Is Stamps.com a Scam?
I hear radio ads for Stamps.com, promising the ability to print postage stamps at home, and $100 in bonuses. Is Stamps.com internet postage legit, or a scam?
What's the Deal With Stamps.com?
Stamps.com is an Internet postage service that's heavily advertised on talk radio and other media, offering you the convenience of printing your own postage, and bypassing long lines at the Post Office. They also promise a $100 bonus which includes free postage and a digital scale, just for signing up as a new customer. Can this Internet postage service do everything it promises and make your life easier? Do they really give you the $100 bonus?
I signed up for the service and found out the good, bad and the ugly. So let's take a look at the claims that Stamps.com makes, and see if they deliver...
Printing Postage From Your PC?
Yes, you really can print postage using your own computer and printer. The Stamps.com software lets you print postage directly on envelopes, or on special sheets of "peel and stick" paper. You can print First Class or post card stamps, Priority or Express mail postage, or any specific amount, based on the size and weight of your package. I have to admit that's pretty cool, and the obvious advantages here (aside from the coolness factor of seeing real US postage stamps rolling out of your printer) are that you save gas, money, time. You don't have to drive to the Post Office, or wait in long lines. I say less time spent in government offices is a good thing.
Stamps.com will also turn your photos, or your business logo into postage. They make this possible with a customizable interface on the site that lets you choose a picture, manipulate it to your desire, add border colors, then purchase for a fee.
Save Money and Look More Professional?
The Stamps.com website claims that you will save at least "80% compared to a postage meter." I'm assuming they're referring to the cost of buying and operating your own postage meter. I've never done that, so I'll take them at their word.
Other advertised features are that your mailings will look more professional, and that you'll never overpay for postage again. This must refer to the feature in the software that lets you print addresses and postage directly on your own envelopes. Yes, I suppose that's a professional look, and a desirable thing if you run a small business. And I'll admit to occasionally putting an extra stamp on overstuffed envelopes, just in case they're over the weight limit. But with the free digital scale and the software, you can figure out exactly how much postage you'll need for a large or overweight mailing.
However... I had some problems relating to those last two points. First, I never got the digital scale they promised. It's only been two months, so maybe it'll eventually arrive. Or maybe not. And the software would not print correctly on my HP OfficeJet Pro printer. For some reason, the postage wanted to print in the wrong spot (half off the page) and after an hour of fiddling with the options, I gave up.
No Hidden Fees?
I do have a gripe here. If you go to the Stamps.com website, then click on the Signup button, it's fairly easy to miss the fact that there is a 4-week trial period, and a monthly fee of $17.99 to use the Stamps.com service after the trial period. And that does NOT mean you get $17.99 in postage to use each month. That fee is just for the "convenience" of printing your own stamps. So you're saving the Post Office money by using your own stamps and ink. And presumably it reduces labor costs, because all those Stamps.com customers won't be showing up and making the lines at the Post Office even longer. But you still have to pay $17.99 a month for convenience?
I'll grant that this service fee wasn't exactly hidden in the small print. But I'm sure a lot of people miss it in their haste to sign up and get the free scale and $45 free postage. I'm usually pretty good about scanning for gotchas, but I'll admit this one slipped by me. I didn't find out about the $17.99 monthly fee until I saw it on my credit card 4 weeks later.
$100 Signup Bonus?
But what about the "$100 Signup Bonus"? They're pretty clear on the website that the breakdown of this is as follows: $45 in free postage, a $50 digital scale, and a $5 supplies kit. I could quibble over the actual value of the digital scale, but let's just assume it's a deal. However, they are NOT clear on WHEN you get the free postage. Upon signup, you get $5 instant free postage. If you want, you can print your $5 worth of stamps, cancel the service, and walk away.
But how do you get the other $40 in free postage? There's the rub. When your free supplies kit arrives, it comes with four post cards. Each one is a voucher for $10 in free postage. And AFTER the 4 week trial period is over, you can send in one voucher per month. But of course you'll be charged that $17.99 monthly service fee. So your $40 in free postage will actually COST you $31.96. I did not see this mentioned anywhere on the Stamps.com website, so a pox on them for not being upfront about this.
How to Cancel Stamps.com
Cancelling your Stamps.com membership cannot be accomplished using the software, or by email. After poking around in the Help screens, I learned that it must be done by calling Customer Support at 1-888-434-0055. I called, and after waiting on hold for just a minute or two, I was connected to a very polite rep. She asked why I wanted to cancel, and mentioned some of the benefits of remaining as a customer. I said no thanks. She then informed me that I was eligible for a "Basic Account" at a reduced rate of $9.99 a month, and that she would waive my regular service fee for 1 month.
That's classic "customer retention" stuff that you'll get if you try to cancel a credit card, an AOL account or many other services. If you still want to cancel at that point, just keep saying no, and they'll reluctantly do it.
So Is Stamps.com a Scam?
If you look on the web, you can find people who love the Stamps.com service, and those who hate it. I found complaints from people in online forums who said they had to wait on hold forever when trying to reach customer support. Other claimed that they were still getting billed after cancelling their accounts.
So I headed over to the Better Business Bureau website. They actually rated the site with an A, but of the 30+ users who commented, most were negative and Stamps.com only received one star out of five. But keep in mind that very few people visit the BBB website with the intention of writing glowing reviews. The "A" rating implies that the company is operating in a trustworthy manner and has made a good faith effort to resolve any complaints.
Although I am disappointed by the scant mention of the monthly service fee at signup time, and the lack of clarity regarding the "free postage," I can't go so far as to declare Stamps.com a scam. The software does work as advertised, and if you run a small business that does a lot of mailings, the convenience of not having to go to the Post Office could make it worthwhile. There are also discounts, such as 10% on insurance, up to 10% on Express and Priority mail locally, up to 8% international rates, and free USPS supplies. But I doubt that most people using it for personal household stuff would consider it a good deal.
What's your opinion? Have you tried Stamps.com? Tell me what you think by posting a comment below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 23 Sep 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Stamps.com a Scam? (Posted: 23 Sep 2009)
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