|Throughout the product & information pages on our website we have attempted to present as much information as possible in order that you, the consumer, can make informed decisions about the products you are buying. More & more, the cost of shipping is becoming an issue, particularly in web sales. We've had web based, shipping oriented businesses for 15 years, and consider ourselves pretty experienced, pretty well versed on the rules, procedures, regulations, claims, etc. We've shipped over 30,000 packages during this time...with the changing rules, classes, etc., we find that it is even difficult for us to decipher the various shipping 'products' on the market - and they are just that - products. Weather it is UPS, Fedex, or the US Postal Service, the shipping you pay is a product you buy from the company. Often you can pay more, but not really get better service, depending on what you are expecting to receive! But, as a general rule of thumb, as a shipping rate for a particular package increase, the quality of the shippers 'product' also increases. As you add on services, the price goes up, the you generally receive better service - may be faster, may be more secure, may have better tracking, etc.
As a note - particularly for our international customers - the shipping products available in the United States are not the same as similar services available in other countries. What is available from your "Postal Service" is not the same as what is available from my "Postal Service" - and in fact, there are vast differences from post office to post office within the US. It seems that some post offices interpret USPS Policy, rules, rates & procedures differently. Some choose to follow the rules as written, some as they interpret, and some just plain don't follow the rules unless they feel like that day.
Helpful information about terms:
Domestic (shipping to a US Address):
With some terms defined, lets take a look at the various classes & have a quick overview of the pros & cons of each - these are domestic mail (this part is for shipping addresses IN THE US), starting with the least expensive, to the most expensive.
- Delivery Confirmation (DC) = Confirmation of Delivery, it is NOT tracking.
- First Class Mail - UP to 13 oz weight. Ranges from a regular letter envelope to a box that weighs no more than 13 oz. It has several sub classes that are dependent upon the form of the package. Rates are determined by weight.
- Parcel Post - USPS traditional package delivery service. Rates are determined on a zone system, relative to the distance the package will be shipped and weight.
- Priority Mail is the first expedited level of USPS Package Service. Rates are determined on zone system, relative to the distance the package will be shipped and weight. "Priority Mail" means it is a package with priority over a parcel post, or first class package.
- Express Mail - Expedited, faster than other services (not all post offices offer this service).
- USPS Mail Hub or Sorting Facility - A Mail hub is a regional center that accepts mail & freight from the outlying post offices, sorts that mail, routes, and forwards the mail on it's way to it's final destination. This is where bend, fold & mutilation happens to your packages.
- Estimated delivery date, or Estimated Time in Transit - this is JUST an estimate, and one which is highly dependent on circumstances. It is not a contract to deliver within the estimated time frame - it is often overly optimistic.
- Post Master - the employee of the US Postal Service who is in charge of a particular post office. The Post Master is directly answerable to their superiors in the Postal Bureaucracy and is responsible for the daily functioning of the Post Office - ideally, a permanent, responsible person, but often this position is filled temporarily by Assistant Post Masters, or other PM on loan.
- Mail Carrier - the employee of the US Postal Service who delivers mail on the mail route, either by vehicle, or on foot. The Mail Carrier is responsible in many post offices for the sorting of the mail for the route (many post office receive the mail pre-sorted for the route from the Mail Hub), delivery and picking up mail, scanning Delivery Confirmation at delivery and pick up. The Rural Motor Delivery Carriers are often independent contractors, members of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). Some are rural carriers are employees of the USPS, and some are paid by contract.
- Scanner - the hand held bar code reader for entering USPS DC bar code information into the USPS computer system.
- FEDEX - Contract Air Carrier for the US Postal Service. USPS air freight travels on Fedex planes.
- Shipping Insurance - Insurance which the shipper purchases, sold on a rate scale based on the stated value of the package contents. The "Stated Value" is NOT what you will be paid if there is loss or damage - we will discuss that later... For International customers - if insurance is purchased through the USPS the stated value of the insurance must match the value on the customs form - a lower customs value means a lower insurance value as well.
- First Class Mail - this can be a regular letter type envelope, OR any envelope that is bumpy, rigid, thicker on end or place than the rest, OR a box. Examples include padded envelopes, envelopes with rigid stiffener inside, as well as regular boxes. This is available for items weighing UP to 13 ounces. Rate is figured by weight, irrespective of the distance. Delivery confirmation is available when the package is a parcel (box or thick envelope). Pro: Inexpensive, economical for small, light weight items. Con: First class packages do not have priority status - travel is by air only when space is available at the initial sorting hub, otherwise they travel by ground the whole way to the destination.
- Parcel Post - Regular package service. Rates increase by distance, weight and box size. DC is available. Pro: Economical for large size/weight packages when distance is relatively small. Economical for smaller size/weight packages when distance is greater. For short distances Priority Mail can be equal, or less expensive than Parcel Post. Cons: Parcel Post is lower priority, and will travel by air ONLY when space is available at the initial hub, otherwise travels by ground - once in a truck, it stays in a truck to the delivery address.
- Priority Mail - The first level of expedited mail service, the most commonly used mail class for packages. DC is available. Rate increase by distance, weight, and box size. Pro: Faster service, when competing for space on the plane Priority Mail goes on the plane first UP TO the contracted space available on the Fedex Plane. Con: More expensive for larger packages, or greater distances than Parcel Post or First Class. IF there is more Priority Mail at the hub, than there is contracted space on the Fedex plane, the PM can be sent by truck, thereby losing the Air advantage, and causing slower delivery than the expected date.
We offer USPS First Class, Parcel Post, and Priority Mail for delivery of shipments to addresses located within the US, US Territories, and APO/FPO addresses.
- Expedited Services - for information on expedited services please visit www.usps.com - we do not have Expedited mail services available at our location.
About US Postal Service "TRACKING":
We would like to be spending our time answering emails about machine problems, or reading the occasional 'pat on the back' email, but one of the MOST frequent email questions we get is "Where is my package? I checked the tracking & was sent to Spokane, Washington...I live in....". Spokane, Washington is the Mail Hub. All USPS packages are picked up at our warehouse/shop by a rural postal carrier. He is supposed to scan the master sheet for the pickup which contains all the DC & Customs form numbers. We have a very good, conscientious carrier who does scan the sheet, but sometimes there is a substitute carrier who does not scan the sheet. When properly scanned, the information will show on the USPS site that the packages have been picked up. To show any further information, the package itself must be scanned at where ever the next stop is - main post office, or the sorting hub, or if the package is leaving the country, at the customs office. IF the person responsible for scanning the package does not scan it, NO further information will show when you go online to check. We have no control over this process! Also, we have personal knowledge that some post office, when the package is received in the morning, will scan the DC for convenience, prior to taking the package out the route - in other words, scanned as delivered, before delivery actually takes place. PLEASE, be aware - the US Postal Service Delivery Confirmation IS NOT TRACKING. It is confirmation of delivery, and even that function is sometimes faulty. If you demand, or desire actual tracking of your shipment, please use either of the following carriers:
UPS or Fedex. Both have real time, actual package tracking which shows where your package is (right down to the particular truck it is on, and the time of delivery, who is delivering...all the info). This is tracking.
UPS & Fedex
UPS - we have daily pickup, late in the afternoon, every work day. FEDEX is on call for morning pickups most days. At the UPS or Fedex websites the rate schedules are clear, expedited shipping has an escalating rate scale, clearly stated. Shipping rates are based on distance, weight & box size. From our particular location we do not offer overnight services - it is not available to us. We have 3 Day Select, and 2nd day air available.
We have good service from both, with one cautionary note concerning shipping espresso machines - that concerns damage & insurance. When you pay insurance money to UPS, or to FEDEX, or the Postal Service, you are insuring THEM AGAINST YOUR CLAIM. One would think that the purchase of $1000 insurance coverage would mean, that if they destroy a $1000 machine, that they would pay you the $1000. We have found it sheer naivete to think this is the case.... For items less than $100 they pay quickly, and without complaint. Fortunately we pack well, and rarely have damage to claim. But, in the case of an espresso machine, particularly a vintage one, their complete destruction of the item will begin a process of stonewalling, foot dragging, claim denial, losing forms, and hassle for everyone involved. It culminates in the depreciation of the machine to a value that is a fraction of the real value, that closes the claim. Case on point: New Olympia Cremina costs over $3000.00, so if one insures a used Olympia Cremina for replacement value ($3000.00), and that 1976 machine, in perfect condition, is irreparably damaged, the claim process works something like this:
First claim file - denied, you didn't pack well - you should double box (it was double boxed, bubble wrapped, with 4" of peanuts all around). (Keep in mind that the claims adjuster works for the carrier, not for you, and their job is to reduce the claim payment).
Second contact - photo proof of packing, including double boxing, will reopen the case, claim denied - no original invoice of original purchase to prove value.
Third contact - works something like this - if a replacement machine is $3000, and this machine was 1976 model, then 34 years of depreciation, the check is in the mail for $293.00, case closed, claim closed, have a nice day.
Fourth contact - proof of current value, appraisals, condition, rebuild records....denied, case is closed, claim is closed, check has been mailed....sorry for the damage, have a nice day. For a machine we sell, rather than repair, the value is much easier to prove - we have the actual invoice, and the payment proof, but for a repaired vintage machine, it is much more difficult. Frankly, these types of issues are part of the reason why we are reducing our involvement in espresso machine repair. As a final note on this topic - the BEST insurance is at least adequate packing, if not over packing. Picture your parcel on a conveyor belt, 30 feet in the air, dropping off the end onto a pile of other people's parcels, followed by an even bigger parcel falling on top of yours. This is the down side.
Now that we got that out of our systems...one more little nag, for our Domestic Shipping customers. This is what we do - we receive an order, we pack the order, it is accompanied by the address you give us. That day we pack, and label the package with YOUR address. The next day it is picked up by which ever carrier you've chose, it's sent by whatever method you have chosen. At this point it is out of our hands - if you give us the wrong address, you won't receive your package. If you move, and don't forward, you won't receive it. If you forward your mail, and don't remove the forward, you won't receive it. If you choose a slow method, to save money, you may not receive it for weeks. There is not thing we can do about it - we do not have connections with any of the carriers - we cannot magically produce your package, so we URGE you - if you are in a hurry, pay the extra for premium service. If tracking is important to you, pay UPS or FEDEX to carry your package with tracking, do not choose USPS. And remember, as we said before - USPS Delivery Confirmation is NOT Tracking!
On a lighter note - a word to our International Customers: Whether you live in South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Russia, Canada, even Antarctica, or an Island in the Black Sea - no matter where you are (and we have shipped to every single continent, and most countries) we are happy to ship to you. But, a little background about the US Postal Service:
The Postal Service was invented in the late 1700's by Benjamin Franklin. And, since he is thought to be a 'Founding Father of the United States' and a really smart guy, had lots of mistresses, wore silk stockings, and who's picture is on the $100 bill, the Postal Service has chosen NOT to change a thing about Ben's System - it remains pretty much the same as it was when Ben was flying his kite... Entering the 21st Century, the USPS introduced hand held bar code scanners, that registers the entry of a package into the system, and the exit of a package from whichever customs point it leave the US from - but nothing much more than that. The USPS uses the Customs Form Number for their idea of 'tracking' and this number is not used by ANY other system in the world, including yours...rendering the USPS tracking useless as a global system. You may have a modern, streamlined, efficient, electronically tracked postal system, but WE do not. WE have a postal system that is struggling against the 21st Century - unwilling, and some time incapable, but it's all we have. For International Shipments we only offer the following 2 options:
First Class International mail - up to 4 lb package, and Priority Mail International. PMI is faster, sometimes. Neither has real tracking. From personal experience we have observed that nearly all shipments arrive, eventually...but it may take weeks, or months. When we purchase items from Europe, generally the company is insistent on using Fedex Air - quite an expensive shipping method, and has brokerage charges & duties associated with it as well.
We offer USPS methods, in part, because postal services don't usually charge brokerage fees to the receiver. There are sometimes duty & customs fees, but those are assessed by your government, and I cannot estimate them in advance. We do realize, fully, that we are the ONLY company, in the world, offering certain hard to find products, particularly seals & gaskets for your rare espresso machine, some of the high priority services that include complete tracking, insurance coverage, and speed, can seem ludicrous in comparison to the cost of the part you need - that is why we offer postal service. BUT, if you want tracking, and speed, contact us - we are happy to work with you to provide the service you desire, and are willing to pay for, but we are not really happy about providing you parts, and shipping, by an inexpensive method that is not as reliable as you might hope it would be - the risk is on YOU.
Please remember - the customs number is not tracking - there IS no real tracking available for either First Class International Mail, or Priority Mail once it leaves the USA.
Even though Benjamin Franklin might have been a real smart guy, with a bed full of mama's without their pajamas, in the 18th Century, his system isn't holding up so well in the 21st!
Barb & Doug