Monday, 5 December 2016

New Machin Parcel Labels from Post Office SSKs

Readers will recall the changes to the Horizon labels (right) to incorporate the 2D bar code (reported in October 2015).  The purpose of this was to increase Royal Mail's ability to track parcels through their system even when the customer had not paid for a tracked service. 

This change had already been introduced for big users and contract customers, and Royal Mail was keen to extend it to packets and parcels sent from Post Office counters.  However that still left stamped mail, and mail sent using Open Value labels from the Self-Service Kiosks (SSK) in Post Office branches - senders were increasingly encouraged to use SSKs instead of the counter which could then be used more for foreign money and insurance transactions.

Although not unexpected, this change seems to have been unannounced.  I understand from the British Postmark Society that trials started in September and I know that the system is still being rolled out across the branch network.  The labels are dispensed from a third printer added to the machines - I doubt that the rolls can be loaded in positions 1 and 2 - but time will tell.  The new label is very similar to the new-style horizon label above:


As with other Post and Go stamps these have a year code, located to the right of the Queen's head:


Unfortunately the Norwich SSK machines are producing a very poor quality print, but the similarity is obvious, even if the details are repositioned.   From the top, the date, weight and value (£1.20 in this case).  At lower right, the destination postcode, house number, branch code and VAT code.  I presume that the country is shown if the destination is overseas, and the PO Box number in place of the house number.

At one time one could find a comprehensive list of PO branches which had Wincor and then NCR machines, identified by Branch Code.  Unfortunately this is difficult to maintain without input from a great many people and a lot of work: as the network has expanded it has become more difficult and each relocation (eg from a Crown Office) brings a new branch code.  Norwich Castle Mall Crown Office was 019136; the new office in WHSmith's St Stephen's Street branch is 558136) 136 being the area code).

However, if you have a smart-phone with a QR-code reader or bar-code reader, you may be able to interpret the data included in the 2D barcode.   This one produced the data string:
JGB 422 2A021884384400397F558136000011
3100120241116122              133                                NR31NY  GBRNR13QP
with 133 NR3 1NY being the destination address, and NR1 3QP being the Post Office branch postcode.  241116 is the date of production of the label, and theoretically the date of posting, while (0)120 is the postage.   If anybody can interpret the rest, I will be pleased to add it.

UPDATE 6 December:
No sooner had I posted this than DP sent a link to a batch of Post and Go/SSK stamps on eBay which included this pair of Hibernating Animals.


I don't think there is any text on the upper one and I can't read the postmark.  He also writes:
Whilst I was buying the open value versions of the labels, the machine at Ealing printed the large letter label on the new large size label. I understand from discussions with the lady overseeing the machines that if either the 1st or 2nd class printer can’t print the label, it is printed on the large label, so large NCR labels with weights under 101g should be worth looking out for. I’ve attached a scan of the large and small size labels (although they are different weights they are both under the 101g that trigger the vending of the large label). Conversely if the large label printer can’t print it defaults to the small labels printers.
DP also provided this image showing £2.45 labels printed on large and small stock on the same day, three sessions apart (972/975):


On the left the new larger label for an airmail large letter.  On the right an Open Value normal size stamp for the same service.  The datastring on the OV stamp is 139006-68-00975-01, that is Branch 139006, session 68-975, stamp 1.  The large label is session 68-972 but the datastring printed vertically at the lower right (next to the large L) is 68-292.  The barcode on this one reads

JGB 426 7A02121EFE44001245139006000003
4100245181116526                                                           FRAW52NH
 
I suspect 'FRA' refers to France as a destination.

9 comments:

  1. A few of the old WHSmiths Post Offices that now have SSKs

    058006 Hammersmith
    139006 Ealing
    155025 Hounslow
    156025 Richmond
    173033 Watford
    205026 Ilford
    422205 Coventry
    431523 Cheltenham
    496217 Leicester

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  2. Adding to the list above new WH Smith branches to have SSKs I have as
    South Hampstead (ex last Wincor), Slough, Redhill, Bromley (Kent), Aylesbury, Ashton under Lyme, Shrewsbury, East Ham, Swansea, Chelmsford, Lewisham, Folkestone, Canterbury, Brighton, Hayes (Middx), Uxbridge, Worcester, Middlesbrough, Southampton, Winchester, Glasgow, Swindon, Liverpool, Newcastle, Great Yarmouth and Aberdeen.
    Romford due shortly there are bound to be others not known at present.
    Also now found are NCR kiosks that are card only the scales have been moved in front of the stamp chutes and the receipt printer is where the coin chute was, they are therefore smaller in size, 3 have been added at Great Portland Street now making 7 kiosks there others must also exist or are about to be installed.

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    Replies
    1. Branch codes for those who don’t know them
      062946 Slough, 115940 Redhill, 121012 Bromley (Kent), 125102 Aylesbury, 153424 Ashton-Under-Lyne, 153641, 194002 East Ham (London), 195642 City of Swansea, 253909 Folkestone, 254909 Canterbury, 261907 Churchill Square (Brighton), 272020 Hayes (Middx), 273020 Uxbridge, 312247 Worcester, 312327 Middlesbrough, 360546 Southampton, 61546 Winchester, 362832 Sauchiehall Street (Glasgow), 447548 Swindon, 453420 Liverpool 1, 501329 Newcastle, 520136 Great Yarmouth & 401801 St Nicholas Centre (Aberdeen)
      208026 Romfords

      Other WHSmith branches (up to 2016) include
      140900 Aldershot, 123904 Alton, 209422 Altringham, 220843 Ayr, 332604 Bangor (Gwynedd), 159014 Bexleyheath, 452420 Birkenhead, 513201 Erdington (Birmingham), 237405 Blackpool, 321508 Old Christchurch Road (Bournemouth), 213114 Brentwood, 485611 Caerphilly, 401410 Carlisle, 407632 Cwmbran, 298824 Dalkeith, 203828 Fort William, 188830 Galashiels, 231941 Gillingham (Kent), 236855 Kirkintilloch, 243844 Glenrothes, 160014 Gravesend, 215859 Greenock, 127116 Halstead, 086126 Hemel Hempstead, 497217 Hinckley, 316321 Hull, 391230 Huntingdon, 168131 Kings Lynn, 265242 Lichfield, 239007 Woolwich (London), 240007 Forest Hill )London), 141001 Streatham (London), 434422 Stretford, 322508 Poole, 360546 Southampton, 244844 St. Andrews, 385238 Stafford, 157025 Staines, 206868 Stirling, 312504 Street, 293552 Torquay, 182005 Waltham Cross, 168923 Woking

      Kings Heath (Birmingham), Burnley, Cannock, Stockton-on-Tees, Hanley (Stoke on Trent), Sutton Coldfield, Telford, Uckfield, Wallington, West Wickham, Witney & Felixstowe.

      It will be interesting to see if other franchisees get Self-Service machines.

      I wonder if the new machines at Great Portland Street was a planned evolution of the SSKs or a measure to increase capacity as a result of the closure of the Plaza branch on Oxford Street?

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    2. visited Staines n 20/12/16 and it odoesn't have any SSK.
      Uxbridge has 3 SSKs and Hayes has 2 (ex Earls Court, but without the alignemnt issue)

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    3. Torquay didn't have any SSK's today

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    4. Adding further details to the above list there are no SSKs at Bexleyheath, Hemel Hempstead, Forest Hill or Witney also according to staff at Romford there are none at Brentwood either.
      Not included in the list of branches above is Pinner which also has no kiosks as had the recently closed Crown office.
      Romford now has 3 kiosks and there are 2 at Woking

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  3. Over 100 grams does not trigger a label, it is the selection of large letter small parcel or above. When over 100 grams that is automatic.

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  4. Horizon also generates a 2d barcode and a subsequent oldstyle overprint when the addressee is the same.

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  5. Currently if you use an item of 20g or less on the scales, you get the small label rather than the large label for ‘large letter’ OV labels.

    Having visited a number of offices to get examples for my collection, it was surprising to see how many SSKs were displaying weights when nothing was on the scales, so best check before you use the scales. If you need to zero the scales, the middle button next to the weight display will do the job.

    Just for the record, Crown Offices were the worst offenders, though Hounslow WHS had the greatest weigh being displayed when the scales were not in use.

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