According the the United States Postal Service, video games do not meet the standards for Media Mail, therefore they should not be shipped as media mail.
Does this mean that sellers of video games will not ship video games via media mail? No. There are actually tons of sellers that ship video games through media mail for the benefit of paying less for shipping. However, using incorrect postage or underpaying for postage can cause a series of issues.
The mail in question may be sent back to the original sender, or worse, the person receiving the mail can be charged additional postage for it being incorrect in the first place. This can cause a bad buying experience which can result in negative feedback or returns.
Are Video Games Considered Media?
Video games are not, and never have been, considered media mail. The reason for this confusion is because many third party video game sellers will use media mail for video games due to the cheaper shipping costs. It’s also easy to misinterpret the phrase “media mail” as video games are technically a form of media.
According to USPS, media mail, also formerly known as book rate, was first introduced in 1938 to provide a lower postage price for those wanting to mail books. This special pricing was to help encourage the shipping and sales of educational materials through the mail.
There have been many arguments as to why video games were not eligible for media mail. The main logic and reasoning for not allowing video games or board games to be shipped media mail is that they offer a form of entertainment, while books, films, and other qualifying media mail serve to help educate or provide information.
Why Is Media Mail So Cheap?
There are many contributing factors that make media mail cheaper than first class and priority.
The standard shipping time for media mail is 2-8 business days, which is longer than both first class and priority mail. If you need something shipped in a timely manner, the best option would be priority mail or next day air.
The low price with media mail is associated with the weight of the item without regard to zone. Many other forms of shipping take zone into account which increases the cost of the shipping. A zone is an area that your package has to travel through and media mail disregards all the associated fees.
The primary characteristic that will determine how much you pay for media mail shipping is the weight of your item. The maximum allowed weight for media mail is 70 pounds.
Always ensure that you properly weigh your package before purchasing postage to make sure your package does not get sent back to you, or to make sure your buyer doesn’t incur any additional postage charges.
We recommend using a smart digital weigh scale like this one from Amazon. It’s the one I personally use to ship packages for both USPS and UPS. It has served me well and has been completely accurate. It’s easy to see in the dark, and also has multiple modes depending on your preference.
Unlike first class and priority, media mail does not come with insurance. You can, however, add insurance to your media mail for an additional upcharge. If insurance is important to you, then you may want to consider first class or priority shipping as an option as they both come with insurance and usually have faster delivery times.
Another missing feature when sending an item via media mail is mail pickup. Media mail is not eligible for free mail pickup like first class and priority. If you want to have media mail picked up, then you should be sure to have at least one item that is eligible for free pickup.
Does USPS Really Inspect Media Mail?
Unlike other mail packages, media mail packages are subject to inspection at any time without probable cause. If they decide to pull your package just because they want to inspect it, then they can.
This is due to section 2.2 of the Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual. The main reason that USPS is so hard on inspection for these packages is due to the fact that the shipping price is significantly lower and people try to frequently abuse this postage type.
I have personally received several packages through the years that came with media mail postage when the item should definitely came through first class mail.
What Happens if You Lie About Media Mail?
If you are sending mail that is not considered media mail through this type of postage, it can be considered stealing from the post office. In the event that your package is opened because it is suspicious of not containing media, the post office reserves the right to either send back the package or make postage due for that parcel.
How to Ship Video Games Using USPS
Shipping video games through USPS is not difficult as long as you know the correct process. The first thing to note is whether you will be sending a bulk lot, or just a single game.
If you are sending off a single game, I recommend using a bubble mailer. They are lightweight, cheap, and are great to use for sending small items. Be sure to weigh and measure the video game inside of whatever box or mailer you are using to get the correct weight and dimensions.
Once you have the dimensions, you will need to purchase postage. Postage can be purchased with the platform you are selling on. If you are not selling on a platform, then we recommend using a third party shipping label service like Pirate Ship as they will have cheaper prices compared to purchasing directly from USPS.
Most of the time sending in a single video game will be light enough to go through first class mail, which is the type of postage you should be purchasing if your item is under 1 pound.
Sending games in bulk is very similar to sending single games. The main difference is that you will most likely be using a box, and the total weight of your package will definitely be over 1 pound. With items over one pound, you will be forced to purchase priority mail as your means of shipping.
Video games do not meet the criteria set by the United States Postal Service to qualify for media mail. Video games must be sent through either first class or priority mail.
If you decide to disregard the requirements and send video games through media mail, be prepared to have your mail sent back to you or have postage due on the receiving end if USPS decides to inspect your package.
Being honest with your packages is the best way to have a good long term relationship with the post office. This is especially true if your business relies on shipping through USPS.