It seems that many schools are paying more for postage than is strictly necessary.
Last week I asked the question about postage costs, noting that there were three ways of paying for postage:
- By stamps (by far the most expensive and inconvenient)
- Via a franking machine, which gets discounts on the postage stamp costs but has its own costs (including some hidden costs it seems)
- Via a Royal Mail account which has discounts on the cost of stamps but no franking machine costs and no hidden account costs.
I had a range of replies on this – and I set out a few below.
However interestingly, none of these related to holding an account with Royal Mail at the present. So I’ve done my own research into this, and before I give a selection of the replies I received to my request for information, here’s the low down on getting an account.
But first, if you have been told that Royal Mail don’t give credit, this indeed used to be the case, but they did change this some years ago. The current system is simple – you have a PPI (a postage paid impression – which can be a rubber stamp or can be a design printed onto your envelopes.) Royal Mail issue an invoice at the end of each month and you have to pay it within four weeks.
There is a minimum order level, which can be any of these: 25 items a week or £1000 a month or £5000 a year. I appreciate that smaller schools might not reach this level, but most schools probably would qualify, I feel.
Now I am not proposing that a school should adopt any particular system of postage, but it seems to me that for many schools the Royal Mail account system is easy to administer, is cheaper than stamps, and gives you credit. If you think that sounds right then you just call 08457 950 950, and click option 1 then option 4 and then hold for an operator.
The Royal Mail refer to this as the Business Customer Helpline – and for them a school is a business customer. They have no particular arrangements for schools in this regard – you get the same treatment as any business.
Now onto a selection of the replies I received. As always, thanks to everyone who did reply.
First, on franking machines I had an email from http://frankingmachines.expertmarket.co.uk a company that I have not personally come across before. Here is part of what they said,
“You are quite correct that with a franking machine you have to pay a monthly rental price (although you can buy new machine for around £1,000 or used ones from as low as £495). Rental prices for basic models are usually about £20 a month + cost of postage, ink, etc.
“As of April 1st you’ll save 12p per 1st class letter and 16p per 2nd class letter using a franking machine. To matters even more confusing (why would the Royal Mail want to make it simple) you can save an additional 1p/2p respectively if your machine uses Mailmark™ technology. I believe this is more than the discount offered by other options.”
A reply from one school however gave a very different view of franking machines. The school has asked to remain anonymous (and just to assure everyone, I never publish personal or school names without express permission. But to balance it, I’m not going to mention the name of the company that supplies the machine either). Here is the comment.
“We have a franking machine lease through . We won’t be renewing it!!
“We’ve been hit by many hidden charges, which were never mentioned. They tempt you in with lower postage cost but then on top of the rental they hit you with:-
- Insurance for the machine
- A Monthly Maintenance Cost – which we are never going to use!
- A download charge (transaction fee) every time you add more postage.
- VERY expensive ink cartridges -£60
- There is also a charge each time there is a change to postage rates – when you update the machine.
- AND a charge for having a paper invoice!
“Their support team is in too and it’s very hard to find out information. I think we will be back to stamps in 2016. With all these hidden charges the cost of stamps is definitely cheaper. Schools should be warned.”
Here’s a third reply:
“We have Royal Mail Smart Stamp, where we print our own stamps as we need them. We top this up on line every time we need too, it is efficient, clean and saves time. If you accidentally print too many stamps you can claim the money back on line as well.”
And the next:
“In a past life, I previously used advance purchase through Royal Mail and the difficulty is that you must process the invoice within a very short time frame.
“I moved our school’s post system from stamps to franking machine – purchasing the franking machine outright. The savings on postage are considerably more than the difference between the prepaid postage credit and the full cost of buying stamps – in that each letter is accurately weighed and posted at the “correct” postage rate – not simply putting on two first class stamps instead of one. Our postage budget has reduced by around 15% over the year as a direct result of using a franking machine.”
And one more
“At the moment we use a Franking Machine but only because we were given a half price rental deal at the time. There are a lot of hidden costs, eg. admin charge when we top up the machine, admin charge if we are even a day late with our rental payment, expensive ink cartridges, admin charge when there is a postal rate change, really the list goes on. I think it has become more of a convenience now, as we are a rural school rather than making any actual savings versus purchasing stamps.”
I do hope you find that helpful.
School of Education Administration and Management.