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Do They Deliver?

Chained to your overnight delivery service? Maybe you should play the field.
June 1, 1998

When it comes to overnight deliveries, big companies tend to put aside thriftiness and restraint. Spending $15 to send a not-so-urgent document is simply considered a cost of doing business. Small firms, however, can't blindly use this luxury, especially since overnight prices have gone up over the past few years. In fact, UPS and FedEx instituted another set of price increases in February (with Airborne Express following suit a month later), boosting prices an average of 3 percent to 4 percent.

The good news is, you can do more than just fork over another chunk of your hard-earned money. There are several simple, practical steps you can take to hold down delivery costs:

This simple question can slash 20 percent to 50 percent off your delivery costs. Because delivery service charges are time-dependent, a package arriving at 10:30 the next morning can be up to 20 percent more costly than a package arriving 51¦2 hours later. Moreover, sending a package by two-day service will be 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than next-morning delivery.

On the other hand, zone-based pricing falters when it comes to shipping packages long distances. We found Airborne Express' flat rates to be more competitive for shipments to locations more than 600 miles away. By taking advantage of these differences, you can save approximately 30 percent off the delivery cost of any given package.

Dramatic savings can be found when sending heavy shipments in particular. One company needed to make an emergency overnight shipment of books to a customer in St. Louis. By using BAX Global instead of its standard overnight shipper, the company saved nearly $800. Emery also offers attractive rates for shipping freight overnight.

For shipments weighing less than 5 pounds, Airborne is hard to beat. Similarly, for two-day air delivery, RPS Inc. is always competitively priced.

Looking to send a package abroad? DHL Worldwide Express is always a good bet for its extensive delivery network.

If you'd rather not deal with multiple carriers, choose the one that most cost-effectively handles the type of shipping, whether by weight or destination, you do most. By consolidating all your shipping with a single carrier, you'll reduce the number of bills you receive and begin to build enough volume to qualify for a discount.

Willing to pay in advance for shipping your packages? If so, you'll want to try using the prepaid packages offered by Airborne Express and overnight resellers like UniShippers Association, an association of companies that combines shipping volumes to qualify for discounted rates. Prepaid packages are convenient, and the rates save you money. Moreover, you can ship as much as you can fit in the packaging without being charged extra for heavier shipments. The catch, though, is that the smallest quantity you can buy the packaging in is in sets of 10.

Contact Sources

Airborne Express,

BAX Global,

Emery Worldwide,

Federal Express Corp.,


Mie-Yun Lee is editor of the bimonthly Business Consumer Guide and BuyersZone (http://www., an Internet buying service. She is also co-author of The Essential Business Buyer's Guide (Sourcebooks Inc.).