When Shipping Goes Wrong In The Antiques Trade - Royal Mail & Other Claims

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Welcome to another instalment of 'Blog Post Monday'.

Over the course of the past six months I've been having some mixed fortunes with the parcels I'm sending through Royal Mail.  Some have been destroyed, some have been delayed significantly and some have simply gone missing altogether, but the issues don't end there!  It has resulted in me losing out financially and quite frankly, I expected a bit more support and understanding when questioning Royal Mail about this.

This week, I thought I'd share a few of the issues I've experienced and reach out to you lovely lot for some advice on how you go about your shipping and find out if, like me, you've experienced similar issues, not just with Royal Mail, but with other postal services too.

So, as always, get that kettle on and get your stamps out as we talk all things shipping and discuss what happens when it all goes horribly wrong...



There's something smelly at the core of some of these postal services, something designed to stitch up small businesses, particularly in the antiques trade, and conversely, designed to protect big business at all costs.

I'm sure at some point we've all experienced a delayed, lost or damaged parcel from one courier or another.  It just so happens that I've been experiencing this on a significant scale over the past six months, leaving me out of pocket through no fault of my own.  I'll give you an example of one particular scenario that happened during September last year.



I sold an item online which I subsequently posted to the customer through Royal Mail.  The customer received it, but it didn't quite fit so it was agreed that she could return it for a refund.  The item was returned to me through Royal Mail and because of the value of the item, a Special Delivery service (which supposedly provided cover up to £500) was used.



I collected the item from the Royal Mail collection depot where I live and it was instantly clear that something had happened in transit and the item had been destroyed.  I was left in the situation whereby I had a customer who needed a refund and I'm left with an item of significant value that I can no longer sell.

Obviously, I make a claim through Royal Mail which was ultimately dismissed during the first two stages of their complaints process.  At stage three, they offered me a refund of the postage costs of £7 as compensation in full and final settlement.  I rejected this and as such, had to make a claim through the Ombudsman, which, after many hours of providing evidence and weeks of waiting, the Ombudsman supported Royal Mail.



Now, one of the main reasons for me being unable to successfully claim was that I could not provide a receipt of what I paid for the item at the time I purchased it and I think that many people in the antiques trade might also be unaware of this.  I, like many other dealers, buy stock from absolutely anywhere and everywhere.  If you buy from a shop you obviously will receive a receipt, however, if you buy from a car boot sale, flea market or fair, it's very unlikely that you'll be able to get a receipt.  In fact, as far as I'm aware, there is no legal obligation for a receipt to be given for a private purchase.



Of course, for my end of year tax return, I keep a book of purchases, detailing the where, when, what and price of each item.  This is something that Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs seemingly accept on an annual basis, however, Royal Mail won't.  They seemingly will only accept shop receipts and I think that this is a very important detail for people in the antiques trade to be aware of.

Ultimately, I'm not entirely sure why it matters what 'I' or 'we' bought the item for originally when you can clearly provide evidence detailing what you sold it for and that it essentially the value of the item when it is passing through Royal Mail's service.  It is this value that dictates what service you choose, ensuring that you have the correct 'cover' for that value.


Image:  Ofcom Report 2021


If you read, in full, the terms and conditions for claims through Royal Mail, I can't see much left that would really mean you could make a successful claim, meaning that the higher prices we pay for these more exclusive services is completely pointless!



Another interesting discovery I made while looking into these postal services and couriers was in relation to another service that comes under the Royal Mail umbrella, and that's Parcelforce.  I've used Parcelforce many times before for larger items or items that have a more significant value, particularly when posting overseas.  In fact, some of my customers request Parcelforce, instead of Royal Mail, even if the postage costs end up being more than the item.

However, if you're using Parcelforce to send your antique items, stop right there!  Parcelforce's terms of business do in fact exclude antiques from any compensatory claims.  In fact, the list below is just a small fraction of the endless list of items Parcelforce exclude from its claims:


  • Antiques (objects over 100 years old)
  • Articles made largely or wholly of platinum, gold, silver or other precious metals
  • Diamonds and other precious stones
  • Fur (except imitation)
  • Jewellery (except imitation)
  • Sim cards
  • Watches and Clocks, including watch movements and other parts


I'm sure you'll agree that this is particularly alarming if you work in the antiques trade.

I will end this piece by asking you for your experiences and horror stories.  What services do you use? Have you ever made a successful claim for lost or damaged goods?  Which couriers do you recommend?  Also, in regards to receipts... Do you ask for receipts at car boot sales, flea markets and fairs?  If not, are you sure you'll be able to claim when items are lost or damaged?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.



Well, that's it for this week folks.  I hope you've found this helpful and enlightening.

Remember, if you enjoy my posts, please show your support by subscribing to my 'Source Social' membership, which you can do via the 'Home' page.  It's free and gives you a weekly blog post and a fortnightly YouTube video delivered directly to your inbox, as well as exclusive discounts and first dibs on new items before they are added to our website.

And, speaking of my YouTube channel, if you're into antiques and haven't seen any of my videos yet, you can find them HERE.  Head on over and subscribe to that too for your dose of finds, fairs, stories and reviews.

So, until next week, stay safe, keep buying those antiques and keep spreading that Source Vintage love!




Owner Source Vintage

Shop from Source Vintage here

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  • John Smith on

    The value of the item is the amount the goods sold for. It is a combination of the cost of the goods and the work done and financial costs of advertising it and selling it. Royal Mails definition of value is wrong, their excuse is that you will just send the customer another one of the same therefore profiting twice, from both the compensation and the sale of the goods. It is irrelevant whether you benefit or not and there are times when the customer wants a refund and times where refund is the only option. If they are advertising compensation for the value of the goods, then that compensation should cover the value of the goods, not what you paid for them. Small claims court is the only way to get your compensation, it is a complete waste of time trying to get it from royal mail, they will give you nothing. They don’t even pay out for the price of the postage when they refuse the claim, you have to ask twice, even if it’s tracked.

  • Stephen (Source Vintage) on

    Hi Andrew, thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I completely agree, it should have really been the customer making the claim on that particular occasion. Perhaps I was too customer friendly. But there have been other incidents where I simply don’t get compensated because I don’t have a receipt from when I bought the item and this is worrying when you buy many items privately. I also don’t understand why a customer would get a full refund, but the seller only gets what they paid originally for the item… I find it all terribly frustrating and it does seem to be a ridiculous loophole that surely has a direct impact on a trade that relies so heavily on private (receipt-less) buying.

  • Andrew on

    I’ve always been compensated in full by the royal mail, when I am the sender and selling on ebay. I’ve never had to make a claim when the recipient though.
    Surely though if the item got lost/damaged in transit on its way to you, then it is the sender that should be making the claim and not the recipient. The sender who is then returning the item would get the full amount back because he/she would hopefully be able to prove what they had paid for the item when buying it from you and in turn would then save you having to pay the refund, as they have already been paid out by the royal mail.

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