Local News

Which Shipping Options Deliver The Best Service At The Best Price?

Posted November 27, 2001 10:22 a.m. EST

— If you have holiday packages to send to family and friends, what is the best way to make sure they get to their destination on time, in one piece and at the best price?

With the help of reporters in Ohio and Florida, Five On Your Side's Monica Laliberte checked out different package mailing options and found some interesting differences that can save money.

The goal was to see how the contents of four identical packages containing two wine glasses, a glass plate and a package of cookies would make it through all of the handling of being shipped.

The glass items were carefully wrapped in newspaper, the boxes were filled with packing peanuts and then each box was sealed.

Each box was sent through a popular mailing service: Airborne Express, Federal Express, United Parcel Service and the U.S. Postal Service.

Requesting the least expensive service offered by each mailing service, the four packages were sent from Raleigh to reporter Jim Donovan in Columbus, Ohio.

Donovan said that the plate and glasses arrived in good shape, but the cookies in all four packages were crumbled.

Donovan rewrapped all of the contents, including new cookies and boxes, repacked it all and sent the boxes by overnight delivery to reporter Michelle Meredith in Orlando, Fla.

Meredith said all of the glass arrived in good condition, but that the cookies in the FedEx box were broken.

Meredith bought new cookies and boxes, rewrapped everything and then sent the boxes back to Raleigh using the 2-3 day service.

UPS was the only mail service that

questioned her packaging


When the clerk saw "glass" on the contents label, she opened the box and told Meredith that it was not packed correctly. The clerk said that the glass needed to be packed in bubble wrap, then placed in packing material, and that the box needed to be placed inside a bigger box that was at least two inches bigger all the way around.

All of the packages sent by 2-3 day delivery arrived in Raleigh on time except one. The U.S. Postal Service's 2-3 day package arrived one day late. Everything inside all of the packages arrived in good shape.

As for price, the differences were significant:

Overnight Delivery:

Across the board, the U.S. Postal Service was the least expensive. On overnight delivery, it beat FedEx, which was the most expensive, by nearly $10.

2-3 Day Delivery:

On 2-3 day delivery, the Postal Service beat UPS, the most expensive, by more than $11. However, the Postal Service delivery was a day late.

Least Expensive Delivery:

The pricing for the least expensive service is the most interesting.

Airborne Express, FedEx and UPS packages sent by 2-3 day delivery all arrived within 2 days and cost a lot less than the guaranteed 2-day service. With UPS, the difference was more than $12. The Postal Service was the least expensive in this case, but it took 6 days for the package to arrive.

Bottom line:

To save money on delivery, wrap and send packages early. Deadlines vary, so check the Web sites for the company you plan to use.

For international delivery, the U.S. Postal Service's deadlines range from Dec. 3 - 10. Its deadline for military mail is Dec. 10 - 11.

All of the mail services WRAL used have stepped up package handling procedures since Sept. 11.