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I reside in the (continental) US. I was recently on a trip to northern California. While there, I unfortunately forgot my coat at a restaurant; a coat that isn't overly expensive, but I find personally valuable. I called the restaurant to ask about it and they managed to find it and were kind enough to offer to ship it if I provide them with the prepaid box.

I asked someone working at the restaurant how this process works and they did their best to explain it, but I am still fairly confused after that call. I would've asked for clarification, but over the several times I've called them about this coat, they've been very busy so I didn't want to use up more of their time than I already have.

So I went to the internet in search of answers. I've tried searching through USPS and UPS but all I've been able to find is a scheduled pickup that I can pay for, but from what I'm understanding these pickup services require the item to already be boxed up and ready to go by the time it's picked up.

So my question: How do I get a prepaid box delivered to the restaurant so they they can use it to ship my coat to me?

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If sending one of the employees a couple of bucks via PayPal or something similar, to ship it for you is not an option, this is what I would do:

  1. Order a free flat rate box, and ship it to the restaurant: Click Here

  2. Pay for a label on USPS's website and email it to the restaurant. Alternatively, you can print it out and mail it to them. Click Here

  3. Schedule a Free USPS Pickup: Click Here

Good Luck!

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  • Very helpful answer! – Jamie Watts Dec 31 '19 at 16:45
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    Note: paying for a label on USPS' website requires making an explicit selection of a shipping date for the box with the coat in it. If it's not shipped on that date, USPS is may refuse to pick up the box and/or return it to the sender. In order to not rely on the restaurant having it ready on a specific day known several days in advance, I'd go to a USPS location and pay for the postage of the box. Such postage will not expire and allows the box to be picked up on any day. You should still schedule the USPS pickup for the package, but only once the restaurant tells you the package is ready. – Makyen Jan 1 at 20:02
  • How would I prepay for the box from a USPS location? Does the box have a specific ID or barcode that they could use to assign the postage to it? – KG012 Jan 3 at 18:51
  • @Konstantin It can be at least any of: A) a pre-paid flat-rate box; B) stamps; C) metered postage purchased over the USPS counter; or D) a third-party seller. Basically, you just buy postage and affix the postage to the box. Pre-paid flat-rate boxes and stamps are available from usps.com, although may have to over-purchase wrt. stamps. You can buy stamps or metered postage from the USPS over the counter in any total amount. There are also vending machines at USPS locations which sell stamps. If using stamps, you don't need any particular stamps, just enough to be >= the required postage. – Makyen Jan 4 at 2:26
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Perhaps something like this?

USPS will ship an empty prepaid flat-rate box. The large size box is almost $60. I believe you fill out the label when you purchase the box.

Some USPS boxes have tape already applied but I seem to remember that the similar large priority flat-rate box doesn't. You may want to ask the restaurant if they have package tape. If not, you may need to send them a roll (also available from USPS).

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  • The one drawback here is that it requires a minimum order of 3 boxes. It still looks like a good option and probably the one I will go with if there's no other way to order only one. Thanks for finding this. – KG012 Dec 30 '19 at 23:17
  • You might ask the restaurant if you can send them a prepaid shipping label separate from the box. That would allow you to order 1 box (free!)...add a roll of tape. – mkennedy Dec 30 '19 at 23:20
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    @Konstantin To fill the other 2 boxes, maybe order some food to go? – Tim Dec 31 '19 at 18:08
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    @Konstantin The page says "this product ships in a pack of 1" – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 2 at 1:58
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    @LightnessRaceswithMonica but it also says "Min: 3" under quantity. Presumably that means you can't buy less than 3 at a time, but they're packaged individually so you can buy (for example) 4, rather than only purchasing in multiples of 3. – Chris H Jan 2 at 12:14
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The key is to minimize the amount of "kitbuilding" the restaurant needs to do, because it may be asking a lot for them to receive a box, print out a label, coordinate a pickup, etc.

The DIY (slow) option

USPS has a variety of Priority Mail boxes which ship at a flat rate (weight does not matter). You walk into the Post Office, look at the boxes, decide which box will comfortably fit your jacket, and pick it. At the counter, buy the postage for it.

Do not assemble the box. Fill out the box in the normal way as you would for a package addressed to you. For a "From" address, use some alternate address where someone would be able to receive it. Attach postage, then coarsely fold the box over, once, such that it will fit in a large manila envelope, or wrap it with butcher paper. Address the manila envelope to the restaurant.

Take the manila envelope back to the Post Office, and pay First Class postage for that.

The restaurant gets the envelope, opens it up, finds the box, unfolds and assembles it, and gives it to the mailperson the next day.

The "with help" option

The Bay Area is thick with The UPS Store locations. Call one near the restaurant and ask them what they can do. They can probably do "all of the above, that I just said" more efficiently than you can, and at lower postage on a "getting an empty box to the restaurant" side of things.

You might even find they have a relationship with the restaurant, or that the UPS Store manager would be happy to eat at the restaurant and bring a box on by. They pack it while the manager eats.

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