Monday, December 10, 2007

Package Deals: Shipping Cheap; Shipping Fast

I've had a busy afternoon trying to get a five-pound package from Miami Beach to Brooklyn during the holiday season. Fortunately, there are many options, ranging from $3.50 to $95 for the same package.

My advice: Ship early and ask questions. The various shippers, including the U.S. Postal Service, provide online calculators. (Calculate Postage) However, keep the various toll-free numbers handy for your inevitable follow-up questions.

To find the cheapest rates you have to exercise a bit of patience and persistence. For example, when I phoned Federal Express and United Parcel Service, I had to select additional voice-mail options to get the expanded menu of prices and deadlines and, even then, my questions weren't answered. I sought out human operators and requested their cheapest rates for ground shipping.

The U.S. Postal Service offers a ''media mail'' package rate that is available for shipping books, music, scripts and other forms of media. Those rates begin at $2.13 for a one-pound package but shipping can take several weeks.

Allow extra time for the holiday crunch. For example, cards have to be mailed by Dec. 20 to arrive by Christmas Eve.

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