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What Are The Royal Mail Alternatives This Christmas?

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What Options Do You Have?

The recent postal strikes have really shown how much we, as a nation, rely on the iconic Royal Mail to send and deliver our post to us, and even if you think you don't really use them that much, the companies you buy from may well be using Royal Mail to help keep the business running.

Further Royal Mail worker strike dates are 14th, 15th, 23rd and 24th of December this year, so postage and delivery are going be severely affected this Christmas.

Small businesses have especially felt the strain, with many retailers relying on Royal Mail to deliver their goods, especially at Christmas, and the industrial action has meant that business owners have had to look at different ways to deliver their orders to customers or, in some cases, some retailers have simply given up and closed their online offerings until the service returns to normal, as they can't afford to have customers not receive their goods in a timely fashion, and this close to Christmas, with even first class post sometimes taking 10 days to arrive, they can't take the risk of disgruntled customers not receiving their order.

I'm very much a fan of small businesses. It's so sad that the strikes have affected many businesses (I do also support our posties as well though, so it's a Catch-22!), I recently saw an Instagram post saying that rather than not ordering from a small business due to possible delays, accept it might be late, and if so, wrap a picture of what you ordered them and let them open that at Christmas so they know what's coming. Then when the order arrives, give it to them, that way, the small business gets the much-needed order, and you still have something to give to the present recipient. Not ideal, but it will really help that small business owner!

I am the Penny Pincher, of course, but I have a main job as well, and that's running an eCommerce site for a bathroom supply company, and I have personally had to find alternative ways to ship our orders, as sadly, we can't rely on The Royal Mail at present. I thought it might be useful to mention what I've found to be a suitable alternative, in the hope it may help others in the same situation or for anyone looking to send gifts to friends and relatives for Christmas but struggling to know what's the best option.

Firstly, it's worth noting that no matter what courier/service you use, these may be impacted by the Royal Mail strikes as well! All those millions of items posted daily, and normally transported by The Royal Mail, have made their way into rival courier networks, clogging up the services and causing delays, and so there is never a guarantee that a parcel will arrive on time, but here's an idea of where to look.

Royal Mail can be pretty cheap as a courier; after all, most couriers can't afford to deliver a letter for 68p and make a profit, and so in all honesty, you won't find an alternative for letter sending, but parcels are where you can find options.

Now, most of the cheaper rates for sending parcels are offered, by couriers, to companies and businesses so that they have competitive and cheaper than advertised shipping prices to be able to send their products to the end user, and you, as a member of the general public are unlikely to be offered a discount off quoted rates to send a couple off parcels to the family this Christmas, but luckily there's a solution!

There are several price comparison courier websites offering, usually discounted, courier rates to anybody that wants to send a parcel. These sites have contracts with the major couriers in the UK and receive discounted rates, which they add a margin to and then let you book a parcel through them and ship your parcel, normally saving a few quid.

The main courier comparison sites that I've used and so can give advice on are:

There are others, but many of these tend to be linked in with one or more of the companies above, so I'm not going to mention them.

So how do they work?

So you have a parcel; what you need to do first is measure it and see how heavy it is. Go to one of the comparison sites, and you will be prompted to enter your address, the recipient's address and the size and weight of the parcel. This information will then generate you with a selection of quilted from different couriers.

You will normally be offered two prices, one a collection price, where a courier would come and collect the parcel from you, or a drop off price, which is where you drop your parcel at a drop shop, directly with the couriers or via a locker.

Generally, the bigger and more prominent the courier, the more expensive the courier charge will be! This is from personal experience! You won't get the same sort of price from UPS as you will from Evri, as they offer different levels of service!

Here's an example. I have requested a quote for a 4kg parcel, measuring 40cm x 40cm x 40cm, going from a Mainland UK address, going to another Mainland UK address:

As you can see, the pricing starts at £3.45 + Vat via Evri and tops out at £21.84 + Vat via DHL, so a wild mix of pricing! Some pricing, such as UPS, also adds on a delivery surcharge for delivering to residential addresses rather than a business address. This is via Transglobal Express, which will collect the parcel from you at no additional charge, no matter which service you choose.

I've also included quotes from Parcel2Go, for the same size parcels, with the same postcodes as a comparison. These are a mix of drop-off and collection services.

There are a couple of couriers missing from both priced guides, and this is due to them not currently offering a service due to over capacity, and so them only focusing on their main contract customers rather than the comparison site customers.

I'm not going to recommend a courier, as everyone's opinion will differ depending on your personal experience with that courier, but I will say that I've had fewer problems with the more expensive couriers than the cheaper ones, probably not a massive shock to hear, but I use the cheapest courier for the majority of the parcels sent out, probably around 90% of parcels, and issues have been reasonably low, and so for us, it's cheaper for us to send using a cheaper courier, as the savings would easily cover any loss of a parcel, compared with sending with a more expensive courier!

If you are sending something expensive, then don't rule out the more expensive courier, as it may be safer! Most couriers will offer an insurance option, which I recommend for very expensive items, but it's worth noting that any claims for loss etc, will be paid out on what YOU paid for the item, not what you charged someone else for it! So as an example, if you buy something for £100, sell it on EBay for £200, ship it, and it then gets lost, you can only claim for your cost of £100, not what you sold it for, and will be required to supply your receipts as well. This is the same with Royal Mail, though, so not just specific to a certain courier!

Most courier comparison sites will offer a basic level of cover/insurance for free, normally around £25.

Personally, I only get extra insurance on very expensive items, and its worked well so far, I look at insurance like extended warranties on buying a washing machine or fridge; you hope for the best, and if it goes wrong, it goes wrong, what I've saved on insurance can be put towards a new washing machine, or in this case sending a replacement parcel. We send hundreds of parcels a month, so adding insurance to each one would be costly!

As I've said, I won't recommend a specific courier, but I will recommend a courier comparisons site, which for me is Transglobal Express. I don't get anything by recommending them; it's a genuine, from my experience, recommendation.

WhyTransglobal Express? Mainly the competitive pricing, decent customer service and, most importantly to me, I can book a free, same-day collection, as long as I book by Midday, and they will come and grab the parcels, no matter if I book a cheap Evri service, or an expensive International UPS service, they collect them all, take them to their depot, and then the couriers collect from them, and it means we don't have several collections a day, from different couriers, it's just one, which makes life easier!

This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the other courier comparisons sites; this is just the one I use, and over the nearly 20 years I've worked within the e-commerce industry, I think I've used every site and every courier that does or has ever existed in the UK, at some point!

Hopefully, Royal Mail will be back and running as normal in the new year; if not, I've given you some ways that you can send a parcel for new, sometimes cheaper than Royal Mail prices to use as an alternative. The sad part is that many people may not switch back to Royal Mail after using rival companies, which further makes things more difficult for Royal Mails' finances and customer base, and jeopardises the worker's jobs and the future of Royal Mail, but we all have to do what we have to do to keep the wheels turning, no company, even Royal Mail, is infallible, the public votes with its feet, and as support starts to slow for the strikes, as more and more people are impacted, unfortunately, it becomes more possible that Royal Mail may never exist in the way we are all used to, in the not so distant future, so more of us will be looking at different ways to send mail.


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