Beware the pitfalls of last-minute online gifts

As you whizz around looking for those last-minute Christmas gifts, it's likely that you'll be ordering more online than you ever have.

Staff member Joanna McCartney at the Royal Mail Distribution centre in Glasgow. Picture: Getty Images
Staff member Joanna McCartney at the Royal Mail Distribution centre in Glasgow. Picture: Getty Images

After all, who wants to hit a cold high street when you can order from the warm in front of your computer, smartphone or tablet and have presents delivered directly to the recipient or dropped off at your own door in days?

But posting items and receiving deliveries at Christmas offer all sorts of potential pitfalls – such as damage, not enough time to return items, missing parcels and costly fees.

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Here are four tips to remember when you’re sending gifts through the post or ordering online and expecting a drop off.

Don’t forget to check the last order dates

With Christmas Eve and Christmas Day falling on a weekend this year, the last posting dates are a bit earlier than usual. For example, Second Class cards and Second Class Signed For deliveries must be sent off by Tuesday. It’s the next day for First Class and Royal Mail Signed For. This Thursday is the cut-off for next-day guaranteed deliveries through Royal Mail Special Delivery. Some online stores will stretch it out as long as possible too so check each one carefully ahead of time. Don’t be caught out. 

Delivery problem? Complain to the store

Whatever issue you encounter with a delivery, it’s not actually the right thing to do to complain solely to the courier involved. Of course, you’ll need to get in touch with them fast if something has gone missing that you need to track, but their contract is with the store not you, and it’s up to that company to challenge any bad service you receive. So complain to them too as soon as possible. However, also remember the courier has a responsibility to get your goods safely into your hands – even if they’ve left it down the side of your house, in a bin or with a neighbour.

Most online stores will gift wrap for you

There’s nothing worse than having to wrap last-minute presents, so let the place you are buying from take the strain. Most will offer this as an additional paid-for service and some will even include a written card or typed message. It’s a real time-saver and means you could order a delivery direct to a relative or friend without even having to touch it yourself. Just make sure to keep an eye on all the confirmation e-mails and track these packages closely to ensure they’ve arrived and been signed for. Otherwise you may have someone sitting there on Christmas Day wondering why you didn’t send them a pressie.

Watch out for hidden charges

Read the small print when posting Christmas presents or sending gifts direct. If they are expensive, you need to be covered if they are damaged in transit, stolen or end up arriving after Boxing Day. When sending through the Royal Mail, using Special Delivery for next-day arrivals will include a basic level of £500 of compensation but you can pay for more up to £2,500. With this you also have up to 80 days to claim for loss or damage from the day of posting. And you can even get a refund of the Special Delivery postage cost if your item is not delivered on time, as long as you claim within 14 days of posting it.