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.

House of Fraser savings in Ireland

The UK department store House of Fraser only has one branch in Ireland, in the Dundrum shopping centre in Dublin.

It’s a nice enough store, but the prices charged to Irish customers are not always the most competitive, particularly when compared to the same products in the store’s UK branches.

This is a problem that a lot of Irish consumers face when shopping in foreign-owned stores, as the price conversions from pounds to euros (or dollars to euros) often don’t reflect the current exchange rate.

A case in point is that we were recently shopping for a big-ticket electrical item, and the price in-store in Dundum was listed as €480. As it happens, the only one of this item they had in stock was faulty, and so the store gave us a refund on a gift card and advised us to order direct from the House of Fraser website.

And so we looked and found the item available on the website for £395 (at current exchange rates, €468) – with free delivery available either to the Dundum store or to anywhere in Ireland. That’s a saving of €12.

However, when we used the gift card to pay their website gave a very generous conversion rate of euros to pounds – 91p for a euro, rather than the prevailing exchange rate of 84p for a euro – and that means we paid even less, just €435!  A total saving of €45.

And so the message is clear. If you want to save money when shopping in the Dublin House of Fraser, go into the store and buy a gift card, then use that gift card to order on their website. You’ll end up saving around 10% off the physical store prices.

Bypass Delivery Restrictions and Save on Postage with Parcel Motel

One of the annoying things about living in Ireland is not being able to get things delivered easily and cheaply.

parcel-motel-logoOnline shopping from the likes of eBay or Amazon can bag you some great bargains, until you realise that the seller won’t ship to Ireland, or will charge you a fortune in international postage.

Parcel Motel is a great way to get around these problems. They give you a legitimate UK address to use (in Newtownabbey just north of Belfast in Northern Ireland) from which they will forward parcels for a reasonable fee to any of their pick-up points in Ireland.

How it works

When you register with the service you are allocated a Parcel Motel ID (format PM99999) that forms the first line of your address. Then, whenever you order anything, simply use the following delivery address:

<Your Name>
<Your Parcel Motel ID>
Parcel Motel
1A McKinney Road
Newtownabbey
Antrim
BT36 4PE

The staff at Parcel Motel will accept and sign for the parcel on your behalf. They then scan it into their own system, and you can track where it is by logging into your My Parcel Motel online account.

You need to make sure your Name and your Parcel Model ID are correct in the delivery address of the parcel, because if they don’t match, the package may be rejected.

Collecting your parcel

Within 24 hours of delivery Parcel Motel will then forward the item from their Antrim depot to your pre-defined pick-up location. There are around 100 different locations of Parcel Motel lockers around the Republic, and you can choose whichever one suits you the most.

The parcels are delivered to the secure lockers, and you get notified by text message and email as soon as it’s ready for collection. The lockers are accessible 24 hours a day, and when you turn up it’s just a question of typing in your mobile number and the PIN supplied, and your locker opens.

Restricted delivery

I’ve used Parcel Motel a number of times to buy products that just aren’t available in Ireland, such as the Nexus 4 phone. In the past I’ve used family and friends based in the UK to accept parcels and forward them on – but it seems that Parcel Motel are cheaper and quicker.

Returns

The Parcel Motel service can also be used to return items to certain retailers free of charge. The process works in reverse, in that you drop off the package you want to return to a Parcel Motel locker, and they will forward on direct to retailer.

It’s a much easier and cheaper process than going to the Post Office or calling up a courier to arrange the return of items.

Google Nexus 4


It’s not easy getting hold of a Google Nexus 4 in Ireland. It’s not on sale here, from Google, or from any of the mobile networks. So you need to be a bit creative to get your hands on it.

The Nexus 4 has been getting some amazing reviews in the tech press. It’s pretty much the best Android phone on the market at the moment, but at less than half the price of the competition.

The cheapest iPhone 5 costs €679, and the Samsung Galaxy S3 is about the same price – but the Nexus 4 starts at £239 (€276) £159 / €184 (*Updated price) SIM-free direct from the Google Play store. That’s amazing value for such a good phone!

Of course, getting hold of one is another matter. Since going on sale last year, it’s been out of stock for the last couple of months – until the middle of last week.  Yes, it’s available again, but only in a limited number of countries, including the UK, Germany, and the US.

I decided to order from the UK, as I have both a UK credit card and family in England who could receive and forward on the phone. The ordering process itself takes place on the Google Play Store, but I had to access the store using a UK VPN/proxy in order to view the Nexus product range. I already have a paid VPN service, but if you search Google I’m sure you can find a free one (some people suggest using Tunnel Bear).

If you don’t have a UK address, then you may also want to try ordering for delivery to Parcel Motel, who have a UK address in Northern Ireland, but will let you pick up from any of their locations in the republic.

The crazy thing about jumping through all these hoops to get the phone delivered to the UK, is that that the Nexux 4 actually gets dispatched from the Google offices in Dublin. However they won’t deliver direct to a republic address, and so my phone had to travel from Dublin, to England, and back to Dublin.

I ordered it last Wednesday, it was dispatched on Thursday, and arrived in England on Friday. It then went straight back in the post, and arrived back in Dublin yesterday.  We had a slightly anxious wait for it to arrive back in Ireland, as the Royal Mail will not insure mobile phones sent through the post for more than £50 – so it if had been lost en route, I’d have been out of pocket.

Anyway, so the phone did arrive, and my fiancée is delighted with her early Valentine’s gift. And I have to admit, it’s a lovely phone. The screen quality is fantastic, it’s very responsive, and the latest version of Android (4.2 “Jelly Bean”) has some great features. Indeed, I was tempted for a while to defect away from my beloved iPhone. And at such a good price, it’s hard to argue against it.