UPS, USPS and the making of an Amazon shipping nightmare

Apr 15, 2019

By: Lesley Hensell

Sellers are no stranger to Amazon shipping challenges.

But lately, some new hassles are rearing their ugly heads. One of these seems to be a technical error, while the other may signal long-term policy changes for Amazon shipping.

UPS covering FBA inbound shipment stickers
Two prep centers have reached out to me about this bizarre issue. It appears that a limited number of UPS hubs – one in Michigan and one in California – are having a technical issue. Any non-UPS barcode on the outside of a package is causing issues with scanning and routing.

Their solution is wreaking havoc for 3P sellers sending shipments to FBA fulfillment centers. UPS is covering all non-UPS barcodes – including the critical sticker scanned by Amazon upon a box’s arrival.  

But wait – isn’t UPS a partnered carrier? Shouldn’t they avoid angering Amazon and its sellers?

There have long been whispers that some UPS higher-ups aren’t thrilled with their Amazon relationship. Plus, the staff at the hubs are just trying to route and deliver packages. Non-UPS barcodes, in their minds, aren’t their problems.

What’s a seller to do? If your packages are routed through Michigan or California, consider jumping to FedEx. In many geographical locations, they offer the same or better pricing for inbound FBA shipments.

Amazon messing with SFP delivery times
Amazon doesn’t trust the U.S. Postal Service for on-time delivery.

That’s become all too obvious with recent changes to the “buy shipping” feature for Seller Fulfilled Prime. Amazon’s algorithm appears to no longer include Saturday as a transit day. In addition, it is taking the most conservative-possible estimate on delivery estimates. And finally, First-Class mail is no longer an option for SFP orders – even if they would arrive before the promise date.

For example, in my own seller account, Amazon insisted I buy UPS Ground to ship a package literally 20 miles away. I’m confident that USPS First Class Mail would have delivered the next day, or at worst, the day after that. But I wasn’t given that option to purchase either that or Priority Mail. Craziness.

Many SFP sellers are finding themselves priced out of the two-day shipping market.

There are two options for dealing with this difficulty:

  1. Ask Seller Support to generate a transit time map based on your location. They can provide a list of regions that matches those in shipping settings. It will give the likelihood of two-day delivery using Priority Mail, based on distance and other factors. Then, you can dramatically limit your SFP settings, so that you will most likely only offer products to those who will receive packages on-time with Priority Mail.
  2. I hate to sound like an ad for FedEx. But if you ship enough volume, it’s worth investigating their One Rate program for Seller Fulfilled Prime. In many cases, the rates are comparable to Priority Mail. Keep in mind, however, that shipping out the same day the order is received will always help hold down your shipping expenses.

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