Once upon a time, if you wanted to mail a package using Priority Mail, USPS would throw in the tape for free. Sadly, those days are becoming a thing of the past. Like in-flight snacks, checking accounts and plastic shopping bags, tape is something for which you usually need to pay these days — but not always.
What Is Priority Mail Tape?
Priority Mail tape is a clear plastic tape that can be used to seal boxes being sent by USPS with its Priority Mail service. In the past, you could often get a roll or several rolls for free just by asking at the post office or by calling USPS.
Today, you can still ask, but you're not likely to get it. In the past year or two, some customers have said they've gotten the tape, while others have been told that it's unavailable. It seems to depend on whether the post office has some to spare, how much tape you need and perhaps how nicely you ask.
Officially, USPS does not give away Priority Mail tape for free. So, if you do get some, it's much like a baker giving you a free cookie when you buy a loaf of bread. It isn't something you should come to expect every time you ask. You can buy plain, clear USPS tape from the USPS store.
Priority Mail Labels and USPS Boxes
If you are sending parcels using Priority Mail, you can get labels and boxes for free. Priority Mail shipping labels (item #106) are 12 inches by 2 inches and come in packs of 10. Priority Mail sticker labels are 3 inches by 1 7/8 inches and come in rolls of 250 (#107) or 1,000 (#107R). USPS also offers several other stickers, including Priority Mail address labels, Priority Mail Express labels and Priority Mail Delivery by 10:30 a.m. labels, all of which are free.
Priority Mail boxes are free as well, and they come in an assortment of sizes. Anything that fits in a Priority Mail flat-rate box from USPS can be shipped at a flat rate regardless of weight anywhere in the United States, although there is a 70-pound limit for all domestic Priority Mail packages. International Priority Mail has a weight limit of 20 pounds for medium and large boxes and a 4-pound limit for small boxes.
Priority Mail boxes are already labeled, so you don't need special tape or labels to identify how they are to be shipped. Note that if you do use Priority Mail labels or tape on a regular shipment, it will automatically be upgraded to Priority Mail, and you will be charged accordingly.
Using Priority Mail Delivery
For small-business owners, Priority Mail can provide you with delivery times that are competitive with large companies without emptying your bank account. Priority Mail packages are delivered in one to three business days, and your customers can use online USPS tracking to see where packages are on the Priority Mail delivery map.
Packages can be picked up from your home or office and delivered to customers seven days a week with no additional charges for rural delivery. USPS also offers overnight delivery with Priority Mail Express Overnight. Currently, the cost ranges from $7.15 to $21.10 depending on the size and weight of the package.
Before shipping a package, make sure that it is properly sealed. You should pad the contents to protect the items from being damaged, but the box should close flat without the flaps protruding or the box bulging so that it can pass through the automated processing machines.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.