I asked the members of my EShop Success program if they used the package pickup service that the US postal service offers. This is basically where you schedule the mail carrier to stop at your house or business and pick up packages so that you don’t have to go to the post office to drop them off.
A lot of people have used the pickup service, or use it on a regular basis, so I got some tips from them about how to get it set up and what to watch out for.
Table of Contents
- How do you sign up for USPS package pickup service?
- What kind of packages will the post office pick up?
- What should you watch out for with scheduled package pickups?
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How do you sign up for USPS package pickup service?
To schedule a package pickup through the USPS you’ll need to go to USPS.com and register for an account. The registration button is at the top of the website page and it’s a free service.
Once you’re signed in, you can click on the “send” tab at the top and select “schedule a pickup.”
The first page after you click to schedule will ask you for the location where you need the pickup (usually your home if you work from home.)
Once you fill that out you can click on “check availability at the bottom of the page and it will tell you whether the post office can pick up from that location or not.
Scrolling down on the same page, you’ll see a section where you can tell the mail carrier where the packages will be. There are options for porch pickup, “knock on door,” mail room, etc.
This is where it could potentially get tricky, so read the section below about things to watch out for for more information.
After you choose where the packages will be, another section pops up and you can choose a free pickup during normal mail delivery or a scheduled one that the post office will charge you for.
Clearly, you should usually do the free pickup. But if you’re shipping something really large and/or valuable, you might want to schedule the pickup so that you can be there to make sure it goes well. I can think of reasons why you would want to do that, but for the most part, people will schedule a free pickup.
When you choose free or paid, another window will pop up and you can choose a single date or multiple ones if you want to have them scheduled in advance.
They won’t let you choose the current date, you can only schedule pickups for the next day and days that aren’t postal holidays, obviously.
Next, a section will open up where you’ll need to enter the package information, agree to the terms, then click the “schedule pickup” button.
There are limitations to what they’ll pick up listed on this page, so make sure that your packages fit the criteria.
I’ve also heard from people that they will sometimes skip pickups, or not let you request a pickup if the packages aren’t priority, but most of the shop owners I asked about this said that they’ll pick everything up other than things that are only media mail. (More on that below.)
What kind of packages will the post office pick up?
The scheduling form says that the USPS will pick up any “premium packages,” which seems to include everything from Parcel Select Ground to Priority Express. It also mentions that if you have anything that’s in the “Other” category, which would be letter mail or media mail, you would have to have one of the “premium” category items included or they won’t pick it up.
So it looks like they’ll pick up a bunch of first-class packages, but not media mail packages UNLESS there’s one first-class package included in the group.
You also have to have pre-printed shipping labels on the packages that you put out, everything should be ready to be scanned into the system.
You can buy shipping labels on Etsy, or use another service like GoShippo, Pirateship, Shipstation, USPS.com, or Stamps.com.
For an article with some tips for buying shipping labels on Etsy, click here.
What should you watch out for with scheduled package pickups?
Since there are so many “porch pirates” stealing packages that are left out for pickups or that have been delivered, you should take precautions to make sure you have a secure location to leave the packages if you’re not going to be available to hand them to the mail carrier.
You should also be aware that sometimes substitute mail carriers won’t pick things up because they don’t understand the system!
Adrienne, owner of Dreamin’ Bohemian Studio, says “I use scheduled pickups, but depending on your carrier I have found that sometimes you need to request it earlier than the night before you need the pickup. My carrier lets me leave a note at my mailbox (down the street) and not request it online. But if he has a sub sometimes they will ignore the note.”
Debbie, owner of Natural Body Comfort, says “I use it daily. I have developed a good relationship with my mail carrier, which helps as she understands what I do. We realized that on occasion USPS was not getting the notification for pickup (yet I would get confirmation) so we worked out that when I have packages I leave the flag up and include a note for package pickup. That signals her and works well when someone else is filling in for her.
“It works great for me and during my busy season I have them loaded onto a wheeler to take to the truck. She also provides me with bins to place and carry the boxes as well.”
Molly, owner of Moonlover’s Jewelry, says “I use it and love it. You need to request the pickup the day before. Technically you have until 3 am on the day of, BUT, most days their website won’t let you update it then, so typically before midnight is best. Occasionally they miss picking up, but it’s rare.”
Taimi, owner of Aqua & Spark, says “I use it and it’s been a game changer for me mostly. I have a great relationship with my regular mail carrier but on her days off it can be hit or miss. I have started leaving a note in my mailbox with the flag up as a reminder which seems to have solved that problem.”
The main things that the shop owners who use scheduled pickups said to do were to make sure that you have a good relationship with the postal employee who regularly picks up your mail, and to cover your bases with a note in the mailbox reminding them to pick up the packages that are scheduled.
That will help if there’s a substitute carrier who doesn’t know about the arrangements that you’ve made. Sometimes they don’t give them the sheet that tells them to stop, so putting something in the mailbox as a reminder is a good idea.
As far as having a secure location for the pickup, the shop owners I spoke to have solutions for that, too.
Amy, owner of AmyFriendJewelry, says that they built a package kiosk because they have so many things being delivered and going out every day.
Molly of Moonlovers Jewelry added that “They have options when you request pick up. I select ‘knock on door’ so they knock and I hand them over. I don’t just leave them on the porch, not only due to theft risk but also weather worries too.”
Other shop owners who leave the packages on their porches said that they have security cameras, fenced-in yards with elevated porches, and even a dog or two to keep the packages safe until they’re collected.
If you’re going to leave things out, you should make sure that they’re safe until they’re picked up, because until the postal carrier takes them there’s not going to be a way to file for insurance if something happens to them!
Overall, it sounds like the USPS scheduled pickup system works pretty well, with some possible exceptions as far as substitute mail carriers and package type go. If you work with your local post office to smooth out any problems, it can be a time-saver and end up saving you gas money, too!
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