Monday, 7 May 2012

Postage prices FROZEN

There's no postal service in the UK today due to a national holiday, but I'm taking a little time out to talk shipping in general.  I think everyone who has a blog and a small business has done the same recently, so here I am, too.  The British system is fairly idiosyncratic but having lived in France and the US as well, I think this is a common theme with postal services.  I think they are in competition with the rail companies to have the most difficult to navigate pricing structures.

Last Monday, the Royal Mail increased its prices for postage by a signifcant amount.  Many small businesses are raising their prices to cope with this, in some cases the cost of sending a single small item has risen by as much as 200% and in this time of ongoing recession, it's a hard cost to bear.

For my readers who are outside of the UK, we have a complicated mailing system.  So complicated, in fact, that the post office no longer displays all its prices in the same place so you can have a straightforward comparison, but instead to find out an estimate for what you want to send you have to enter and re-enter the dimensions, weight and destination into a series of forms on its website.  Which is fun if you're trying to list 100 items with international postage (three zones!) on eBay in a no-fee weekend, but I digress... 

Basically, the system is broken down into three tiers - letter, large letter and small package.  You can use a number of services, first class, second class and parcel force.  Overseas, we still have surface mail in place (which takes a while) and air mail.  You can also choose a more expensive expedited air mail service but they have lost the package every time I used it and their insurance only covers materials costs and not sale value, so basically I lost goods, money and time by using it - not to mention potential repeat customers - so I'm not using that again.  Especially when the regular air mail service actually shows up with the customer and costs both of us less - no contest!

So remember, large letter, the second tier I mentioned there?  Well for UK-based customers, that is the rate I use most often.  You can buy a stamp that's marked 1st or 2nd class large letter, and it doesn't have a cost value written on it.  Then you can use it to send goods that fall into the large letter bracket inside the UK, or use it as part payment on a parcel of any size that you want to send overseas.  So a couple of weeks ago, I stocked up on these 'unmarked' stamps for use through the rest of the year.  I'm on target to reach my 250th sale on Etsy at some point later in the year (I'm at 188 right now), so I've decided to hold all my shipping prices where they are right now, until I hit sale number 250. 

To celebrate, I came up with a limited edition set of the cute mini notecards in the picture above.  I have been saving cancelled stamps since I was little (I love stamps) and decided it was time to release them into the wild!  I've been using these cards as thank yous in with girlindustries orders for a little while and thought someone else might love them as much as I do.  Each comes with a little handmade envelope upcycled from unwanted security envelopes - Marceline and I were offered a batch of envelopes from an office that was closing down or relocating in the centre of Glasgow.  One full taxi of boxes of no-longer sticky envelopes later, I learned a valuable lesson about asking how many does a batch constitute!