ANNOUNCEMENT : ALL OF ROYAL MAIL'S EMPLOYMENT POLICIES (AGREEMENTS) AT A GLANCE (UPDATED 2017)... HERE
28 Apr 2017, 12:09
I run a small internet-based mail order company and send several parcels a week - somethings several in a day. Generally they all go 'signed-for' and/or 'tracked', especially foreign destination parcels, which make up a good part of my business, but all are of sufficient value to require at least 'proof of posting'.
I use RM's, generally pretty good, online postage system to pre-print labels and attach them to parcels before taking them down to my local PO. This works pretty well and, IMO, is usually pretty good value for money.
I am completely baffled, however, why it takes so long for parcels to be 'booked in' (or whatever it is called) at the PO counter. The signed for/tracked labels all have barcodes on them - which are scanned - but apparently the clerk has to manually key in a certain amount of address data (reading from the label) before the system will accept it.
Why *on Earth* is this necessary? Surely just scanning the barcode is enough? *All* labels have at least a 3D barcode - why isn't this and/or the 2D bar code sufficient to avoid any manual re-keying of address data? Why is RM the *only* postal service that does this when *every single other* UK postal/courier service I have ever used (in the last 10 years anyway) just scans the bar code with a billy-do and that's it? Sometimes it takes as long as a minute to do one parcel (again, especially the foreign jobs) and if you've got 5 parcels to book-in it gets seriously annoying for me and all the others behind me in the queue. It must be equally frustrating for the poor old PO clerk!
Is my local PO not doing it right or is this *really* the best that RM/PO can come up with?
Regards, Martin Winlow.
28 Apr 2017, 14:40
Its the way the Horizon system is set up, it's the same one that is under Judicial review as there may have been some wrongful prosecutions viewtopic.php?f=18&t=79538&p=765473
Remember we are not Royal Mail, or the Post Office (which are now 2 separate companies) so all replies will be the poster's own opinions, but from what I can gather from my Post Office colleagues is that the system is very clunky, and not user-friendly.
Hopefully, some of those colleagues will be along to give a more hands-on view but it sounds like your local office is doing it correctly.
28 Apr 2017, 19:04
I would echo what TBT said but also add that when I left 2 years ago, the PO system had no facility to handle:
Any barcode other than the original-type parallel lines barcodes;
Any software link that can upload customer information from Royal Mail to the Post Office, such as any address data that you have already entered on RM's website.
Almost no improvements happen to Horizon unless a client pays for it, in this case there is no obvious client who would benefit (a client is an organisation that pays the PO to do work, such as RM or the Department for Work & Pensions).
The clerks are doing what they should however there are two ways that you might be able to avoid this problem:
There used to be an option with RM's online postage system to print a Certificate of Posting, derived from the information you are inputting anyway. I understand the button is or was hard to find, but if you print one of these and take it with your parcels then the clerk is allowed to use a much faster "bulk entry" system.
The Post Office's own Drop & Go system allows you to leave the parcels for booking in later and most branches will let you jump the queue when doing this. Payment is via a charge card issued by the PO and you get your COPs later.
06 Jun 2017, 09:14
Thanks for the replies (I would have responded sooner but I forgot to set up emailed reply notifications).
It is a shame as the on-line label printing system is quite good, the service surprisingly reliable and, I think, pretty good value and it is competitive, especially for items up to 2kg. I would use the 'drop and go' system but I don't like the idea of letting go of the control over what rates are used etc and my range of package/parcel size and weights is too wide for that to work easily.
As I now understand it, the PO is just a secure drop-off and (sometimes) collection point for RM's customers? If so, why the need to collect data from the parcel label? Surely the barcode alone would be enough for audit purposes and they scan it with the Horizon system anyway...?
When using the RM's on-line postage system, the proof of posting certificate is generated automatically each time you print a label but it always comes out on A4, one page per item and it seems a hell of a waste of paper and ink, which is why I don't use it.
I suppose, with PO branches being closed all the time, the expense of updating the system would be colossal though you would think if a courier company can equip all their drivers with a simple GSM-linked PDA scanner do-dad, the PO would be able to do the same and by-pass the Horizon system (which I assume is the keyboard/screen setup they all have?). One PDA per branch would not cost much but there is all the back-office side it (and training), I suppose.
Anyway, I have come to an arrangement with my excellent local PO staff to drop off my parcels with pre-paid labels attached and collect the receipts the next time I'm in. That way at least they can get on with other customers and do my parcels slow-time.
Thanks again and best of luck to all you hard-working folk! MW
06 Jun 2017, 19:11
Post Office staff are required to either enter the basic address details themselves or check that the customer has done it correctly. This is part of the requirements of Royal Mail's license to carry mail, which they are sub-contracting the PO to do.
One of the theoretical requirements is for the clerk to produce a report of the registered parcel on each despatch and check that the physical parcels on hand match the report. Using two systems to scan in would require a software link to transfer the data from one to the other, or there would likely be a failure of the auditing requirements.
None of this is impossible to surmount, but it is difficult and expensive. The PO is skint and RM seem to have little interest in paying for this.
12 Aug 2017, 12:52
Should anyone else have this issue, I have since found another PO that uses a different method of generating a 'Proof of Postage' receipt (see attached image) which lists all barcodes on one small receipt and takes moments to do.
I should point out that this method will only work with labels generated using RM's Online Postage system and for 'signed-for' items only (as far as I am aware - if this changes I'll update this thread).
Simply ask the clerk to use the:-
'Business Mail' button, then
"Speed Bulk with Manifest' button
... and then scan all the items concerned ... which generates the receipt.
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12 Aug 2017, 17:28
What you have there is a receipt for the bulk entry system I described in my previous post. The clerks are only allowed to use it if, amongst other things, you take a manifest with you that lists all the addresses on the parcels.
12 Aug 2017, 20:42
Hmmm... So, how could my new-found, time-efficient system go wrong... for me or the PO staff?
How does me producing a manifest for them to check make the system any more robust or offer RM (or me) a better service/better performance?
13 Aug 2017, 10:44
Royal Mail are only supposed to pay out on claims if there is proof that an item was sent to a particular address on a particular day. If you need to prove that you sent something to a particular address, how are you going to do it? In fact, unless you have some other record of the barcode numbers, if a query comes back about one of those items how are you going to work out which is which?
These things keep changing, but the Post Office branch will probably receive a lot less per item for processing via Speedbulk than processing the normal way, when they realise they might stop taking it unless you present the mail properly. They may also get a reprimand from head office.
From your point of view, and this is well outside of my area of expertise, you may have broken your contract with Royal Mail by not presenting the mail properly.
13 Aug 2017, 11:36
So, I suppose if I were to produce a 'manifest' with the address *and* corresponding barcode for the clerk to sign (and they do the 'speed bulk' thing and print the receipt) I (we) would be covered?
It does beg the Q as to why the receipt has the 'It is important you retain this receipt as it is your proof of posting' legend at the bottom.
Alternatively, perhaps I should just keep a digital copy of every label I print which has the barcode and address on it...
Just seems like the system has moved on and has got un-tidy legacy bits to it that could be (with a little money spent on it) put to good use for customer and PO's benefit...
Anyway, thanks for your help.
13 Aug 2017, 16:24
martinwinlow wrote:So, I suppose if I were to produce a 'manifest' with the address *and* corresponding barcode for the clerk to sign (and they do the 'speed bulk' thing and print the receipt) I (we) would be covered?
Yes. I believe that the RM website can generate a manifest with most of this information populated automatically from the information you are entering anyway. This signed & datestamped manifest combined with the Speedbulk receipt constitute your proof of posting.
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