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Royal Mail is the UK's number one postal service, infact many people aren't even aware that other postal companies even exist. So you'd expect them to be pretty good at what they do, to fight of all the competition? Well actually no, there service is pretty poor at times. Unfortunately we are stuck in a position now whereby Royal Mail is so well established that it would be hard for any other companies to compete. In this review I will only talk about Royal Mail's UK services as I rarely use their international services and want to base all my reviews on my own personal experiences.
So what does Royal Mail offer? Royal Mail offers a whole range of services. For standard mail (mainly letters and small items) they offer a first and second class service. First class should take 1 working day adn second class 2-3 working days. Costs start at 24p for second class mail and 32p for First class mail, please visit RoyalMail's website for most recent pricing as postal costs are ever increasing. These services are actually quite reliable, but it can be quite difficult to claim if an item gets lost. Firstly they are only insured to £34, and secondly once posted you have no proof as to whether the item has been delivered or not. This can cause problems for e-bay traders especially and a buyer can claim an item to have not been delivered and you will never know who is to blame. However, for an additional 70p (on top of first or second class postal charge) you can send an item recorded delivery. Recorded delivery means that upod delivery the recipient must sign for the item. This signature can then be viewed online using the reference number for the item (the signature can take a few days to be displayed on Royal Mail's website). The added security of Recorded delivery is well worth the 70p extra, however if you are just sending a standard letter recorded delivery, then it is common place for the postman to just put it straight through your letter box. I don't know whether this is because they don't notice the big Recorded Delivery sign on the front or it's just to save time, but this has happened to me on four occassions.
If you are sending a large item or a particularly heavy one, then your best postal option is Standard Parcels. This service costs £3.85 for items 1kg or under and goes up to 20kg at a cost of £13.33. The only downside to this service is that it's delivery time is an estimated 3-5 working days. However I have had a parcel delivered within 2 days and at the same time a couple of parcels that required 7 working days. There is no tracking with this service which may be a problem again for e-bay sellers. Insurance starts at £34 standard and you can uograde to £100 insurance for an extra £1, £250 insurance for £2.25 and £500 insurance for £3.50.
Now to my personal favourite service - Royal Mail's Special Delivery service. This is one of the services that I most commonly use, as I often sell electricals from my house after upgrading, which are usually costly and quite heavy. This service is designed for high value items, insurance starts at £500 and can be increased up to £2,500. The service is in two categories - Special Delivery Next Day and Special Delivery 9AM. The 9AM service guarantees that your item will be delivered by 9AM the next working day. This is an excellent service, but at £9.35 for an item under 100g, I think that it is very expensive. The Next Day service guarantees that your item will be delivered by 1PM and prices start at £4.30 which I think is quite reasonable. A signature is required upon delivery of a Special Delivery item and you can view the signature online using the tracking number on the little card you receive at the post office when you post the item. There is one fact about Royal Mail's Special Delivery service that most people (I think even Royal Mail) are unaware of. And that is that there price band for items weighing between 2kg and 10kg is only £19.45. This may seem expensive for an item of 2.5kg, but if you have an item weighing 8kg for example, then it would cost £24.50 just to send it First Class, yet you can send it Special delivery, insured to £500 with signature require upon delivery for just £19.45!
Royal Mail staff are usually very frinedly. Obviously I can only base this view on the staff in my local area, but especially the staff in the post office are very friendly (I recognise the post office is a separate entity to Royal Mail, but they are both linked. The post man for my street is very friendly, but when he goes on holiday etc, it seems the temporary postmen (I also recognise it's probably not too P.C. to say post"men", but in my area there are no postwomen), the temporary post men are always too friendly. Also, it seems that the postmen can get quite funny with you when you get lots of things delivered at once, (especially if it's Recorded delivery or won't fit through the letter box, so have to knock at your door). I regularly take on different projects (my current being restoring a bike) and so on payday I'll order various parts in usually from different e-bay sellers, So there is an influx of small packets getting delivered over a few days. And the post man never seems to be happy about this at all, which I can appreciate it adds to his work load, but it happens once a month, anything big usually comes in one of their vans, so I don't really see the problem. I'd like to hear of anyone else who has problems with postmen/women when they have several things delivered at one time, leave a comment if you have experienced this.
Overall Royal Mail's service is usually very good. However it seems that their pricing is just continuously rising, yet the service isn't really improving. With the recent strikes it seems that more and more people are no longer using Royal Mail as a means of posting. Where I work there is a shop next door owned by an elderly couple and I often take there post to the post office when I take the post from the company I work (please don't call me a do-gooder, all the businesses where I work help each other in little ways). But even their shop has stopped using Royal Mail for any items exceeding 1kg as it is cheaper to use a courier and during the strike period is faster. Plus, a courier collects direct from you so you don't have to take your items to the post office. I am in my local post office daily and there is definitely a noticeable decline in customers posting items there. Which is great in some respects as there is less customers, but it shows that the strikes are having a negative impact on Royal Mail.
The strike period has now been extended until the 17th August. And in this time, I will be unable to recommend Royal Mail as a good means of posting your items. During the strike period all Royal Mail's guaranteed delivery times are suspended (even Special Delivery items), this means you just don't know when an item will be delivered. Once the strikes are over, I assume that normal service will resume. Until then, if you can use couriers, if not then the best thing to do is try to post as early as possible in an effort to get your item there on time. I am now going to be looking into the best courier services available, I mut point out that although they are linked, ParcelForce is not at all affected by the strike with Royal Mail. Thanks for reading and I would like to hear your views and experienced.