Seven Common Shipping Mistakes

A quick rundown of the most common shipping mistakes and how you can avoid them
Frustrated with shipping mistakes
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Have you ever heard the expression, “The devil is in the details?” When it comes to shipping correctly to maximize profit margins for your business, that saying couldn’t be more true. Shipping items can be costly and time-consuming if you don’t do it correctly…and to be frank, most businesses aren’t! We don’t want you to fall into that same boat, so we’ve listed seven common shipping mistakes that people make below. These are the seven deadly sins of shipping, and we’re here to help you avoid them!

Table of Contents

1. Paying Retail Prices for Postage

Far and away, the biggest (and most common) shipping mistake we see is individuals and businesses paying retail rates for their postage. No matter which carrier you choose (UPS, USPS, or FedEx, to name the three major ones in the U.S.), paying retail rates for postage is always an expense that can be avoided with the proper amount of research and strategy! All the major carriers in the U.S. offer discounted postage through their partnerships with online shipping software solutions that you can sign up for.

When you use shipping software to buy and print postage from your own home or office, you get access to special discounts that the carriers typically reserve for huge commercial shippers who send more than 50,000 packages per year! For USPS, this specially discounted pricing level is called Commercial Pricing. In some cases, these discounts can save you up to 89% off of what you’d pay to ship the exact same box with retail rates at your local Post Office or UPS Store! On top of that, you can also schedule pickups for your packages so that you never have to go to the Post Office or UPS Store again.

USPS offers two pricing tiers for all their shipping services, which we’ve listed for you below:

  • Retail Pricing: What you’ll pay if you walk into your local Post Office or at
  • Commercial Pricing: The most deeply discounted shipping rates available, which you’ll access through shipping software

2. Using Incorrect Packaging

Did you know that improperly packaged items have a much higher chance of being damaged when they reach their destination? It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Some carriers will even deny damage claims due to improper packaging. Therefore, it’s extra important to make sure you’re preparing your package properly!

For instance,

3. Wrong Address Information

This continues to be one of the most common shipping mistakes, and it’s so easy to avoid! If you think you’re immune, don’t get cocky. It happens to the best of us. The best way to avoid this is to double-check that your destination address is correct, including the zip code. If it’s not, your shipment could end up at the wrong address or be returned back to you. Speaking of returns: USPS actually offers free returns for undeliverable packages, but UPS and FedEx will both charge you a fee for this. Be kind to yourself and make sure you get it right the first time!

4. Inaccurate Shipping Weight

Imagine that you’re in line to buy a plane ticket. If you were informed that your ticket price was based on how much your suitcase weighed, would you guess or make sure the weight you gave was accurate? That’s what we thought. Believe it or not, a lot of shippers guess when it comes to the weight of their shipment! This often results in too much or too little postage.

Your package will still be delivered if you haven’t purchased the correct amount of postage. However, don’t be surprised when you’re billed for the difference in postage at the full retail rate after the ship date! When shipping with USPS, these adjustments come as a result of packages being run through the USPS Automated Package Verification System.

Don’t play the guessing game. Make sure you always take the time to weigh packages accurately. A simple bathroom scale should do the trick if you don’t have a shipping scale.

5. Choosing the Wrong Shipping Service

USPS divides mail into different services, called “classes.” Each USPS mail class has different features, postage prices, and pre-sorting requirements. For most shipments, the contents of your package and postage will determine the class of mail you choose. Choosing the wrong mail class can delay your package and even leave your recipient having to pay for the difference in postage…and no one wants that.

For example, if you’re sending hazardous materials such as used electronics containing lithium-ion batteries, the only USPS service you’ll be allowed to use is USPS Ground Advantage. If you try to ship with another service like Priority Mail, USPS may hold the package and eventually send it back to you.

To help you figure out which mail class you should go with, we’ve outlined some common USPS and UPS services below.

USPS Shipping Services

  • Ground Advantage (cheapest USPS service, estimated delivery of 2-5 business days; required for shipments containing hazardous materials)
  • Priority Mail (estimated delivery of 1-3 business days)
  • Priority Mail Express (the fastest USPS service, with overnight delivery to most urban locations and 2-day delivery to rural areas)
  • Media Mail (a highly-discounted service for shipments containing strictly “media” products, such as CDs, DVDs, books, vinyl records, and educational materials)

UPS Shipping Services

  • UPS Ground (the most affordable and slowest UPS service; required for shipments containing hazardous materials)
  • 3-Day Select (estimated delivery within 3 business days)
  • 2nd Day Air (estimated delivery by the second business day after giving the package to UPS)
  • Next Day Air (the fastest and most expensive UPS service)

6. Entering Incorrect Package Dimensions

Make sure you’re using the correct dimensions for your package! Some of the carriers include dimensional weight in their pricing equations. What’s dimensional weight, you ask? Dimensional Weight Pricing (or DIM, for short) is a form of pricing on larger packages where the price is based on the package’s height, width, and length in addition to its weight. Basically, if your box is big and not super heavy, the carriers will charge you based on how much space your box takes up in their trucks, rather than its total weight.

If you’re not using the correct dimensions or if you’re using too much packaging, DIM costs can be high—sometimes in the hundreds of dollars! Those costs can sneak up on you fast and hit you right where it hurts: your wallet.

7. Ignoring Carrier Changes

Like anything else, shipping rates go up—and they go up often. All the major carriers raise postage prices every year, and unfortunately, it’s unavoidable no matter what. One of the most common shipping mistakes is not keeping up with the most current pricing, but you can avoid it by staying on your toes!

When pricing changes, it might make sense to adjust your shipping strategy if a different carrier can offer you a better deal.

Don’t Regret It—Prevent It!

We’re all human, and some shipping mistakes are bound to happen here and there. However, you can do your best to prevent them! Double-checking ALL the details of your shipment is the best way to avoid these common shipping mistakes. It may take a little extra time, but in the shipping business where mistakes cost you money, it’s completely worth it.

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