UPS VS USPS – Our Experience with Shipping Companies

By Chris Mullen, September 18, 2015

Our small business has been shipping packages since 2006 (2008 as Printkeg) consisting of tiny envelopes to multiple gigantic boxes. In the end, the carriers actually have much in common, but the differences can be quite impactful on the bottom line and the overall customer perception of your business.

UPS

UPS Driver

For awhile, we solely relied on UPS for all of our shipments. By earning ourselves bulk discounts, we hoped our small startup could better compete with larger enterprises that were offering low (and sometimes free) shipping rates. Choosing only one carrier was also one of many methods we initially implemented to keep our business lean – simple, dependable and efficient.

We maintained a one-carrier system for about six years. Many of our customers have hard deadlines, and we’ve always been able to trust UPS to consistently deliver packages as expected. Although we have not adequately tracked the failure rate of units reaching their destinations in good condition and on the correct delivery date, the number of errors would surely be fractional.

It is only fair to add how packages that do end up severely damaged get thrashed. UPS executives should be rather embarrassed how badly some of these boxes are destroyed, but they probably pay more attention to the success rate that is, in reality, magnificent. The overall dependability of the UPS network encouraged us to maintain our single carrier stance for a long time. With UPS, we can almost always accurately predict when any package will arrive at any destination.

The one major problem we faced with UPS was their prices for delivering lightweight packages. According to many carrier comparison articles online, UPS will be the most expensive for shipping packages two pounds and below. We have discovered that they are also relatively high for packages three to five pounds.  UPS does try to combat USPS rates for lighter boxes with a service called SurePost, but that is still much higher than merely adopting USPS.

– UPS is far more dependable concerning transit times.
– Cheaper for packages 8 pounds and over
– Items 2 pounds and under are significantly more expensive than USPS.
– All services have guaranteed transit times (even UPS Ground).
– When something is damaged, it is seriously wrecked Ace Ventura style.
– Weekly pickup service is not free (We pay about $11 per week)

USPS

USPS Worker

At the end of 2014, we could no longer ignore the option of adding USPS as a second carrier. One lingering complaint present on customer surveys typically included shipping prices. It is proven that shipping is one the main factors causing cart abandonment. With USPS, smaller print projects (a box of business cards, small stack or postcards, one large poster in a tube) can cost anywhere from $3 to $10 cheaper than UPS even after considering our bulk rates. For us, it feels disheartening to receive a testimony from a customer who is happy with quality, timeliness and pricing of our product but admits to not using us for future orders due to high shipping fees.

Since we utilize the e-commerce solution, Shopify, we have a world of shipping apps at our disposal therefore simplifying the shipping process especially when managing multiple carriers. One major additional benefit of many of these shipping-related applications is the major USPS discounts they pass along to storeowners.

Now customers purchasing smaller orders from us can opt to pay $5 versus $9 to $15 which clearly makes more economic sense. Unfortunately, that savings comes with disadvantages that should be clearly communicated with customers. In our experience, USPS has demonstrated itself as a far less dependable service than UPS. Packages will usually reach the final destination unharmed, but not necessarily in the proposed time periods which confuses and frustrates customers with deadlines. Customers without deadlines will likely enjoy the savings.

– Less expensive for items 3 pounds and under
– Sometime less expensive for packages 3 to 7 pounds
– Transit times are not guaranteed
– Support is less helpful
– Free pickup service (yet less reliable)
– Offers many cheaper shipping alternatives

Conclusion

UPS and USPS do have many similarities. They are both usually dependable in their unique ways, will fight you concerning claims, offer free boxes (restrained to certain sizes) and supplies, offer bulk discounts and pickup services (UPS charges for this) and much more.  If your product lines include light and heavy packages, it will probably make sense to utilize USPS combined with UPS or Fedex.

But If We Had To Choose Just One

We would surely stick with UPS since reliability and accurate delivery estimations are crucial to our business. We also ship a wide scope of weights most being over 8 pounds leaving UPS as the clear winner for us. Hopefully, we never have to go back to a single carrier system again.

What About Fedex?

Our former company, IDM Print, was an authorized reseller for Fedex for about three years, but due to repetitive lost and damaged packages, we stopped using their services. That was a long time ago, and maybe that would be different now (we’ve met many fellow business people that love those guys), but since the carrier does not have an official office or hub in our small town, we decided not to reinstitute their services yet.