Tuesday 2 July 2024

You can use stamps for posting Special Delivery and other premium mail.

You knew that, of course?  We all do - we've been using the postal service for up to 60 years and we know what's what, more or less - until the rules change.

So why raise the point?  Well the problem lies mainly with Business users, but I can see that the misinformation currently being spread by Royal Mail could also start coming from Post Office especially as more and more new people are employed in customer-facing positions.

Just as an aside on this last point, after the stamp alongside was withdrawn from sale in mid-2021, I took some mail to a sub-PO counter in a local Co-op corner shop.  

It weighed more than 100g, so I used one of these stamps and others. The person who served me didn't recognise it, didn't know how much it was worth, so didn't know whether the item was fully paid, and declined to accept it.  I had to take it to the local Crown Office where no such problems exist.

Anyway, I digress.  This (below in red) is what a business user was told by Royal Mail Business Customer Service when he tried to claim on a delayed Special Delivery packet:

that Postage Stamps would not be valid for paying the fee and that the use of barcodes (which we have on rolls of 250/500) could not be used.

That this was being phased out and that customers were advised last January. People using these barcodes and postage stamps as payment would have the item Surcharged.

She said that you have 3 ways to get a Barcode and have it paid for.

1) Online and Pay by credit card

2) Take it to the Post Office and get a computer generated Barcode.

3) Use a Franking Machine


Like I said above, misinformation - in the extreme.  So I also phoned Royal Mail Business Customer Service and had a very interesting discussion. 

Being an ex-civil servant and knowing the way bureaucracies work, I declined to accept what I was told (which was much the same).  I pointed out that until recently Royal Mail actually issued stamps which had a Special Delivery inscription for two weights.

I politely suggested that the Customer Service Assistant went and asked someone who had worked in Royal Mail for a long time, as I had - just the previous week - sent some invalidated stamps to the Swapout scheme, using stamps to pay for Special Delivery, and another by International Tracked to Canada.

(It would be nice if Royal Mail changed their 'hold' music from a short loop.  (When I called my car insurance company this week I was treated to a long play list of Beatles hits!)  It doesn't take long for it to become tedious.)

Eventually the point was conceded, but I was reminded that the items must be posted at a Post Office counter, not in a street box.  I should have held back, but replied that, "yes, that is the way that it has been since registration was introduced in the 19th century".   

I have now got written (email) confirmation of the point - although this really only addresses people posting at Post Office, but not businesses who have their mail collected.  I hope to get clarification on that soon.



  1. Ian, You're lucky to be near a Crown Office. There can be no limit to the ignorance at the other 99%. Last month I took a letter bearing stamps to £7.95 ( 3 x 2nd, 4 x 1st ) and clearly said that it was to go Special Delivery. The first thing he did was to check if it was over 5mm thick !

  2. I've had to "train" the staff in my local PO over the years and they now just do as they're asked. It's probably technically still a Crown Office though it is stuffed into a small WH Smith in the former lovely Crown Office (that has been ruined by the WHS).

  3. My local PO insists I can’t use NVIs on international tracked even though I have an email from RM saying I can.

  4. The level of training in some POs is getting worse. Off topic but recently I was refused a certificate of postage for an international economy letter to the USA at three different post offices as I was told the service was only available for parcels.

  5. I find this not uncommon. I have been refused proof of posting at a number of sub post offices for UK Mail. Been told it can only be obtained from larger Post Offices.

  6. My local post office has stopped accepting stamped post as the new person "don't know how to work computer!"

    1. That's a ridiculous thing for them to say: a. they don't need a computer for stamped mail; b. how do they cope with non-stamped mail?

  7. I too have had reluctance from our local post office when I tried to hand in a package which was too wide for the pillar box slot. I had paid the correct 2nd class large postage with a combination of stamps - two of them NVIs - but the assistant said I couldn't do that because she didn't know how much the NVIs were worth, and it was also clear that her arithmetic skills were, shall we say, rusty. In the end she reluctantly took it - and it was of course delivered without a problem.

  8. I’ve often wondered whether I could use stamps to part pay a Tracked 24/48 service and have Royal Mail collect that from my house. For example, if sending a medium parcel, I could purchase a Tracked 24/48 label for a letter and make up the difference in price in stamps. Sounds like I’d be best not trying this…

  9. Not for the first time, it is all a bit of a mess. The site for ordering business postal supplies no longer offers rolls of Special Delivery or Signed for labels - but does have the plastic SD envelopes complete with the traditional barcode.

    Elsewhere on the site there is a note which directs business customers away from using the old barcodes

    **Account/OBA customers please read***
    Royal Mail are withdrawing all domestic products which do not carry a unique 2D barcoded label. The current coloured Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed® by 9am; Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed® by 1pm and Royal Mail Signed For® labels should no longer be applied to your items as they do not feature the required 2D barcode.

    To continue accessing these products you should now be producing a compliant label using an approved Shipping Solution. Items which do not feature a data rich 2D barcode may be manually intercepted and surcharged.

    1. Thanks for finding that, Bob, it ties in with what was said by BCS "That this was being phased out and that customers were advised last January. " If the only place that customers were advised was on the website, it wasn't good enough.

      I am a Business Account Holder (for my PO Box only) and was not told, but then I am not an OBA customer, whatever that is.

    2. Forgot to add: if you can find it again, could you provide me a link to that page, please?

    3. OBA seems to stand for "Online Business Account"

    4. OBA is indeed online business account - where you can post items on account and get a monthly statement.

      If you have an OBA account you can apply to order "mailing supplies" which includes things like mailbags, bag labels, customs form document holders, pouches to post franked mail etc. Once approved the items are added to your profile so when you log in you can order them from the "supplies page" alongside the other items available to all. So for that reason there is no need to post the URL - it is the standard one but depends on your account profile.

  10. I've now sent in over 50 parcels to Royal Mail Swap Out by Special Delivery, each one with stamps, including Frama stamps. I've then sent another 50 or so lots to postage buyers, again, all with stamps in payment and no problems.

    Sometimes, I do get asked 'what is this stamp - I've never seen it before?' but when I explain that the stamp is at least 40 years old, there's no problem.

    I am posting at my local main post office and they probably have got used to me turning up with a bag full of envelopes already stamped with stamps. If only Special Delivery would offer a higher insurance option than the current maximum, £2,500.

    1. I conclude that you don't pay for private insurance for stock and stock-in-transit (ie in the mail)? I'm not sure what my top limit would be, but I suppose it would have to be by Courier.

      As it is, every £2,500 sending allows you to use up more shrapnel (1,2,5,10,20p stamps) and get £5, £2, £1, etc in return.


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