If you’re an online seller, you may have noticed that the Coronavirus pandemic has created widespread delays with USPS packages. The pandemic has created a kind of one-two punch for the eCommerce industry. On one hand, package growth has absolutely skyrocketed. On the other hand, COVID-19 has put an unforeseen amount of strain on the USPS network, due to the rising volume of packages and lack of transportation resources. Many sellers have written into us expressing frustration that a package they sent has been lost in transit for up to several weeks. While we’d like to say there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, we might not have seen the worst of these delays yet. According to a memo circulating through Postal Service circles, Postmaster Louis DeJoy has made an executive decision to prohibit employees from late trips and extra trips to deliver packages. In turn, doing so would reduce the amount of overtime pay USPS must pay these workers. However, it’s also likely to lead to even more delayed packages within the USPS network…and more frustrated shippers.
According to Postal Service Insiders, This New “Rule” May Not Come to Pass
Before we dive in, we must take it upon ourselves to mention that this new “rule” may not apply to the entire USPS network in the first place. According to our contacts in the Postal Service, the memo doesn’t look like it came from USPS headquarters. Most memos sent to the entire organization look a certain way, and this one fails to follow that specific formatting.
Secondly, accounts of how real this mandate is seem to vary wildly. Some postal insiders we’ve contacted claim they’ve heard this new “rule” being talked about throughout their entire professional network. Others say they haven’t heard any mention of it at all. Some even believe it may be a hoax, something to stir up negative sentiment towards USPS from the public for whatever reason. Either way, the fact is that this memo went out to a specific region (which this article on Government Executive recently confirmed). Therefore, it may not necessarily apply to the entire Postal Service network as a whole.
That said, just in case this mandate may soon apply to the entire USPS organization, feel free to read on…
The Theory Behind Postmaster General’s DeJoy’s Decision (and the Problem With It)
In recent times, USPS has not imposed a time cutoff for employees. Now, DeJoy believes doing so will reduce the amount of overtime compensation that USPS must pay its workers. According to the memo linked above, late trips and extra trips costs the organization about $200 million per year. Restricting postal employees’ ability to make late trips and extra trips should theoretically eliminate overtime compensation. As a result, getting rid of overtime compensation should then lower costs across the board. However, this cost-cutting initiative sacrifices one of the most importance pillars upon which the Postal Service was founded: the commitment to universal service.
Why This New Mandate May Lead to an Increase in Delayed USPS Packages
Obviously, the strategy behind reducing overtime is to reduce costs. However, another huge underlying issue is that Postal Service mail sorting centers are already backed up. Now, without the ability to work overtime, USPS will simply process less packages. More packages will be left in facilities overnight, when they otherwise would have moved on through the network. Most importantly, postal workers will deliver less packages to customers’ doorsteps during the later parts of their routes. Instead, these packages will travel back to the local USPS facility. They will remain there until the next business day, when letter carriers have permission to deliver them during regular hours. This process is known as “curtailing” throughout the mailing and shipping industry.
Let’s take a look at a quick example. If one USPS sorting center curtails 20% of packages one day, that 20% of packages doesn’t just disappear. In reality, that particular center will have no choice but to deliver over-capacity at 120% of packages the next day. When volume gets too high above delivery capacity in a processing center, it can result in a gridlock. Then, if a plant gridlocks, the overtime hours they cut snowball into an even bigger expense to free up the parcel gridlock. As a result, all of the Postal Service’s service standards go out the door…and the organization ends up incurring more costs than they anticipated in the first place.
Severe Packages Delays Will Not Be Exclusive to the Software You Use to Buy USPS Labels
If you think severe package delays are only happening because of the shipping software you use, think again. Online USPS shipping software companies all offer the same shipping labels that USPS offers at both the Post Office, and through the USPS Click-N-Ship program. Many shippers have a tendency to blame their shipping software partners when package delays occur. As a result, we see shippers sometimes choosing to hop between different shipping software parters, as if making this change will solver the problem. In reality, the shipping software companies have nothing to do with these delays. All USPS labels enter directly into the USPS network anyway, no matter where they originate from. Therefore, the buck starts and stops with the Postal Service’s infrastructure.
What Can I Do?
When you’re running an eCommerce business, you may feel powerless or even embarrassed when your packages don’t reach your customers on time. Fortunately, we’ve listed out a few things you can do to minimize the damage. Some of these suggestions are preventative, and some are reactionary. Either way, we hope the following steps give you some options if you start seeing a high amount of delays for your USPS packages.
Set Reasonable Expectations with Recipients
First and foremost, the best defense when it comes to late packages is a good offense. By this, we mean to set reasonable expectations with your recipients. In our experience, online shoppers are fairly understanding. If you set expectations from the start that they might not receive packages as quickly, they won’t be able to say you never warned them. Considering the global pandemic still ravaging our country, it would be difficult to believe any recipient would find that to be unreasonable.
File an Insurance Claim with USPS
If USPS hasn’t delivered your package within fifteen (15) days of shipment, you can try to file a USPS insurance claim. All Priority Mail services come with $50 of insurance if you ship your package at the Post Office. If you use online shipping software to buy postage, these same services include $100 of insurance. Note that other USPS services such as First Class Package or Parcel Select/Retail Ground don’t include any automatic insurance.
To claim insurance Priority Mail insurance, you’ll need to file a claim on the USPS website. If you’d like more of a walkthrough, we’ve also got an article that outlines the entire process of filing an insurance claim with USPS here.
Purchase Additional Insurance through the Shipping Software You Use
As always, the best way to protect against late or damaged packages is to purchase shipping insurance outside of USPS. In addition to providing postage, all shipping software options offer insurance through third-party providers. The shipping insurance you’ll get with these options gives you much more wiggle room than USPS insurance does. For starters, you’ll be able to claim up to $5,000 of declared value per package in most cases. Also, shipping insurance companies cover broader situations that USPS insurance won’t, like packages marked as “Delivered” but have gone missing. If these potential delays start rippling through the USPS network, purchasing shipping insurance will be more important than ever.