USPS.com: Gee that was painful

I had to print 17 mailing labels just now and I thought, man, this should be easy to do. Typically, I use UPS for shipping stuff but it’s not important that these packages get to people quickly and I thought USPS might be cheaper, so I decided to try to do this through USPS.com. My experience:

– first I uploaded by file… USPS’s help system (powered by RightNow I believe) did a pretty good job to guiding me to some information about importing my addresses and about batch printing labels. Good, I’m happy that I was able to find the info I was looking for.

– I uploaded my file of 17 names and it somehow stuck the people’s titles in the “full name” field instead of their full names. So I purged the addressbook, edited the CSV I was trying to import to create the full name field myself (rather than having USPS’s import function create it — that appeared to be the problem point to me), and then re-imported. OK, it worked this time.

– Now I go to create a label. I have to choose what country these labels are for — all but 1 are here in the U.S. so no problem, I choose U.S.

– My return address is pre-populated from my account information — that’s good.

– I have to choose one address from my addressbook. Doing this involves my address book appearing in a pop-up and then choose one address. OK, fine.

– I fill out my package weight and then I choose an option to extend this label creation into a “batch job”. No big deal.

– I start to add other addresses from my addressbook and it turns out that there’s a 10 label limit on a batch process. Lame! But no big deal, I say. I add 10 labels to that round of batch labels.

– I go to check out and it informs me that one of the 10 labels has an invalid address. It doesn’t tell me which one. Argh. I delete a couple of labels and miraculously it works and I’m able to checkout with 5 of my 17 labels.

– Evidently, the folks who built USPS.com ignored Firefox compatibility because when I go to print I get nothing. Firefox downloads a file (“com.usps.cns.web.pdf.LabelGenerationServlet”) which I guess is a PDF. Lucky guess because when I add a .pdf extension to the file, I’m able to open it in Acrobat and print. Great. Now I actually have 5 of the 17 labels printed and ready to go.

– It’s painful because it involves a bunch of trial and error, but I finally figure out which address was the “trouble” address. I try to fix it, but it seems I stumble on a bug: when you have a label added to your cart and you try to edit the shipping address, any changes you make stick… except the zip code field. After I try to re-edit the address three times, I figure this out, delete that address, edit it in the address book and then create a label for it.

– Then there’s the one shipment to Canada. I have to create that label separately. Creating it doesn’t go too badly. There are some extra forms to fill out. The forms are slow, reloading on every click, form validation step, etc. I’m also a bit annoyed at this point that USPS.com has wasted so much of my time.

So here I am, more than an hour later with 17 labels printed knowing that what I went through was way more painful than it should have been and that, ultimately, I probably could have done this faster by handwriting the 17 labels.