First v Second Class Post in UK - Any Difference?

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First v Second Class Post in UK
Should you use first or second class post within the United Kingdom?
Is there any difference, except for the extra cost. Our sources tell us not!

Brief History
We believe that second class post was introduced on 16th September 1968. We guess this was so the Post Office could get more money for its standard service by renaming it "First Class", but it also allowed for bulk mailings sent "Second Class" to be sent at lower rates, but to be handled with less urgency.
Separate posting boxes were provided at main "General" Post Offices, and phosphor strips were used on stamps, to help the mechanised sorting of First from Second class. This sorting uses resources, and costs money, so it is possible that it may not have been as beneficial as expected.
We cannot now remember, but it must be 5 to 10 years ago that the Post Office started to remove its separate posting boxes. Why? We do not notice phosphor strips any more, either.

No Difference
According to a number of sources within or connected to the Post Office, there is now almost no difference between First and Second Class, as far as service is concerned, although there remains a price difference.
The one area where a service differential still exists is in bulk-mailed items. Direct Mail is a big industry. Some mailing houses may need delivery on a specific day, or very quickly, and be prepared to pay for First Class, but most would prefer to pay a lower price, and can plan their mailshots in advance. They often pre-sort, saving the Post Office much work, and this helps them to negotiate lower prices.
For the typical consumer or small business, posting normal quantities of mail, there is almost certainly no difference in the service, or speed of sorting or delivery between First and Second Classes. It is hardly worth the Post Office's time and effort to sort the two classes.
This means that all mail, whether sent with an expensive First Class stamp, currently 32 pence for up to 100 grams, or Second Class costing only 23 pence, is very likely to receive the same service, and be delivered at the same time. The difference, nine pence, may not sound very much to some people, but for a business sending out 100 letters daily, the difference mounts up to £1,000 per annum.
For heavier items, the price differential increases, but even at the starting price levels, 9 pence represents an increase of 39%, or a saving of 28%.

Service & Delivery
Our experience is that most items sent Second Class get delivered next day, and items sent by First Class are just as likely to take several days as do those sent Second Class.
We believe First and Second Class post if now an illusion in most cases.
Accordingly, our post and packing rates only show Second Class as standard, and we are reluctant to quote for or send by First Class, as we believe it provides no extra benefit for the extra cost.
Do we ever use First Class? Actually, yes we still do occasionally. For example, when we post out large cheques for coin collections or other purchases, we usually use a First Class stamp, but more for practical and psychological reasons. We do not want to give anybody cause to complain that we have only sent payment by Second Class, even if it does arrive next day. If it does get delayed, then the vendor can see that it is not because we have been mean with the stamp. When we send out cheques for regular suppliers, we usually revert to Second Class, and we are happy to tell suppliers why, if they ask.

eBay Sellers & Choice
Many eBay sellers only quote rates for First Class post, and we believe they are paying, and making their customers pay extra, for a service they do not get.
We try to take the sensible view that we don't want to charge our customers extra for an illusory benefit, and would rather take time to share our knowledge and experience by explaining why.
Our websites contain pages which explain many or our thoughts, and explain our postal charges.

Can't Win!
Despite our best efforts, it is never possible to keep all the people happy all of the time, Our very first negative feedback we received was from a small-time coin trader, and therefore competitor, who complained that we had only used a 19p stamp (it was actually 20p), despite the fact that his item arrived the very next day, and two days after he posted his order. If we had decided to clear his cheque, but then use First Class post, presumably he would have been happier to wait a week providing we used a 26 pence stamp! As you may be able to tell, we are still annoyed by it. Fortunately most of our customers (98%+) are more sensible and reasonable.

Special Delivery
This service, which used to be called "Registered", provides different levels of compensation, but uses First Class postal rates only. We use and recommend it for most high value shipping within the UK.

Recorded Delivery
We intend to provide a separate guide about Recorded Delivery, but will mention here that it almost useless for most valuable items. It specifically excludes any compensation for precious metals, money, coins, jewellery, and other valuables.
Again, we see many eBay sellers offering it as standard, or as an option. The main benefit is to the vendor, especially if using PayPal as PayPal (owned by eBay) insists on "trackability" in the event of any dispute.

Author & Copyright Notice
Any images shown are our own copyright images. Our text and description is also copyright, Lawrence Chard of Chard Coins.

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