Kate Is Clueless: Post Office Frustrations

I wonder… do you think that military families mail more packages than civilian families?  It sure feels that way to me.  And it also feels like no matter what box I use, what method of shipment I choose, or how I pay for it, I always get to the post office and have the clerk tell me that I “could have saved XX dollars” if I had just done it a different way.  And then he or she goes on to explain something that sounds to me like “If the zip code starts with a (some number  and if the dimensions are (some numbers) and if it weighs (some number), then you should have (done this thing differently).”  Most of the details change every time, and it always sounds like they are making it up.

The one detail that never changes is that I am not allowed to mail a package any way other than Priority Mail, which seems like complete ridiculous to me.  Why in the heck do we have other classes of mail if I can’t use them?  I get that some options might not be available at my APO location, but to tell me that my only choice is Priority Mail really makes me irritated.  What about regular mail?  What about Space Available Mail (SAM)?   According to my post office, I can’t use them.  And, again, with the explanations that make little sense…”Well, to this zip code, blah blah blah, it will cost more to send it (whatever way I wanted) than to send it Priority Mail, so we just send it Priority, blah blah blah.”

One part of me thinks that I just don’t understand the system, but the rest of me thinks that maybe the system is just too complicated.  I’m not dumb, I work with complicated stuff ALL THE TIME.  And, yet, I can not figure out the cheapest way to send a package.  Ever.

I know that using Click-and-Ship online is supposed to always be less expensive (except for the one time I tried it.)  And flat rate boxes are only best for remarkably heavy stuff.

Beyond that, does anyone have any tried-and-true tricks for figuring out what is going to be the cheapest way to mail something?  I’m getting very tired of spending nearly $20 every time I walk into the post office.

I thank you, my frustration thanks you, and my wallet thanks you.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • April

    Not knowing where exactly you live, but since you mentioned you have an APO, I feel your pain. I’m in Germany and the clerks at my PO are jerks (didn’t intend to rhyme!)
    I buy a plain brown box at the PX and send everything SAM because it’s an option here. It just seems odd that the clerks where you are only give you the Priority Mail option. There should be some phone numbers you can call posted on their wall, or ask to speak to the supervisor there and have him or her explain why Priority is the only option.

  • guest

    First class mail to overseas is about 3-4 times more expensive then using the priority mail box. I had to mail a CD, just a CD for work, to Iraq once…it cost 35 bucks from the east coast. Heck, Fed Ex just charged me 8 bucks for ground shipping of a CD to an address an hour away from here. Frankly I’m happy with the 16 bucks for the large size priority mail box to a deployed location…shipping rates are obscene nowadays with the fuel costs. At 16 bucks USPS is loosing money on shipping that package.