Are postcards low priority items for mail handlers?

I’m in the UK and today I received a card from the Netherlands that took 39 days to arrive. It seems an insanely long amount of time, even allowing for the pandemic. I also have a card still travelling to Ireland after 2 weeks. Back in the 90s, first-class post to Ireland took 1 or 2 days!

I sometimes wonder if postcards get shoved to the side in sorting offices during busy times and bagged up whenever someone has the time to deal with them. Yet I’m paying the same price as I would for a letter. I can’t see businesses tolerating a situation where air mail takes several weeks to reach a neighbouring country.

7 Likes

Have you considered writing to your postal services to let them know there seems to be a problem with timeliness of postcard travel. Perhaps someone might share with you their processes. Better still, the recipient of your letter might note the gentle reminder that all mail is a priority (?).

2 Likes

I think there are slow downs now due to the Delta variant that are affecting lots of countries and I think because of the pandemic, the mail route schedules/shippings has changed quite a lot too.

I find I get mail from some countries in batches now, even though the cards have been sent at quite different times - like weeks or months apart.

I’ve noticed big slow downs with cards in the US(52 days) & Germany (35 days) from Canada which only happened at the height of the lockdowns last year.

I don’t think the processing machines make any distinction now between postcards & letters in most countries, but I could be wrong.

It’s a frustrating puzzle alright!

6 Likes

I was in Cork in 2019.

I sent a postcard to my husband in England.

It took A MONTH to arrive.

And a (Postcrossing) card I sent in January 2021 took more than two hundred days to get to Germany.

But those examples are VERY unusual. On the whole, Royal Mail has been pretty good to me; I send weekly cards to an uncle in America - they always get there within two or so weeks.

After hearing your story, I’m curious as to what Irish postcrossers have to say, though.

3 Likes

Curious if Brexit had an effect as well on UK/EU mail delivery times and I gather that shipping & lack of drivers is a huge issue now in many industries in the UK as a result.

1 Like

@LC-Canada
Agree
My mom in LA has not received regular mail for three weeks. The post office workers were hit by Covid. They are only delivering medication.

5 Likes

Not so I’ve noticed, @LC-Canada .

My husband’s home-based business does A LOT of snail mail communication with the Continent; its arrival has remained timely. And I frequently get/send (Continental) cards that arrive within 4 days. A record for me last week - TWO DAYS from Germany to my house near London.

2 Likes

I presume mail sorting machines are programmed to read postal/ZIP codes in their own country. Can they also read the name of another sovereign state and direct the item down the correct chute?

Postcards from the UK are charged at the same rate as a basic letter so I would expect the same service in either case. Generally the delivery times aren’t too bad but there are quite a few postcards that raise an eyebrow.

1 Like

I’m a postal worker and here in the Netherlands ALL stamped post is handled as ‘priority’ post, both incoming and outgoing.
But as PostNL is heavily understaffed in some regions, mail is sometimes 2 or 3 days stacked before delivering.

5 Likes

I have been wondering about this myself and had posted a while back that it seems like mail from Europe reaches me in a few days but my cards take at least 2 weeks. I had wondered too if postcards are sort of left for a while because envelopes I’d sent seemed to arrive a lot quicker than postcards.

1 Like

I wonder if it’s related to envelopes usually having the address printed and therefore easier to read by machines, while postcards tend to be handwritten and are more likely to be diverted for human intervention as the machines don’t read the address as easily.

1 Like

I watch a British girl on youtube who runs a plant shop. And she said that after brexit there was an issue with Germany postponing packages from the UK. It was so bad that she had to stop shipping to Germany because all the plants would die. It was only parcels though and it was some time ago so it may be resolved now. But still it was quite shocking to hear.

1 Like

First class is first class. A postcard should be delivered just as quickly (or slowly, as the case may be) as a letter. Anyway, postcards and letters are sorted by machine; it would take more time to “shove them to the side” then just have the machines sort them, as with all the other first class mail. Those adhesive strips with the barcodes that you sometimes see glued to the bottom of postcards are placed there by the machines after the handwritten address on the card is read by those same machines. I believe that a single one of the U.S. postal service’s sorting machines can sort at least 36,000 pieces per hour, and probably more by now.

1 Like

But can the machines read a destination when the postal code is from another country? Are they sophisticated enough to read the text characters of the destination country?

I don’t know. I’m only addressing your question, in which you wondered if postcards are given less priority than other first class mail, to which the answer is no. As far as reading a destination when the postal code is from another country ;When you send a card from the U.K. to another country, sorting machines in the U.K. probably just see, say, “U.S.A.” at the bottom of the address and send it, along with other such mail, to a central sorting facility somewhere in the U.S., probably New York, which handles it from there. Also, numbers are a sort of universal language, so if someone in a foreign country perhaps mixes up an address for a piece of mail meant for the U.S., as long as that piece says “U.S.A.” and has a good zipcode on the card, it should get to its destination.

3 Likes

Yes, at least German ones can. How I do I get to this conclusion? We can track stamps now (only limited though, two steps). When I put a trackable stamp on my card, I’ll see the message “the item has arrived at the sorting center Dortmund” once it’s been collected from the mailbox. And once the card arrived in Frankfurt (big International airport), it’ll say “the item is getting redirected to destination country United Kingdom” or whatever country it is. These trackable stamps are tracked entirely by the sorting machines, no human interaction. Therefore, yes, they can actually read the country!

1 Like

Yes, RM sorting machines can read foreign addresses, according to the RM help Web page, it is recommended to write the destination country in block capitals.

https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/81/~/how-to-address-your-mail-(clear-addressing)

Scroll down to see recommended formats for most countries.