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Is Royal Mail’s parcel pick-up service a good idea?

As the pandemic sees online shopping surge, Royal Mail is rolling out its own parcel pick-up service on Wednesday. Will you be making use of it?

Royal Mail has decided to move to collecting parcels with its new Parcel Collect service. You’ll be able to use it Monday to Saturday at charge of 72p, plus any extra postage costs.

It says it’s one of the biggest changes to its daily delivery service since the postbox launched in 1852 – but will it be successful?

Nick Landon, Royal Mail’s Chief Commercial Officer, said:

“Royal Mail Parcel Collect is a fantastic step forward for all of our customers. It makes it easier to use our services than ever before.

Whether you’re up against time and working from home, making a return, selling online or sending a gift to make someone’s day, Royal Mail Parcel Collect is here to help.

The launch of Parcel Collect is part of our commitment to continuously make our services better and more convenient”

Royal Mail is clearly keen to push the benefits, and the feedback we’ve had so far generally looks positive, but there have been a few concerns raised that could impact on the service running smoothly.

What are your thoughts on the Royal Mail's new parcel pick-up service? Will you be trying it out?

Posted by Which? on Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Royal Mail Parcel Collect: your views

Our own Adam Gillett doesn’t want to see those who don’t own a printer excluded from the service:

While we’ve seen a number of others raising concerns over the impact on the posties themselves, From current workload to physically carrying the parcels away from your door (Royal Mail says it can collect up to five parcels per address), will they be able to cope?

On the other hand, there are plenty of upsides. We’ve been told that the service will eliminate the need to drive to a post office, saving time and money, while others have pointed to benefits for older customers; not having to carry heavy parcels or travel to post offices.

John’s mention of safety and security is a good one. As always, we’ll be keeping an eye out for any reports of criminals impersonating the service or trying to take advantage.

What are your thoughts on the new service? Will you be making use of it? Or do you share some of the concerns that have been raised by others?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

Will you be using the Royal Mail's Parcel Collect service?
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I recently sent a 15kg parcel to Spain from the UK at a cost of £14. I did have to drive 1.5 miles to the nearest drop off shop. It took 6 days to arrive. If the Post Office can match that value and efficiency by collecting from my front door they have a winner, otherwise they are still behind in their thinking. Last time I posted a much smaller parcel to the same address in Spain using the Post Office it took 2 weeks!

I think it is a brilliant idea, but how you feel about it will probably reflect on the service you receive locally. Both our postie and parcel delivery are excellent.

I agree with Adam that they need to cater for people who do not have a printer otherwise those who might need the service the most could be excluded. They could turn up with the labels at collection time or even better, deliver them with the post prior to collection so the sender can make sure they are addressed and stuck on correctly. Many older folks don’t use computers so will need to arrange collections by phone?

It would be useful to be kept informed of collection times especially during Covid when safety of both customers and PO staff is paramount. As doors cannot be opened and parcels should not be left outside unattended, a text just before collection would work for most people.

I agree it is a great idea. The postie comes along my road every day, as elsewhere, so it makes a good use of resources.

I have often wondered why they cannot also collect letters that need posting. They would just need informing a collection were needed.

This new service could well be useful. I don’t want to go into a Post Office while Covid-19 remains rampant.

It costs a minimum of £2.95 to send a small parcel and 65p for a second class stamp, so 72p to have a parcel of up to 20kg collected does seem a bargain. I suspect what we are seeing is an introductory promotion to gauge demand.

Anyone who does not have a working printer can always ask a neighbour to print a label. People can be remarkably helpful if asked.

The 72p is the collection charge and you have, of course, still to pay normal postage. You need a decent set of scales.

That’s what it says at the top of this page. Maybe I have just been lucky but both of my kitchen scales are accurate. The larger ones weigh up to 15kg.

I thought the 72p was a extra charge on top of the already expensive costs.

It is. From the Royal Mail website: “..postmen and postwomen will collect a parcel from the customer’s door or nominated safe place for 72p per parcel, in addition to postage costs. Parcel Collect is also available for pre-paid return items at a cost of 60p per item.”


Is this really a new service, or has Royal Mail just twigged that it can make an extra charge for something it has already been doing?

I have been sending parcels this way for several years, sometimes they are items returned to retailers, gifts to friends or relatives, or things to organisations who sell them to raise funds.

I have used the Royal Mail or Parcelforce website, gone through the process, paid the postal charge on-line based on weight, booked the collection day, packed and addressed the package or parcel, and printed the bar-coded label supplied and stuck it on the package. So far as I can recall I have never paid a surcharge for this service. The van doing the daily round calls at its usual time for our road and the driver usually had an adhesive barcoded label to hand in case I had not printed one myself.

Does this mean that the service I have been using will now be closed so that everyone will have to pay 72p on top of the postage? I think Which? should look into this and see if it is a good deal for consumers or if we have been bamboozled.

The collection service was hardly promoted and has probably been allowed to fall into desuetude so that a “new” remunerative operation can be launched to help cover costs that are already being met.

Are the PO behind the times, though? ”The U.S. Postal Service provides free package pickup from your home or office at a time and place that’s convenient for you. And follow the prompts. It’s free, regardless of the number of packages you’re sending.

John – I have not used the collection service you have described. How does it compare with the new service?

Indeed, Malcolm.

And is Royal Mail cashing in on the mass closure of sub-post offices that has occurred over the last few years? There was a time when most dwellings were within a reasonable distance of a sub-post office. The church, the inn and the post office were the essential characteristics of a thriving village and most urban communities and suburbs had them as well.

My job had few perks. I could take packages to our post room, pay the postage and the post van collected twice a day. The other perk was that I could work unlimited and unpaid overtime.

Wavechange – It seems to be no different – except for the need to pay for the new Parcel Collect service in addition to the postage and the time of delivery if it is part of the letters delivery round rather than the ParcelForce operation. Perhaps the new service will only be for small or light parcels and packets rather than the boxes of books that I have sometimes sent.

I started my career in a general office and there were indeed many advantages to having various useful facilities available.

Thanks John. I did look at a couple of websites to see if others had picked up on the fact that a collection service was already available, but saw no reference to this. I expect that the ‘new’ service will be popular with those who shop online and want to return their purchases.

John Denning says:
24 October 2020

Your talking about parcel force this is royal mail. Two different companies

John – Parcelforce Worldwide is a subsidiary of the Royal Mail Group. They and the RM postal service share many facilities and our Royal Mail postman or postwoman frequently delivers packets originally consigned to Parcelforce. After two delivery attempts, Parcelforce will leave items for collection at a post office and customers can take parcels to a post office for delivery by Parcelforce. Post offices are run by a separate company, The Post Office [owned by the UK government].

I’m pretty sure Royal Mail already has a collect from home service. I saw it on their website a few months ago

What’s different about this new service?

janet anne ellison says:
23 October 2020

Posties are PEOPLE. They already carry weighty stuff to deliver. Are they now going to carry weighty stuff to be sent or have I misunderstood ?

Janet – Perhaps the Royal Mail’s theory is that since the postmen’s and postwomen’s loads get progressively lighter as they deliver the mail they will have capacity to collect the occasional parcel. I notice that where they are not using a van they have a trolley which they lasso to a lamppost. Some use a van and a trolley and some use their own car and carry a satchel. The days of a weighty mailbag seem to be over. I expect the CWU will make sure their members are not overburdened and are suitably remunerated for the extra responsibility.

fred andrews says:
28 October 2020

Well-the trolley gets lighter to a point-we pick more full bags up as we go-repleneshing all the way round the route, only partly empty for a fraction of time.Contrary to what is reported we have noticed a drop of about 20% in letters.Our rounds get bigger as our town expands and as colleagues retire replacements are not employed in their place. Our workload is much greater than before. Everyday is full-on from start of shift until the end. We are on our feet walking upwards of twelve miles per day.It is not the romantic job many remember fondly from such shows as the darling buds of may!Nearly all new entrants in recent years dont turn up after a few days as the work frightens them! Not tomention being out in all weathers!It got brought in without ours involvment with union and we have not received the last pay rise that was agreed for this year. We do not benefit from parcel pick-up.

Fred – I am not going to respond on the labour relations issues which are between the postal service workers, their trade union and the management. I am only concerned about the service to the public and from where I am looking it seems that some delivery staff are standing in the way of a useful additional service that if it is successful would help protect the universal postal service to all corners of the UK. Every parcel you might pick up on your walk is part of another colleague’s workload on delivery that helps secure his or her continued employment. If you let parcel collection work go to the independent carriers then the delivery work will dry up as well.

Duck Tagnan says:
29 October 2020

My postie is looking forward to collecting parcels. He uses a van to get to our road and is happy to collect parcels in it. He has a gadget which will tell him which of us needs him to collect.

For returning online shopping, this is going to work only if the retailer participates. If the retailer doesn’t participate, then you will use the retailer’s usual returns label, pay 72p to the Royal Mail and then have to ask the retailer to reimburse you for the additional 72p under Part 3 of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. It would be far simpler for everyone if the 72p was absorbed into the main postage cost.

That’s an interesting point not mentioned in the promotional information I have seen.

I’m not sure that the act you cite is relevant in this case. The use of the service is optional and will not be used by all those returning parcels. It could argued that the 72p charge is no different from the bus fare or petrol costs incurred in getting to a post office – it is simply another choice for returning goods, no one is forcing you to use the service.

The Parcelforce website gives quotes for a range of parcel collection and delivery services according to the size and weight of the item, its origination and destination postcodes, and speed of delivery, all including the option of collection from a home address. After going through a trial consignment process as an example I saw a small advisory note saying that the price could vary if sending from a post office or depot. I assume the variation will always result in a higher price but by what amount or percentage is not specified nor whether it is a flat rate as the new Royal Mail Parcel Collect service will be.

Royal Mail’s competitors are already offering a collect from home service, I can buy online for collection from a variety of companies and also use drop off and collection at some local shops. Therefore I can not blame Parcelforce from trying to compete. However I have long stated that Royal Mail is forced to compete with one hand tied behind it’s back, with it’s universal service obligation. Some have argued that it should be scrapped, however I beleive this should be extend to all national delivery companies to force them on an even footing. I have also never understood why Royal Mail and Parcelforce are not more integrated. Finally this seperation between Royal Mail and the Post Office has never made much sense. It causes these strategic conflicts and prevents a united strategy that serves the Post Office and Royal Mail better.

Ruth Kosminsky says:
25 October 2020

I have health problems which include Agoraphobia. For myself getting out of my home to post a letter is a real problem. I can only use Hermes as a service. But I’m very disappointed with their quality of service.

Having The Post Office is a much better alternative for me.

My main worry is whether I need to have a printer which I don’t have to print labels?

I would rather pay the extra for the use of a “service.” charge. This way, I know that I’m going to have much better peace of mind.

This service is useless. I’ve just tried to use it at https://send.royalmail.com/collect/youritems for a warranty return using a Royal Mail prepaid label supplied by the manufacturer, and the Royal Mail web site doesn’t recognise any code printed on the prepaid label. I can’t see this working for returns unless it is better co-ordinated between the destination business and the Royal Mail.

Can you try phoning Royal Mail to see what they say?

Will they still send someone over to collect it from you?

Is the service useless because it has failed once?

I say it’s useless because it doesn’t work with destination businesses’ returns labels. As the link above states, it needs a “tracking number or indicia“.

OK but this will not prevent the service being used for other purposes, for example to collect and send Christmas presents. It would be helpful if Royal Mail could indicate that the system cannot yet be used to collect returns to businesses at present and provide an indication of when this service is likely to be available.

At least you can rely on Royal Mail, Amazon also use Hermes who failed to show on so many occasions and then said “we missed you” even when they hadn’t tried.

I agree. Hermes are atrocious.

Maybe it should be renamed Achilles.

Too right, Ian. As Dick van Dyke nearly said, “in a world of bad logistics, Hermes are atrocious”.

Binu Kurian says:
27 October 2020

I would prefer Royal mail than private couriers.

Richard Davies says:
28 October 2020

It is a terrible idea. Where I live in NW Sheffield, the earliest delivery we get is at 11.30am. It has been as late as 7pm. First class mail can take up to 4 days to be delivered, subscription mail up to 2 weeks to our home address. The delivery time is so inconsistent it cannot be relied upon. Some days we have no post followed by a large delivery. We suspect that rounds are just to big for the posties so deliveries are held back, which is illegal but almost impossible to verify. Royal Mail will not engage. God knows when our deliveries will arrive, and how frequently, if this crazy scheme goes ahead. This is a management, and not a postie issue.

Zara Napier says:
28 October 2020

Our son is a postman and he has been told very little about it by the managers and as others have said they are already stretched with the increasing number of parcels they have to deliver.
It is a good idea for those who cannot get to a post office but Royal Mail will have to employ more people to make this service work and I am not sure this is happening at the moment.

Unless this new service taps into a vast unknown demand I don’t see it adding much, if anything, to a postman’s or postwoman’s burden. As they do their walk they progressively deliver their letters and packets. Picking up the odd parcel on the way should be well within their capabilities. Large or heavy items would surely require a van collection. The Royal Mail’s stated intention is to improve the economics of their service, which must be a a good thing for the employees in the face of so much competition.

Zara Napier says:
28 October 2020

Hello John – Do you work for Royal Mail?

No, Zara. Why do you ask?

My desire is to see our public services being as useful to their customers and the community as possible in the most economical manner. History shows us that continuing losses lead to the withdrawal or closure of services.

The Royal Mail has seen e-mail and texting eat into its letters traffic and has belatedly realised that parcel services are where the money is. I see the Parcel Collect service as a sensible step forward.

I returned an item to a German supplier using the downloaded label supplied. It did not cost me anything to do this but a refund was promised on receipt. I posted it, properly packed and labelled at the main Barnsley Post Office. I have the receipt and an internet tracking report saying it had been received and was on its way. It has never been received in Germany. For four months I have been trying to find out what has happened. I have written to the Head Postmaster at Barnsley a month ago and sent a chaser two weeks ago. I have not even received an acknowledgement. Using this as the norm, who would want the Post Office to come and collect a parcel? Leave it to the private sector companies who know what they are doing and, at least, provide extensive customer service. After my experience, I wouldn’t trust them ever again. I thin k the next step is the County Court.

The Royal Mail has been suffering sharp down turns in its volumes. It needs good ideas to bring the service in line with what people need. I might make limited use of the service. Most times I have gifts sent direct to the recipient, when ordered online to avoid the cost and work of the schlep to the town Post Office, parking, queuing, etc. Our post person parks at the end of the road though often brings his van round to the houses as needed. As the service will be a booked service, there should be a clear indication of demand in advance. All the issues should be process type problems, able to be resolved via sensible consideration, rather than a just say no mentality. Remember, it would only be of use a subset of users, many will be out at work, Covid-19 willing, how many post parcels everyday anyway?

For years I have had postcards put through my door by postmen saying I was not in when they have tried to deliver parcels, when in fact most of the time I was,I have even caught one or two just down the road and guess what, they did not have the parcel.
You then have to go to the sorting office to collect it, but the counter closes at midday, if you work that means getting there very early and joining the queue.
The Royal mail seems to resent any post that does not fit in a post box, they even ”sold” off Parcel Force, the so called specialist part of the service many years ago
With that track record in mind, the chances of this new service been a success are slim.Royal mail has watched it business get slowly eaten away by competitors for years, the whole structure is a legacy of the days when they had a virtual monopoly and until the management, workers and unions accept that those days are over is there any chance of it becoming a modern pickup/delivery service.

Frank – It is not necessary to go to the sorting office or the parcel depot. If a “Something for you . . . ” card is left for us we just go on-line and book a redelivery for a convenient date. It has always been very reliable.

In rural areas undelivered items are taken to the nearest post office.

Parcelforce Worldwide has not been sold off. It is a subsidiary of the Royal Mail.

There is a service, Parcels2go, an online comparison site where you can get a quote from various carriers, most of whom collect from your home address. I have used this service several times to send items to the US and have been very happy with it. But yes, you do need a printer.

I think it’s a great idea although not sure why they need the 72p charge, especially as I can see them increasing it year on year. I live in a rural village and it’s a hassle getting to the post office outside of work hours so it’s a much more flexible option. Would be more handy if you could send signed for items but it’s steps in the right direction. Also might be better for the environment as before, I would have to drive each time.