The Cubage Racket

I’ve used UPS to ship overnight or two-day packages for years… but not any longer, not after a rather “interesting” encounter.

My wife the professor, who’s been overwhelmed by the combination of the university term beginning, complying with all the additional procedures and necessities as a result of Covid-19 and the additional problems of a university insisting on transitioning from a semester system to a trimester system at the same time, asked if I’d take care of shipping a few small presents to a daughter-in-law for her birthday.

I made the mistake of deciding to send them in a modest sized box – 12x12x9, inches, that is – with some light-weight padding as insurance against breakage, filled out my shipping label, since I have a UPS account, then took the package to the UPS office, which verified the weight as two pounds. Except that when I got the bill, the total shipping cost was for one hundred dollars. Because the package was so light, UPS charged me for the size of the package, not the weight, and that didn’t make any sense to me, either. I’ve sent ten pound manuscripts to the same area for $55, but even after I protested UPS was absolutely firm – one hundred dollars, sucker. I can see a modest surcharge, but a $60 surcharge?

And it’s not that UPS is hurting because of Covid-19. In fact, UPS has never been busier, but apparently with that surge have come more charges and more and more packages damaged in transit, most likely because UPS is overloading its existing work force.

At the same time, the current administration is trying to hamstring the U.S. Postal Service, which, had I known and thought better, I could have used to send the package priority mail for a fifth the cost of UPS, and it only would have taken one day longer.

But the USPS remains hamstrung by a pricing model that’s totally senseless, whereby mail-order businesses can print and mail millions of catalogues, the majority of which are discarded unread, a huge subsidy to such businesses, while not having enough revenue to cover costs.

Because we live in a university town in the middle of beautiful but sparsely populated lands, we do a fair amount of catalogue/online shopping, but we’ve seldom if ever found any of the unsolicited catalogues of any value, and I’m putting 20 plus pounds of unread catalogues into recycling every week. As I’ve pointed out before, if that kind of marketing is cost-effective, it’s only because taxpayers and first class mailers are subsidizing it.

Because of the business and package-mailer subsidies, and the failure of Congress to make up the revenue losses caused by such subsidies, USPS revenues are inadequate for the tasks required of it and mail-handling is slowing… but USPS can certainly deliver Amazon packages on Sunday. At the same time, alternative transmission systems, like UPS and FedEx are increasing rates for rapid-delivery services, both directly [and indirectly, as I just discovered].

And who’s going to end up paying most of the increased costs, one way or another? Everyone but business.

4 thoughts on “The Cubage Racket”

  1. Chris says:

    I’ve never been a fan of “dimension weight”, but it is pretty common for most shipping companies. The site should have prompted for the packaging info though, including the dimensions, and shown the package cost based on the maximum of the raw weight rate and the dimension weight rate. At least then you’d know in advance and would be making an informed decision.

    As for the USPS and their rate structure, I’d love to see that completely overhauled. The original purpose of the USPS was to keep people in communication with each other, and advertising / shopping catalogues was not what they had in mind. They should either change the rates to reflect the full costs of each type of mail, or they should prioritize direct entity-to-entity mail as deserving of subsidies and charge commercial and political mail a higher rate to cover it. Then set shipping rates competitively with the major competitors.

  2. R. Hamilton says:

    It may be the local UPS depot or drivers rather than systemwide, but I’ve had more items turn up missing or tampered with from UPS than any other shipper. For all its faults, USPS seems to at least try to get better in terms of automation, options, etc…although they could do with more consistent training and supervision. But probable misdeeds seem less common with USPS than with some private shippers.

    FedEx seems to me most reliable, but usually most expensive.

  3. Tim says:

    Here in the UK, there are some companies which buy courier services in bulk and so gain a discount. They then advertise these via a web site.

    On the site, you enter the dimensions and weight and service needed (such as next day), location etc. The site then presents a price-ranked order of available couriers.

    Sometimes I will skip the cheapest due to some past experience but usually this works fine.

    However England is smaller than some states and (too) heavily populated so maybe this model is not viable in most of the US.

  4. marilyn k hunt says:

    well, that is strange. our local ups owner was arrested for child porn. something odd with your experience…are drugs being shipped from that location? this is a time of uncertainty and deceptions. probably that ups is not a good place for some reason. fans from farmtek or nothern are good quality.

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