Can I use flat rate USPS Priority boxes for UPS and FedEx?

This one is for all my cheap-o’s out there. It’s one of the most frequently asked questions by eBay sellers who want to save money anywhere possible. Between eBay fees, PayPal fees, packaging and other seller expenses, the cost to do business on eBay can really add up. So some sellers have resorted to using the flat rate priority mail boxes that the USPS provides for free in order to ship items first class,  parcel, or even through FedEx and UPS. But the question is, can you actually do this?

The quick answer is yes….. if you can get away with it. I have done it before and had no problems at all. Some people have said it didn’t work for them.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing or recommending that you use the free USPS flat rate boxes to ship packages via first class mail, UPS, FedEx, etc! Don’t blame me if your packages get returned to you.

How to get away with it

Now that I’ve given my disclaimer, I’ll tell you how to get away with using the free USPS flat rate boxes to ship your packages via UPS, FedEx, or however else you want to ship. All you have to do is package your item in the flat rate box or envelope, then wrap it in that brown Kraft paper that’s sold in rolls. This stuff.

Place your shipping label on the package and you’re set to go. I also use the Kraft paper to re-use boxes that I’ve received packages in. The post office has a thing about people using boxes that have tons of bar codes and shipping labels on them. I’ve actually used that same paper to wrap Christmas gifts (you might call it cheap, I call it creative :p).  Make sure that the package is wrapped nicely, pretty much like a Christmas present. Don’t leave any open slits or spaces that make the priority mail box visible. I recommend using the Kraft paper because it’s higher quality than the stuff you’ll get at the dollar store so it’s less likely to rip.

Why do people do this?

Some of you might be wondering, why would anyone go through all this trouble? Well first, it’s really not much trouble. It only takes a couple of minutes. But there are plenty of reasons to do this.

1- Saves money on boxes: Unless you have a good supply of  boxes in various sizes for free, finding shipping boxes can be a bitch sometimes. Depending on how many you need, it can also get expensive. There are sites like that sell boxes in bulk, but if you need a lot of boxes, it can get pricey.

2- Convenience: You can place an order on the USPS site to have free boxes dropped off at your house for free (you don’t even have to pay shipping). That means you don’t have to waste your time or gas driving to get boxes. I don’t know about you, but driving 20 minutes just for some boxes gets old quick.

3- Good variety: The USPS offers a pretty good variety of box sizes. Whether you’re shipping something fairly small or a bigger item, you can probably find a USPS box to ship it in. Make sure you browse the online selection though because they have more options than your local post office. For instance, you can order the flat rate regional boxes online, but I haven’t seen a post office near me that has them.

What happens if you get caught?

Fortunately, I haven’t had any issues with doing this. But if you were to get caught, they will probably just send the package back to you. And then you can ask the mail person why the hell they unwrapped your package in the first place. The chances of you running into any issues with this are slim. I have heard of someone having the people at the post office tell them that their package can’t be wrapped up. I’m not sure whether or not this is an actual USPS rule but I’ve never ran into that problem before.

Have you ever tried this out before? If so, how did it work out?


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