Cut your Christmas delivery costs

Free delivery slots can mean sitting around all day for waiting for your item. But as one retailer launches free one-hour delivery slots, we look at other ways to sort your delivery as cheaply as possible.

Technology may have moved on with plenty of products to help us live life to the full, but getting those purchases delivered can be a different story. If you’ve ever taken an entire day off work to sit in waiting for a delivery you’ll know what I mean and if you want a fixed time slot it can mean paying £20 for the privilege.

Standard ‘free’ delivery services

Lots of online stores boast of free delivery on their websites, but read the small print and this usually means a minimum spend followed by a ‘wait all day’ approach.

Currys and PC World offer a free delivery service on large electricals but this comes with a 7am–7pm time slot. And both John Lewis and Jessops offer free delivery on orders over £50, but with John Lewis this means a 7.30am–6pm window and with Jessops, anytime between 8am–6pm.

Online-only retailers like appliancesonline.co.uk flag up their ‘free delivery’, but this too means a window of 7am–7pm Monday to Saturday or from 8am–6pm on Sundays.

And check the small print if you don’t live on ‘mainland UK’ (for example the Isle of Wight) as this means you won’t qualify for ‘free’ delivery with Jessops, which imposes a £15 surcharge if you live on the Isle of Wight along with the Isle of Man, Channel Islands and Northern Ireland.

How much do fixed time slots cost?

Once you try pinning a company down to a more specific time slot costs start to stack up.

Currys charges up to £16 for a four-hour time slot which run from 7am–11am through to 3pm–7pm on weekdays, while it’s £11.99 if you’re at work all week and want a Saturday morning delivery.

John Lewis charges £9.95 to secure delivery before 10:30am, or £9 for a four-hour delivery slot and £19 for a two-hour window.

Free one-hour delivery slots

While some companies happily pocket your cash in exchange for fixed time slots, Co-op Electrical has just launched a free one-hour timeslot on everything from iPods and toasters to TVs and fridge freezers. Here’s how it works: you get to choose your delivery day and then get a text or email the day before delivery with your one-hour time slot.

While this could still mean taking a day off work, (as may not know more than 24 hours in advance what slot you’ve got), it means you won’t be hanging around all day. And as it's a shorter slot you could even ask a neighbour or friend to be on call to pop round instead.

Is it worth paying for a fixed timeslot?

If you miss a parcel from Royal Mail, it’s inconvenient but you can usually collect it from your local Post Office. Miss a courier delivery and while some companies will make a second attempt, it may mean a trip to their depot to retrieve your parcel. Depending on where they’re based, this can mean a trek to get there, while the depot may have ‘fixed’ daytime opening hours.

If your delivery is too big for your car, you could incur a second delivery charge.

So unless you can afford to wait in all day, in some cases it can be cheaper to stump up than face the inconvenience of having to collect your parcel personally.

Beat the system - fixed slots on the cheap

While some companies offer the option of paying a premium at the checkout stage to secure a fixed time slot, if you’re prepared to hold out you can get this for free. Booking a four-hour time slot with appliancesonline.co.uk costs £19.99, but if you wait until the day before delivery it says you’ll get a call giving you a ‘free’ four-hour time slot.

Another way to beat the system is by calling the store or courier delivery depot the day before delivery. I’ve found that by mid-afternoon the warehouse team can give you an accurate idea of how the van’s being loaded and this way you’ll know where you are on the delivery list. Or ask if the driver can give you a call when the van’s around an hour away or dropping off the delivery before yours.

While these options aren’t always offered I’ve found if you’re friendly and ask, most drivers will try to help you out as it’s easier for them if they can head back to base with an empty van.

No show?

Contact the retailer in the first instance, although if you’ve got a tracking number for your parcel it can often be as quick to chase the courier company too. If you’ve paid for delivery ask the retailer to refund any charges and commit to a more specific time slot next time. But do ask, as a refund of any delivery charges may not be something that’s offered upfront.

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