Lockdown restrictions in several parts of Australia have placed huge strain on the country’s postal service, as millions turn to online shopping and delivery to get the goods they would once have bought in person.
On 4 September, Australia Post paused parcel collection services for ecommerce retailers in New South Wales, the ACT and Victoria for three days in order to clear “record parcel volumes” in those areas.
Australia Post says “in some areas we are seeing parcel volumes similar to Christmas 2020” and that customers should expect delivery delays.
Alternative solutions, such as courier companies, are also feeling the strain.
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“We don’t find courier companies able to support really small businesses in the same way that they can maybe fit in with larger ones,” says Melbourne-based florist Cassandra Hamilton. “They’ve become increasingly less reliable throughout this pandemic period.” As a result, Hamilton opted to employ in-house couriers to execute her 100-or-so deliveries a day.
Hiring your own personal delivery driver isn’t an option for consumers who just need to get a package delivered, fast. But if you do need to send a parcel or letter in a tight timeframe, there are some solutions that work for individuals.
First, get on the phone
At fashion showroom Catinella, 150 parcels of clothing have to be dispatched every week to be used on photoshoots around the country.
Lola Van Vorst, who oversees these efforts, suggests that although most courier services allow you to book online, getting on the phone can get you the best results, especially if your delivery needs are complex. “Work with the couriers – miracles can happen,” she says. “You just need to be ready to spend time to make the calls.”
Sending packages locally
Tilly Barber, owner of Melbourne-based vintage furniture e-shop Homebody, ships five to 10 pieces of furniture and art around Australia each week. For sending packages across town fast, she recommends Uber Connect, a package delivery service that uses Uber drivers. “I have used it to send borrowed upholstery tools back to an antique dealer from one side of town to the other within the hour! It’s great,” she says, noting that this service tracks an item’s movements after it has been collected, which most same day freight services do not. 13Cabs also offers a tracked parcel delivery service for sending items locally.
While these services are fast, they do not come cheap, with pricing based on total distance travelled, tolls and the time it takes to make the delivery, much like a normal taxi or rideshare fare.
Barber notes that taxi-based courier services can only deliver items that fit inside a car. For larger items, she recommends One Tonne Express and Skips Freight as suitable alternatives.
In Sydney, Van Vorst recommends Flash Couriers as “great value for money” and a “reliable service for all package sizes” when it comes to local deliveries.
Sending packages regionally
Nina Wang runs a one-woman shop on social shopping platform Depop, and has shipped over 400 parcels in the last year. She says Australia Post is often the best option for sending parcels to remote or regional areas because of the size of their distribution network. “Same-day package delivery services probably wouldn’t take on regional area deliveries and the delivery fee would also be quite expensive for the long travel time,” she says. “I would recommend express post from AusPost – if you’re not a business, there’s a flat fee for packages no matter where you’re sending them.”
View image in fullscreenThe post office in Cobar in the NSW central west. Photograph: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
Sue McIntyre, owner of Broadwater Oysters, who has the complex task of shipping her perishable shellfish across the country, also praises Australia Post for regional deliveries. She uses Metrostate (which only services businesses) for most deliveries, but “anywhere else that they don’t go to, we can use Australia Post for”.
“It’s a huge benefit to our business, even if it does take a couple of extra days to get there.”
Sending packages interstate
In a review published 1 September, which surveyed 700 small and medium businesses, Canstar Blue ranked Couriers Please as the top courier service in Australia. The service ranked highly for customer satisfaction, ease of booking, and were also well rated on value for money. Sending a tracked package of 3kg interstate costs around $10.57 with Couriers Please, and the service claims to arrive within two business days, however they have flagged that their services may be impacted by Covid-related delays.
In the Canstar survey, Australia Post-owned business-only service StarTrack came in second, with customers praising their reliability and timeliness. DHL Express was third in the rankings, with Australia Post in fourth place.
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Though Canstar’s survey rated DHL lower than some competitors on “value for money”, Van Vorst says she has found DHL to be “the most reliable” service for interstate and international shipments that need to arrive quickly, and says the service’s tracking progress is known for being detailed and up to date. However, she also recommends logistics service InXpress, which partners with other delivery companies and “passes on its discounted shipping rates, meaning we can send parcels domestically and internationally using their rates with companies like DHL, FedEx and UPS”.
Meanwhile, Wang’s budget-conscious recommendation is Sendle, a carbon-neutral delivery company that promise to beat standard package post prices and offer discounts for regular users.
“I would only recommend using Sendle if your recipients don’t mind waiting a little longer for their packages,” she says. “And if you feel comfortable with package pick-ups or if a Sendle drop-off is closer to you compared to an AusPost store.”
View image in fullscreenFor international shipping, vintage seller Nina Wang praises DHL, despite a comparatively high cost. Photograph: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock
Van Vorst warns that since the pandemic began, international shipping has been hit with significant delays. “We used to be able to get samples to the US in two days and now we need to allow at least five days which can cause issues with last-minute requests,” she says, noting that FedEx have given her the fastest results when it comes to shipping specifically to the US.
For international delivery, Wang adds, “I would definitely recommend DHL Express, even though it is quite expensive.”
Keep in mind you will need access to a printer to properly label your packages with most courier services.
Tilly Barber also suggests the more details you provide, the better. “Most couriers will require details in writing to ascertain a quote and schedule collection and delivery. I think it’s best to put as much information as you can in writing,” she says.
Finally, take heart in knowing that even if it is delayed, your package will more than likely arrive safe and sound. Canstar Blue editor in chief Christine Seib says their survey found major mistakes were rare. “Only 14% of small business owners and managers said that their business had previously sent an item that was not delivered, and only 17% said they had an item arrive damaged.”