Online Sellers: The Dangers of Using USPS Scan Sheets

Online Sellers: The Dangers of Using USPS Scan Sheets

Posted by Big Brand on 8th Sep 2021

If you ship multiple parcels each day you have likely discovered, or at least heard about, the supposedly absolutely AMAZING USPS “Scan Sheet”.  The Scan Sheet looks like this:

The idea of the scan sheet is outstanding; essentially the seller prints postage for dozens (or hundreds or thousands) of parcels then the seller prints a single “Scan Sheet” which features a single barcode. When the United States Postal Service employee scans the barcode it is SUPPOSED to be the same as the employee scanning in all 83 individual parcels… BUT IT IS NOT. Here’s why:

Although the Scan Sheet is a phenomenal idea it is unable to prevent fraud; for example, lets say the seller has 83 parcels on the scan sheet but at the last moment a buyer contacted the seller to say “Please cancel my order! I gave you the wrong address”. The seller says “Ok” and proceeds to give USPS 82 total parcels… yet the scan sheet still says 83 total parcels… this creates a problem for USPS because if they simply scan the scan sheet and IF the scan sheet ACTUALLY scanned all of the parcels, USPS would log-in 83 accepted parcels, yet they would only have physically accepted 82. This means the seller could wait 15 days then file an insurance claim for USPS losing the 83rd parcel, even though the seller never actually gave USPS 83 total packages. As you can see, this creates a world of opportunity for a dishonest person, or even someone who made an honest mistake such as accidentally bumping a parcel under their passenger seat yet truly believing they handed this fully-insured $2,000 necklace to the man working the front desk at the post office.

So because of this issue USPS Scan Sheets DO NOT ACTUALLY SCAN ON YOUR END. Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. This results in the seller turning over their inventory to USPS and having their Scan Sheet barcode scanned and there’s STILL NOT RECORD OF THE PARCEL BEING RECEIVED, even WITH a seller scan sheet receipt that is STAMPED WITH A DATE!!  And, because the post office that scanned the scan sheet did scan the scan sheet they DO NOT scan the parcels in a second time.  This means the scan sheet barcode was scanned then the parcels are loaded into giant bins (along with thousands of other packages) then rolled onto USPS freight trucks and taken away, to the next facility, wherever that might be.  

IF the 2nd facility decided to scan the parcel it will officially be marked as "ACCEPTED" and the location of Acceptance will show as the USPS 2nd location, but if they choose not to scan it and instead rolled the bin onto the 3rd truck, even though your parcel is moving through the USPS chain there is utterly no record of it whatsoever

This means that if USPS loses / misplaces / who-knows-what with the parcel BEFORE it is actually physically scanned, even WITH the stamped, dated scan sheet, the seller is sh*t out of luck even IF it is 100% INSURED. Unfortunately we learned this the hard way in 2018-ish.

Prior to 2018 we had 0 issues with scan sheets. The parcels would be picked up, we would provide the scan sheet and 24 hours later an official scan would appear on the tracking number showing that the package is moving through the system… but then things started going sideways. It started with a woman who ordered sterling silver jewelry. Her parcel was, for sure, as shown on camera, picked up by USPS. The scan sheet was, for sure, as shown on camera, scanned. However the package completely vanished. 9 days passed and there were still no scans at all other than the typical Scan Sheet Scan that says “ACCEPTED: PENDING ACCEPTANCE” ←- which, BTW, means its NOT “accepted”.  "Accepted Pending Acceptance" means you provided a scan sheet and that specific tracking number was on the scan sheet.  IT DOES NOT MEAN USPS HAS THE PARCEL IN THEIR SYSTEM

On the 21st day of no-scans we filed an insurance claim and were told our claim was denied because there was NO PROOF OF ACCEPTANCE because the parcel was “PENDING ACCEPTANCE”, despite saying “Accepted”.

This made me pretty livid because this parcel was fully insured and insurance alone was like $20!  Additionally it did have a tracking number and we even paid for signature upon delivery. But none of this mattered BECAUSE WE USED THE SCAN SHEET and Accepted: Pending Acceptance DOES NOT COUNT AS BEING "ACCEPTED" BY USPS.

I chalked this issue up to a fluke and we continued to use Scan Sheets….and the problems began compiling as the number of parcels we shipped substantially exploded. There was over 1 week straight that even though the Scan Sheet was Scanned, 0 parcels had any actual scans other than "Accepted: Pending Acceptance". Within 15 days the “missing” parcels, all logged as (Accepted: Pending Acceptance) grew to literally HUNDREDS (I believe it was 690 or so total at one point).  I personally spoke to the carrier who would scan the scan sheet and she showed me her scan gun and proved that she was indeed scanning the Scan Sheet correctly... and even though she was scanning the Scan Sheet right in front of my eyeballs, there were still 0 scans other than "Accepted: Pending Acceptance".  

Logging M.I.A parcels and trying to track them down became a literal full time job which made it nearly impossible to list new items or help new potential buyers. It was seriously one of the darkest times in my company's existence because I felt utterly helpless; I had no idea what to tell all of these customers and I had no idea what to do about over $100,000 of our inventory simply “missing” due to the scan sheets.  The customers we worked hard to obtain screamed, yelled, demanded refunds and insisted "the parcel must be sitting in a corner of your warehouse!",  "You must have forgotten it ship it!" or "I have waited long enough! Just give me my money back NOW!" . Meanwhile, on our end, we know for an absolute fact that, as shown on camera, these parcels WERE all hauled away by the carrier and that Scan Sheet always was scanned.  

Total panic set in.  I then began telling the USPS employee that our printer is broken, therefore we are unable to provide a scan sheet, thus forcing her to hand-scan every parcel.  The moment the scanner scanned the barcode on the actual parcel the tracking number instantly said "ACCEPTED" and provided the exact time of the scan.  I realized the issue is 100% the Scan Sheets.  

Now that I determined the solution I still had to deal with the literal truckload of parcels that somehow vanished.  I tried to contact USPS’s 1-800-ASK-USPS phone number and that did nothing because they insisted there was no record of ANY of the parcels. I tried asking questions such as "Can't you see that these were printed through  Can you see we have a daily pickup?  How would it be possible that rom 2005 - 2018 we have had parcels picked up daily yet suddenly we have 0 even though we are still buying postage and still printing Scan Sheets?" - it didn't matter; until a USPS employee holds a scan gun and physically scans the parcel it is NOT accepted.  I then tried contacting the Inspector General and USPS corporate. Again I was informed that there’s simply no record of the parcels ever arriving at USPS. Our local USPS (who picked up the parcels) does not answer the phone when you call and emails were not responded to most of the time.  On the rare occasions that emails were replied to it was aggressive and rude featuring endless excuses while never acknowledging that acceptance of ANY of the "vanished" parcels. 

Now you may be thinking "Why don't you just show them the video camera footage?" - Yes, I agree this sounds great!  However we have so many parcels that they would be rolled out in large bins and quickly loaded bulk loaded into the carriers truck, so there is no way to see individual tracking numbers... and equally USPS has 0 desire to watch your videos regardless of being a customer for 13+ years.  

Fast forward to 2019: We switched post offices and stopped using scan sheets. All problems were immediately solved because each parcel had to be hand-scanned, therefore there were no more “Pending Acceptance” scans, instead the scans all said “Accepted”.

If you want to use scan sheets, GREAT! But I strongly encourage you, IF you have expensive parcels, rare packages or things that you don’t want to take a loss on DO NOT USE A SCAN SHEET FOR THESE.  Keep in mind that EVEN WITH FULL INSURANCE AND TRACKING, IF A SCAN SHEET IS USED AND THE PARCEL GETS LOST BEFORE AN OFFICIAL SCAN, YOU WILL LOSE 100% OF YOUR MONEY.

To this day we still do not use USPS scan sheets.  I'm pretty sure the post office hates it because they have asked on multiple occasions if we have thought about using them, however our new post office is so outstanding that they seem to understand the complications the Scan Sheet involves.     

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