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.

And with two price hikes from Royal Mail in 2023, it’s even more important to make sure you’re not paying too much.

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How much do stamps cost?

Most stamps don’t have a price printed on them, making it hard to know how much they cost! The current price of stamps, and how much they’ll be after the April increase, are as follows:

How much is a First Class stamp?

  • A 1st Class stamp is £1.25.
  • Large 1st Class stamps are £1.95

How much is a Second Class stamp?

  • A 2nd Class stamp is 75p
  • Large 2nd Class stamps are £1.15

How much is a book of stamps?

There’s no discount for buying a book of stamps, so just multiply the individual price by the number of stamps (usually 6 or 12).

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 which used to be 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.

Since it had been so long since I actually bought any stamps, and without a price printed on them, I just thought they’d gone up in price. A lot.

But, actually they hadn’t. The price, as set by Royal Mail at the time was 56p (remember this was a few years ago). So I should have got 18 stamps for £10.08, rather than 14 for £10.50. It represented a huge 34% markup.

Now, with our £5 credit back on the purchase, we 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 the same day.

The first only sold 1st Class stamps and charged 90p. But this stamp – at the time of the research – should have been 65p, 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.

Here’s one from March 2023. The listing says you’ll get a 12% discount on four 1st class stamps. But a £5.69, you’re paying £1.43 per stamp. That’s well over the odds, even before the two price increases we’ve seen this year. So be really careful!

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.

When this first happend in 2017, 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”.

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Where to buy your stamps at a fair price

Ideally 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.

If you are buying from a smaller or independent store, it makes sense to always ask how much a stamp is first. 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.

Make sure the stamp has a barcode

Since January 2023, standard stamps have a barcode, as shown in this article’s main image. If you’ve any olders ones you can send them off to be exchanged for the new versions.

If you have picture stamps without barcodes, such as Christmas ones, then you can keep using these.

You also don’t need to worry about the stamp having the Queen rather than the King on display. Both will work just fine.

When do stamp prices go up?

If stamps are to go up in price it tends to happen in the last week of March or early April each year, though it can sometimes happen at other times. Fortunately, you can still use a stamp bought in a previous year for the postage marked on the stamp.

41 thoughts on “The corner shop stamp rip-off

  1. I run a small post office in Rutland and have been advertising in my post office for a number of weeks that stamp prices are going up and that it is worth buying them in if you want first or second class as they will be valid at the old price! Post Office is really need your support and money like mine do nothing, but sell the services of a post office, so please where you can support your local post office. They are already being subsidised to the tune of something in the region of £500 million a year by the government without that subsidy little Post Office is like mine would not be in existence, and many people in rural areas would be inconvenienced .

    So please support your local post office where possible. You will always get the best service and the best advice on purchasing postage.

  2. Article needs updating.

    1st class letter stamp cost me £1 today from “corner shop”. Only checked prices online afterwards and discovered I could have paid 95p at Post Office, or even bought online and suffered the consequential hassle of printing out a QR code.

    So, lots of steps saved walking to PO, and the extra 5p was worth it.

    However, I do think the newsagent could have made it clearer to me when I queried him, saying, “wow, it costs £1 now for 1st class?”. His response, “yes” wasn’t entirely truthful.

    Mind you, at these prices it surely won’t do anything to help slow down the Christmas card business decline.

  3. why is anyone buying stamps from anywhere other than the post office?
    It never occured to me to even try buying stamps elsewhere.

    Even better, do click and drop and buy your postage online.

    1. Why buy anywhere else than the post office, our town has a post office usually with only one or 2 tills manned and ridiculously long queues, but it is a privatised post office in a chemist shop, so it’s pointless complaining to the post office as their reply is, this is not under our control.

  4. The reason they sell stamps at a higher price than the big outlets is the same as the resins they have to charge more for anything else.

    They have higher overheads per unit of sale, than the big sellers and that’s the only way they can make any money. If they has to sell them at the Royal Mail Price they wouldn’t sell them at all.

    The profit on stamps is miniscule. If for example you pay with a debit card they can lose money because the profit on the stamps is smaller than the bank charges for processing the transaction.

    Also if you buy them On Line there’s the cost of posting them to you.

  5. I was surprised to find a convenience store I popped into today was charging 75p for a 2nd class stamp! (Royal Mail value of 66p). I walked away.

    1. I did exactly the same today. I had no idea they could do this until I got home, worked out the price of my purchases from there, and realised I had been ripped off. I went back and challenged them and they would not listen, and couldn’t have cared less about my grievance. Lesson learned – they have now lost a customer, as I will never buy anything from them again. 75p per stamp for a book of 12, cost me £9!

      1. Same here except we were charged 79p per 2nd class Stamps. We also challenged them but to no avail

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

  7. 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.

  8. Very useful to know, thank you.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

      2. Well i own a local shop and i buy from cnc and i charge a little extra on a book by about 45p but i also accept card payments which cost over 15p per transaction and people who buy stamps barely ever buy anything to cover that cost. Also staff costs 10.40 an hour and lcal shops fet an average of 10-15 customers /h thats 60p-£1 per customer served. So eventually its a loss per transacton to sell stamps but then again its a sale and adds up with other transaction to cover costs.
        Small Businesses work differently to large super big enterprises that have pampered everyone.
        If you work for £2/h for me i will sell you discounted stamps 45p less than royal mail do.
        Deal??

  11. 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.

      1. RUBBISH. If you don’t want to sell at face vale, DONT sell them.

        1. Whats stoppimg you from not buying them??
          We didn’t ask you to come to our shops and nag about it.
          You can allways queue for an hour in a post office and wnjoy your cheap stamps.

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

    2. Life is way too short to be complaining about the cost of stamps!!!!!!
      Help out your local shop- they all need to make a decent living.
      You will all start moaning when there are no small shops left and you have to drive further, pay for petrol, pay for parking and wear and tear on the car!!!!

  16. 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!

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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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