Surviving the postal strike

Candy Bellinger

Try as we might, most of us will be affected in some way by the impending Royal Mail postal strike.

Following a series of rolling regional strikes, Royal Mail workers are set for the first national strike for two years, with sorting office staff stopping on Thursday, 22 October - and posties walking out on Friday, 23 October.

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And with Christmas fast-approaching, the chances are a degree of panic may be setting in as you consider your gift-buying options.

If you're unfortunate enough to have letters or parcels added to the ever-increasing "mail mountain" or backlog that has resulted from the previous strikes, then a nail-biting wait may be in store.

But for purchases yet to made, there are other options available...

Travel and events
From train tickets to holidays abroad, many companies will be offering an e-ticket option whereby customers can simply print their ticket at home. In the case of rail travel, ticket printing machines are available at most stations, though if you are relying on the post, give as much notice as possible.

Holiday companies will offer either an e-ticket or a pricier courier service option to travellers and if you are waiting a passport, visit who can deliver your essential documents for around £33.

For theatre or concert tickets, be sure to request that you pick them up at the box office to ensure they are not stuck en route.

Banking and bills
Sadly the banks, despite their already shaky reputation, are unlikely to be changing their charging policies in view of the strike.

The best advice is to use online or telephone banking to pay bills and check account details, but if you are unable, be sure to visit your local branch to ensure that you aren't stung by unnecessary charges.

Christmas shopping
We're guessing that your Christmas card list may be a little shorter this year in the light of the postal strikes and any further nationwide action will only be adding to the backlog.

But if you, like so many, are avoiding the crush of the pre-Christmas shopping centres, the make sure that you check the delivery options on your gifts.

Royal Mail say that their Special Delivery service, which is trackable and guarantees next day delivery, will continue to function. Prices for a package begin at £4.95.

If you're not convinced, then opt for a guaranteed courier delivery. eBay buyers should check with the seller, while retail giants Amazon and Argos are now using the Home Delivery Network rather than Royal Mail so as not to lose their Christmas customers.

Though there is no need to panic, check and double check the delivery options when buying online.