PacketPost, PPI and Business Collections - overview
This guide is intended to help people avoid the problems I had when starting to use these facilities from Royal Mail, and is based on what I have been told by my Royal Mail contacts. You may find that your sorting office/post office have slightly different requirements in the details, but the overall information should remain unchanged.
Printed Postal Impression (PPI)
Firstly, what are PPI and PacketPost?
PPI is a system that enables you to print your own posting labels onto envelopes, sticky labels or packaging materials without showing a date or an amount. Go to link 1 on my Useful Links for PacketPost and PPI page to see some examples of what I mean.
If you use PPI you can take your parcels to a Post Office or Sorting Office, or have a business collection. If you want Packetpost you must have PPI as well.
PacketPost is a discounted payment rate that allows 2nd Class up to 2kg (compared with 1250g for normal rates). Not only is the rate for each weight-band lower, but you pay for the average weight of your parcels, so if, for instance, you have nine parcels weighing 260g and one weighing 900g, the average weight is 324g, so you pay the 251-500g price for all of them. You should be aware that the reverse is also true ie if you have nine parcels weighing 900g and one weighing 260g, then the average weight is 836g, so you will pay the 751-900g price for the lighter one.
There are four ways you can handle this; you'll need to do some simple sums to work out which would be best for you:-
Grin and bear it, setting the time you'll take to work it out against the money you'll save.
Put the nine heavy items on one line on your docket/order and the one light one on another.
Hold back some or all of your parcels until your next posting in the hope that the new average will work in your favour.
Have one or two very light, empty boxes to send to yourself in order to bring the average weight down a band or two. This works well only if your average is just a few grams into the next band up. For example, in the scenario above, adding 2 x 20g parcels would make the average weight 700g, which is in the next band down but remember that you're now paying for 12 rather than ten items. Ten at 836g = £18.33, 12 at 700g = £18.78. On the other hand, ten parcels with an average of 260g would be £12.65, but adding 1 x 20g parcel would make the total weight 2620g, average 238g, costing £11.41.
How do you apply?
Ring on 08457 950950. This part is really very easy. They will discuss with your the types and quantities of items that you send, and agree the type(s) of account that you need. Officially you need to to £5,000 posting per annum for PPI and 5,000 items for PacketPost but in practice this doesn't seem to be strictly enforced, especially if you agree to pay by Direct Debit. You may also pay by cheque or BACS, or by credit card for annual licence fees only.
How do you get it?
By downloading PPI software from the Royal Mail website using Winzip (as you need to do this only once, I found that using the free trial version worked well). I also found that I needed to switch off my web security in order to download the impressions; don't forget to switch it back on again. You can also buy hand-stamps, around £6 each the last time I checked, which may be useful if your printer goes down. Having spoken to other PowerSellers it seems 50/50 as to whether it's useful or not.
You'll then get some paperwork confirming everything and giving you your licence number and account number. Once you've got your licence and downloaded the impressions, you're ready to go. I find it easiest to set up a Word table, 2 x 2 cells (ie four address labels) per page on which my impression, my return address and a little advertising blurb are permanently there, and I type in the recipient's details as required. Other people print off 1000 sticky labels with the permanent information, for instance.
How do you pay?
You have to have a credit account. You can have either a Standard Account, which is normally billed weekly in arrears, with the money taken thirty days later; if your spend is projected to be less than £1,000 per month, you will be billed monthly in arrears (for instance, I started in June, got my first bill five weeks later, and the money was taken five weeks later again, but sometimes I get weekly bills depending on how busy I've been - a bit confusing if you're not expecting it). Alternatively you can have a Credit Balance Account, where you pay up front and top up the account as the money is used up.
Go to my guide on using the paper-based system (link below) for examples of how to fill in the forms.
Go to my guide on using the on-line system (link below) known as OBA or On-line Business Accounting for examples of how to fill in the screens.
If you're in the Canterbury area and would like to take advantage of Packetpost/PPI/business collections by sharing my account, please contact me to discuss.
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