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How to Cut Package Shipping Costs

USPS Flat Rate BoxMrConsumer recently had to ship a package from Boston to California and was shocked at how much it would cost.

He had gotten what he was told was a Priority Mail flat-rate envelope from a local post office branch and stuffed it full believing it would cost about $10 to ship. When he went to mail it, he was told that was not a flat-rate envelope and it would cost about $23 to send the package. Yikes! The clerk pointed out some medium flat-rate boxes that I should try (they’re free), but the postage would run $17.10. Still yikes, but he took one of them anyway.

MrConsumer poked around online looking for discount shipping services and came across one called “Pirate Ship.” There, you enter the box size, weight, mailing location and destination, and it gives you a variety of prices for different shipping companies and services. You are not charged a membership fee or a label fee — the service is free. Just pay for the postage and print a prepaid label for the box.

They would charge $14.75 to ship the package via USPS Priority Mail in the flat rate box. That is the same price that the PayPal shipping label printing service charges, and even the same as what the post office charges online if using their Enhanced Click ‘n Ship service.

While that is a good savings for many people, it was still too high for MrConsumer. He adjusted the parameters at Pirate Ship to plain packaging in a box using the same Priority Mail box by simply wrapping it in brown paper. (As it turns out, any similar box whose contents weighed less than five pounds could have been used.) Now when checking on rates, he got the cheapest price from UPS.


Lowest shipping cost

Sold at $12.08 – a $5 savings — nearly 30% off the original post office price. Of course, the package won’t arrive in three days like the Priority Mail package would, but I was in no rush. Incidentally, the USPS had a rate only five cents higher called Ground Advantage Cubic.

The rate was also lower because UPS takes the package only part of the way then hands it off to the post office for final delivery. As it turns out, the package arrived early — three days after mailing — and UPS decided to take it all the way to its destination.

So as you plan to ship your holiday gifts, Google the term “discount shipping” to find any number of services that will charge less by comparing special rates offered by the post office, UPS, or FedEx. Just read the details so you know in advance if there are any extra fees involved.

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Beware Fake Retail Look-Alike Websites

We are in peak shopping season now and that means scammers are working overtime to steal your hard-earned money.

One technique being used by some crooks is to take out Facebook ads using the genuine front page of a retailer’s circular like this spotted by Trend Micro:

Fake Big Lots ad

When you click that ad or the “shop now” button you are taken to a site that looks like Big Lots.

Big Lots fake website

Scroll down the ad.


In fact, it brought you to BigLotsClearances.com — a site made to look like the real Big Lots site. And if you scroll through some of bargains being advertised, the prices are impossibly low. An electric motor bike for thirty bucks – 90% off? And a canister of Tide Pods less than three dollars? We should be so lucky.

Before you click any Facebook ad, try to determine what URL you are going to be directed to by hovering over the clickable area with your mouse. Beware of look-alike/sound-alike website names. And if the deals on the actual website are simply too good to be true, get off that website quickly just in case it is booby-trapped with a virus.

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FTC: Amazon Had a Secret Tool to Drive Up Prices

AmazonThe FTC and 17 states recently sued Amazon for using its monopolistic power to the detriment of its third party sellers, competitors, and customers.

Amazon uses a number of tactics to punish its own third-party sellers who offer lower prices outside of Amazon.

According to the complaint, the sanctions Amazon levies on sellers vary and can include:


Amazon knocks these sellers out of the all important “Buy Box,” the display from which a shopper can “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now” … Nearly 98% of Amazon sales are made through the Buy Box and, as Amazon internally recognizes, eliminating a seller from the Buy Box causes that seller’s sales to “tank.”

Another form of punishment is to bury discounting sellers so far down in Amazon’s search results that they become effectively invisible.

If a competitor lowers a price, Amazon often lowers its price to the penny to instantly blunt the competitor’s advantage.

Part of its plan to keep prices high involved a covert strategy called “Project Nessie” which the FTC says resulted in Amazon pocketing more than a billion dollars from American’s pocketbooks.


Project Nessie predicted the likelihood that the online store or stores offering the lowest price for a given product would follow an Amazon price increase. Armed with these predictions, [Amazon] increased products’ prices when those price hikes were most likely to be followed [by the competitor]. After Amazon successfully induced the other online store to raise its price, Amazon continued to sell the product at the now-inflated price.

Project Nessie generated enormous profits for Amazon even though its higher prices caused Amazon’s unit sales to decrease. But in 2019 when regulators started snooping around, the company put Project Nessie on hold.

This will be a long, complicated case, and it is anyone’s guess how it turns out and if shoppers ultimately will see lower prices in the marketplace as a result of real competition.