St. Thomas resident Dennis Alphonse recently launched a mail service for Virgin Islanders to receive packages that can’t be delivered directly to the territory or are more expensive, sometimes hundreds of dollars to receive.
Alphonse, a former UPS employee, said it all started when he tried to order parts for his wife’s car and was stunned by the shipping cost – $350. Around three months ago, he started his company – Florida V.I. Mailbox Service, to handle deliveries from Florida to the Virgin Islands.
“I have the knowledge and capability to put these things in place,” he said.
In just a few months, more than 200 customers have registered for the service. The focus is presently on the Virgin Islands, but residents in Puerto Rico will soon be eligible for a mailbox.
Sometime in November, Alphonse anticipates having a new branch and a warehouse for cargo, complete with a security system.
To use the service, residents first register with Florida VI Mailbox at flvimailbox.com. They are assigned a free mailbox in Florida and an address they can start to use right away. Mail is sent to the Florida address first, and when it is received, the customer is sent an email invoice with a surcharge and the shipping cost from Florida to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
After the invoice is paid, the mail is forwarded to the Virgin Islands address through the U.S. Postal Service – Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. The post office provides free insurance up to $50, and additional insurance is available.
The tracking number is emailed to the customer upon payment of the invoice when the package is on its way to the Virgin Islands.
The shipping cost depends on the size and weight of the package, and the customer can calculate it at www.postcalc.usps.com. The shipping should be less because the USPS costs are less or free. Using his own service, Alphonse’s auto parts mentioned above would have cost $26 – not the $350 UPS quoted.
The surcharge costs also depend on the weight of the package, and rates are published on the website:
Small packages from .01 to 15 pounds are $17,
Medium packages, from 16 to 40 pounds, are $29
Large packages cost $41, from 41 to 70 pounds.
The package is not opened nor repacked – it is shipped in the original box in which it was received.
The maximum weight limit is 70 pounds through USPS, and packages over that weight will be shipped via cargo. Cargo prices vary, and instructions will be sent to the customer.
According to Alphonse, business customers can set up accounts and pay invoices monthly if they wish.
Of course, the mailbox cannot be used for unlawful, fraudulent, or illegal activities, and illegal drugs, controlled substances, nor hazardous materials are not accepted. Other prohibited materials not accepted by the post office will not be sent through the Florida V.I. Mailbox Service.