Small, thoughtless mistakes in parcel shipping can spoil the joy of the recipient. The nickname "To Paulchen Schröder" in the address, for example, does not go down well with Hermes parcel delivery if the addressee is not called "Paulchen". Addressing children's names from the family such as "To Leoni Müller" can also cause problems.
The reason: when picking up parcels from one of the 16,000 parcel shops, the shop operator at Hermes needs ID from the recipient. If there is a different first name in the ID field than on the parcel sticker - not the nickname or the child's name - the operator of the parcel shop may not hand over the shipment.
At least the Otto subsidiary Hermes points out in the current guide for the Christmas mail that customers should please not use nicknames or children's names. Rather, the correct name on the ID card is used as a criterion for who gets the package handed over. The first name of the parents or the information "To family" are therefore the appropriate variant, for example if grandparents want to give their grandchildren a gift with a parcel post.
Christmas time is high season for all parcel delivery companies from Deutsche Post to Hermes to DPD, GLS, UPS and regional postal companies. The Post subsidiary DHL will deliver around eleven million parcels on peak days in December. According to Swiss Post, the volume of parcels increased by 70 percent in the last two months of the year compared to September.
DHL and by far Hermes are the most affected because they are the largest parcel delivery companies for shipments to private addresses. In its annual forecast for 2022, the Federal Association of Parcel and Express Logistics (BIEK) states that 415 million parcels will be sent to private households for the months of November and December. That is around a fifth more than in 2019, the year before the corona pandemic.
Postmen are supposed to deliver letters at least once a day, including on Saturdays. But that is currently not working at all in many regions of Germany. Why is that and what can you do if important letters don't arrive?
Source: WORLD / Laura Kipfelsberger
For the other parcel services such as DPD and GLS, one belonging to the French state postal service La Poste and the other to the British Royal Mail, private parcels are a much smaller part of the day-to-day business. In contrast to Deutsche Post, its focus is on shipments between business customers - for example when supplying fashion shops, perfume chains or Telekom shops in the city centre. The same applies to UPS with the truck fleet painted in brown.
The delivery service of the online retailer Amazon is of increasing importance and increasing competition for the established parcel services. According to industry information, the online department store now delivers around half of the orders with its own delivery service. In the past two years, the company has set up a nationwide delivery network for this purpose.
However, Amazon's delivery vans, most of which are painted gray, do not have their own staff. The group from Seattle in the USA uses self-employed drivers and courier companies in the German national company. But this is no exception in the delivery industry: Hermes, DPD and GLS work almost exclusively with subcontractors. Competitor UPS employs a small proportion of its own drivers in addition to the external companies. Only Deutsche Post works entirely with employed parcel drivers.
Four days before Christmas Eve, the market leader Deutsche Post has a shift in the shaft. Because December 20th is the last delivery day if the parcel is to be delivered to the front door within Germany in time for Christmas. In the case of parcels, the Post is liable for a sum of up to 500 euros. Parcels, on the other hand, are not insured.
It is different with the number two in the parcel business, the Hamburg parcel service Hermes: Here customers have one day longer. The deadline for submissions is on December 21st at 12 noon, so that the shipments “can be reliably delivered by December 24th”, according to the provider. Hermes also assumes liability for parcel shipments, the limit here is also 500 euros. In contrast to the post office, however, this also applies to parcels with Hermes – with a total of up to 50 euros.
Competitor DPD also states 21 December at 12 noon as the latest delivery time for Christmas parcels in one of the company's 7,500 parcel shops. For so-called Pro and Express packages, customers can even wait until December 23 with the service provider. UPS or DHL Express also offer such deliveries within 24 hours. However, the shipping fees for this are at least three times higher than for a normal parcel postage.
According to Deutsche Post, December 15 is the deadline for shipments to Germany's neighboring countries - with the exception of France. Parcels to French addresses must be delivered one day earlier, the same applies to Italy. For all other European countries, December 12th is the recommended deadline for gifts to arrive on time.
The parcel service Hermes names December 15th as a “guideline” for shipping addresses within Europe, but December 20th is sufficient for shipping to Austria. The parcel deliverer DPD, in turn, recommends December 17th as the delivery date for parcels to other EU countries.
A special case are Christmas packages to the USA. "With UPS, shipping to the USA works reliably because air freight is always used," writes the comparison portal for mailings Paketda. With the Post subsidiary DHL and so-called premium packages, it should be just as fast and by cargo flight. However: "Practical experience from previous years shows that this is not adhered to before Christmas," says the operator of the Internet portal, Steffen Persiel. In his experience, DHL also sent premium shipments to the USA by sea freight due to the large number of packages before Christmas.
Anyone who bought multiple copies of the Christmas present could risk the following test before shipping: "The contents of the package must be padded so well that it can withstand a one-meter fall," explains the online comparison portal Paketda on its website. The shake test is also recommended, including that upside down. The contents must not rattle or slip. "Glass, porcelain and other particularly breakable contents must be padded all around, ideally ten centimeters thick," writes Hermes, for example, in its shipping recommendations.
A wide variety of materials are suitable for this, such as air chamber cushions or crumpled packing paper. The most important thing is to fill voids in the package. On the other hand, caution is recommended for the outside: stickers, pictures and other decorations on the boxes can cause problems in the sorting systems, as the shipment can get stuck on the chutes.
If a used parcel box is used, no shipping code should be stuck to it. "Old barcodes and parcel labels must be removed or pasted over so that they are opaque," writes the DPD parcel service. Otherwise, a return could be accidentally triggered. According to the general terms and conditions of the parcel services, certain goods are completely excluded from the usual parcel delivery. This includes perishable food, batteries, cash and jewelry.
In addition to Deutsche Post, regional competitors also send letters and postcards. But around 90 percent of the mail market in Germany is dominated by the former monopolist. Because of this supremacy, the company has to have the postage prices approved by the Federal Network Agency, for example.
If the Christmas mail is to arrive in time for Christmas Eve, Deutsche Post recommends December 22 as the latest delivery date. For letters sent to other European countries, it is December 14th. For destinations outside of Europe, the service provider recommends delivering letters by December 7th. If you want to send a gift of money in an envelope, you should choose "registered value". Then the content is insured.
Letters – like parcels – can be conveniently franked online at home. The letter writer acquires a code for this via the Deutsche Post app. The customer then writes the postal code, which he receives with the purchase, on the top right of the envelope and then throws it in the nearest mailbox.