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Shipping giants crowd in for consumer business

DHL builds network: The company teams with independent postal retailers by giving discount service.

By TAMARA EL-KHOURY
Published December 9, 2004


The roof of the red Ford Explorer parked outside Patty Szeezil's new Pack & Send Etc. business is loaded down with advertisements. One sign declares "Don't overpay for shipping." Another, pasted to two cardboard boxes, announces, "We sell boxes." A yellow DHL carton, the cherry on the packing store's sundae, tops it off.

Szeezil's Pack & Send was among the first 10 stores in the nation to sign on this winter with DHL in a marketing agreement between the shipping company and 1,200 independent postal retailers.

DHL's national Preferred Provider Program, announced Tuesday, is open to members of the Neighborhood Postal Center. The voluntary program provides preferred rates for participating stores, which in turn promote DHL services to customers and offer most of their express delivery and shipping services to DHL.

It has been a whirlwind beginning for the store, tucked in a shopping center off 34th Street S in St. Petersburg. Its grand opening was delayed by this year's hurricanes, and doors opened in November, just in time for the holiday season. Szeezil recruited her parents and brother, who are helping out until she hires staff in January.

"It's a little scary at first thought, opening up at the busiest time of the year," she said.

With increasing visibility and competitive pricing, she said, each week brings a steadier stream of customers.

While the Pack & Send is serviced by FedEx, DHL and UPS, about 80 percent of the packages the store ships are sent out through DHL, said her father, Walter Szeezil. "They gave us preferential pricing, so we pass it on to our customers," he said.

When customers bring in a package, the weight, dimensions and destination are punched into a computer. Up pops the prices for all three major shipping companies, which vary according to several factors. U.S. Postal Service options also are available.

A package heading to Lexington, N.C., on Wednesday was cheaper via DHL until Patty Szeezil realized she had entered incorrect dimensions. When she corrected her mistake, UPS came out cheaper.

"There's no rhyme or reason with some of this stuff," she said. On Tuesday, she said, the store sent out a handful of packages through FedEx, about 20 through UPS and more than 50 through DHL, a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Post World Net. Some customers are caught by surprise when they see DHL's lower price displayed on the screen.

"People are used to coming in and saying, "We want this shipped UPS,"' Szeezil said, "but what they really mean is, they want the cheapest price."

Tamara El-Khoury can be reached at tel-khoury@sptimes.com or 727 893-8318.

[Last modified December 8, 2004, 21:59:05]


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