USPS rates, delivery times, and holiday season shipping

Shipping Rates and Delivery Speed

First, the USPS raised its rates effective October 3rd until December 26th, 2021 for the 2021 holiday season, and it has adjusted its expected delivery times.

  • First class package postage went up 30 cents; Priority Mail went up 75 cents; Priority Mail Express is up by $1.50-$5.00 depending on weight and zone.
  • First Class Package and Priority Mail services will take at least 4-5 days to be delivered within the U.S. and will probably take longer than that, getting worse the closer we get to Christmas.
  • Limited air transportation has resulted in most international shipments being transported by boat, which can extend your shipment’s expected delivery by several weeks.

What this means for you:

You need to expect delays and weirdness and you’ll need to be patient, because your packages will almost certainly take longer than you expect the closer we get to Christmas.

I don’t want to take away the flat rate shipping I’m able to offer at my website. I haven’t even temporarily raised my site shipping rates to recoup the postage increase. I am absorbing the extra cost at Seraphin Station (Etsy shipping has always been and still is calculated based on USPS-provided current rates).

And I don’t want to take my business elsewhere when the USPS needs it. But the high weirdness at the USPS last year cost me hundreds of dollars and a ton of stress.

What makes the stress worse is people who bug me about where their packages are when not enough time has elapsed for me to put in a trace request. The Terms of Service are still the same and you are agreeing to them when you place an order. The FAQ is still the same. There’s a convenient link to them in your order confirmation email as well. So please read the TOS and Shipping/Handling info you’re provided and please follow the directions. If I have to run around pulling my hair out staring at an email inbox full of shipping freakouts, I will just have to switch to UPS and $5 domestic shipping will be a thing of the past. (UPS pretty much starts at twice that amount.)

If you are prone to anxiety about where your package is and what the tracking page is saying, you might consider upgrading to UPS when you check out, because USPS is only going to frustrate you. Tracking is NOT real time. Updates are NOT always immediate. And in the holiday season, your package could take the scenic route – really, really scenic. I’m not even kidding – I was flabbergasted by some of what I saw last Christmas. It was *weird.*

I expect — and I encourage you to be prepared for — any or all of the following:

  • delivery delays
  • slow tracking updates
  • unreliable tracking updates
  • packages kicked back or marked “refused” for no reason
  • packages taking the scenic route and going to weird hubs along the way
  • random rejection of refund requests when packages are not delivered
  • adjustments forced onto my account for errors on their part, accompanied by bizarre tracking updates
  • carriers who can’t tell you jack or squat about what is going on
  • Priority mail will NOT be any better/safer than first class mail and it will NOT get there much more quickly

If you shop at Etsy:

Etsy shipping rates are currently calculated automatically by the Etsy platform itself based on real-time info from the USPS, so you are already seeing the postage increase when you check out.

Alternatives: No other shipping carrier is “plug and play” on Etsy. So I’m happy to ship your item UPS instead, but you’ll have to ask for a custom listing unless I find some other workaround.

If you shop at SeraphinStation.com:

U.S. orders: Flat rate postage for the default of first class mail is still live and the cost has not gone up. I’ll absorb the temporary increase. But you need to expect delays and weirdness and you’ll need to be patient, because your packages will almost certainly take longer than you expect the closer we get to Christmas.

Alternatives: I have contracted with my shipping platform to get a “bulk shipments” discount on UPS shipping. I believe it’s the lowest possible negotiated rate for bulk UPS discounts; it’s certainly the lowest one I can get right now, not being exactly the world’s biggest business. While the lowest rate for UPS will be several dollars more than the flat rate for USPS, I’d encourage you to invest a couple of extra bucks for the peace of mind if your items are gifts, are fragile or perishable, are worth more than $100, are custom or otherwise not replaceable, or if you would be seriously upset if the package spent a month in transit. (That last would be quite rare, but it did happen more than once last year.)

No matter where you shop:

Extended shipping times and weirdness affect the handling times for orders, too, because the materials I need to make your stuff are shipped to me by my suppliers. So this affects everything, and handling times will almost certainly get longer the closer we get to Christmas.

And just for your convenience, here is an excerpt from the order confirmation email you get when you check out:

Questions/additional info: If you have any questions about your order that are not covered in the FAQTOS, or Shipping/Handling sections of the website, please reply to this email to ask them without changing the subject line. (Questions like “when will my order ship” are covered in the TOS that you indicated you’d read and agreed to before the system would let you check out.)

And here’s an excerpt from the Shipping/Handling page at the shop:

Trace Requests, Claims, and Orders in Transit

Accidents in transit are actually very rare. Most significant delays are due to customs or address inconsistencies and thus are not within the control of either your seller or the postal service. But if you have not received your domestic package within 20 business days of the shipping date on the label (30 for international), I’ll be happy to put in a trace request and/or claim so that I can reship, if possible, or refund, if that’s the best option. See your order acknowledgment email for instructions on how to request this. Be aware that international orders that have left the US cannot always be traced (see International Buyers section above).

I have to put in a claim before I can reship/refund, and I can’t do that before 20 business days from the label ship date have elapsed. But after 20 days, I’m happy to pursue the matter if your package has still not arrived and get your order refunded or reshipped if the USPS cannot deliver it.

Fortunately, this practically never happens, though – excluding the absolutely unprecedented Christmas season of 2020 when all bets were officially off, domestic packages have always turned up by the 20 day mark, either at the customer’s mailbox or back in mine for being undeliverable due to address problems, with one exception when a customer had a neighbor stealing mail. (If you have a mail thief, you are going to have to handle that on your end by putting in a search request and filing a report with the postal inspector. Let me know, though, so I can help you hex the thief, if you like.)
 
We do not have any further information about your package or any way to track your package other than the USPS link which you get as well, so we can’t tell you anything more than that website is telling you.

If you have not received the shipping notification email, then your order is still processing, and we will send it as soon as it’s ready. 

Please note that due to COVID and the USPS being especially beleaguered right now, delivery times in transit can be longer than usual and updates to online tracking can be slower than usual. USPS is still incredibly reliable, though, so don’t panic if you don’t see your package “moving” in the system – updates are really not real-time, but the USPS is really pretty great about not losing packages.

Now having said all that, the USPS is still a good and affordable option – at least 10 months out of the year, for the most part. So don’t be afraid to use them. Just remember you do have to be patient. 🙂

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