For avid board game enthusiasts, there likely will come a time when your collection outgrows your designated game area and requires its own residence. Rather than rent a storage unit to house their mountain of boxes, many people choose to sell their rarely-played or DIY games online. However, the shipping costs for board games are usually higher than the game itself, making it tempting to send the games via media mail. But do board games qualify?
Board games are not considered media mail. The government created media mail in 1938 to allow people to send educational materials (books) at a discounted rate. Sometimes referred to as the “book rate,” board games are not considered educational and, thus, do not qualify as media mail.
Even though many board games have educational aspects, the postal service rules that the primary purpose of board games is entertainment, putting them outside the scope of the media mail program. The following breakdown will look at what is considered media mail and help you explore your options for how to ship your board games more economically.
What Qualifies as Media Mail?
The U.S. Postal Service introduced media mail in 1938 to facilitate the exchange of educational materials between schools and libraries. In this era, educational materials were confined to books, effectively making media mail known as the “book rate.”
As the years passed, educational materials started to come available in electronic forms, such as video and DVD. To accommodate, the postal service expanded the media mail program to allow for reduced shipping on these items, provided they are educational.
The USPS website rules that the following items all qualify for media mail:
- Sound recordings
- Recorded computer-readable media
Media mail cannot contain any advertising or promotional material. Additionally, packages can only weigh up to 70 pounds and measure up to 108 inches in combined length and distance around the thickest part.
What Does Not Qualify as Media Mail?
The media mail shipping rate ($2.89 at USPS locations and $1.76 at commercial outlets) makes it tempting to try and sneak some non-qualified items through media mail. However, there are penalties for shipping non-qualified items as media mail. Some examples of non-qualified items include:
- Blank books, cassettes, videotapes, or DVDs
- Video games
- Board games
- Collectible magazines
Can You Get Away with Shipping Board Games Via Media Mail?
You may be surprised to hear that board games are not media mail, as it is not uncommon to hear people boast about the types of things they send through media mail with no problem. However, these people are operating on borrowed time.
Any item shipped via media mail must have a clear destination and return address and is subject to inspection. While the USPS is extremely busy and only pulls a handful of posted media mail samples per day for inspection, the consequences of getting caught sending a board game via media mail are not desirable:
- The open package is sent to the recipient as postage due. If the recipient is a paying customer, they will not be pleased to receive a product that has already been opened and for which they must pay additional postage before receipt.
- The package is sent back to you with a balance due. This re-routing process can take weeks in some cases.
- You may receive a fine from the USPS or platform that you used to sell the game.
- Your online rating on the selling platform will likely take a hit due to customer dissatisfaction with the shipping rigmarole.
With that said, it is much easier to get away with shipping non-educational books and videos through media mail, as they will appear indistinguishable from qualified items in packaged form. On the other hand, board games will stick out like a sore thumb on the media mail conveyor belt, increasing the likelihood that they are randomly selected for inspection.
How to Ship Board Games
It can be tough to downsize your used board game collection when postage rates can run upwards of $30 for a game that may not sell for more than a few bucks. To help control shipping costs, consider some of the following best practices:
- Always make the buyer pay for shipping. Even though we live in an era in which customers expect free shipping, you will likely find yourself losing money on your board game this way. If somebody wants it badly enough, they will pay for shipping; if not, you can always donate it to the local thrift store.
- Pay for shipping via a reputable commercial outlet, such as PayPal or stamps.com. You will receive a discount over purchasing it at a USPS location.
- Have shipping materials on hand. Packaging is an additional cost above and beyond the shipping rate itself. You can usually get a much more favorable per-unit rate when purchasing materials in bulk from an outside retailer than you can from purchasing USPS products.
- Know the power of flat rate shipping. This is known as the “if it fits, it ships” rate and will generally be lower than paying for shipping by the ounce. Small flat rate boxes cost $7.90, medium flat rate boxes cost $13.75, and large flat rate boxes cost $19.30 when postage is purchased from commercial bases.
Although it can be tempting to capitalize on the favorable shipping rate, board games are not considered media mail. Media mail is reserved for educational items, and the USPS deems board games as primarily entertainment. Use the best practices outlined in this article when shipping your board game to avoid any costly media mail mishaps.