Southwold/Sudbury: Picture postcard was a costly gesture

Postcard “wrong shape” for first class stamp

A POSTCARD mailed from a seaside town to a woman in Sudbury has turned out to be an expensive gesture.

Hillary Ruffles, of Birkitts Lane, has fond memories of Southwold, having visited the area in her youth. But because of bad health, she has been unable to enjoy the quintessential Suffolk seaside resort in recent years.

So on her way back from a holiday in Kessingland, her daughter Helen stopped off and bought a postcard with a view of the famous Southwold Pier, added a first class stamp and posted it to her mum.

But on Friday when the card was due to arrive, Mrs Ruffles instead received notification from Royal Mail that she needed to visit the out of town sorting office to pick up an item that needed to be paid for.

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She said: “I assumed someone had sent me a present from overseas so I was shocked when I was told it was a postcard and I couldn’t have it unless I paid �1.09.

“It is a long thin postcard and I was told it was the ‘wrong shape’ to go through a letter box sideways on. However when I looked at the letter gauge issued by Royal Mail, there appeared to be no reason why the postman couldn’t simply turn it around and post it lengthways to get it through the box. It only measures about four inches across, which is very slim – it’s absolutely ridiculous.”

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According to Royal Mail spokesman Nick Martens, the extra charge was because of the shape of the card.

He said: “Since August 2006, UK postage prices have been based on the size of an item as well as its weight. The vast majority of cards are classed as a letter, but slightly thicker or larger ones may fall into the large letter category.

“As with many greetings cards, the price code is often displayed on the back. The huge bulk of the tens of millions of items of mail we handle daily carries the correct postage and surcharging applies to a minute fraction.

“If there are any cases where an error has been made at any point in our operation then we would, of course, refund to the customer the postage and administration costs involved.”

A spokeswoman for Southwold Pier, where the card was purchased, said they did not list postage categories next to the cards. Mrs Ruffles said she was concerned other people buying “non-standard” shaped postcards could get caught out, adding: “It was a lovely gesture by my daughter which ended up backfiring because of ludicrous bureaucracy.”

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