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According to the USPS website:
“Verify delivery with Delivery Confirmation. Our low cost Delivery Confirmation service gives you the date, ZIP Code™ and time your article was delivered. If delivery was attempted you will get the date and time of attempted delivery. You can easily access this information with our Track & Confirm tool.”
Adding Delivery Confirmation to your package is absolutely imperative to selling on any e-commerce platform. If you are unable to prove that the item was delivered to the buyer’s address you might as well not have shipped anything at all. When accepting payments with Paypal you must input a Delivery Confirmation number or other proof of delivery that Paypal can search for online for every transaction or you are opening yourself up to potential buyers who “didn’t receive the item.” If you do not have proof that the item was delivered, the buyer can simply say they did not receive it and they will receive a refund from Paypal every time. Delivery Confirmation’s biggest asset is that if you print postage online it’s included free and if you ship your packages at a retail location the cost is 75 cents for Parcel Post or 65 cents for Priority Mail which is still inexpensive compared to other carriers. Delivery Confirmation also works well for what it was designed to do – provide proof that the package reached the recipient.
Unfortunately, USPS Delivery Confirmation has a number of downsides. First, it is only possible to track the package to the Zip Code of the buyer. It is impossible to verify that the item was delivered to a specific address. For example, if you ship a package to 12345 Main Street Seattle, WA 98105, when you “track” the package online it might say, “Your item was delivered at 10:58 AM on April 9, 2009 in Seattle, WA 98105.” This can present a problem if the buyer says they did not receive an item but your Delivery Confirmation number says that the item was delivered. The buyer could simply be mistaken as sometimes postal workers place oversized packages in locations the buyer is not expecting, the buyer could be lying that they did not receive the item, the package could have been delivered to the wrong address, or a number of other scenarios could have occurred. Usually, the buyer will find the item or the issue will otherwise resolve itself, but if they don’t it puts the seller in a difficult position where they have to decide if they want to trust the buyer and issue a refund or risk receiving negative feedback.
Second, the lack of a specific address can open the buyer up to fraud. If the seller ships an item to a different address in the same Zip Code as the buyer, it will say that the item was delivered, but the buyer was actually never shipped the item they purchased. If a buyer opens a dispute with eBay and Paypal saying they did not receive the item, it is enough proof for the seller to input a Delivery Confirmation number that shows a package was delivered to the buyer’s Zip Code even if the buyer never received the package at their address. For this reason, if you are buying something on eBay and find a seller with free or economical UPS or similar shipping you might consider it even if UPS Ground is usually a few days slower than USPS Priority Mail.
4/17 Clarification: My point here is that with USPS Delivery Confirmation it is impossible to check the intended address. With UPS and Fedex, it is at least possible to check what address the shipper used when they shipped the item. If a seller on eBay (or any other e-commerce site) is out to purposefully defraud the buyer, they can simply ship an item to an address in the same Zip Code as the buyer and as far as Paypal is concerned the buyer received the item as advertised. It is a serious flaw in Paypal’s dispute resolution system. I would not advocate any seller switch from USPS to UPS as UPS is too expensive, too slow, and too incompetent to meet the demands of even the most basic business. But it is something to keep in mind as a buyer on eBay.
Third, many buyers expect Delivery Confirmation numbers to work like Fedex or UPS tracking numbers that are constantly updated at numerous points during the transit process. Delivery Confirmation numbers are rarely updated more than twice during transit and often only once, when the item is delivered. If you sign up online, USPS will pick your packages up. The postal worker who picks up these packages almost never scans them in as being picked up. In addition, when you bring your postage paid package to the Post Office to ship many times the package will not be scanned either. This presents a serious problem because the buyer will input the Delivery Confirmation number into USPS.com and it will say that the Post Office is expecting the package for shipment but it has not yet been shipped. I’ve received the same email hundreds of times: “It says you printed the postage for the item I bought, but it hasn’t shipped yet. When will it ship?” I then explain what I explained here and the item usually shows up the next day. Still, it can make buyers uncomfortable when they are unable to use their “tracking number” to track the package. If you receive this email from buyers assure them that the item was shipped and that the Delivery Confirmation number will likely not update until the item is received. Knowing that the item will show up within a day or two, I usually tell them that if the item does not arrive in the next few days I will issue a refund or ship a replacement item, whichever they prefer. This usually makes buyers calm down.
Finally, one of the worst case scenarios is when the postal worker does not scan the package at the time of delivery. This is uncommon when you print postage online because the Delivery Confirmation number is attached right under the address making it hard to miss. However, when you bring your package to the post office and pay for Delivery Confirmation separately, the Post Office attaches a small rectangular Delivery Confirmation bar code that the postal worker is more likely to miss. This can put you in a pickle if you have a buyer who is particularly intent on trying to rip you off.
I should say something positive to make you feel better about the Postal Service after all this negativity. I’ve shipped over 50,000 packages via USPS Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation and I only know of one that may not have been scanned properly and I was forced to refund the buyer. One out of 50,000 isn’t too bad, so if you do things properly and keep following these guides you should find yourself knowledgeable and more adept at fighting potentially fraudulent buyers and sellers.
The point of Delivery Confirmation is to do exactly what it says – confirm delivery. Unfortunately, many buyers and sellers alike misunderstand it as a full featured “tracking number” that they can check to see how the transit process is progressing. Delivery Confirmation is simply not designed to do this. If you want full featured tracking you either need to choose Express Shipping from USPS or another carrier like UPS or Fedex. Despite its lack of features, Delivery Confirmation is a necessary tool when selling items on eBay and accepting payments through Paypal or other payment processors as confirming delivery is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business
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