Over the last few weeks, I spent more time on eBay, selling goods that I might have otherwise sold on Amazon. Seller-fulfilled e-commerce wasn’t something I spent a lot of time doing in the past, so I needed a way to manage my outbound shipments and not have to pay an arm and a leg. Enter Sendle.
Update May 10, 2020: I added some extra thoughts at the end of this article, primarily based on working with them over the last several months and the value they bring to the e-commerce game.
The Australian company Sendle looked like it fit the bill pretty well. I discovered them through a Facebook ad touting things like two-day delivery, carbon-neutral shipments, and reasonable prices. On the surface, it was hard to figure out how they managed all this, but after spending some time with the platform, I figured it out. Attaching all this to a Shopify store (and eBay, WooCommerce, and Amazon are coming soon) is a welcome bonus. As a service, it’s quite neat, but their advertisement for two-day shipping has a lot of caveats that appear to exist solely to keep Sendle from refunding their customers.
Here’s how they do it.
Related: The 5 Best Ecommerce Shipping Software and when you should use each.
Sendle’s carbon-neutral shipping
First, let’s dig into the carbon-neutral aspect of Sendle’s service offering. For planet-conscious shippers, consideration is always given to the effect their shipments have on the planet–think fossil fuel usage, air vs. ground, etc.
Specifically, Sendle calculates the highest potential carbon emissions that could be generated by sending a package from point A to point B. A portion of the fee Sendle users pay goes to paying for these offsets. For every shipment Sendle processes, they offset the emissions generated through their partnership with South Pole Group and its projects.
At first glance, it sounds all nice and fluffy, making everyone feel good, but what adds validity to this concept is that Sendle users have an opportunity to vote once a year on which projects Sendle funds. This provides much-needed transparency in a world where non-profits and corporations alike are all too keen on quietly funneling money. For more on what Sendle supports and what they’ve supported in the past, check out this list.
Thinking about this from the “if I had my own storefront” perspective, I could see the value in advertising carbon-neutral shipping to customers. While I don’t see it being a life-altering event, the modest sales influx may be enough to motivate e-commerce business owners to give Sendle a shot purely on this principle alone, even if the pricing is the most competitive (more on that later).
Let’s start off this section by getting to the end first. This isn't it if you’re looking for the most inexpensive shipping option for USPS shipments. This service is, however, pretty close, and if you do any kind of volume, it’ll become tougher to beat.
Sendle’s pricing is divided into three main tiers: Standard, Premium, and Pro. Within each tier are five price categories based on the weight and size of the package, with an option for custom quotes.
Standard is for those who typically ship less than 20 packages per month. Pricing starts at $4.39 for
a package and envelope under eight ounces. At this package size, you’re paying for carbon offsets. The only way this is a better deal is if you’re used to paying retail rates (First Class Packages weighing eight ounces start at $4.39 and go up, based on zone). Commercial rates (what you’d get with services like my favorite Pirate Ship) never see an eight-ounce package cost more than $3.63.
Premium pricing makes this deal better–if you ship more than 20 parcels per month– the base price now starts at $3.99. At this point, the premium for carbon-neutral shipping starts closing quickly.
Pro tier shipment closes the gap at a starting price of $3.87, but with a substantial 200 shipments/month minimum. For sellers at this volume, these prices are massively competitive. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a cross-country Priority Mail shipping price for 5 LBS at $7.27.
Larger shipments are where the service starts to shine with regard to pricing. A 5 LB Priority Mail package runs from $7.27 to $7.89. USPS prices range from $7.81 to a massive $28.84, depending on the zone. What’s odd is that Sendle also has “gallon” thresholds for their package tiers, even though the USPS has no such tiering requirements (only weight).
Even more significant still, the 10 LB and 20 LB shipments are essentially on-par with USPS rates at the Standard tier and are, at worst, incredibly competitive at the Premium and Pro tiers.
Comparing Sendle to Pirate Ship
It’s no secret that Pirate Ship has long been my go-to USPS shipping platform. The support staff is super friendly and easy to work with, and the interface is fantastic. Their pricing is almost exactly the same, if not precisely the same as what one would get if they generated a shipping label from eBay directly or any of the other shipping services that provided USPS as an option.
What I did was price out four scenarios to build defined thresholds for comparison:
- Seattle to Los Angeles shipments of 1 lb and 5 LBS each
- Seattle to New York shipments of 1 lb and 5 LBS each
Each of the scenarios would involve sending from my home address in the Seattle area an 8″ x 8″ x 4″ package of my own provision. Note: Prices marked with an asterisk (*) were quoted specifically as Priority Mail Cubic.
Here’s how they turned out (lowest prices in bold, but only when comparing Sendle Standard to Pirate Ship because of the minimum requirements to get to the better pricing tiers):
Seattle to Los Angeles
The test address is 200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012 (Los Angeles City Hall)
|Service||1 LBs||5 LBs|
Seattle to New York City
The test address is 711 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206 (Remedies Pharmacy)
Sendle’s tale of (sort of) two-day shipping
Operating in two countries, Sendle contracts with the local postal networks in both their home country of Australia and the United States. Since this is a U.S.-focused blog, we’ll dive into that aspect, though I imagine the process is similar for Aussies.
In the United States, Sendle issues USPS shipping labels, mainly Priority Mail (I haven’t had the opportunity to determine if < 1 LB shipments are issued First-Class Package labels). The United States Postal Service offers a typical service window of 1-3 business days for the entire continental United States for a Priority Mail shipment. This allows Sendle to advertise shipments that’ll take no more than two business days to arrive, though they don’t expressly advertise the service.
Instead, their service guarantee will allow for a refund under particular circumstances. The most glaring gotcha to this policy is that sellers must offer 2-business-day shipping to their customers.
In other words, If I sold a thing on eBay and stated the item would be shipped two-business-day, and the item took three business days, I’m eligible to exercise the guarantee from Sendle. If I advertise it as regular Priority Mail (1-3 business days), even if Sendle says the shipment is covered under the two-business-day guarantee, because I didn’t sell my shipping option as such, it would not matter if the shipping took ten business days. (In reality, if it took ten days, I would have to contact USPS if I have any recourse.)
From their policy:
…packages are eligible for the guarantee if:
* As a seller, you may only claim the delivery guarantee if you have refunded the cost of the delivery to your customer
In order to claim the guarantee, you must provide:
* Proof that the cost of shipping has been refunded to your customer, or, in the case that you have offered free shipping to your customer, a refund or credit of the cost of shipping is considered comparable.
Translated, Sendle makes no guarantees to you, their customer, that the package will arrive in two days, only that if you make that guarantee, they’ll refund you what you paid. In many cases, they’re confident in the USPS’s ability to deliver a package within two business days.
This “gotcha” is incredibly frustrating for eBay sales because eBay doesn’t provide an option to list “two-day” delivery that isn’t UPS or FedEx. eBay sellers would, in essence, never have the option to exercise this guarantee, and I don’t suspect that fact is lost on Sendle.
Over the last month of eBay action, I’ve found a need to use Sendle 5 times. Looking at the shipment history provided by Sendle, I found the following:
- Three shipments were delivered AFTER the two-day window Sendle claimed (with one caveat)
- Two shipments were delivered ON the second day of the two-day window
In this limited test, if I had advertised two-day shipping, I’d be requesting three refunds from Sendle, so long as I also refunded my customer for shipping (or compensated them somewhat, even if shipping was free).
Except there’s yet another catch. In the tracking information Sendle provided, they claimed USPS didn’t take possession of one of my shipments (here’s my caveat) until early the following day after I dropped off the package at the post office. On top of that, the CSV export of my shipments had no values for the “pickup date.”
Because of this revelation, the next task was to grab the original USPS tracking numbers and… I couldn’t find them. There’s nowhere in the Sendle app that allows you to glean the original USPS tracking numbers and pull the data yourself. You just have to trust they’re always showing you the correct information. As an Apple product user, this feels a bit on the nose.
Luckily these were eBay sales, so that I could pull up the tracking numbers there. My fears were alleviated in that the tracking information from USPS directly reflected the same events simultaneously, albeit Sendle’s time zone difference calculation seems non-existent, despite my user profile having it set correctly.
One of my packages wasn’t marked as being in USPS “possession” until the following day after dropping it off. I don’t know if I can blame the postal service or the post office.
All this is trying to say is… you’ll find yourself running into the guarantee situation. A lot of my 60% failure rate is any sort of representation, but won’t be able to collect on the guarantee if you’re an eBay seller or don’t explicitly advertise two-day shipping. No one should be using Priority Mail under any circumstance and advertising two-day shipping, predictions, or otherwise. By standing by that logic, you’ll never get any money back. Pretend the guarantee isn’t even there.
I might have dug a bit deep regarding the shipping guarantee that Sendle offers. In reality, I never signed up with them because of it. What drew me in, and should draw you in, too, is that any shipment going farther than a couple of zones will come at a healthy discount. As I wrote this, I had another eBay sale and knew, based on distance alone, that Sendle would be cheaper (it was, by about a dollar).
With the guarantee caveats aside, I can still firmly recommend Sendle to anyone looking to ship. The carbon-neutral drive behind their business and the consistent pricing across the board make for an appealing service that would be hard to pass up. Pirate Ship will still be my go-to for lighter packages (especially < 1 LB) and packages traveling shorter distances; otherwise, Sendle is here to stay.
Sendle Six Months Later
It’s been roughly six months since I wrote my original review, and I felt it was time to update it, mainly because my perspective has changed a bit.
One thing still remains true. For a lot of shipments, USPS will be the de facto carrier. Given as I write this, COVID-19 is plaguing the world and up-ending logistics; it’s hard to say either way if that arrangement is a bad thing.
I’ve had no issues with USPS overall, and shipments Sendle tenders are efficient and unassuming. The most significant selling point for Sendle is that it’s predictable with an eco-friendly twist.
While their rates may have changed some, the level of service they provide in terms of getting a package from point A to point B and from a customer support perspective has remained the same. I had a bit of a back-and-forth with them about the U.S. Virgin Islands being a domestic destination (while they claimed it was not) that eventually got fixed.
It did make me wonder, though, if there was oversight elsewhere during their overlay of the USPS delivery network onto their systems that had yet to be discovered. Sometimes bespoke can be too bespoke.
Overall, I look forward to the next project where they can come in handy. Six months later, I can still recommend Sendle, without a doubt. Sure, you could ship packages the traditional way, a la Ship Station, Easyship, etc., but if carbon neutrality is a thing you care about, Sendle should still take your top spot.