Review of An Post AddressPal

Last year An Post launched their AddressPal service to compete with the likes of Parcel Motel who offer a virtual delivery address in the UK.

They recently upgraded the service to add a virtual delivery address in the USA, to allow people to shop for goods that are not generally available in Europe.

After signing up, the service works by giving you a virtual address, which you then use as the delivery address for anything you order online or by mail order. The idea is then that An Post will ship on your item from the UK or USA to Ireland and deliver it either to your home or your local post office for collection.

I signed up to the service last week in order to buy a new monitor from Amazon. I guessed that the box would be too big for any of the Parcel Motel lockers, so I thought I’d give AddressPal a try instead.

Progress and Notifications

The parcel got delivered to the English address at around lunchtime on the Friday. However if you use the service to deliver to a Post Office, then An Post offer no means of tracking the parcel’s progress. They don’t even acknowledge that they’ve received it. When I check the AddressPal site there’s no parcels listed against my account. This is something that An Post should look to introduce, to give customers some kind of reassurance that an item has been received.

The AddressPal site says that it take 4-5 working days to be delivered on to the Post Office of your choice. That’s quite a long time to relocate a package from England to Ireland. Especially as it look less than 24 hours for the courier to deliver my monitor into the hands of An Post, and now it’s going to take up to a week for the onward leg.

It’s now 3 working days on, and I’ve not heard anything. An Post only send an email and/or SMS out once the package is ready for collection at the Post Office – and that could be another couple of days from now.

Final Delivery

My email notification finally arrived after 4 working days saying that my parcel was ready for collection at my local Post Office. I had to leave work a little bit early to go there, as my Post Office closes at 5.30pm, which is a bit of an inconvenience.

To collect the parcel I had to show the AddressPal card that that An Post had delivered to my house, together with a form of photo ID. I had to sign a screen to accept delivery, pay the €3.75 fee (cash or card is accepted), and the parcel was mine. It took just over 5 minutes in all, because I had to wait in line to be served, and then the woman serving me had to process my collection which took a couple of minutes in itself.

The Verdict

Would I use AddressPal again? Maybe. I wasn’t overly impressed by the 4 working day wait to redirect from Britain to Ireland. And having to find a time to collect when the Post Office is open is not very convenient.

Parcel Motel is quicker at delivering to the designated lockers (1-2 days), and you can pick up at any time, 24 hours a day.

Potential problems using Parcel Motel and Amazon

Parcel Motel is a great way to overcome delivery restrictions and outlandish courier costs when buying mail order in Ireland.

The service gives you a virtual delivery address in Northern Ireland, and then redirects your parcel to a locker of your choosing for you to pick up in a 48 hour window. And with many UK retailers refusing to ship to Ireland, or charging expensive shipping costs, the fee of €3.95 of using Parcel Motel can seem like a bargain.

However, there are potential downsides to using Parcel Motel with Amazon.co.uk:

  1. Your parcel might be too big – the maximum size of the largest locker is 41 x 38 x 64 cm. If your parcel ends up being bigger than this (and bear in mind the amount of packaging Amazon normally uses) then you will be charged an additional fee of €7.00, and you will have to collect your parcel from your nearest Nightline depot – or pay even more for it to be delivered to your house.
  2. Your parcel might be too heavy – there’s a weight limit of 10 kg per parcel, and if you go over it you have the same charges as for big parcels. They also have something called a dimensional weight calculation which calculates weight based on size – check out the prices page for more on that.
  3. Your Amazon order might be split into several parcels – even if you select that you want everything delivered in one go during the Amazon checkout, they may decided to dispatch your order in two or more packages – and Parcel Motel will charge you for each one. Even if two packages for you arrive into Parcel Motel at the same time, they won’t put them in the same locker.
  4. Your parcel might take an extra 2 days to get to you – depending on the time of day that Parcel Motel receive your package, and also on how busy they are, it might take 2 days to reach your locker. So if you’re in a hurry, it might be worth paying the higher shipping costs to deliver direct (i.e. don’t use Parcel Motel).
  5. You might not collect your parcel in time – you have 48 hours from the time you are notified your package is in the locker to pick it up. If you miss this window, it will be removed from the locker, and it’ll cost you extra to get to it. Bear this in mind if you’re going away on holiday or business travel in the next couple of weeks, because a delay from Amazon in shipping may mean it arrives in your locker while you’re away.

An alternate to Parcel Motel exists with a service from An Post called AddressPal. This service has the advantage of having an English virtual delivery address, instead of a Northern Ireland one, which is good for retailers who will only delivery to the British mainland. The AddressPal service allows you to collect your parcel from your local Post Office (which might have restricted opening hours) or get it delivered to your home. They also have a virtual delivery address in the USA.

OnePlus 5

I’m very much looking forward to the arrival of my new OnePlus 5 phone.

I’ve been a OnePlus fan for a while now, having migrated from using the Nexus phones. I like to have a high-spec phone, but don’t like paying the premium prices that the likes of Samsung and Apple demand.

I used to have a OnePlus 1 and currently use a OnePlus 3 (my wife has the OnePlus 3T as well), but about 2 weeks after a bought by OnePlus 3 I managed to put a huge scratch across its face – and I’ve been looking at that scratch for about a year now. It wasn’t bad enough to warrant buying a replacement OnePlus 3, but now that the OnePlus 5 is out I have the excuse to upgrade handsets.

If you’re planning to buy one yourself, you might be interested in this referral code that will get you €20 off accessories when you buy a OnePlus 5. Here’s the link: https://oneplus.net/ie/invite#W5ZGN6VN63274F

Working on more than one Excel spreadsheet

Microsoft Excel by default opens all spreadsheets into the same Workspace, so it can be tricky if you want to work on multiple spreadsheets at the same time.

If you’re copying information between two spreadsheets, or want to compare data from two different sources, then it can be tricky to do. You might have experienced the problem of having to flick back and forth between two spreadsheets.

One way around it is to use the View Side by Side option:

  • Open the two spreadsheets you want to work upon
  • Select the View tab
  • Click on View Side by Side
  • To switch between the spreadsheets being on top of each other or side by side, click on Arrange All and select Horizontal or Vertical

It will look something like this:

However, that’s still not much use if you have two monitors, and want to have a separate spreadsheet in each monitor, because a maximised Excel worksheet only works in one monitor.

What you need is to start up two separate instances of Excel, and then each instance can be maximised on separate monitors. The first instance of Excel loads in the normal way, and you open your first spreadsheet in that. The second instance of Excel can be started by holding down the shift key as you click on the Excel icon (either from the Start menu or Taskbar). A separate blank Excel worksheet will launch (it’s actually a second instance of the Excel program running) and you can load your second spreadsheet into that.

These separate instances run completely independently of each other, and one can be closed (or even killed in the Task Manager) without affecting the other.

Is Ireland facing a transportation crisis?

It seems that not a week goes by these days without another news story about our transportation network.

A few weeks ago we had a three-week strike by Bus Eireann drivers. Over the last few days there was a call for increased road capacity on the N11 as it is so severely congested, and at the same time four people die every day in Ireland as a result of air pollution, about half of which is attributed to traffic emissions.

Certainly there’s a problem with transportation in this country, particularly in our cities. Our over-reliance on cars to get about is only going to get worse over time. Particularly when 44% have a perception that public transport is difficult to use.

The answer is definitely not to build more roads. That’s not going to ease congestion or reduce pollution – it will just encourage more people to drive, and make the situation worse. The only answer is to get people out of their cars, and get them using more sustainable transport options – public transport, cycling and walking.

But how do you convince people to leave the car at home?

We need a mind-shift in Ireland. We need a change in attitude amongst the people that this needs to be tackled. And we need to decide, once and for all, whether we want a properly-funded and sustainable transport network.

That means putting proper investment into trains, busses (including Bus Eireann), trams, cycle lanes, and footpaths – to make our cities into places where its safe and easy to get about without a car. It’s only then, once we’ve made the investment, that people will finally (and willingly) leave their cars behind and we will see lasting reductions in congestion and pollution.

Unfortunately the political will at the moment seems to be leaning in a different direction. Instead of the carrot approach of making sustainable travel appealing, they are making noises about the stick approach of increasing taxation on diesel cars – through increasing fuel duties and tolls. These are the same diesel cars that the government of 10-15 years ago were trying to persuade people to buy, in order to reduce CO2 emissions.