Shipping can be one of the most confusing aspects of selling on eBay, especially for new sellers. APO and FPO addresses—military versions of PO boxes—can add another layer of confusion, simply because many sellers don’t know what they are.
In short, APO (Army Post Office) and FPO (Fleet Post Office) addresses are US address for Americans stationed on overseas US Army and Air Force bases and Navy installations and ships.
An APO or FPO address is considered a US address, not an international one, yet some sellers hesitate to ship to these addresses because they don’t want to take the extra step to fill out a customs form, or they might not realize the importance of shipping to an APO. Many buyers with APO or FPO addresses are actively serving in the military, doing vital work and making sacrifices for their country. Shipping to an APO or FPO is one way sellers can help support them.
This Veterans Day, we wanted to clear up some misconceptions about shipping to APOs and FPOs and encourage sellers to take this small step to support the troops and civilians serving overseas. To learn more about shipping and receiving packages at APO and FPO addresses, we spoke with Shelley Hopper, a former military member who is now a civilian working on a military installation overseas, and Liz O’Kane, a former deployed servicemember who is now an eBay seller. Both shared stories of how difficult it can be to find sellers who ship to APO and FPO addresses.
“I just needed items like socks and t-shirts,” said Liz, “but it was so hard to find someone to ship to me.” Shelly expressed the same frustration. “I’ve lived overseas for eight years and eBay is my number one option for shopping,” she said. “ But, I get frustrated because I would get an item into my cart and then find out the seller won’t ship to APO.”
For sellers, this presents an opportunity. “There are a lot of military people worldwide,” said Shelley, “so sellers who won’t ship to them are losing business.” Still, the idea of shipping to an APO or FPO can seem daunting, even though there’s no reason it should. In fact, the process is simple and easy. Here’s what you need to know.
Who has APO or FPO addresses?
“When you ship to an APO, you might be shipping to a deployed service member,” said Liz, “or it could be a civilian department of defence teacher in Germany buying school supplies, or a family of five stationed in Japan buying clothes or a part for their car.” In other words, these are your average American buyers—they just happen to be serving their country and living overseas.
Why should I ship to APO and FPO addresses?
By shipping to APOs and FPOs, you’re not only helping American servicemen and women overseas get the items they need, you have the potential to tap into an underserved market and benefit from repeat business. “I finally found one seller who would ship to me, and once I made that connection, I shared her contact with other buyers, and I bought more from her,” Liz explains. “Because I was on the other side, I see how you can create that relationship and have a permanent buyer who may spread your store by word of mouth.”
What shipping methods allow me to ship to an APO or FPO?
APO and FPOs can only accept mail shipped via the US Postal Service, which means the item must be less than 70 pounds. They cannot accept packages shipped via UPS, FedEx or any other mail service.
How much does it cost?
An APO or FPO address is considered within the United States, so shipping to these addresses costs the same as sending a package within the US. There is no additional fee.
Does it take extra time?
It can take longer for mail to reach an APO or FPO address. Generally, Priority Mail can take up to 2.5 weeks and First Class Mail can take up to eight weeks. However, buyers requesting items to APO and FPO addresses usually know this.
“Most of us know to ignore the projected arrival dates,” said Shelley. “I would never give a seller a lower rating because an item took longer to reach me because that’s determined by how much space is available on the transport. Supplies and other items take precedence. Even if I pay for Priority, it’s Priority to the shipping point, but after that, it’s not Priority to the US government.”
How do I know it won’t get lost?
The odds of an item getting lost are no greater when shipping to an APO than with regular US mail, and you can opt to insure the package. However, tracking only goes so far. “Once the package leaves the US, it’s no longer in the US Postal Service,” explained Shelley. “It’s assumed by US government for transportation and distributed by the US military postal service. Tracking might show the item has been sitting in Chicago for two weeks, because you only see it get to Chicago, and then it gets on a military plane or boat. Not being able to see it arrive at the doorstep makes people nervous. As the buyer, I can track it though. I can see that it arrives at my mail station, though, for security, it doesn’t say where that is.”
What information do I need to ship to an APO or FPO?
The address will be filled out by the buyer and will include the buyer's name (including rank); his or her unit and mail code; the "city" (either APO or FPO) and “state” (such as AE or AP) and zip code. These details will automatically populate to eBay labels.
Do I need a customs form?
A customs form is required, but the form is simple and takes only a few minutes to complete. The form details the weight and total value of the package, as well as information about what’s inside. You should include details like the quantity, net weight, and value of each item you are sending, as well as a general description, but you don’t need to get much more detailed than that.
Does this mean I need to go into the post office?
A customs form can be picked up at the post office, but you can also use the USPS online tool to fill out the form, pay for shipping, and print a label. If you’re using eBay labels, a customs form will be attached to the shipping label. “The customs form is so easy via eBay shipping labels,” said Liz. “You just push a button and sign your name.”
Do I need to do anything to let buyers know I ship to APO and FPO addresses?
If you want ship APO/FPO you’ll need to make sure the location is not excluded from the seller shipping preferences. In “Account Settings,” go to “Site Preferences,” then “Shipping Preferences,” and then “Exclude shipping locations from your listings.” Click “edit” and make sure the APO/FPO setting is not excluded.
APO and FPO addresses are US addresses, and though there are some differences in shipping to them, the process is straightforward and uncomplicated. Sellers who ship to APOs and FPOs not only have an opportunity to grow a sizable customer base, they also provide vital items to military members and civilians stationed overseas. On Veterans Day—and everyday—we thank the military for their service. Shipping to APOs and FPOs, and making it easier for service members to get the items they need, is one small, simple way to support their sacrifices and honor their service.
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