The postman is now offering an extra service on top of handing over the mail – picking up parcels from households to deliver elsewhere.
Although a new idea for Royal Mail, the concept of having letters and parcels picked up from your home has been around for more than a decade – being offered by competitors such as DPD, Hermes, DHL, TNT and the Royal Mail parcel spin-off Parcelforce.
The new Royal Mail service is called Parcel Collect and will mean the postman coming to your door to collect up to five items.
Hands on: The new Royal Mail service is called Parcel Collect and will mean the postman coming to your door to collect up to five items
The service costs 72p per item on top of usual postal charges – or 60p for returning items bought from online sellers such as Amazon.
So a letter being posted second class will cost £1.37 rather than the normal 65p, while a medium 10kg parcel costing £16.80 to post at a post office counter will cost £17.52 to be picked up.
The same parcel picked up by a rival courier can cost as little as £6.46 (Hermes) while DX charges £7.86 and DHL £7.98. Pickups must be booked online via the Royal Mail website – and a safe collection place must be designated.
Permitted letters and parcels can weigh as much as 20kg and be up to 46x46x61cm in dimension. Payment must be made at the time of booking via a credit card or the online payment system PayPal.
Customers can download a paid-for label which must be stuck on the letter or parcel. Bookings can be made up to five days ahead although pick-ups can be made the day after a booking.
Consumer website Money Saving Expert says: 'This move recognises more home working and is welcome.
'But if you are looking for the best price, it's important to look at alternatives. Royal Mail is hard to beat when it comes to sending cards and letters but becomes less competitive when sending out bigger parcels – and this is when a courier might be cheaper.'
For those looking for a good deal, use a courier comparison website such as Parcel2Go, Parcel Hero or My Parcel Delivery.
Although they offer home pick-up options, you will usually save money if you are willing to drop the item off at a local shop.
Those preferring to sidestep lengthy post office queues can use courier services such as those offered by Hermes or DHL. Visit the courier websites and tap in your postcode to identify nearby drop-off points.
Courier comparison websites can also sometimes offer better prices than going direct to the courier.
This is because they bulk-buy postage slots, enabling them to offer individuals a lower price in line with that paid by larger companies who get the most competitive deals due to bigger buying power.
Couriers typically calculate cost on speed of delivery, size and weight – so it is worth checking different providers depending on how quickly you want an item sent and how bulky and heavy it is.
To guarantee compensation in the event of an item being broken or stolen during transit, insurance protection is recommended.
For cover up to £500, it will cost up to £10 – on top of delivery costs. Rosalind Hunt, director of e-commerce for pick-up courier competitor Hermes, not surprisingly reckons the booking system for Royal Mail is relatively 'clunky' – as customers must first pay for a postage label that is printed off and attached to a parcel. They must then separately pay the extra 72p pick-up charge.
She says: 'We try to beat competitors by offering a next-day pick-up service that promises to get a parcel delivered within three days – this is cheaper than the next-day delivery that many others focus on.'
Nick Landon, chief commercial officer at Royal Mail, says: 'Parcel Collect can help people who are working from home. It can also help those wishing to return unwanted items or sending a gift.'