Shipping vinyl can be quite the hassle, from having to get special boxes to holding your breath that the vinyl arrives in one piece! So, the last thing you want is to be stuck with Priority Mail shipping fees, as well.
This doesn’t seem to be an unusual problem anymore since record sales have skyrocketed in the US, jumping to 41.7 million records in 2021. With this rise comes a lot of resale opportunities, and with resale comes Media Mail.
So, do vinyl records count as Media Mail? The short answer is yes, but there are a lot of caveats. Let’s jump right in and find out how to ship your vinyl to keep it eligible for Media Mail fees.
Do Vinyl Records Count as media mail?
According to the USPS content standards for Media Mail, “Sound recordings, including incidental announcements of recordings and guides or scripts prepared solely for use with such recordings,” are Medial Mail eligible.
This means that any sound recording format, like CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes, and LPs, is eligible for the discounted prices of Media Mail shipping.
It also means that any included leaflets, liner notes, or other scripts originally included with the LP can be shipped with the vinyl at no additional cost.
This is important to know, since some postal employees will challenge that due to confusion or unawareness of the rules. So let’s get into the reasons why shipping vinyl as Media Mail might not always go as planned.
Can USPS Refuse to Ship My Vinyl as Media Mail?
A recurring scenario is someone walking into the post office with a stack of vinyl all wrapped up and ready to ship, only to be told by the postal employee that the LPs aren’t Media Mail eligible.
This seems to be a problem for sellers who are obviously shipping multiple LPs out to buyers. Some employees even go as far as saying you can’t use Media Mail if you’re profiting from the shipment.
Well, this has its roots in an old set of standards that used to govern both Library Mail and Media Mail. Back in the day, they were both classified as “fourth class mail,” which had discounted rates.
The confusion comes from employees who thought these discounted rates were because Library Mail is for educational purposes only. However, the lower rates are mainly because delivery is slower than in First Class and Priority Mail.
That said, there are still some remnants of these ideas to this day, and some USPS employees might refuse an LP as Media Mail.
To keep this from happening to you, there are some steps you should take before going to the post office.
How to Ship Vinyl as Media Mail
Getting all your things in order before going out to ship your vinyl will save you a lot of trouble at the post office. Here’s what you need to do:
- Pack your vinyl securely in a box designated for LPs without much space left.
- Avoid using repurposed boxes to pack your items. (Any markings, like logos or barcodes on old boxes, can count as advertisement, which USPS strictly prohibits)
- If you must use a repurposed box, cover up the markings with a dark marker or extra masking tape.
- Avoid double-boxing your vinyl. (It might seem like a good idea to avoid breakage, but you might be charged extra postage or denied Media Mail shipping if you do that)
- Avoid adding crumpled-up, printed paper as filler. (Unfortunately, when your box is being inspected, any printed material can count as other mail that can set you back extra postage fees)
- Avoid putting any hand-written or printed notes inside the box. (These can count as separate items as well)
- Leave the box open for inspection and grab some tape to seal it at the post office.
- Make sure to add your address beside the recipient’s address, just in case the package needs to be returned to the sender.
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Do Post Office Employees Have to Check Each Media Mail Package?
Yes, they do. Inspection is a routine step that post office employees take to confirm the number and nature of the items in each package. This is done for Media Mail, especially because of the discounted shipping rates, so no one would sneak in extra items without paying the postage.
After they make sure the items comply with Media Mail standards, they seal the package with USPS tape and send it on its merry way. Some postal employees might skip this step and just seal the package, but that’s not always the case.
Unfortunately for some people, this step can cause a lot of delays or even for the package to be returned to the sender.
There were instances of extra postage fees because the sender:
- Used a repurposed box, especially those of video games, consoles, or other devices
- Used crumpled-up newspapers as packing material
- Slipped in a “thank you” note for a buyer or a birthday card inside the LP they were sending as a birthday present
That means the safest way to go about it is using a plain box, keeping packaging to a minimum, as well as leaving the boxes open until the postal employee checks them.
Pros and Cons of Shipping Vinyl as Media Mail
So now that we’ve gone through the dos and don’ts of shipping vinyl, let’s go over the pros and cons of choosing Media Mail vs. other mailing methods.
- Very low shipping rates compared to Priority Mail
- Handled with care because of its fragile nature
- You don’t have to stick with specific packaging like in flat-rate shipping
- Free tracking number
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- Open to inspection by USPS employees
- Slower than First Class and Priority Mail (usually takes 2–8 days)
- Many restrictions regarding packaging materials and boxing options
- Can be returned to the sender if it doesn’t comply with Media Mail standards
- Any extra items are charged extra and upgraded to another shipping option, driving prices up