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