According to a new survey (from Fedex, of all places), one third of Americans will return at least one gift this year. But if there’s one thing worse than receiving a bad gift, it’s waiting in line at the post office to return it. Good news: in most cases, you don’t have to. Here’s how to avoid the hassle.
Prepaid Return Labels
If you need to return a purchase or gift from an online merchant, start by going straight to their website. Many offer prepaid, printable labels. Then you schedule a pick up with UPS or Fedex. Easy deal.
For Vendors that Don’t Offer Free Return Shipping…
The post office is usually cheaper than UPS or Fedex. But that still doesn’t mean you have to wait in line at the post office. You can leave a box outside your door, and arrange online to have the mailman pick it up. For that, just go here.
But first you need to have postage and know how much to put on. Again, the US Postal Service can help: You can buy stamps online and they’ll be mailed to you. Even faster, just print your own postage. USPS.com lets you select the amount, enter payment, and skip the lines at the post office.
How Much Postage Do You Need?
Postage is based on the distance travelled, weight and box dimensions. And the post office website has a tool for making that easy – if you know how much your package weighs. A postage scale costs as little as $15 – a good investment if you do a lot of shipping. But if you’re reading this, chances are you need a different solution.
If You Don’t have a Scale
Do you still have the box the item was shipped in? The weight will be printed right on it. But if you don’t have the original, here’s the easiest solution: The USPS flat rate box. Their motto “if it fits it ships” (as long as its under 70 pounds). It costs just $16.85 to ship their large box and a little over $12 for the medium one. And get this: You can order these boxes online and they’ll deliver them to your house for free.
Best Times for the Post Office
If for some reason, you still have to go to the post office, the lines are usually shortest on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, about a half an hour after they open.
[Related: Would You Pay to Kiss Postal Mail Goodbye? ]