Pitney Bowes Smart Postage Review
The first thing to do when you're signing up is choose a plan. We explain the different plans with pbSmartPostage below, in the "Pricing" section of this review. If you choose to get the plan that includes a scale, you will be charged $11.38 in ground shipping, and if you need to get it faster, there are other shipping options to choose from. To start using your account, you need to access your email a couple minutes after you sign up. The message will tell you that you will receive a complimentary welcome kit containing two postage sheets. We found that our welcome package from Stamps.com contained more freebies. After going over the message, click on the link provided to register your account.
Finding the section of the site where you can actually print postage was not intuitive, but after some searching, we found it under the "Manage Postage" heading and by clicking "pbSmartPostage" from there. If you are using a Mac, a message will pop up stating that your browser is not fully supported and certain functionality may be missing. This is because only Internet Explorer 7 or 8 for Windows, Firefox 3 or later for Windows and Chrome 12 or later for Windows are the only browsers supported by the site. Although much of the basic functionality worked on our Mac, we did experience some issues with using the online customer support which we detail later in this review.
Other than this limited browser capability, printing postage on the site is pretty straightforward with the tabs across the top, which include "ship package" and "print postage". Note that you must have Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed on your computer to be able to use the webware.
Like the other service, pbSmartPostage will figure out the cost for you. To print postage, you must first select what you're printing on; options include postage sheet, postage rolls or envelopes. You can then select postage value from a drop down menu. We like that pbSmartPostage allows you to do a test print. For shipping a package, you must enter in both the destination and origin address and package type. When choosing the package type, a photo will appear next to each one. This is very helpful, especially for those who are not sure of the technical names. Then after entering dimensions and weight, if it is not a flat rate box, you can choose a mail class and a preview of your shipping label will appear. As you will see in the pricing section of this review, you can get a discounted USB scale with your plan so you can weigh your packages with ease.
You can add and store contacts in the "manage" tab. The "reports" tab will help you keep track of spending. When printing postage, you can even attribute a certain postage cost to a department of your company, which will then be stored in the "reports" tab. You can also search transactions here. There is a nice selection of free USPS supplies in the Pitney Bowes store, as well as anything else you need to buy to print postage.
PC users who send a large amount envelopes can opt for Pitney Bowes' Mailstation 2 service, which has a 60-day free trial. The subscription comes with a mail meter and attached scale for $19.99/month for a year. Installing and setting up the meter was incredibly easy and simply requires you to download the software onto your PC, and includes a very thorough and detailed step-by-step setup process. The subscription of course doesn't include the cost of postage, but the account gives you $5.00 of free postage to start off with. Note that when we tried canceling, the representative said that he could drop the subscription down to $7.99/month.
We were a little disappointed with the customer service. Their email response time was fine; we got an answer back the next day. The chat function however, which is available from 8 AM to 8 PM Eastern time, is where they really dropped the ball. After going straight to the "contact us" tab on the bottom of the site and requesting a chat there, the representative informed us that he is not able to answer our question because he only handles general Pitney Bowes inquiries, not questions about the online postage service. Then after clicking on the chat button in the actual printing interface, we got another person. However, every time we had a chat box open, it would exit out on us after we tried asking the representative a second question. We went through 4 different chat boxes and representatives before getting someone who did not exit out on us and actually answered our question. Though we were disappointed with the lack of knowledge from the reps themselves, the service's incompatibility with the Mac platform may have been a cause of the sessions that would constantly quit out.
The customer service tab, which doesn't actually have contact information and is more of a knowledge base, is quite extensive. However, it is difficult to navigate because it includes information about services other than pbSmartPostage.
If you're going to contact Pitney Bowes' customer support, we suggest calling their phone number. When we called to cancel the account, it was very easy. We were only on hold for about 4 minutes and the representative was very friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and did not try too hard to sell other products. He informed us that we will be receiving a box and pre-paid shipping label so we can return our Mailstation 2 machine.
The cheapest subscription with pbSmartPostage will cost you $14.99 per month. Add $2 more and you can get a pbSmartPostage "plus" subscription at $16.99, which includes a 5 pound scale to weigh your packages and other mail. Note that ground shipping for the scale will cost you $11.38 at checkout, and you can opt for 2-day or overnight shipping for a higher price. Though the pricing is structured differently, pbSmartPostage is a similar value to Stamps.com's $15.99 per month subscription; however, the latter includes a 5 pound scale at a one-time shipping fee of $9.85, so it is a slightly cheaper option in the long run. There is a third plan with pbSmartPostage where you prepay 6 months for $269.99. This "shipper printer bundle" plan includes a label printer, roll of shipping labels and 6 months of a pbSmartPostage subscription. We wouldn't recommend this plan because it is quite expensive and you can just print postage on your own printer for much cheaper.
The interface to print postage was sleek and we appreciated the previews, as well as the photos of different types of packages. Overall, this is a good service for the price, but we had far less trouble with other services' customer support and would not recommend this service to anyone with a Mac. We also had an easier time navigating through other sites. The 60-day free trial is a long period to try out the service and see if it fits, and if shoddy customer support isn't an issue for you then it may just be the right one for you.
(Doesn't include cost of postage)
|Free Trial/Discount:||60-day free trial;|
2 free stamp sheets
|Postage Scale:||Add'l $2/mo|
+ $11.38 shipping
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