Free USPS Boxes: To Use or Not to Use? Free USPS Boxes 570x300As an e-commerce seller, you’re always looking for solutions that improve your bottom line. And when sturdy, free, self-sealing shipping boxes are as close as your local U.S. Post Office or online supplier, it may be tempting to take advantage of these resources. However, there are right and wrong ways to use USPS packaging. Here are the facts.

When to Use USPS Boxes

  • When you’re shipping USPS Priority Mail or USPS Priority Mail Express. These boxes are a fast and easy way to package and ship your products according to the services and timeframe you want.

When Not to Use USPS Boxes

  • If you’re shipping via a USPS competitor. USPS packaging is may be simple to obtain, but it’s actually the property of the Postal Service. If you use these boxes in any way except to ship USPS Priority Mail or USPS Priority Mail Express, you’re violating federal law. In fact, the USPS Office of the Inspector General has a hotline form for reporting this and other violations. Some of these competitors are aware of the law and may offer you another box to put the USPS box inside, but many will not. Is it worth the risk? You decide.
  • If you’re shipping via another USPS option. Even if you try to cross out or cover the verbiage on the boxes, using the free Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express packaging for First Class, Media or Retail Ground is a violation of the law. In addition, using labeled boxes for USPS shipments of different kinds could potentially add handling time if there’s any confusion during sorting. (USPS boxes are watermarked on the inside, so turning them inside out isn’t an option either.)

The Bottom Line
USPS packaging was designed as a service to customers, and the cost of these “free” boxes has been incorporated into Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express rates. Abuse of materials contributes to higher costs for everyone. When you make your shipping choices, be sure to stock up on any free materials offered by the service you choose, or – better yet – invest in plain boxes to give you flexibility down the road.