February 10th, 2015

How to determine lithium content and watt hours

You can follow this chart: http://images.fedex.com/us/services/pdf/LithiumBattery_JobAid.pdf to determine how to find lithium content and watt hours.

December 4th, 2014

PackageMapping.com

PackageMapping.com, the first universal visual package tracking service, has been helping online businesses  track packages for more than 8 years.  Improving customer service and generating more business by keeping customers on your website.  AMBC members now get the Basic plan at a special discounted rate by following the link inside the AMBC member portal.

Testimonials:

    ” PackageMapping has been an excellent addition to our website. The product is easy for our customers to use and more importantly it drives our customers to our website, creating an excellent marketing tool. I recommend PackageMapping as a valuable addition to your store website and marketing program.” – Mark Vining, Mailboxes of Iowa City

” Absolutely love this site, it’s very beneficial for my business because it let’s my clients track their packages. Also, it allows clients to navigate through my website and see other services. Last but not least, the service that PackageMapping provides is outstanding! Great tool and great service.” – George Castro, Gables Postal Store

 

The AMBC special is 50% off the normal price of the Basic plan which is currently $20/month, so AMBC members would only pay $10/month.  To get the discount you must be an AMBC Member at a Basic Level or above and can access this resource on our website (www.ambc.org), under the Resources section.  Please email hello@ambc.org if you would like to join to get this great benefit.

November 6th, 2014

Newest DHL update

Dear DASCs,

Here are this week’s important DHL Updates. Keeping up to date with DHL will help keep your business running smoothly.

Internal Transation Number (ITN) Shipments
Thank you all so much for your feedback regarding the last ITN email. Please see DHL’s  update below instead when processing shipments:

We at DHL apologize for the confusion for shipments with a commodity value over $2500.  At DHL we strive to be the most compliant when it comes to international shipping. Therefore, we sent out a directive to make sure we were following the most compliant process in regards to this subject.  We will accept all shipments properly processed by our DASC network for ITN filing.  If a shipment doesn’t meet the criteria below for proper filing the shipment should not be accepted.

After ensuring compliance with the current courier service guide which provides details of customs guidelines, follow the below ITN checklist.

1) Determine if an ITN number is required. 

  • Does an individual Line item value exceed US$2,500 to a foreign destination (excluding Canada and including Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands)?

    If yes, ITN/EIN required

  • Is the shipment being exported under an export license or DOS or DOC license exemption/exception (such as a 22 CFR exemptions/DOC STA license exception)

    If yes, ITN/EIN required

  • Does the shipment contain rough diamonds?

    If yes, ITN/EIN required

  • Is the shipment (other than personal correspondence or business records) destined for an OFAC country – Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan or Syria?

    If yes, ITN/EIN required

2) If ITN required: 

  • Does the customer have an ITN?

    If yes, proceed with shipment

  • Does the customer have an EIN?

    If yes, proceed with shipment

  • ​Does the customer lack an ITN or EIN?

    If yes, give customer details on how to acquire; online, by mail or phone

 

Approved Domestic Shipper (DHL Drop Offs)

DHL is promoting the use of the DASC network by the DHL Supply Chain (Exel) c/o Oracle Corporation will be piloting 10 cities within the US beginning this week before going nationwide in December. Pilot cities:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Detroit, MI
  • Dallas, TX
  • El Paso, TX
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Nashua, NH
  • Santa Cruz, CA
  • Seattle, WA

Please ensure you accept any drop offs from this shipper. It is no different than accepting drop offs from the standard customer. As always, remember to schedule that pickup with DHL.

Reporting Drop offs
Also, be sure to report those drop offs and you will be reimbursed $1.50 each for them.

Automatic Reporting
If you have PostalMate or Resource those have the capability of automatically reporting.

Manual Reporting
For all other DASCs you will need to manually report those and all drop offs on www.inxpressretail.com.  Your username will be your email address and your password can be reset by selecting forgot password.  If you need additional assistance reporting drop offs (both automatically and manually) please email or call InXpress per the information below for assistance.

 

DHL Customs Charges Card
DHL has provided a Customs Charges Card which you can print out and give to your DHL customers to better explain duties and taxes that will be assessed at destination.  This is especially helpful for customers who come in to ship on your account.  This will help cut down on miscommunication between you and these customers and result in a better overall transaction.  Which of course can lead to more business for you.  You can find the soft copy of the Customs Charges Card through the link below:

http://inxpressretail.com/Files/04797_CustomsChargesCard_HighRes.pdf

NOTE: This is coming from a no reply email address that is not monitored. As always, if you have any questions please email retailhelp@inxpress.com or call us at (844) 697-7377.

Thank you,

The InXpress Retail Team

November 3rd, 2014

DHL’s Prohibited and Restricted Commodities Policy is updated

Here is the most recent version of DHL’s Prohibited and Restricted Commodities Policy (PRCP). Please print this off and place at your workstations.

http://inxpressretail.com/Files/PRCP2014Final.pdf

October 27th, 2014

2014 December Calendar and Planning

The 2014 December Shipping Calendar is now ready to be downloaded.  You can also download the excel spreadsheet compliments of MPC Coaches so you can determine your sales goals for December as well.

You can view this information on our website www.ambc.org under the Resources section.  This is a great example of why being a Classic member pays!

October 27th, 2014

Preparing for the holidays

Time to Prepare for the Holiday Shipping Season

 

Prepare to maximize the moment. Make absolutely sure you’re prepared ahead of time for the holiday rush. Have enough inventory, supplies, and merchandise on hand? An advertising plan? Temporary workers lined up and trained? Are you signed up to receive AMBC emails so that you receive important carrier updates, etc.?

 

Planning — You Can’t Do Too Much

  • Estimate your sales for the month and do a projection day by day. You will need this before you plan your labor and other budgeted items.
  • Stock up on peanuts, they are like gold in December. Store several extra bags of peanuts up in the ceiling tile for emergencies, fill store van if available and don’t use unless it’s an emergency.
  • Spruce up! This is the season that your store will see many new customers, so take the time in October and November to clean and decorate! You want your customers to walk into your store and have their first impression be WOW!
  • Make a supplies check list… not just packing peanuts, bubble wrap, boxes, etc., but supplies like register tape, shipping labels, copy paper, fax paper, staplers, scotch tape, toners, Post-its, pens, etc. Nothing worse than realizing that you have run out of register paper and carrier labels at 3 p.m. on December 19th. Also, I order some extra tape measures and box knives… I never seem to have enough of those around.
  • Make a Christmas Mailing Kit filled with shipping tips on packing, best time to mail, etc., and give it to customers. Advertise that you are giving out these kits.
  • A good beginning point is your advertising campaign. What media will you use and when will it be most effective? I recommend hanging outdoor shipping banners with a holiday feel the week before Thanksgiving. This gives you exposure while people are out shopping that weekend.
  • Pre-tape and stack (as high as you can) as many of your most popular boxes as you can. We label each stack so we can quickly find the box we need. Any spare time (and each evening) we make more boxes to replenish the boxes that we’ve used.
  • Consider extending your hours (opening earlier and closing later) and your days of operation. Some Saturdays can be as big as Mondays, and try to be open for at least the two Sundays before Christmas this year. Even if Sundays tend to be slow for you, it will be in your best interest to get all packaging work completed and the store stocked and cleaned for Monday. We have experienced some fantastic Sunday sales, so we make it a policy to stay open until the store is prepared for the upcoming Monday.

 

Treat Employees Like Gold

  • Have snacks, drinks and munchies handy for both you and your employees. As the days get more hectic you tend to forget to eat. You will need your strength so be sure you have some (healthy) finger food available.
  • Plan on buying pizza for all, delivered to the store, on Big Monday.
  • The mistake most newbies make is expecting to be slammed right after Thanksgiving and hiring extra staff to handle the throng. When sales don’t appear as expected, operators get despondent and cut back on staff thinking the season won’t be so hot. Then you get into the second and third week of December, and you’re short on staff when the shippers finally hit you all at once. Now, when you have a chance to show all these new customers how good your service is, they have a long wait. Once they leave your store for good they say to themselves, “I could have had that crummy service at the post office and paid less!”

 

On The Front Lines

  • Keep all items of a shipment and the shipping label together before packaging. This means that you will not be packing at the counter, making customers wait in line! Use a separate container and place all items for one shipment in that container. Laundry baskets work; they are nestable. The basket is then sent to the packers where it is boxed and labeled.
  • Greeting cards can be attached with doublesided tape to the gift being shipped or sealed in a plastic bag with the gift. Don’t leave it to the recipient to find cards lost in a sea of peanut packaging.
  • We set up a separate counter for those people who just want to mail packages without insurance, pay for copies, or purchase boxes, cards, or other items.
  • Between December 4 and December 21, hire a young person whose sole job is to go to customers’ cars and bring in packages/boxes. It will be the best $850 you ever spent on advertising. Be sure to have your employee wearing a store t-shirt/apron (identifying them as a Shipping Elf ). Have peppermint candy canes on your front counter. Smile a lot. Make people glad they came to you.
  • Do not allow anyone and I mean ANYONE to send cash. You are to blame if it goes missing somehow. And you cannot convince them that you didn’t take it.
  • I put up a “Last Chance” poster. Each state has a “ship by” date next to it. That date is the number of actual days in transit PLUS two. Buy yourself a little time.

 

Packing For Profits

  • We always ask customers if something is breakable; if they say yes or think yes, we ask will it survive a 4–to 5–foot drop? Will it survive if the biggest box you can see lands on it? If they hesitate in answering then it should not be shipped as is, and they can either repackage it themselves, or we can repackage it for them.
  • Ask if a customer’s prepacked box contains anything perishable or potentially dangerous. If you have any suspicions whatsoever about a prepackaged box, just tell the customer that you want to inspect it to make sure that it’s okay.
  • Don’t get lax when tired on packing well — stick to your guns and pack those items WELL so you don’t spend January settling claims and answering to carriers about why you didn’t double box.

 

Hark, The Harried Angels Say…

  • Look out for Monday, December 21st. Expect this to be the transition day between the patient, polite and organized customers of early December to those who scurry in five minutes before closing expecting us to pack and ship antique mirrors to a “General Delivery” address in Hawaii for guaranteed delivery by Christmas.
  • Be patient with your customers. The customers are flustered and panicked this time of year. They realize they have waited until the last minute again and tend to take out their frustration on the clerk shipping their packages. It’s even worse if they have to ship with an air service and pay more to get it there by Christmas. It is not your fault and is best to reassure them that their packages are safe and will get there in a timely manner. Be ready for long lines. To help with this, keep your best employees at the service counter and train the new hires to do the uncomplicated packing and other daily tasks. Customers want to see familiar faces during this time so they can trust their package with your store.
  • This will be a time of extreme stress for all involved. Encourage and give praise to the employees when deserved to keep motivation levels up. Be ready for upset or irate customers when it gets closer to the holidays. They generally want it there yesterday at little cost. Although a lack of planning on their part doesn’t make an emergency on our part, it is best to stay calm and reserved in their presence. If you lose your temper in front of them it only makes a bad situation worse.
  • Look at your own attitude: If you dread the season, so will your staff. Customers will pick up on the bad vibe. Likewise, if you are determined to have fun with the rush, everybody else will, too.
  • Use slower times to catch up; don’t slow down with the slow times.
  • Most importantly: RELAX! If you go too fast, you’ll make mistakes. Take this holiday season one day at a time, one package at a time.

 

’Tis the Season

  • Play seasonal music. We start playing Christmas music early December. The people seem to mellow out while they wait listening to the music.
  • Keep a smile on your face and wish EVERY customer a happy holiday. Keep your store and your employees looking festive. Lastly, send cards to your best clients thanking them for their patronage.
  • Have a supply of candy canes or other hard candy and cookies available to offer the customers while they are standing in line. That seems to “SWEETEN” them up. This also makes the kids happy and gives mom or dad time to do the shipping without being interrupted.

 

Take Care of Yourself

  • Get a lot of rest in November. Store up your energy. Drink lots of water. Do stretching exercises before going to bed during December. Limber up so that you don’t take the stress of the day with you to bed.
  • Wear comfortable shoes… no matter what they cost!
  • We load up the refrigerator with Cokes, and make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every morning. That way we at least have something ready to eat on the run every day. We also make sure that we have the name of every food delivery service at hand.
  • You, and I mean YOU, need to let go of all carrier junk, the state of the world, and all the rest of the normal problems for the next month!

July 5th, 2012

Controlling Costs

Problems that are costing you money and how to fix them

Your business in the mail and parcel industry is hard enough when trying to keep up with the latest technologies and changes in the marketplace. Sometimes it can be hard to find time to look at your operation to find inefficiencies so they can be fixed. If you find the time, however, your bottom line is going to move in a positive direction. Here are two common problem areas where you can try to increase your profits:

The undeliverables

You’ve done everything you can to get your parcel sent out and delivered on time, only to find yourself looking down at it because it came back undeliverable. Maybe the address was off, maybe the carrier was at fault, or maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. The end result remains the same, however. You’re going to be out money one way or another, either directly or through taking the time to fix the problem.

First, consider the tools you have in place to help make sure everything goes smoothly. Are you using the Coding Accuracy Support System to make sure the address entry is correct and deliverable? Are you checking databases to find out what addresses are proven to be deliverable? If not, you might as well be giving away money. These basic failsafes need to be in place before you can even consider fixing the problem. If you’re already doing the above, then it’s time to start tracking your entire process. Once you have enough data you can track the undeliverables and find common factors that cause the shipping to go awry. Fix the problems and you’ll have more money in your pocket.

Optimization

If you take a hard look at your operation, it’s likely you’re spending too much money somewhere. Maybe you’re paying too much for supplies, or your labor costs are out of sync with your customer flow. In some cases, your shipping costs could be inflated because of an inaccurate picture of how your customers use your service or what they ship. It’s easy to look at things and think, “This is how it’s always been so it must be right,” but that’s not going to get you anywhere.

Make the time to undertake a widespread analysis of your business. Look at the factors mentioned above (and anything else you spend money on) and see where areas could be improved. If you don’t have any opportunities for optimization then you are an amazing businessperson and it’s time to open a few more locations. In reality, many in the industry have several small areas that need to be optimized that can add up to big bucks.

Take a close, honest look at your business and you’ll be surprised at the money you can find.

Author’s bio: Ryan Franklin is a guest blogger and expert on shipping in all its forms. He knows what’s what when it comes to yacht transport and parcel shipping, and everything in between.

May 24th, 2012

Postal Service Attempts Destruction of Family Businesses

Layoffs, early retirement, closing plants and distribution centers, closing or reducing the hours at unprofitable Post Offices, begging the Congress to send bailout money are a few of the more known desperate attempts for the USPS to save itself.

On the revenue side they have introduced new products and services like Every Door Direct Mail, better tracking information, flat rate boxes, and new Workshare products with private mailers.  And they still lost $3.2 billion in the first three months of 2012.

Now they are attempting to take the business of Private Mailbox Rentals from small family businesses in their neighborhoods.

As the owners of the First Class Mail monopoly, they did very well.  Their contribution margin on First Class Mail is 285%, while Standard Mail gets just over 100%.  As First Class has been electronically taken away from the USPS, their most profitable product has been almost eliminated.  Trying to generate three times the quantity of Standard Mail to make up for the loss has been a failure.

AMPC and 12 other industry leaders and associations are in a battle to stop the USPS from winning the Mailbox Wars – the usurping of our business by an untaxed government behemoth with a $100 million advertising budget.   This David versus Goliath fight between a powerfully connected and deficitly financed organization and the efficient small shop down the street, locally owned, family run, with an advertising budget of 1/10 of 1% of the enemy, paying local, state, and federal taxes, supporting local charities, and contributing to the local economy, is corruption at its worse.

Where else in the world does a country’s government take over the private sector enterprises?  I could name a few places, but their political systems are a little different from ours.

I have been advised by who I would consider respected, professional, smart business people in this industry that this fight is not worth the trouble.  It’s not a big deal they say.  We all know that the USPS will do as well with this as they did with the Bugs Bunny neckties.   Besides doesn’t it call attention to the Private Mailbox Business?

I do not doubt the fact that the USPS will, as in all other attempts to compete with the private market place, fail at providing the quality of service we are so successful at delivering.  When a government, even with its vast advantages of deficit spending, no tax liabilities, and significant marketing budgets, tries to compete in the rules of engagement in the business world, they are bringing a knife to a gunfight.  The incentives and punishments of private businesses mean nothing to them; they are not able to comprehend the thoughts of a person who has risked his family savings to work without paid vacation, pension, sick leave, annual leave and carryover accrual, health insurance with vision and dental, family medical leave, expense accounts, junkets,  conventions, education reimbursement, and holiday leave, to provide for his family.

Compare a postal employee to be given the choice between making another $1000 sale or taking Friday afternoon off and the same choice offered to a shop owner and you can see why the war can be easily won.  How often do you see a postal clerk forgo her break to speed the long line through the Post Office?

So why would AMPC spend the hours and the money it takes to chase this windmill?

It’s because it’s wrong.  To see an American industry so unfairly attacked and devastated by its own government requires action.  You expect action from us and it would be irresponsible for us to ignore this.   And the rest of the industry agrees:  13 industry organizations consisting of for-profit and not-for-profit, trade groups and franchises, turnkeys and owners’ groups have coalesced into a united front to defeat the subterfuge of the USPS to take our business.

You can help.  Soon there will be an opportunity to comment to the docket on the Postal Regulatory Commission website, but in the mean time, armies need money for weapons and supplies.  Please consider a donation to the cause to protect your store from the onslaught of USPS competition by going to www.fightformympc.com and making a donation.  Donations are averaging $100, but any amount will be appreciated.

Our job is to provide opportunities for you to become successful.  Part of that job is to take down the barriers that keep us from doing that.

March 16th, 2012

Stopping the USPS PO Box Enhancements

The Mail Box Wars

The PRC has accepted the Complaint filed yesterday. The Docket for the complaint is C2012-1. The Docket was established on 3/15/2012.

This is the first significant step in getting the Post Office to cease its predatory and unfair enhancement of the PO Box service.

We have presented a logical, reasonable, and legal argument against the USPS’ subterfuge to close down the family businesses that make up the retail shipping community. We expect the USPS to bring down the full power and resources on us to defeat this complaint, but with your help we are confident we will win.

The following organizations have joined the Complaint:

ASSOCIATED MAIL AND PARCEL CENTERS
PAKMAIL
PARCEL PLUS/KWIK COPY BUSINESS CENTERS
POSTAL CONNECTIONS
POSTNET
RETAIL SHIPPING ASSOCIATES
SAFE SHIP
THE INDEPENDENT COALITION OF FRANCHISE OWNERS
THE MAIL BOX STORES
THE NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF RETAIL SHIP CENTERS
TOTAL CHOICE SHIPPING
YESS STORES

We will be asking you send comments to the PRC in support of the Complaint. A sample letter will be posted on  www.fightformympc.com.  If you plan on establishing a Permanent Account for online submittals, you should send the application in soon.

The PRC would like everybody to set up a Permanent Account.  A Temporary Account is set up if you want to file a comment immediately.  The PRC suggests strongly that you follow the Temporary Account up with a mailed in application for a Permanent Account.  If you have trouble, they will walk you through it.

PRC Account Procedures

Temporary Account

A temporary account can be obtained online immediately. It may only be used to file a notice of intervention or a comment that has been solicited by the Commission. It expires after 10 days. A temporary account holder who intends to participate in a proceeding on an ongoing basis is urged to apply for a permanent account as soon as possible.
Apply Online

Permanent Account (Principal & Agent)

A permanent account is required to submit most documents in Commission proceedings. It is also required if the applicant desires status as a Principal Account Holder or Agent Account Holder. A permanent account holder must confirm that he or she is authorized to represent the participant indicated on the document filed and must warrant that all documents filed under the account are authentic and accurate.

A completed application for a permanent account must be mailed or hand delivered to:
Secretary of the Commission
Attn: Docket Section
901 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20268

After acceptance by the Secretary, the applicant will receive an email with a username and a temporary password. Upon receipt, the applicant should immediately access the Filing Online Profile Page and select a permanent password. Users who are converting from temporary to permanent accounts will receive a message confirming the change in their account status. They should continue to use the username and password they initially selected.

Download a PDF of the Permanent Application.

February 8th, 2012

The Mailbox Wars

Have you ever had a business partner?  I had one once and partnerships can be very tricky to maintain.  Trust, but verify comes to mind.  Each party needs to trust the other, but just in case one of the partners lacks the ability to remember, an understanding in the form of a Partnership Agreement needs to be agreed upon.

We as individual stores have agreements with the three major carriers that could be seen as a partnership.  But occasionally a carrier, with its internal, competing fiefdoms, violates the spirit of the contract, creating an adversarial relationship by competing with us.  One department, by doing its job supports our businesses, while another department by doing its job, competes with us.

These departments, internal to an organization, also appear to be competing against each other.  Such is just the nature of large organizations.

Speaking with Postmaster General Patrick Donahue last year, he emphasized the value of retail partners like USPS Approved Shippers by calling them, along with Contract Postal Units, Village Post Offices, and other affiliates, essential partners to the survival to the USPS.  These replacement Postal outlets have the verbal support of the Postmaster General and his Executive Team.

So why has the USPS seen fit to imperil these very businesses by directly competing with the local neighborhood shipping stores?  The USPS has offered the following services to PO Box renters who have boxes in the designated Competitive List areas:

  • Offering Post Office Box renters the use of the Post Office street address for Post Office Box addressing.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters email notification of mail delivery.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters the use of the “#” designation.
  • Offering Post Office Box renters to receive packages from private carriers.
  • Allowing Post Office renters the use of Change of Address Forms allowing the USPS to forward renters mail at no charge.
  • And, eventually, the only address that will get mail on Saturday.

On the USPS’ entry into the express market, Fred Smith from FedEx said:

“The problem with the USPS’s vain attempts to compete … is that there is not a shred of evidence that its entry into the field serves any public interests. There are, to be sure, important interests worthy of consideration, primarily those of postal workers and the postal family. However, a convincing argument has yet to be made to show that the public interest requires the Postal Service to use its monopoly … to gain an advantage in a service that can be and is being provided more efficiently by private enterprise. Moreover, it is noteworthy that these private companies, with which the USPS seeks to compete, pay taxes while the USPS does not; purchase license plates for vehicles, which the USPS does not; and, unlike the USPS, must comply with zoning restrictions and pay fees and other charges; are subject to customs laws; and are constrained by a host of government-imposed burdens.”

Unfair competition – that is the essence of the argument of stopping the USPS from adding the mail receiving enhancements that have been enjoyed by the customers of Commercial Mail Receiving Agents.  No sales tax collected, no property taxes, no gas taxes, no license plates, no local codes or regulations to follow, and a $100,000,000 marketing budget allows the USPS advantages beyond comprehension.

Even if the above advantages of the USPS are tempered with the inefficiencies of unions, bureaucracy, PRC, Congressional regulation, and a monopoly mentality, the USPS still has an unfair competitive playing field with FedEx and UPS.  But let these behemoths battle it out amongst themselves.  Their armies are large are fairly balanced.

On the other hand, the USPS is now attacking the foundation of American economics.

When the USPS unleashes its firepower on the local mom and pop, independent family businesses, it’s the US Government versus the family and that’s wrong.

When the USPS uses its labor, which is paid for by postage, to move and deliver private carrier packages, to subsidize these businesses by consolidating their delivery stops, returning undeliverable packages, and communicating delivery information to the private carriers’ customers, that’s wrong.

When the USPS, who regulates Commercial Mail Receiving Agents, does not allow them to use the USPS Change of Address system for their customers, but allow the use of that system for PO Box customers, that’s wrong.

To claim financial reasons to implement five-day delivery for Private Mail Boxes, but service the PO Boxes on Saturday, that’s wrong.

Competing with the businesses you regulate is unethical, unfair, and corrupt.

Now we fight.  We fight with everything we have.  We will be commenting on the Docket we created on the PRC site.  We will be writing letters to our Congressmen during an election year.  We will be writing letters to the House and Senate leadership.  And we will travel to Washington DC to confront the responsible people.

We cannot do this alone.  We will need your help.  Although we have other organizations willing to sign complaints, wars are expensive and signatures do not buy ammo.   If you are not an AMPC Member, join us at the Classic Level; if you are not a Classic Level Member, upgrade, if you are a Classic Member, renew.  This will become a fight for our existence, our survival, and the basis for our businesses.

Join the fight at www.ampc.org.

Keep informed at http://fightformympc.wordpress.com/