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09/20/2023 at 8:14 pm #4692Laura BerlageKeymaster
When I began my online teaching career, the 2020 presidential election was heating up, and the USPostal Service system was under attack. Things got lost, packages got waylaid. Christmas gifts to family members took over a month to arrive. It was insane!
In order to find some stability, I opened an account with UPS, and over time I was able to negotiate better rates, especially with their “Sure Post” option that starts with UPS but then sometimes ends with USPS delivering the last leg of the trip.
Lately, I’ve gone back to mostly using USPS because of Saturday service and my UPS drop off location being a bit of a jog away from the farm. USPS now has an “Advanced Click-and-Ship” program that is less expensive and allows me to print my own labels from home. It can be clunky (as can the UPS site), but both of them work better during non-workday hours!
However, if I have a large bulk package of kits going to a host organization, I use UPS, as their rates are better for larger items, and packages usually arrive a little faster. It is a balance.
I do have friends who teach online that use “Pirate Ship,” which can save on costs in certain regions. It’s worth looking into if you like.
When you submit your materials fee to host organizations, you should include notes on shipping costs should they elect to have you ship to students individually. Pick a flat rate, and play the numbers game. For most of my kits, I have a $10-12 domestic US flat rate shipping fee. I don’t often use a flat rate box, but I’ve found that this covers most of the packages most of the time. Now and then one will cost me $7, and then another will cost me $15. It’s a numbers game.
If you ship in bulk to a host, include the cost of shipping as a line item in your invoice and include a receipt of the shipping cost, so you can be reimbursed. When possible, I deliver en-masse kits to host organizations. Sometimes we’ll plan when a class can be for when the delivery of the kits are possible to piggy-back on another route (in my case, a CSA delivery route) or similar reason to be in the area.
If you are shipping kits to students, it is best to buffer 2 weeks between when you ship and when class starts. This can sound like a lot, but there will be that one package that gets there juuuuuuust in time! It’s not fun having panicked students who don’t have their materials yet!
If you ship to Hawaii or Canada: ship flat rate. It will save your butt on expenses and speed up the package’s arrival.
If you are shipping outside the US (or wherever you are), become familiar with how customs works and how much extra time is needed. Sometimes I’ve created very detailed “procure-your-own-materials” lists for students in other countries because shipping materials to them would have been insanely expensive. At other times, I’ve used services where I ship to the Canadian border, then the student picks it up at the store that offers such a service. You can get very creative!
What shipping strategies have you found helpful? I’m always open to additional ideas!
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