Updated: Aug 4, 2022
**EDIT** This post was written before Hermes underwent a name change to Evri. I've gone through and updated the names in this post, but all other content remains as it was when it was first published.
I wanted to share a little bit today about my experience with sending orders in the post. If you're in the UK, if you send parcels a lot, or are just curious about the different delivery services that are available and their pros and cons, keep reading.
I started Cara E.J. Designs nearly six years ago. I've been selling handmade jewellery online right from the start, so as I'm sure you can imagine, I send a lot of parcels, and they are usually small and light.
For a small business starting out, having no experience or any knowledge at all really on delivery services for small parcels, the logical assumption would be that Royal Mail is the best option. They're the household name, they deliver our everyday mail, so they in theory should be the most trust worthy, and the cheapest, right?
Well, sadly, no.
Before I go any further into the details, I want to be clear that this is my experience. I'm sure a lot of people have had different experiences, and I'm not here to start any dramas or bad mouth anyone. My hope is that sharing my experience can give some insight into why I operate the way I do, and perhaps give some food for thought for any other senders out there who may be struggling with the options.
So going back to 2016, when my business was still young and I had a lot to learn, I was sending my parcels with Royal Mail. In the first three months of running my small business, I had not one, not two, but THREE parcels go missing.
Here's the thing. I used to work in Logistics, I understand that these things happen. Whilst my experience was with delivery of shipping containers full of furniture, rather different from small parcels and deliveries to the general public, the principals of distribution are similar. So I get it.
What I don't understand, is the fact that it was such an ordeal to go through trying to locate a lost parcel (which never provided any results anyway), and there was basically no compensation from Royal Mail. I had the cost of postage for one of those parcels refunded to me in the form of stamps (not helpful at all since I never use stamps), but no compensation for the value of the items or any actual money returned to me.
It is so frustrating and so disappointing, to do absolutely everything within your power to make sure your customers are getting what they ordered in a timely manner, to have something completely out of your control make it all for absolutely nothing.
I'm thankful that all of these customers were understanding. But that isn't the point, they should get what they ordered, on time, and I shouldn't have to pay out of my own pocket to replace the orders that Royal Mail lost.
By the third time this happened to me, I was ready to stop selling altogether. I felt so defeated.
But I am not one to give up. I did a lot of research into other options, and I found Evri (at the time called Hermes).
Evri, when Hermes, seemed to have a bit of a bad reputation, but to be honest I don't really know where that comes from. I understand that maybe a few of the delivery drivers are a bit careless - and that's never good - but I've personally had more fragile/breakable parcels thrown over my back gate or left on my doorstep all day for the world to see by Royal Mail and Amazon than by Evri.
So let me tell you why Evri works for me.
1. Missing Parcels & Resolution
I've used Evri since that day, well over five years ago now. Of course missing parcels do happen, but there has only been two occasions where I've experienced this over the course of those years. In both cases, Evri were helpful and fully compensated me for the value of the items.
Like I said before, parcels do get lost occasionally. Sometimes its an error in scanning the barcodes into the right location, sometimes its just because they're small and may fall down behind a bigger box. I get it, it happens.
There are three things that make this easier to take as a business owner. The first is the frequency at which this happens - and with Evri I've found it to be an extremely rare occurence. The second is the ease of solving the issue, and the third is whether the party at fault is willing to accept responsibility and compensate for it. In all three of these regards, Evri have never let me down. And in all three of these regards, Royal Mail were incredibly frustrating and disappointing to deal with.
As a side note, I have used Royal Mail on and off for orders that fit into a large letter over the years and I've had a couple of those go missing too. The tally of Royal Mail parcels that have gone missing in my almost six years in business is 5, the tally for Evri is 2. When you put that into perspective in terms of how many parcels I've sent (around 40 - 50 with Royal Mail and into the hundreds with Evri), that provides a lot of clarity on my experience. Even without the following points, Evri is worth it for me just based on that.
If you're just sending a letter or a large letter, untracked, yes, Royal Mail is cheaper. Let's get that out the way.
But let's compare like for like. So if we look at a small parcel, weighing up to 1kg, with Royal Mail it would cost £3.20 for second class, or £3.85 for first class. That's untracked. The signed for service (which bearing in mind is still not tracked, and only offers proof of delivery), is £4.20 for second class, or £4.85 for first class.
The same parcel size being delivered with Evri, costs £2.95 for standard delivery (which is usually 2 to 3 days, equivalent to second class). There is also the option of next day delivery, which is £5.05. Both of these options are tracked.
So let's compare. If there's no hurry on your parcel, you could spend £2.95 with Evri for a tracked service, or £3.20 with Royal Mail for an untracked service. That's a no brainer isn't it?
If you are in a hurry, the Evri next day service will set you back £5.05, but that is fully tracked and is a guaranteed next day delivery providing you drop your parcel off before the 12pm cut off. Alternatively you could use a first class service with Royal Mail, which is not necessarily guaranteed next day delivery, for £3.85 untracked, or £4.85 with proof of delivery. A guaranteed next day delivery would set you back £8.95. This one I guess comes down to how urgently you need the next day delivery, and in that situation you are more than likely going to want the tracking too. £5.05 vs. £8.95, that's a big difference!
You might be thinking "Ok, Cara you've sold me on the price and the missing parcels aspect, but Royal Mail is just the convenient choice for me". And that's OK, we all know where our nearest Post Office is and it is generally an easy option.
However, have you looked into where your nearest Evri parcel shop is? I bet there's one very close by, maybe even closer than the Post Office.
Evri works by purchasing postage online, similar to Royal Mail Click & Drop. If you don't have a printer, most Evri parcel shops have one in store. If you do have a printer, it's even easier. You just drop your parcel off at a parcel shop, or at a parcel locker. There is also the option of having parcels collected from you, which is mega handy in times of need (I don't want to mention the C word but this made things so much easier throughout lockdown for me).
And I just want to give a little shout out to the lockers because they are my life saver. They're available 24 hours a day, in plenty of handy locations (such as outside supermarkets and petrol stations), and take the "peopling" out of the situation.
Another handy aspect that applies to both the parcel shops and the lockers is that there is never any queues. How many times have you needed to post something at the Post Office and had to queue for ages? It's frustrating enough when you only send something occasionally, but as a small business owner you've got plenty of better things to be doing than standing in a queue!
4. Less Pressure at Busy Times
And this brings me onto my final point. Royal Mail is a very busy service. That may contribute a lot to the issues I've mentioned above, and that's something I fully appreciate.
But let's flip that on its head. When it comes to busy times, particularly leading up to Christmas, Royal Mail really suffers and as business owners we have even more pressure on us to provide our customers with a timely service. So doesn't that mean it makes sense to use an alternative option?
Of course all couriers, and retail in general, struggle at this time, but Royal Mail seems to really get it, and that's because it's the default choice for a lot of companies and people.
The service I've experienced from Evri over the festive period has always been fantastic. On the odd occasion a parcel may have taken an extra day or two to deliver, but when tracking is always available it takes a lot of stress out of the situation. And of course when you are a business owner, you want your cut off for Christmas delivery to be as late as possible to allow more customers time to shop. It's a very stressful time and this added peace of mind in terms of delivery times being met and tracking always being available is an absolute life saver!
Using Evri gives me so much peace of mind. Tracking is always available, issues are very rare, and if the worst does happen I know that they will take responsibility and set it right.
The bottom line for me is that I want the best experience for my customers. I've felt the disappointment and frustration of doing everything in my power to create that and then it falling short as soon as its out of my hands. I hope by sharing my experience and the solutions I found brings some insight into the reasoning behind my delivery options, and perhaps helps other business owners out there too.
If you have any questions or experiences you'd like to share, drop a comment below or send me a message using the contact page.
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(Prices all correct at time of writing, Jan 2022)