The corner shop stamp rip-off

Watch out when you’re buying your stamps – some retailers will be adding a hefty markup.

With most things I buy, I expect prices to vary from shop to shop. Bigger retailers will often try to undercut each other to attract your business. Smaller shops might have to charge more due to bigger overheads. Now, I don’t have a problem with this. I’ll usually shop around for the cheaper price, but if I have to go to a smaller, convenience store, then I appreciate it’ll cost me more. Except that is for stamps.

Stamps should cost what stamps cost. Right? Well, I’ve found that’s not always the case, and I expect lots of people are unwittingly paying over the odds for postage.

Overcharging for stamps in small shops

A few years ago at Christmas I picked up a book of 2nd Class stamps from a small shop. I’ll call it a corner shop even though it wasn’t on a corner. But that should give you an idea of the kind of shop I mean – an independent off-license/newsagent/random groceries store.

Now we were in a bit of a rush, so just asked for £10ish worth of stamps (we were taking advantage of the Amex Shop Small offer where you spend £10 and get £5 back). A book of 12 was £9, so we asked for two more stamps to take us over the £10 spend we needed.

Now, 1st and 2nd Class stamps don’t have a price printed on them. Since it had been so long since I actually bought any stamps I just thought they’d gone up in price. A lot.

But, actually they haven’t. This corner shop was selling 2nd Class stamps for 75p each. The real price, as set by Royal Mail at the time was 56p (remember this was a few years ago – they’re now 65p). That’s a huge 34% markup.

Now, with our £5 credit back on the purchase, we’ve still saved money on those stamps – but most people won’t have.

So was this just a mistake? Or a one-off?

Even bigger markups elsewhere

To get an idea I asked the price of a stamp in three similar “corner shops” around the London Bridge area on Friday.

The first only sold 1st Class stamps and charged 90p. But this stamp – at the time of the research – should have been 65p (they’re now 76p), so the increase was a massive 38%.

The second charged 70p for 2nd Class, while the third wanted 70p for 1st Class. Though the markups were smaller, the shops still charged more than if you got your stamps at the Post Office.

Watch out for Amazon too

It turns out the same issue occurs online too. Expecting Amazon to be a useful place for people to buy stamps (and top up orders for free delivery), I was shocked to see overinflated prices there too.

Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised. A huge amount of items sold on Amazon are not sold by Amazon. Instead smaller retailers use the online giant as a middleman. And it’s these shops which are selling stamps above the set price.

This is one of the worst I spotted, declaring a discount of 39%, when actually the “sale” price works out as 81.5p a stamp – higher than it should have been! I’m sure some shoppers have seen the discount and just assumed it offers the best value. A huge rip-off.

Stamps sold on Amazon at higher price
Misleading pricing for stamps on Amazon. Even the “sale” price is well above the retail price

Can shops sell stamps at a higher price?

That’s the big question really. If they can, then they aren’t doing anything wrong by doing this. But there’s something about stamps that didn’t ring true. My instinct was this is illegal.

First I checked the Royal Mail website. The terms and conditions for authorised stamp sellers are they cannot sell stamps for more than the set price. So that’s pretty cut and dried.

However, it turns out selling above the set price is allowed. This rule only counts if the retailer has purchased the stamps direct from the Royal Mail. If they’ve picked them up elsewhere – a cash and carry for example – the shop can charge what it wants.

I also asked Royal Mail for confirmation, and here’s its response:

“Any retailer who buys their stamps direct from us for resale must, under our T&Cs, sell them at face value or lower. This also applies to retailers who buy from us and sell stamps online.

“However, if a retailer has acquired stamps from somewhere else, we cannot bind them to this condition.

“There isn’t a way of knowing whether someone selling stamps has bought them from us or not, and we don’t provide signage to retailers. However, there are approx. 50k outlets across the UK where customers can buy stamps at the correct price.

“If a customer has any concerns about the price of the stamps they have been sold, they should contact our Customer Services team on 0345 774 0740 who can check if the retailer is a customer of ours and get in touch with them to remind them of our T&Cs”.

Where to buy your stamps at a fair price

In light of my research, it makes sense to always ask how much a stamp is before buying it in any smaller, independent shop. If it’s more than expected, I’d challenge them to see if they’ll charge the lower price. Otherwise, walk away and find somewhere else.

Obviously the safest place to get them at the right price is at a Post Office.

Shops such as WH Smiths also sell at the correct price, as do all the major supermarkets.

The real cost of stamps

The current price of stamps is as follows:

How much is a First Class stamp?

A 1st Class stamp should be 76p. It goes up by 9p to 85p from January 1st 2021.

Large 1st Class stamps will increase from £1.15 to £1.29.

How much is a book of First Class stamps?

There’s no discount for buying stamps in a book. So a book of 12 1st Class stamps will cost £9.12. Six will cost you £4.56. This will increase to £10.20 and £5.10 from the start of 2021..

How much is a Second Class stamp?

A 2nd Class stamp should be 65p, going up to 66p from 1st January 2021..

Large 2nd Class stamps will increase from 88p to 96p.

How much is a book of Second Class stamps?

A book of 12 2nd Class stamps will cost £7.80, and six will cost £3.90. The new prices from March 2020 will be £7.92 for 12 and £3.96 for six,

When do stamp prices go up?

If stamps are to go up in price it tends to happen in the last week of March each year, however the 2021 increase in January is much earlier.

Increases over the last few years have been by two or three pence, so the 2021 increase is much higher.

This article was first published in Dec 2017

29 thoughts on “The corner shop stamp rip-off

  1. I went into a PO near Birmingham for postage stamps before Christmas, and was told, they did not sell stamps!

  2. Is it cheaper to buy stamp books from Costco?

    1. Use your Santander 123 card to buy ’em at Fuel stations & Supermarkets to get 1 or 3% discounts.

      Start ‘Everyone use 2nd Class Post to get First class service’.

    2. Use your Santander 123 card to buy ’em at Fuel stations & Supermarkets to get 1 or 3% discounts.

      Start ‘Everyone use 2nd Class Post to get First class service’ Campaign.

  3. Very useful to know, thank you.

  4. In our area post offices have been closing and there’s been a queue out of the door at all the remaining ones lately.
    So when I had to buy stamps today it was a simple choice: wait for 1/2 an hour in a queue at the post office (I counted 14 people in front of me) or buy them at the convenience store down the road.
    I bought two dozen 2nd class at 72p each. It cost me an extra £1.68 (just over 10%). Money well spent in my opinion.

    1. Yes, I relate to the hideous Post Office queues. Especially at Christmas, and especially in 2020!

  5. I have just been to my local co-op for a book of 6, 2nd class stamps they only had 12 so i declined. I called at my other local shop in Ecclesfield Sheffield to buy my stamps he sold them separate so i said i would 9 but he had 10 in a book so i took the 10 he then proceeded to charge me 7.50 , when i checked the price of a 2nd class stamp i went back and the shop keeper said the price of a 2nd class stamp was 75p. I usually buy my lottery ticket from this shop but that is the last time i set foot in the place what a rip off.

    1. My local shop sells Royal Mail Stamps so I got them there for convenience and use the postbox nearby. However, last year THEY increased the 1st class stamp price by 2p to 78p not Royal Mail, so I complained to Royal Mail to be told it is against the law. Today in a rush to send some letters, I went to the shop again and I remembered the price of stamps where going to increase on 1st January 2021 to 85p so I purchased 6 stamps. I didn’t have enough money so went and got the extra cash. I was charged £5.00 for 6 x 1st class stamps – which is more than 83p a stamp or a price increase of 10% BEFORE the legal price rise on 1st January 2021. The owner of my local shop also owns several other shops in the area and I would assume that he charges the same in each. (I will visit them and buy a stamp from each to challenge this theory.)
      Anyway, my point is that when you buy a stamp you would not expect to be ripped off by such a profit margin by the shop owner and as such I have reported them to the following organisations:
      Royal Mail
      Post Office
      Citizens Advice
      Trading Standards

      1. Hi Mike, I thought the same about it being against the law – but that’s only official stamp sellers. Others can sadly charge what they want.

  6. I have what you call a corner shop and it really boils me when a customer comes in for just stamps pays by card and I am left with a loss. Options I have is not to sell stamps however the village is losing a service , option 2 which is something I have not done is to increase the selling price to make a profit to cover the overheads. To make 0.5p on a second class stamp then be hit with banking charges to cover the payment of the stamp is really unfair. So I don’t think a 10% profit margin on the cost of the stamp is too much taking in to consideration that I still have the payment costs to pay for .

    1. Hi Darren. really good to see it from a shop owner’s perspective. I think a big part of the issue is people don’t realise they are sometimes getting charged more for stamps. If they know there’s a charge to cover costs and are happy with that it’s a different matter. Especially if, as you say, there aren’t alternative retailers in the village (my experience was in central London where they certainly couldn’t claim to be offering a something you couldn’t get elsewhere).

      It’s a bit like getting a glass of water in a restaurant. The water doesn’t cost anything – but the service and cleaning of the glass do – so it’s certainly something for people to think about.

  7. I used to have a Post Office so selling stamps would make about 1-2p per stamp sales. Even without post office selling stamps at RRP would make only 2% profit margin if paid in cash and would incur a loss of 2% if paid with a card. I didn’t bother selling stamps after I closed the post office because you simply won’t make money selling at RRP. A lot of post offices closed since pandemic outbreak simply because it is not a profitable business. Use it or lose it.

  8. Does anyone sell stamps for less? I know Superdrug used to, does anyone still do?

  9. I just bought 1st class stamps with a 60% markup. It’s partly my own damn fault for not knowing how much a stamp should cost, but 60%?!? It’s quite outrageous.

    1. Yeah I was shocked when I realised too.

    2. I have just been to the shop in our village that is a Post Office. I asked the lady to check two envelopes and she said one was OK to go for normal second class but second one would require two second class stamps. She then charged me £4.20. I know a second class stamp costs 61p so asked why she was charging 70p. She said the Post Office section was closed! Suppose lunchtime? I complained saying she should have said. She gave me 54p back. When I got home I checked price of large second class stamp and it seems toe be 83p so presumably I paid 39p over. Needless to say I will not be going in the shop again. I will stick to Asda! She said she can charge retail prices if the Post Office is not open! She then seemed to say she had no idea of price of stamps.

      I give up!

  10. I think everyone is being a bit hysterical here, let’s not forget some shops are providing a service that the Post Office or Royal mail fail to do (think rural Post Office branches closing) so there’s that to consider.

    Look at it this way, a shop in an area with no local Post Office goes and buys say 100 books of first class stamps, they are out of pocket if no-one buys them all so they are taking the financial risk here but you expect them to do this for no gain?

    If you want to complain then do so about Royal Mail, it is they who are making it more difficult to get reasonable postage services year after year not your local shop keeper.

    Personally if it’s a choice between an extra 20-30p or a 10 minute walk in the pouring rain or a five minute drive to pay 50p parking just to get a stamp at the face value then the local shopkeeper gets my money.

    You all should be ashamed complaining about trivialities such as this. If you don’t like the price then buy elsewhere, no-one is forcing you.

    1. I think that’s a fair point for small communities but it doesn’t apply in town or city centres. Shops can also apply to be official sellers and buy stamps at a discount to sell to the public. It’s not a huge amount off, but it’s something.

      1. Quite. The condition for buying at a discount (apart from maybe buying from Superdrug when they did the 5% off thing) is that you can’t surcharge.

  11. I had this today in a cheap newsagent in Bath opposite the Parade Gardens. I was charged £4.20 for a book of 6 first class that should cost £4.02. I challenged the girl and she said “that’s what we charge.” This shouldn’t be legal in any shop. It’s not a great way to keep customers!

    1. Absolutely. At least you were only down 18p, some charge much more!

  12. I recently went to a ‘corner’ shop and they tried to charge me £1.09 for a stamp. I looked at her and said that was definitely not how much a stamp should cost. She just shrugged and said that was the price. I walked out.

  13. As if this were not bad enough Radio4 (You and Yours I think ) ran a story this week about fake stamps-another real risk when buying other than from the Post Office.What a bonkers world we have created where such an innocuous purchase is fraught with all these dangers and pitfalls.

    1. Try to purchase stamps in a shop in Ditherington in Shrewsbury try to charge me 80pence so I walked outdid my business on line any wonder why post offices are closing

      1. Stamp shops (for collectors) sometimes sell excess stock of old valid stamps for less than face value. So if you have one near you it’s worth asking!

    2. I got charged £2.50 today for 1 first class stamp and 2 second class stamps, that’s at least 40 pence more than I should have paid? I understand they are providing a service but that is a high markup

  14. I have just found out that Swain house Store, Bradford bd2 is overcharging for first class stamp on the 15 of October I brought a first class stamp from this shop it cost me 70 pence but this is not the first time I have been over charged by this shop now I am going to name and shame this shop for over charging

    1. It’s awful isn’t it. People forget how much stamps cost and buy them as a book so it’s harder to know how much they should be paying.


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