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Young people and Londoners are most willing to use post office self service machines as complaints about queues rise in December, Citizens Advice finds

16 December 2017

Citizens Advice has today published new research on people’s behaviours at post offices to help consumers ahead of the last guaranteed posting dates for Christmas.

The charity - which is the statutory watchdog for postal consumers - is encouraging people  to avoid the busiest periods during the annual rush, by visiting post offices outside lunchtime.

Citizens Advice is also reminding consumers to send letters and parcels before the last posting dates of 20 December for second class, and 21 December for first class.  

Social media analysis by Citizens Advice shows that complaints about queues are highest at lunchtime, and have increased since the start of December. The research also found that consumers are most likely to have to wait in line between 12pm and 2pm.

Post Office Limited has introduced self-service machines in 220 of the largest branches across the country with staff on-hand to assist customers in order to cut down waiting times.

However, initial research from Citizens Advice found 97% of people over 65 would rather post a parcel at a staffed counter than a machine, with Londoners and young people (18-24 year-olds) most willing to use self-service machines.

Overall, the polling found the majority of  people are open to the idea of using self service machines, with 3 in 4 saying they would  consider using them to buy a stamp.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Christmas is the busiest time of year for postal services, so we are encouraging people to send their items ahead of the last guaranteed posting dates to avoid missing the big day. They can also cut their wait at the post office if they visit at off-peak times.

“New technology like self service machines may help reduce queues, and we know Londoners and young people are the most willing to use them. However older people are less confident about using self service machines so it is important that staff are on hand to give them the assistance they need.”


Notes to editors

  1. Citizens Advice is the statutory watchdog for postal services, providing policy advice and delivering strategic projects that contribute to improving the operation of the postal market for all consumers. They also ensure consumer needs are represented in decisions on the future of the post office network, at both a strategic and branch level.

  2. Twitter analysis was conducted using Method52 between 20 September and 12 December. Method52 is a tool for analysing and categorising text. We use it to categorise which tweets are ‘issues’, i.e. complaints or other expressions of negative sentiment, and which are benign or positive. In a sample of tweets categorised as ‘issues’ about the post office there were 234 tweets about post offices queues or wait times published in the first 2 weeks of December, compared to a fortnightly average of 75 from 20 September to 28 November.

  3. Citizens Advice’s new research brings together findings from a mystery shopping exercise of 1,800 post offices and three separate polls into consumer use of, and attitudes towards, post offices and self service kiosks.

  4. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  5. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  6. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit
  7. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  8. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  9. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.