Royal Mail Smartstamp problems continue to cause eBay seller headaches

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After a reported upgrade over the weekend to Royal Mail’s SmartStamp service, eBay sellers continue to suffer difficulties using PayPal’s postage label printing facility. Most say that the error has crippled their selling business for two days now.

Royal Mail say on their website: “We are still experiencing technical difficulties with our SmartStamp product and the service is not available. We are sorry if you are experiencing difficulties. If you have any urgent mailings for today please make alternative arrangements to visit your local Post Office. We are working hard to fix these problems and will email customers as soon as the service becomes available.”

Problems first emerged yesterday when PayPal admitted on Twitter that there were problems with SmartStamp. Comments on Tamebay have shown huge seller frustration. Many that rely on the service have been unable to despatch their weekend sales and worry about buyer retaliation via Feedback and DSRs (Detailed seller Ratings). At the time of writing eBay has not made an announcement to buyers and sellers informing them of the problem.

Sellers are still having problems today, although some say they have had some success. It is not currently known when this SmartStamp issue will be fully resolved.

All we at Tamebay can advise is that sellers unable to despatch sales make a trip to the Post Office, get hold of some stamps, or find an alternative carrier.

It is particularly annoying that this error has occured during what is one of the busiest weeks of the eBay year and sellers will typically be making more despatches and need everything to work like clockwork.

We’ll keep you updated with any new information we receive.

68 Responses

  1. From eBay’s Twitter ‘We can’t notify individuals so suggest that any affected sellers warn buyers if they won’t be able to post another way’

    Dear eBay – such a shame you took away sellers’ ability to bulk email buyers isn’t it?

  2. I’ve felt it, though in fairness the service is arthritic anyway and merely saves on waiting time in the PO queue. But I’ve also had an unusual number of customers having credit card problems, or being unable to work out how to pay (suggesting something is not showing up on eBay)
    Anyone else had this experience in the last 2 weeks?

  3. Yesterday (Monday) I spent hours trying to print postage through Royal Mail SmartStamp but I kept getting a message saying “There has been a communication error with the server. Please try later again”.

    I thought there must have been a problem at my end so I spent ages trying everything I could (changing internet settings, restoring computer, reinstalling the SmartStamp software etc.) and then today I finally found out that RoyalMail.com is having major problems with its website, so I was wasting my time trying to narrow down the fault at my end (which resulted in me being too late to catch the Post Office before it closed for the day).

    It seems that no one has been able to print postage using SmartStamp since the weekend, yet there was no warning on RoyalMail.com as of this morning (there is now) and Royal Mail only notified me of the problem at 2:45PM on Tuesday. Here is their email…

    ———————————————
    Dear Customer,

    As you may be aware, we are still experiencing technical difficulties with our SmartStamp® product on our website and the service is not currently available.

    We are really sorry for the problems you may be encountering and the inconvenience this may be causing. We are still working to fix the issues with SmartStamp® and our website as quickly as we can.

    We will send out a further email to let you know as soon as SmartStamp® becomes available again.

    Again, we would like to apologise for the inconvenience this is causing our customers. Until SmartStamp® becomes available, customers with urgent mailings can take their mail to their nearest Post Office branch which can be found at: http://www.postoffice.co.uk/branch-finder.

    Regards,

    The SmartStamp® Customer Service Team
    Royal Mail
    https://www.royalmail.com

    ———————————————

    Apparently Royal Mail did make customers aware of this problem yesterday, but only via Twitter – https://twitter.com/royalmail – which isn’t exactly the first place most people would think to check.

    As far as I can remember, Smart Stamp hasn’t changed in over 5 years so why on earth did Royal Mail decide to make changes to the system just before Christmas (and on a Monday).

    I still don’t understand why Royal Mail charge £5.99 per month for SmartStamp (it was £5 but they had to add VAT from the end of January 2011 so increased the price rather than absorb it).

    Why don’t SmartStamp customers get postage discounts like franking/account customers? Unlike with traditional stamps, Royal Mail don’t have to pay for the printing and distribution of postage printed online and the Post Office doesn’t take a cut so why are users charged £5.99 per month for a SmartStamp subscription when postage prices are the same as stamps?

    Royal Mail should either offer the reduced franking rate to SmartStamp users or axe the subscription charge altogether. After all, there is no subscription charge for the Royal Mail Online Postage service – https://www.royalmail.com/discounts-payment/online-postage – where you print postage through their website, but it’s only designed for occasions users as you annoyingly have to go through so many steps just to print one “stamp”, however, you can drop off post at Post Offices with “Fast Drop” counters (and get proof of posting) without even having to queue. For some unknown reason, Fast Drop is not available with SmartStamp. It’s also possible to print postage through PayPal, and again there is no subscription charge. Sorry to bang on about all this but I just don’t get what the subscription charge is actually for.

    After reading this far, you are probably wondering why I still use SmartStamp, and the reason is convenience, speed and the fact that I can send things later in the day. For example, if I use the local Post Office, I need to be there before 5pm to catch the last collection of the day (and I have to pay to park too), but if I print my own postage online, I can take my items to a postbox with a 7:30pm collection, which means I can offer my customers a late cut of time. The downside to this is that I don’t have proof of posting, so I have to pay for any lost/damaged items myself (I guess this wouldn’t work for people sending high value goods or items that are too big to fit in a postbox).

    Anyway, I hope Royal Mail fix SmartStamp ASAP as at the moment they are letting me down, which means I’m letting my customers down. I’ve had to spend ages editing my listing to change the cut of time for same day dispatch. I will be interested to see what Royal Mail offers customers in the way of compensation.

    I’m not a Royal Mail hater and usually praise them for delivering most of my packages next day (even when posted as late as 7:30 pm) but I have to say that for a company that specialises in communication, Royal Mail have been extremely poor at communicating with their customers about this major service outage (which frankly should never have happened in the first place).

  4. Royal Mail, You’ve lost the plot, the business, and the trust of many enterprises across the country. Its just a disgrace that after 48 hours of failure you didn’t just abandon the “new” website and reinstall the old one, that has worked all this time. The small/medium business community has come to realise that they cannot rely on you, and that will, ultimately, and rather sadly be your own undoing. I doubt that the bosses at RM will have the balls to fire anyone, after all, it took them four days to realise they had a problem…. Goodbye Royal Mail…and not a moment too soon…

  5. Be careful! The last I mentioned that Royal Mail were not really cutting the mustard – It was pointed out to me by Tamebay that they receive income from Royal mail who take pride of advertising space on their site.

  6. It’s not just Smartstamp that’s been down, OBA (Online Business Account) has been suffering huge technical glitches of late. I couldn’t even get to the create order page today as links that should lead there lead elsewhere and everywhere EXCEPT where they should.
    So I gave up in the end and used posting cheques.
    I’d rather stick with those in future as it’s a lot easier than the current Russian Roulette of “will this docket take me 40 mins to complete?” or “will I be able to create a docket at all?”
    At the busiest time of year it’s a joke.

  7. It’s the modern way I’m afraid, dump an update on the internet at a time that suits the developers without any regard for the community that use such sites.

    Luckily, we weren’t posting on Monday due to staff shortages and by Tuesday OBA was working fine but I totally understand everyone’s frustration.

    I’m trying to think of another major website that gets updated without a care about the effect of bad upgrades, oh hand on a minute…..

  8. I have been trying to send out orders for several days using smartstamp with no success. I phoned the customer service number on Tuesday morning and was told that it should be up and running by 1pm. At 4pm I then received the email regarding their ongoing problems.

    This really isn’t good enough from Royal Mail and I am seriously considering using other options in the future. I have now got a massive backlog of orders that need to be dispatched and am in limbo as to whether to wait for the servers to be back up or to take a wheelbarrow full of orders to my local post office and stand in line for half an hour before spending an hour and a half manually posting them all.

  9. Not just SmartStamp. Online Business Account, Online Postage, Price Finder and a number of other service now down for five days and counting during the busiest week in lead up to Christmas. @RoyalMail Twitter feed is working overtime to provide individual tweeters with postage prices – crazy.

    Have RM IT not heard of backup servers, roll-back, beta-testing ???

  10. cant cope! wont cope!

    cant wait for a Jolly Royal mail Christmas
    they have known Christmas is coming since 1840 and the penny black and they still employ unqualified labour and bugger it up

  11. Well this is just great, another day of holding everyone up at the Post Office by getting over 30 packages posted. I am holding off orders as long as I can, I am already a couple days behind, as I cant take that many packages down to the Post Office.

  12. For years RM have been incapable of coding to web standards.

    I bet this is caused by non-technical managers being in charge of IT departments.

  13. I have just spoken to smartstamp again and they advise the system should be up and running today, I reminded them that they told me this on Monday and on Tuesday but they do seem more optimistic. The representative advised me that this has happened becasue they have switched to a new platform I asked why they couldnt just turn the old website on and they said it was because the licence had run out, The rep also told me that this has now been passed up to a higher level of management in Royal Mail which surprised me as I would have presumed that it would be top of the list of problems for RM but it would appear its not that big an issue, Im backed up with 1000 parcels and im having to stick on stamps (4 stamps per product)and its time consuming. Last week my entire town had no internet due to a cable theft and this week theres no smartstamp, I just Love Christmas, anyway rant over time to keep my chin up and realise theres never a problem only a solution

  14. Two cheers for that!
    There still appears to be a problem with topping up the postage and, the website is a maze of confusion to navigate.

  15. It’s great that the SmartStamp application is finally working again but why hasn’t Royal Mail emailed customers to let them know? They clearly stated in yesterdays email that “We will send out a further email to let you know as soon as SmartStamp® becomes available again”.

    I’ve just logged into my SmartStamp account at royalmail.com/smartstamp but I am still unable to view my account history, my account number has changed to a four digit number (how does that work when there are more than 10000 customers?) and rather worryingly, my annual subscription has had five months knocked off of it… I paid for a years subscription at the beginning of August but according to the Royal Mail website “Your next subscription payment will be taken 09-Mar-2012 from Direct Debit”. If you pay annually, be sure to check your renewal date as it seems Royal Mail have messed this up too!

  16. Received this email from Royal Mail at 5:31PM…

    Dear Customer,

    We are really sorry for the web issues experienced this week that have affected our SmartStamp® product and the problems these have caused you.

    As promised in our previous email, we are pleased to advise you that SmartStamp® is now back up and running, although performance of the system may be slower than usual as we manage the initial surge in customer demand. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience caused and we would like to thank you for your patience whilst we fixed the problem.

    Our priority has been to fix the application to enable you to continue mailing; we are now undertaking further investigations to identify what caused these errors and will be back in touch regarding this.

    Regards,

    The SmartStamp® Customer Service Team
    Royal Mail
    https://www.royalmail.com

  17. Its related to an upgrade from a CSC platform to one hosted by Capgemini. The project is 6 months late going live and even still that had to drastically cut their testing hence all the issues. What a farce – I’m losing sales from my ebay site as I dont wont poor dispatch feedback. I blame Rhiannon Davies

  18. This happened on a worse scale in 2007. Maybe you remember the hell? I wonder if Gary is still in charge at SmartStamp? Might explain a few things… but they certainly don’t learn from their mistakes do they?

    From: Royal Mail SmartStamp [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: 23 March 2007 12:01
    To: xxxx
    Subject: SmartStamp Information.

    Dear xxxx

    Over the last couple of weeks some of our customers have experienced problems when using or trying to use SmartStamp.These have occurred due to a problem within our IT infrastructure and we have been working around the clock to identify and remedy these problems.

    Action has now been taken and we are hopeful that you will again find SmartStamp to be a reliable and invaluable tool in managing your day to day mailing requirements.

    If you have been affected in any way please accept my sincere apologies and be assured that we take any such degradation in service extremely seriously and are doing all we can to prevent any further service failures.

    Yours sincerely

    Gary Grange,
    Royal Mail Smartstamp Product Manager

  19. Sorry Royal Mail, not good enough. It is still not working for me. Keep getting an error message. Complete wasters.

  20. Will Royal Mail be giving compensation? I’ve had to put my ebay shop on holiday for 3 days. I’ve lost business

    Please confirm someone?

  21. I first noticed the downtime on monday morning. I’ve had to print address labels for customers and just manually pay for the stuff at my local depot, I’m not letting this affect my business. Honestly can’t see why ebay sellers can’t just print address label and pay for postage at the local depot/office. Unfortunently it takes alot longer but what else can we really do. I am very surprised that it is still down though, appauling.

    Daniel

  22. So last night I managed to get through to paying for online postage, then nothing came through, which I was kind of expecting having been trying since the weekend. Organised a refund, and received an email stating that the refund was due to a printer error, and I would receive a refund in 7 days. When something similar happened three weeks ago the refund was processed immediately… hmmm.

    And then having been told that I would now be safe to start again, I did twenty items and tried again. Nothing.

    Other than more of my money being taken again, presumably for a week. Genius!

  23. I wouldn’t recommend buying stamps from the online Royal Mail shop right now.
    Our normal next day delivery for 1st class stamps has taken 5 days , and theres still no sign of them.

    Were still posting everything out by using Post Office when we can , or using stamps from our own stock of Commemoratives. It takes longer , and is like being back in the early days of ebay.
    What next ? All we need now is everyone to start sending cash through the post and we’ll be back in the days of 1999 ebay.

  24. What a disaster and complete mismanagement. Who on earth agreed a go live this close to Xmas?? This is killing small businesses like mine, its tough enough as it is. Whoever is in charge should fall on their sword. So unprofessional

  25. Does anybody wonder why the economy is in such a poor state? How much money was wasted on this upgrade and how much more wasted with lost sales?? So unfair

  26. So my nothing, after twenty minutes on hold, got turned into “it will be sorted in thirty minutes”.

    Four hours later… nope. I just hope that number is freephone after over an hour on hold

  27. The OBA site is full of problems for over 3 weeks now.

    They [R] keep moving the log in details view.
    They tell you to only sign in using IE8, but this is causing problem too. When we printed today, It just printed ‘gobbly gook’ ….. Changed to Chrome & the fonts are all over the place & one page takes at least 2 pages.

    This is beyond the horrible service that RMare currently given in the SE.
    Packets taking a week to arrive & some not atall.

    A buyer just closed a’dispute’ saying the packet arrived today after being in transit for 2 1/2 weeks, arrived torn open & resealed by RM.

    This does not bear well for the Christmas season & god forbid it Snows….

  28. Following on from my earlier comments about not receiving stamps purchased from the royal mail website , it would appear that RM are still posting these out , though not necesarily to the correct addresses.
    Business enquiries rep told me “We can see where you’ve paid , but owing to an internet error don’t know whether or not we’ve sent them out to you”. Gives confidence doesn’t it.

    I complained about their poor service and received an email which included the following paragraph.

    “The orders come off as files and we then manually input these into the
    system -unfortunately an input error has occurred.”

    I am completely dumbfounded that Royal Mail have to manually enter data for orders from their online shop.

  29. Aaargh!!! This is a nightmare! My SmartStamp has been offline for almost a week now. I received an email from Royal Mail yesterday informing me that SmartStamp is now back up and running and I should now be able to print postage. This may be the case… but it is absolutely useless if I still cannot top-up my postage funds due to the site still being down!!! Bloody idiots! ?

    Royal Mails suggestion of taking orders to the Post Office is totally unrealistic. Maybe at a quiet time of the year would be acceptable, but the run up to Christmas I’d be standing there for hours waiting for the Post Office staff to weigh hundreds of parcels individually (yes… I was gobsmacked that they had to so this too due to a mix of UK and overseas destination parcels that I have).

    Honestly, this cannot have happened at a worse time of the year and I do hope heads roll for this major cock up.

  30. Nov 28, suposedly the busiest day on-line and the server appears to be down.
    Anyone else having problems?

  31. @ Peter,

    Yes, I was able to print postage on Friday, but today, I am unable to, due to the same server unavailable message.

    What a steaming pile of garbage this is. A week on and still no resolution.

    I am beyond fed up with this. Why they chose this week to update their software is beyond belief.

  32. Gerry007, the reason for the ‘gobbly gook’ you see is because RM are not coding to web standards. Millions of small websites owners manage to code to web standards. Yes it’s technical, but it’s certainly not rocket science, I could code the fixes to make OBA pages display correctly in any browser with about 20 minutes work at £30 per hour. RM incompetence beggars belief.

  33. The problem is back. I’ve just been charged twice for the same lot of stamps.

    Also I’ve noticed my payment history is blank, so it’s going to be difficult to balance the books at the end of the month and record what I spent.

  34. Still unable to print stamps or top up my account with SMARTSTAMP. Thats a total of around 6 in the last 14 days, causing absolute chaos. customer service nil.
    No updates,phones unanswered.
    Being charged for this “Service” is
    an insult. After all, Smartstamp users are paying thousands of pounds each per year on postage.
    Come on Royal Mail. If you dont have the ability to sort out your web site, get experts in as a matter of urgency!

  35. Totally offline again today and can’t print any stamps.

    When you ring up you get some recorded ‘technical’ information that does nothing to help.

  36. Hey guys, im a newbie here, have used smart stamp in the past for another company and had found it a good system. so decided to use it for my own company, well waht can i say, 7 days ago i set up my account with an error in the welcome email with no account detailsshowing then with in my account online it keeps saying we were unable to set up your account and to call in. well i have called 3 times and emailed about for times, i have had no reply to any of my emails and the answer i get on the phone is we are working on the problem as a top priority.

    this is crippling business around at this time of the year. it would be good courtesy to have a blog running that we could keep a track on for updates.

  37. 20 days to Christmas, bigger volumes of mail and still issues topping up Smartstamp. Still more appologies from Royal Mail after more than two weeks of problems which have not been resolved.

    Is there any viable alternative to RM?

  38. I should have said; is there an alternative to Smartstamp? In my experiece the hire and cost of other mail franking methods are quite expensive.

  39. Dec 6th Here’s the latest from RM on this, from their web site:-

    Dear Customer,

    We’re continuing to work around the clock to identify and fix some of the issues with our website. I am sorry that there are still some remaining problems with parts of our website, following difficulties experienced by some customers over the past couple of weeks. I wanted to update you again on the latest position while my team and I continue to work hard to resolve outstanding issues as quickly as possible.

    The initial problems some customers experienced followed technical difficulties that arose after the migration of part of our website to a new platform. As soon as we identified the problems, my team and I have been working hard to resolve them as quickly as possible.

    Some customers continue to experience technical difficulties with parts of our Online Postage and SmartStamp services. We have made some progress here and are still working hard to fix the outstanding issues. I know how important it is that we restore full service for all users as quickly as possible and apologise for the inconvenience this is causing.

    Our Pricefinder application remains unavailable but we are hoping to restore this service within the next day or so.In the meantime, we have placed a price guide on the website.

    Some people experienced delays and other difficulties when using our online redirection service last week. We are very sorry about this and have contacted all affected customers.

    All other applications are available to customers.

    Please accept my sincerest apologies for the ongoing disruption some of you are experiencing. I am really sorry that it is taking us longer than we would have liked to resolve the issues. I will continue to update you on our progress while we continue to work to restore all applications to full service.

    Yours sincerely,

    Nick Landon
    Director of Customer Experience

  40. Found another message on their web site, which comes to an abrupt end;

    ‘Internal Server’ Error Message

    Select the ‘Preferences’ option from bottom left of your Smartstamp screen
    Broadband customers: Ensure ‘connect via Local Network (LAN) is selected. Dial-Up Customers: please ensure Dial-Up is selected.
    Click the “Create connection” button
    Select ‘standard proxy settings’ unless you know for sure you go through a Proxy Server in which case select this option and enter the settings.
    Click through the internet connection wizard screens, through to ‘finish’
    A message should appear confirming connection settings have been successfully checked
    Click ‘Finish’
    Now click on ‘refresh’ or ‘update’ from top right of Smartstamp screen
    And now enter your printing password…and OK…continue as normal

    Problems with your direct debit or recurring top-up account?

    We’re really sorry but the current technical problems mean we’re unable to action any reoccurring direct debits or card top ups at the moment.

    We’re trying to fix this as quickly as possible. In the meantime, please top-up your account manually, using a debit or credit card, at

  41. DISGUSTED! NO LONGER HOURS, DAYS, NOW WEEKS SINCE I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TOP UP, HENCE USE MY SMARTSTAMP ACCOUNT!
    HAVE YOU NOTICED THE GRIDLOCK AT POST OFFICE COUNTERS?
    FOR ROYAL MAIL, READ ROYAL JOKE!

  42. Smartstamp is driving me mad – not only is it almost always down these days, when it is up it has a habit of stealing money without printing any stamps. What were Royal Mail thinking of putting a dodgy update in before xmas?!

  43. Sooner they go out of business the better for everyone. Its obvious they are being run by monkeys and on a wing and a prayer. They’re just coining it in before going bust! The whole system should be shut down.

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