Sunday, February 16, 2014


I recognize thousands of companies and people use this outfit with good results, but let me tell you a little bit about my 30 day experience.

For those of you who don;t know, allows the user to purchase and print postage from their homes, or offices without direct interaction with the Post Office.  They send you a CD with the applicable software; you load it up; and in theory you start printing your own stamps and postage (yes you have to pay for the value of the stamps and postage - though there is an on-line discount).

I mail a lot of records which means I spend a lot of time at the Post Office, so when I got the free started kit which included a free electronic scale and some free postage, I figured why not give it a try.

The software loads on a PC with no problems.   As an aside, adding it to a Mac can be done, but is far more frustrating.  Unfortunately, at that point the problems started to pile up.

Because the software prints out labels that include a bar code/scanning code, it turns out you can't use regular paper to print.  You need to buy paper that has a smoother surface - almost like the stuff you print photos on.  Again, not a show stopper, but an added cost.   It tok me two printing tries to figure this one out.  The potentially good news is that will refund your money for mis-prints.   Remember the word "potentially" (I'll get to that in a little bit.)

This is a gross oversimplification, but the way the system works is that once you've loaded the software and hooked up the electronic scale, you load postage (which you can buy in discrete dollar values); select the mode of delivery; weigh the item on you scale, and hit print.  Seems pretty simple and I'll admit that in about 75% of the cases it worked,   The other 25% of the time proved agonizing.

Once you loaded the right kind of paper, the system worked well for media mail, which was the bulk of my purchases.

At the other end of the spectrum, the system was a nightmare for international packages.  In addition to the above steps, the system requires you to fill out an online customs form which was amazingly hard to complete.  The other problem is that the system repeatedly calculated the wrong postage rates for international packages.  Even with the discounts, I'm pretty sure that what normally cost $18 to get to France, wasn't going to go for $6.75 via   After running into that experience a couple of times , I just stopped trying to do international packages.

After about two weeks printing became an issue.  The system started to kick out error message that the friendly 1-800 helpdesk didn't know how to fix.   The helpdesk made some recommendations which I followed, but the printer kept getting frozen forcing me to shut down the software and start over again.  The problem with that is the system deducted the postage costs but left me without the printed postage.  At $2.80 a pop that quickly became an expensive exercise.

When I hit the $50 in lost postage threshold I decided to simply give up.   I called and the friendly customer service rep eventually closed my account, bit not after ten minutes of badgering me to stay with at least a minimum program in place.  Interestingly, when I mentioned my frustration with the lost postage and the hassles of requesting refunds, not mention was made of the impact of closing your account if you're due a refund.

Before I get to that, let me mention the refund process.   If you have a misprint, you can get a refund for  the funds.  You have to sign a form that says you're not cheating the Post Office.   In some instances you can submit electronically.  In other cases you have to submit a hardcopy form.   As mentioned, I ended up with over a dozen refund requests.  Two were electronic submissions; the rest required manual paperwork.   And yes, you have to pay for the postage to submit the hardcopy refund forms.  The other thing they want is copies of the misprinted postage.  No explanation of what you do if there was no mis-print; e.g. software glitches "swallowed" your postage.

And the final kicker - once you've closed your account will not refund your money.  Apparently such refunds are banned by some obscure Post Office regulation.   According to the helpful customer service rep, I can't reopen my original account, but they can open a new account and credit back the refunds (once I submit them and assuming they'll process them since I don't have physical misprints for most of the refund requests).  Since they won't refund cash, rather will only credit the money back to my account, I'd essentially be right back where I started - using a system that doesn't work.

I politely declined the offer and about all I can say is I'd suggest anyone else thinking about think long and hard about it as well.

My local post office employees were thrilled to see me coming back with arms full of packages.   The two I related my tales of woe to were totally unsurprised by the experiences I had.

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