Canadians: Ask me about Canada Post and shipping - I work there!
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On top of my "real" job and my etsy shops, I also work part-time at a Canada Post outlet, for 4 years now. I'm very knowledgeable about all things related to shipping. I can be your resident expert! Ask away and I will do my best to answer clearly.
Here's the original post from a forum thread I started before etsy did the shut-down to teams :( It describes CP's rate increases for 2011, which took effect on January 17th.
Like clockwork, Canada Post is raising their rates as of January 17th. I work at the post office part-time so I thought I would give my fellow Canadians a head's up. Here's a link to the complete list of new rates including all the price tables you could ever want (a very helpful sleep aid for insomniacs!).
www.canadapost.ca/tools/pg/prices/ (click on the red "new prices" button)
I'm not sure how bad the increase is for domestic and US Expedited parcel rates, but here are the new Lettermail, Oversize Lettermail, Light Packet, and Small Packet rates.
Lettermail (max 24.5 X 15.6 X .5cm):
Oversize Lettermail (max 38 X 27 X 2cm):
USA >> (printed matter only)
International >> (printed matter only)
Light Packet (max 38 X 27 X 2cm):
USA >> 4% increase over 2010
International >> 3.5% increase over 2010!
Small Packet (max L + W + H = 90cm)
USA >> 7.5% increase over 2010!
Surface 5.85 (0-250g)
Surface 8.35 (251-500g)
Surface 12.41 (501g-1kg)
International >> (rates vary according to the country.. please see zone and rate tables through the link above. Amounts below are for shipments to the United Kingdom, zone 02 - surface rates are 10% higher than 2010, airmail rates are 8% higher, except in the 1-2kg category)
Surface 6.54 (0-250g)
Surface 8.95 (251-500g)
Surface 15.02 (501g-1kg)
Surface 21.07 (1-2kg)
I don't know about you, but I am really bummed about this. Increases of 7 and 10% are really going to hurt!
Convo me if you have any questions.
(Posted at 2:55 am, January 3, 2011 EST)
Posted at 10:12 pm Feb 9, 2011 EST
Highlighted Responses What is this?
A thread about using couriers to ship outside Canada:
Here's this link: www.etsy.com/teams/7654/etsy-international/discuss/10520105/page/1/
While quotes vary for couriers, and in most cases the fees are high enough to scare some customers away, I thought just some general ideas about pricing and choices would give sellers something to start from... The "time and cost" quote pages for UPS and Fedex (I use the .ca sites) aren't too difficult to use.
Posted at 8:47 am Jun 28, 2012 EDT
Below is the expanded version of the etsy blog article about shipping issues for Canadian sellers being published tomorrow (Oct 19th, 2012). Many thanks to Nada Alic, our Canadian Community Manager on Etsy, for spearheading this project. Yesterday she issued the first-ever Etsy Canada Newsletter, which we should all be excited about! I for one look forward to us Canadians banding together in a positive way. If you didn't receive the newsletter, you need to change your account settings. Go to Your Account > Settings > Emails. Under "Your Subscriptions", click on "Canada Newsletter". To reach Nada, www.etsy.com/people/nadaalic#
EXPANDED ARTICLE ON SHIPPING ISSUES FOR CANADIAN SELLERS
Postal rates are so confusing, how do I make sense of them?
Yes, the rate system at Canada Post is confusing. Take heart, you are not alone in feeling that way. Here’s a brief rundown to help demystify it all. Start with the item you plan to sell, packaged up as if you are ready to send it. Weigh it and measure it on all three sides (L x W x H). (Try to use metric, which is the default that Canada Post uses).
IF your item weighs LESS THAN 500 grams (including packaging):
IF the package dimensions are greater than 38cm x 27cm x 2cm – go to the second section below.
IF the package dimensions are 38cm x 27cm x 2cm or less, AND you don’t require insurance or tracking – you can ship your item at the cheapest rates Canada Post offers (namely, Lettermail/Oversize Lettermail or Light Packet). Note: be aware there’s also a MINIMUM measurement restriction on the length and width, 14cm x 9cm.
IF your item weighs MORE THAN 500 grams, OR it doesn’t fall into the categories above:
You have to use one of the parcel services. Available choices depend on the destination, broadly categorized as Domestic (within Canada), USA, International (all other countries). Note: some services have weight/dimension restrictions.
Domestic Parcel Services:
Expedited Parcel (for Venture One cardholders, 5% discount off Regular rates plus faster delivery times)
Xpresspost flat-rate prepaid envelopes (weight restrictions apply, up to 500 grams, and up to 1 kg)
USA Parcel Services:
Small Packet Surface/Airmail (maximum weight 1 kg; maximum dimensions 90cm L+W+H; minimum dimensions on the length and width 14cm x 9cm)
Expedited Parcel USA (minimum dimensions 21cm x 14cm)
Xpresspost USA (minimum dimensions 21cm x 14cm)
Priority Worldwide (minimum dimensions 30cm x 22cm)
International Parcel Services:
Small Packet Surface/Airmail (maximum weight 2 kg; maximum dimensions 90cm L+W+H; minimum dimensions on the length and width 14cm x 9cm)
International Parcel Surface (minimum dimensions 21cm x 14cm)
International Parcel Airmail (not available to some countries; minimum dimensions 21cm x 14 cm)
Xpresspost International (minimum dimensions 21cm x 14cm)
Priority Worldwide (minimum dimensions 30cm x 22cm)
Shipping is so expensive, can my small business survive it?
The short answer is “yes*”. Note the asterisk. As anyone who ever encountered that little star after enticements for “Free Shipping” or “Buy One Get One” knows, the devil is in the asterisk. It asks you to buy more, do more, or in the worst cases, eliminates you altogether (“Not available in Canada” anyone?). The asterisk means there are conditions you need to meet to get that freebie. For the question here about your business’ survival, how do we get to “yes”? What does the asterisk demand of you as a small business owner?
1- Know your customer
Research studies that analyze online shopping behaviour all say the same thing: the number one reason for abandoned shopping carts is the cost of shipping. The percentage is somewhere around 60%. In addition to that sobering statistic, we small sellers must accept “free shipping” as the new standard that customers now expect. Flat-rate shipping is another one that became ubiquitous before the free-shipping frenzy began. Understand that there’s a psychological barrier when it comes to shipping costs. Customers bristle no matter what they are and that’s why free shipping works for mass consumer goods like electronics and clothing. I think most Etsy shoppers understand that its sellers aren’t able to offer deep discounts on shipping, which gives us all a little breathing room. However, what customers will tolerate for shipping costs depends on many factors which may be different from seller to seller. General demand for your item, how unique it is, its price level, all these play a role in how your customer perceives the shipping cost. If you can figure out how your target market feels about the added cost of mailing, you are one step ahead. Consider asking your customers when you send them a thank-you email. Create a short survey. It’s an easy way to collect valuable data and you might be surprised at how eager people are to answer your questions. I tried it for my re-branding project and it worked really well for me. In general though, I think sellers need to decide on a reasonable ratio of shipping cost vs. item price, and stick to it. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Be realistic. Adjust your packaged quantities, offer volume discounts, explore ways to minimize packaging. And most importantly, research what other sellers are doing! Which brings me to the next point:
2- Know your competition
We sellers are up against a giant wall of competition, both online and off. And in the spirit of healthy competition, we should have no qualms about mirroring what our successful competitors are doing. For us Canadians, it’s a fact of life that most of our competition is located in the USA, where sellers get the benefit of much more favorable shipping rates from the US Postal Service compared to ours at Canada Post. It creates another challenge, but not an impossible one. Figure out who is selling the same or similar products as you. Don’t restrict yourself to Etsy either. Take a look at all shopping venues, big and small, online and off. Take note of how much they charge for shipping to different destinations; add it to their stated item price to arrive at a total cost. You’ll eventually get a sense of where the middle ground lies and where you can place yourself into the mix. You may find you need to increase your item price while lowering your stated shipping in order to compete. Doing this may require you to amp up your descriptions to highlight how your item is special or unique. (Something we all should be doing anyway!).
Note: When reviewing the bigger sellers, be aware that they likely benefit from lower commercial shipping rates, volume-discounted. At Canada Post, the threshold of eligibility for commercial rates is around 750 shipments per year. So if you have that kind of volume, contact Canada Post immediately!
3- Know your item
A seller wondered about shipping the soaps she sells. The individual bars had to be sent at the Parcel rate because they were too thick for the cheaper Lettermail/Light Packet rate. One bar’s total cost would be a whopping $12 to the customer. Suggestions were offered: make a “travel” or “sample” size bar in a thinner size to allow for the cheaper rate; bundle bars in sets of three to reduce the per-bar shipping cost. What can you do to alter your items in order to reduce their shipping cost? This is an important question to ask yourself. Before designing your next incredible piece, take into account how much it will cost to ship.
How do I calculate rates?
The quickest and easiest way to get a rate is by going to Canada Post’s website at www.canadapost.ca. On the home page, click on “Find a Rate”. There’s a default section for parcels, and another section for letters/documents. Enter your package weight, dimensions, and from/to information. Make sure you respect the minimum dimension restrictions for USA/International parcels (as noted in the first section above). The results will omit certain service options if you don’t.
From your local post office, get a copy of the fanfold pamphlet “Postal Prices”. This guide is a handy and essential reference. It has all the basic information including Lettermail/Oversize Lettermail rates, Light Packet & Small Packet rates, min/max weight and size restrictions, and other useful information all at your fingertips. You can also get the pamphlet online at www.canadapost.ca/tools/pg/prices/ . Under “Postal Prices Fanfolds”, click on Canada, USA, or International to view or print each section.
Another handy reference I recommend to print is the rate table for International Small Packet. Countries are slotted into zones, numbered 1 through 10. Each zone has its own rate for both Surface and Airmail. The alphabetical list of countries with applicable zones, and the rate table can be found here: www.canadapost.ca/tools/pg/prices/SBinter-e-04.pdf
For domestic parcel rates (within Canada), the rate tables are rather complex. I don’t recommend using them as it’s much faster to use the “Find a Rate” function on the website. If you play around with it, plugging in different destination postal codes, you will quickly get a sense of the average cost by geographical area for a particular package size/dimension. One important thing to note: the lowest domestic rate tier is calculated for parcels weighing 0.75 kg or less (1.7 lbs). So essentially, whether your item weighs 100 grams or 700 grams, the starting rate is the same. In contrast, the US postal service rate structure has several increments in the lower weight categories.
Reminder: If you list your items for sale in US dollars, don’t forget to convert your shipping costs before adding them to your listings!
Fuel surcharge: an extra amount Canada Post charges over and above the base parcel rates, using a percentage that fluctuates periodically. It applies to all parcel services except Small & Light Packet. You can check the rate here: www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/aboutus/news/fuel/default.jsf
What tips do you have for packaging to be cost effective?
In general terms, smaller is better. Lighter is better. And in some cases, flatter is better.
When considering your packaging options, ask yourself:
Does it really need that much protective stuffing?
Don’t overpack. For fragile items, a bigger box isn’t always better. As long as the item is tightly buffered on all sides, it should be safe. Most damage is caused by shifting, when the item moves around inside. Styrofoam peanuts are light but they create gaps. If you use peanuts, pack them in tightly.
Are there lighter options than a cardboard box?
Try poly mailer envelopes, which are light, cheap, and available in a range of sizes. If your item is fragile, instead of a cardboard box try wrapping it in cut-up cardboard to fit, then place it in a poly mailer. Explore other options. Look through a packaging catalogue for creative ideas (Uline is a good one).
Reminder: be aware of the min/max dimension restrictions for certain shipping services such as Light & Small Packet, USA Expedited, etc.
In what case can I get tracking? Is it worth it?
Tracking is a protective feature that allows a lost parcel to be traced through the system. You can’t buy tracking separately as an add-on. It comes bundled with certain parcel services only, which are:
Domestic Regular Parcel
Domestic Expedited Parcel
International Surface/Air Parcel
Key things to note:
- All Lettermail, Oversize Lettermail, Light Packet, and Small Packet do not have tracking.
- Tracking is key to fighting any non-delivery disputes/claims initiated on Paypal.
- Canada Post has ways of tracing Small Packets even without a tracking barcode.
Is it worth shipping a more expensive way simply to get the tracking? Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on your comfort level and how the added cost fits into your business scenario and profitability. Also, some customers (particularly Americans) are accustomed to tracking and become uncomfortable if they don’t have it. That discomfort can be softened if you explain its higher cost and how you will handle things if the parcel is lost. The hard part is when a parcel is taking longer than expected to arrive at its destination. Without tracking, you (and consequently, your customer) have no way of knowing what the delay is about or where the parcel is. Communicate with your customer, ask them to be patient. And have a plan ready for how you will deal with the situation if too much time goes by without successful delivery. Will you refund the customer? Ship a replacement? In my experience, lost parcels occur very rarely. But when it does happen, think of it as part of the cost of doing business. The most important thing is to make sure your customer is satisfied.
What about insurance?
Canada Post offers insurance on all parcels except Light Packet (Lettermail and Oversize Lettermail are not considered parcels, and therefore carry no insurance). The insurance covers your parcel against loss (non-delivery) and damage. Glass and ceramic items are not covered against damage. Services that have insurance include $100 Canadian of coverage in the price of the postage (except Domestic Regular Parcel – you have to buy the insurance as an add-on). With the exception of Small Packets (which carry a maximum of $100 coverage), you can purchase additional insurance in $100 coverage increments.
The process to file a claim is fairly straightforward. Call Canada Post’s customer service line at 1-800-267-1177 (if your parcel has a tracking number, you can also file a claim online at www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/personal/support/helpcentre/default.jsf#ia4 ). Make sure you have all relevant shipping documents in hand. It may take a few weeks before you see a refund cheque, but the whole process works quite well. In the case of a lost parcel, you will have to wait 30-90 days after the shipping date (depending on how it was mailed) before you can open a claim. Best thing to do is call Canada Post as soon as you feel the delivery delay is significant. They will tell you when you can officially file a claim. In the case of a damaged item, as soon as your customer makes you aware of it, ask them to take photos and send them to you. Make sure they keep all the packaging. Canada Post may ask to see all the photo evidence.
Third Party Insurance Options
You can buy insurance online through 3rd party companies at low cost. Some will even insure the types of packages that Canada Post doesn’t insure, such as Light Packets. I haven’t tried it personally, but I hear from sellers that it’s easy to do and reliable. Two companies I know of are:
Should I consider alternative shipping methods such as Fedex or UPS?
It doesn’t hurt to look into it. Generally speaking, courrier services are more expensive than Canada Post. Some ground services may be less expensive to the USA, and are worth exploring. Both Fedex and UPS have fairly easy websites to navigate and they have toll-free numbers to call if you prefer talking to a real person. Bear in mind that your US and international customers may be responsible for paying brokerage fees, duties and taxes when their shipment arrives. The costs can be quite high. There’s a good Etsy forum thread on this topic at the International Team page here: www.etsy.com/teams/7654/etsy-international/discuss/10520105/page/1
What do I need to know when shipping internationally?
Some sellers are afraid to ship parcels internationally. There’s no need to be! The only difference is you have to fill out a customs form to include a description of the item(s) and the corresponding dollar value. When mailing an international parcel, take note of the expected delivery time and communicate it to your customer. Be aware that occasionally packages can be delayed while clearing customs in the destination country. Also, it’s important to note that some countries charge recipients duties and taxes on their shipments. Most international customers are pretty savvy about it but it never hurts to mention it in your policies or customer correspondence.
The quality of postal delivery systems around the world can vary. With time, you will learn which countries are more susceptible to disappearing and/or damaged parcels. For shipments to more rural, non-urban areas, parcels sent by Surface (ground) can be riskier. Airmail is recommended.
Are there any discounts I can get? I heard about a Canada Post account – am I eligible for that?
Yes, any small business owner is eligible for a discount program called “Venture One”. You can apply online at the Canada Post website (www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/business/solutions/ventureone.jsf ), or pick up an application at your local post office. There are no special requirements to join. Venture One members enjoy a 5% discount on certain shipping services and products. The discount applies to:
Regular Parcel – domestic (service becomes Expedited Parcel, with faster delivery times)
Expedited Parcel USA
International Parcel Surface/Air
Xpresspost (domestic, USA, International)
Xpresspost prepaid envelopes
Priority (domestic and worldwide)
In addition to the 5%, you can enjoy another 3% discount when you purchase and print your shipping labels online using Canada Post’s Electronic Shipping Tools (EST). After you join Venture One and have your member number, you will need to register on the website in order to access EST. Your registration also gives you the ability to order shipping supplies through the website.
Are there any tips or tricks I should know about?
- Your shipping task will be much easier if you get yourself a scale. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on it. A simple kitchen scale works for small to medium parcels (hunt one down at a thrift shop!) Bathroom scale works fine for larger parcels. It’s always a good idea to double-check your parcel’s weight at the post office before mailing.
- For Oversize Lettermail and Light Packet parcels where the 2cm thickness restriction is very key, you can purchase a special plastic template from Canada Post. Sellers call it the “slot of doom” because when you have one millimeter too many you pay the more expensive rates. The product number is 540008029.
- Be sure to compare the price of prepaid Xpresspost envelopes to the Regular (or Expedited) parcel rates for domestic shipments within Canada. In certain cases, it can save you money. The small cushion envelopes are quite roomy (although there’s a weight limit of 500 grams).
- When mailing to the US and International destinations by Lettermail, Oversize Lettermail, or Small Packet, you will pay the GST/HST on the postage if your total spend is less than $5.00. Try to bundle your shipments so the total is over $5.00.
- Measure your parcels before going to the post office. Postal clerks are not infallible. Measuring mistakes can happen, and the difference of even 1 cm can increase your costs needlessly.
- Use Canada Post’s customs/shipping labels as your guide to make sure your parcels meet the minimum dimensions for Small Packets, Expedited USA, and Xpresspost USA/International parcels. If the label lies flat, you’re ok. If you have to fold the label over two sides, your parcel is too small.
If you have any questions about shipping, convo me anytime. I'm happy to help!
Posted at 5:52 pm Oct 18, 2012 EDT
CP INTERNAL ANNOUNCEMENT
My postal outlet received the following announcement today (caps added for emphasis):
"Effective immediately, you no longer have to complete the shaded areas of the following US and International counter labels OR DATE STAMP THE CUSTOMER COPY OF THESE LABELS when selling the service:
- Xpresspost International
- Xpresspost USA
- Expedited Parcel USA
- SMALL PACKET (including Tracked Packet)
- International Parcel Air/Surface
Because the Retail Postal System (RPS) prints the item particulars on the customer receipt and the postage meter label, you can save time since you no longer need to manually complete this information."
I foresee trouble from this new directive. Some sellers have already reported date-stamp resistance from postal clerks. So now that they are being told they "don't have to" the problem could multiply. 3rd party insurers have said the date-stamp is the only proof of mailing they will accept in the case of a claim. Clerks aren't being told they "must not" date-stamp, only that they "don't have to". In my opinion, we can still request (demand lol) that they do. The request should not be denied.
Posted at 7:14 pm Apr 15, 2013 EDT
UPDATE - CUSTOMS DATA COLLECTION
On page 290 of this thread, I mentioned a new process being implemented at CP outlets. The process will go live on May 20th (currently in test mode at select outlets). Postal clerks will be required to key in item descriptions and values for the international services affected (USA Expedited/Xpresspost and Int'l Xpresspost). At some point, CP will also introduce an online process for shippers, which will generate a "barcode" containing the customs information related to a parcel. The customer brings the printed barcode to the postal outlet where it will be scanned, thereby avoiding the clerk having to type the information into the system. You can see what the online capture form looks like by going here:
Today I learned that come August, if a customer does not have the customs barcode they will be charged a $2.00 fee (!)
Posted at 10:13 pm Apr 22, 2014 EDT
Today I learned that CP's Venture One program is going bye-bye on March 30. It is being replaced by the new "Solutions for Small Business" program. The internal memo has very limited information. Some of things it says:
"Members who purchase qualifying parcels...at retail or online will save more based on their SPENDING BEHAVIOR. The percentage they will save, when purchasing qualifying parcels... will vary based on their EARNED SAVINGS LEVELS." (words with caps were bold in the memo).
"Starting April 1, existing Venture One members will receive a Direct Mail piece promoting the new program. An email will also be sent customers who have provided an email address. Shortly after, existing customers will receive new membership cards with the same membership number as their VentureOne card. This transition will happen over a period of weeks."
"With Solutions for Small Business, we'll reward your repeat business with savings levels that automatically grow with you....
- up to 28% off Expedited Parcel shipping
- up to 40% off international shipping
- up to 15% off Unaddressed Admail"
"View the savings levels at canadapost.ca/smallbusiness/savings to see how much you could save."
The above webpage doesn't work yet. Presumably they are waiting until April 1.
I'm a little worried about what this could mean for us!!
Posted at 9:31 pm Mar 26, 2015 EDT
Vitrine, if you can get your package under 2 cm thick, the postage to the US is just $2.36 plus tax.
I wrote a post here with packaging options (scroll down):
but it is out of date.
There are a couple of shops on Etsy that have the smaller boxes too, but just one is currently stocked:
she has different listings for different colours & amounts.
This place has "charm boxes" in several colours:
If anyone has any suggestions for smaller lots of large packaging solutions, I would love to hear them. I have a 10 cm pendant sitting on my desk right now that I am going to have to cut a bigger box down for.
Posted at 10:43 pm Feb 9, 2011 EST
As far as boxes go... I skip them all together because they are thicker and heavier. What I do is place the item on a single sheet of cardboard just big enough to surround it, wrap the whole thing is bubble wrap (very tight) and then wrap that with a pretty paper, put my sticker on it and stick it in an envelope.
Usually with this method I can pay regular postage or very minimal air mail. :)
Posted at 11:46 pm Feb 9, 2011 EST
Some of my stuff is too fragile to go in bubble wrap (at least, bubble wrap that is less than 2 cm thick! LOL) so I need to use the boxes. That is why I have invested so much time in finding sources of the ones that fit through the slot. Everything I sell is under 100 g so it doesn't affect my weight unless they buy several things
Posted at 12:24 am Feb 10, 2011 EST
cindylouwho2: great idea to brainstorm questions/concerns about packaging solutions! I will think on this and post any ideas I come up with.
One other thing, about this comment you made:
"if you can get your package under 2 cm thick, the postage to the US is just $2.36 plus tax"
Regarding the tax, it's important to know that you should not be paying any GST/HST on shipments to the USA or International, if the total amount of shipping fees is $5.00 or more. This rule applies to the combined total, no matter how many parcels you have. For example, if you are mailing 3 light packets to the US, costing $2.36 each, you should not pay any GST/HST. If you are mailing only ONE light packet at $2.36 you will pay the GST/HST. So, it pays to wait until you have over $5.00 worth of US/Int'l parcels before mailing them!
Posted at 2:35 am Feb 10, 2011 EST
good point about the tax not applying over $5! Unfortunately I often can't wait that long, as I average 5-6 items sold a week but can have substantial gaps in my sales, & often people are buying more than one item. I can't really wait more than a couple of days to ship, or I wouldn't be getting many repeat customers, I think
Posted at 2:53 am Feb 10, 2011 EST