
I would have thought that the tracking bar code would have caused it to go the slower route, since the bar code identifies the type of service. (The type of service appears on USPS tracking reports.)
However, nothing that the USPS does would surprise me.

Jennifer White said...

The package did not receive express mail service. It came by priority mail with the two- to three-day service. This was a money grab by the post office. They really didn't lose anything by the seller's misuse of the envelope. The service she paid for included the cost of a priority mail envelope. True, she used an express envelope, but it cost no more to manufacture than a priority mail envelope. The envelopes are basically the same with different names on them.

I received a media mail package last week that had a priority mail envelope used to stuff the inside of the package. In that case, the post office did lose by that seller misusing the envelope, since it was used inside a cheap mail class. The post office would have been justified to charge priority mail postage on that package if they had been aware of it.