PRC OKs Priority Mail Flat-Rate Box Test

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The Postal Rate Commission approved the U.S. Postal Service's proposal for a two-year experiment to test two flat-rate Priority Mail boxes.


Approval came in a recommended decision issued Oct. 6.


The rate for the boxes is $7.70, regardless of package weight and destination. The USPS chose the rate for customer convenience: Two Priority Mail $3.85 stamps will cover the postage exactly, with no need to look up zone charts or weigh the parcel. Consumers or businesses, however, can put any type of stamps or meter strips on the boxes.


One box will be similar to a clothing gift box (14 x 12 x 3.5 inches) while the other will resemble a shoebox (11.2 x 8.75 x 6 inches). The dimensions give customers the same packing space with different shapes to choose from.


The flat-rate boxes would be available at post offices and on USPS.com.


In its proposal filed in June with the PRC, the USPS said that "by avoiding the need for mailers themselves to weigh and rate Priority Mail parcels, or to visit a post office to get such parcels weighed and rated, postal service customers can simply put an item or items in a box previously obtained from the postal service, apply the known postage amount and address appropriately [and] enter the piece into the mail."


The PRC decision requires approval by the USPS Board of Governors, which would choose an implementation date.


Though the USPS has not announced a launch date, it has said that it aims to get the boxes to consumers by the holiday season. The USPS also may launch an advertising campaign supporting the boxes during the holiday season.


The PRC decision said that "by providing a convenient additional option for using Priority Mail service, [the experiment] would introduce a desirable new feature that could enhance Priority Mail's value to users."


The filing also said the USPS "hopes to realize additional institutional cost contribution from new volume attracted by the convenience of the flat rate box, a desirable outcome from its perspective."


The PRC recommends additional language specifying that the proposed rate of $7.70 apply to flat-rate boxes with an internal capacity of 0.34 cubic feet.


"This change would incorporate the crucial physical dimension of the proposed classification, without restricting the [USPS'] ability to develop alternative designs with the same characteristic," the PRC said. "Additionally, this approach could accommodate flat rate boxes of other volumes that could be charged different rates, should the [USPS] choose to propose such additional products in the future."


If the USPS files a request to establish a permanent flat-rate box classification before the end of the two-year test, the experiment may be extended.


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