Some reports on the Internet indicate a new “unofficial” USPS procedure regarding Click-N-Ship labels.

We quote: from  blog.jseaber.com:

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Last Monday, I stepped into a local post office and handed 6 postage-paid, domestic packages to the postal clerk. She looked over each, then stated, “These 5 cannot be shipped. They have the wrong date.”

As usual, I’d used PayPal’s Multi-Order Shipping tool to print out orders on Sunday evening. ‘The date is no problem,’ I said confidently. ‘I’ve been doing this for three years. The date is meaningless, but if you insist, I can mark out Sunday’s date and write in today’s date by hand.’ I picked up the pen on the counter and proceeded to change 6/6/10 to 6/7/10 on each of the rejected packages.

“Let me get the postmaster,” she replied.

The postmaster stepped up and had made up her mind before even looking at my packages. She handed me a clearly unofficial document which read:

“Accepting packages that have stale ship dates on them could affect our delivery scores. This information from usps.com explains the correct process. The same policy would be in place for other pcpostage labels such as paypal, stamps.com, endicia.com, etc.

You must mail your item on the date that you selected for your Click-N-Ship label; this is known as the Ship Date. An electronic record is generated on that date indicating that your mail piece has been mailed. Packages shipped with labels that have incorrect Ship Dates will be returned to the sender and will not be eligible for a refund. If you are unable to use the label, you should request a refund within ten (10) days of the printed label and create another label with the correct Ship Date.

Your online label can be used only as it has been printed, without any alterations. If you find an error in your label, print a new label with the correct information and request a refund. Any mail piece which has a manually altered online label will be returned.”

I argued for another minute before leaving. As I made my way out, the poor postal clerk quietly told me that it was a “new policy” of “cracking down on Click-N-Ship labels”. Technically, nothing had changed; USPS’s shipping requirements have always stated that packages must be shipped on the day for which they are printed. While PayPal’s Multi-Order shipping system allows selection of the “Mailing Date”, it is obvious that labels postmarked on Sunday cannot possibly be shipped until Monday. For the past three years, postal employees and postmasters have told me, assuredly, that this was not a problem. And it hadn’t been, until last week.

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Postal Sanity called some local post offices and sure enough, the unison answer was: ” You must ship on the day, which is printed on the label. Otherwise we will not accept the parcel.”

We also consulted some high frequency eBay sellers which confirmed that labels with the wrong dates did get accepted in the past.

From a technical point of view we see a lackluster Click-N-Ship implementation which cannot distinguish between print and ship date. Enabling this distinction would require a entry point scan which sets the actual ship date. Anyhow, what is done is done and we won’t whine about spilled milk.

Let’s rather suggest a quick “solution”: When printing a Click-N-Ship label you have to select a shipping date from a drop-down box. At this point there should be a clearly visible message saying something along the line ” You must ship on this date or your package will not be accepted”. Considering that USPS is spending fortunes in trying to keep an up-to-date website (with some slightly blurry fonts, we may add), this should be a fairly easy exercise.

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