Advantages Regular supply of books of stamps, regular prizes to be won, easy work, great support
Disadvantages Requires regular posting of letters at irregular times, need to log-on most days
In summer on some website freebie forum I heard about the chance to get free stamps each month for taking part in a survey. The prospect of getting anything free is often enough to grab my interest and I signed up almost straight away after being referred from a current panellist (as this was the only way to sign up).The Royal Mail Postal Survey as it is called from Research International (run by Kantar Operations) allows you to get 18 free 1st class stamps plus the chance to win regular cash prizes and £25 for referrals.
Despite being called the Postal Survey there are no surveys to do. So no answering lots of questions then being told you aren't eligible after all. Instead you have to record the items they send you and pop a few letters in the post each week.Here's a quick run down on how it works…
The research firm in association with the Royal Mail recruits people and businesses to test whether post has successfully reached its destination and if so on time.WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO?
First off you get a phone call from the people at Research International to confirm whether you are available to take part in the work. Then a few days later you get a pack explaining what you have to do with all the items you need.
Access to the internet to record items you receive or send.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO GET STARTED?
Each week you are sent a package. This contains stamped and reply-paid envelopes addressed to various people/businesses as well as page of labels (some with their addresses and others with code numbers to help the recipient identify each item). The people you send the post to are also taking part in the survey.Also in the package is a schedule telling when to post each item of mail.
You can specify up to 10 post offices/post boxes in your area.If you cannot get to a post office or postbox at the specified time you can leave it and post it at the same time next week.
PREPARATION, PREPARATION, PREPARATIONBefore you post each envelope you have to prepare it. This involves handwriting the address or using the pre-printed address labels supplied, sticking on a label with a specific code on the slip of paper inside, and popping in a SMART (small packets containing microchips which track the envelope in the postal system). To find out which SMART you need to send in the envelope you have to log on to the website.
When you have sent it you use the website to record the time and specific postbox you used.
RECEIVING…During the week you receive post in the mail (between around three to five) that other people taking part send.
Your task is to record each one on the website providing the date and time you received it, the code number on the slip of paper inside, the SMART code, the date/time of the franking marks and whether the item is damaged.When you've collected a few items of mail you then return them to Research International in the supplied pre-paid plastic envelopes.
WEBSITEEach panellist has a member area of the Research International website. Here after logging on, you can view your posting schedule for the week and the next week, see if there are any SMARTS that need returning for that week, enter the dates of your upcoming holidays, order more envelopes for returning received mail, and raise questions. Another link takes you to a list of the lucky prize draw winners. You can also get online training step by step in using all elements of the website, such as how to record items you have received.
I experienced the training buttons to be slow to load but apart from that the site is clear, concise with all the help there I need.
A freephone number is provided as well as an email address for any questions you may have.
In addition to this you get a quick courtesy calls from time to time from the people at Research International to check if there's anything you are not sure about. These are when new procedures are being put in place, such as the SMARTS being introduced.
There are 15 prizes of £10 Love2shop vouchers (to spend at many High Street shops) given away each day to participants logging on and a monthly prize of £750. The site includes a list of each daily and monthly winners.
So far, since joining in April, I've been lucky to win the £10 prize twice.Plus there's the refer a friend scheme in which you get £25 in Love2Shop vouchers for each person you refer who participates for at least 3 months.
In addition, with Christmas apparoaching there is a prize draw for 40 Harrods hampers. I got a bonus presumably for being a good boy - a set of Harry Potter presentation stamps and a rather natty diary.ANYTHING ELSE?
Recently I took part in an additional survey they were carrying out monitoring the number of items I receive in the post that are wrongly delivered (i.e., being addressed to someone else but delivered wrongly to my address). All I had to do to fill in the number of post items I received each day, for two weeks, on forms and record how many of these were wrongly delivered. In return I got a £6 Love2Shop voucher, which I think is a pretty good reward for very little effort.
To sign up you need to referred by someone current taking part who can by supplying your name, address, tel. no. and email address allow Research International to get in touch.
HOW TO SIGN UP
Research International telephoned me to give a quick rundown of how the survey works, ask a few questions to confirm my availability. Then a week or two later, I recieved a welcome pack and test mail to post.VERDICT
The chance to win vouchers each day and month is another good reward.Preparing the envelopes is straight-forward and takes little time. There only tends to be three letters to post each week sometimes just one.
If you are about to go on holiday you can remove yourself from the survey for that period and still receive your monthly stamps but you have to give at least three weeks notice.There is no minimum period specified for taking part and you can leave at any time.
Responses to queries I have sent by email have been quick and the staff come across as friendly and helpful on the phone.
You have to be pretty organised otherwise you can get in quite a muddle about when to post mail. When I first got started the pack made it all appear a bit daunting but after a week of taking part I soon got into the swing of things.Tip - Get a folder with plastic sleeves (to contain mail) representing each day of week to help remind you when to send items.
Also the specified times for posting mail can be a bit awkward - for instance between 10am-1pm. Although, having said that, if there's only one collection each day at a particular postbox, say 4pm, it doesn't matter what time you post it, as long as it before the collection time of 4pm.It works out OK for me as I work from home and often have other items to post at the same time. Also there's a post box just across the road from me. I can imagine it could be difficult for people who are unable to get to a post box during working hours.
SUMMARYIf getting 18 free 1st class stamps would be a godsend, you're not prone to absent minded tendencies and you're able and willing to get to a post box at fairly regular times Research International's Postal Surveys could be for you. In my experience, the rewards are pretty good, the prize draws are a good incentive too are the support is great.
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