USPS zone map

Before we could list our products on Etsy, we had to determine a shipping price.  So we called the post office of course!  Not so fast – it depends on how much the package weighs, and where you ship it to and from, and what size box you use, etc, etc.  We had planned on then calling UPS and FedEx to compare prices, but we couldn’t figure out what to compare to!

We tried contacting a USPS rep to see if they could explain it all to us. But they just sent a list of box sizes and prices.  Yeah, we know …  we already found that on your website.  We also picked up a list of zones from our local branch office (they xeroxed the copy they had hanging on the wall!) – it didn’t make any sense at all.

Argh! If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.  So I stayed up one Friday night til about 3am figuring this out.  First I had to figure out where each zone actually was, because if you go in numerical order by zip code, it seems completely haphazard.  Turns out the zones actually run in vertical bands from North to South across the country (kind of – see the map above).

Then I figured out how much each type of order would weigh – one pack of crayons, 2 packs of crayons… up to 10, party favor packs, etc, including the box and packing materials (taking into account the different size boxes needed and their weights as well).

Did you know on USPS.com there is a program that lets you type in how much your shipment weighs, where you’re shipping it from and to, and in what type of packaging you’re using (http://postcalc.usps.com/)? It then spits out a list of shipping methods and costs for each.  So, of course, I typed in all that info for each zone and each weight and made a big old beautiful and confusing chart of all the options.  From that, I created an “easy ship chart” that narrowed it down to the cheapest way to ship to each zone and which box to use.

On Etsy, you can not have the customer enter their zip code and let them know how much their shipping will be, like you can on Ebay.  You have to put a flat shipping price on each listing. So I had to figure the worst case scenario to keep us covered.  We actually use the 2nd to worst case figuring we’ll make a little extra on some (chalked up to “handling”) and take a loss on others but it will even out in the long run.

Now when we get an order, I just cross reference the ship-to zip code to the zone, weigh the package and take out my shipping bible to determine how to ship it!

BUT THEN…

The USPS raised its rates!!!! Back to the drawing board!