BFPO - Does It Work?
Imagine living really far from the UK and not having all the creature comforts that you’re used to…
We’re only human and we like our luxuries (sometimes we just can’t do without them)...
So, we go online, find the product we’re looking for, click order and wait for BFPO (British Forces Post Office) to work their magic.
Great! Job done... Sit back and await delivery (albeit delivery to your partners work address, as it doesn’t stretch as far as your actual home!).
It’s so disappointing when we later receive an email saying something along the lines of “Sorry we've had to cancel your order as we do not deliver to BFPO addresses”
It is very frustrating, but I think it’s mainly down to companies not really understanding how BFPO works.
I had a quick look at the Ebay and Amazon community forums to see what people thought of BFPO customers (i.e. us) and there was a lot of complaining...
"Is there any way to stop BFPO addresses ordering from us? I have tried everything and I can't do it. Postage exclusion only covers countries not post codes.
I’ve heard a lot of people say 'but it doesn’t cost anymore to send to BFPO addresses'... well it does."
"We have decided to remove all BFPO sales as a number of issues over time, the last one now being a final nail in the coffin to send to any BFPO address
They cost far more as going to British Forces Post Office (so mainly overseas military personnel), you can now choose to send to those addresses or bar orders from them"
"Has anyone else had a buyer with a BFPO (British Forces Post Office) address, is for a large book over 2.45kg, and according to HERMES they won’t send to this address (is based in Ruislip). They don’t send to BFPO addresses.
Has anyone else come across this?"
"I don’t understand how it works, is going to a Ruislip address, but bound for Islamabad? Do you need to fill in a customs form as will eventually go abroad? Should the sender address be that of the buyer and not myself as has been ordered by them for someone else abroad/in the forces? STRESSED BECAUSE OF A PARCEL!!!"
These are just a few of the many comments and complaints from sellers. They just don’t seem to understand BFPO and then dismiss it as a delivery option as it seems to be too much effort!
So, I thought I'd get in touch with BFPO and ask them a few questions that might answer some of the moans and groans…
I spoke to a really helpful lady called Mirren...
There are loads of companies who won’t deliver to us overseas because they say it costs more to send, is that true?
We provide the conditions for companies to serve BFPO customers and companies in contract with BFPO are charged rates comparative to UK postal rates for delivery to all BFPO destinations.
If it’s over 2KG do the companies pay more to send it?
As with all mail services, prices are dependent on weight.
We tried to order some dining chairs and there was obviously a delivery charge which we were willing to pay of course, but when they saw we were a BFPO address they said, “we don’t deliver to BFPO”
Over the years, the BFPO has worked hard to develop a close relationship with a number of Carriers and Couriers who provide a service from the UK to overseas locations, as well as Royal Mail, to ensure that personnel should not be disadvantaged by serving abroad.
All BFPO addresses have had a UK postcode since 2012 and these are held in the Postal Address File (PAF), which is managed by Royal Mail. This file allows BFPO addresses to be recognised online, but this does rely on companies to incorporate the BFPO annex in their software.
The price that companies charge consumers for postage is a decision made by each company and is not under the influence of BFPO.
In the case of kitchen chairs, and other furniture, please note that there are size and weight restrictions for BFPO locations, which can be found on our website. This may have influenced the decision regarding delivery to BFPO addresses in this case.
Do you have a list anywhere that shows who does and doesn’t deliver to BFPO addresses?
This British Forces Post Office (BFPO) commercial contracts list contains a list of all companies that are able to send items using the BFPO mail system and is updated on a monthly basis.
Big thanks to Mirren for the help in answering a few questions, The list of post codes she was talking about for each BFPO number can be found here.
The Forces Network recently wrote an article on how to correctly address mail in order to send it to BFPO.
The key statement in the above Q&A was that personnel should not be disadvantaged by serving abroad, however as a family that has been abroad for many years, I have to say we definitely are disadvantaged by this when serving overseas. While you accept that items may take longer to arrive, to be told that some basic (even small and lightweight) items cannot be delivered because you have a BFPO address just seems unreasonable.
So... If you're a company who has received an order from a BFPO address, I think it's important to consider a few things....
Firstly - The person placing that order has chosen your company to buy goods from. Out of all your competitors, they chose you, but you may have just tarnished your reputation for future purchases, as by forcing them to shop elsewhere, so now you might have lost their custom long term.
Secondly - They're probably in a remote area where they can't get certain items and will be relying on you to help...particularly in the first couple of weeks after moving overseas, while still waiting for their house removals to arrive, it’s often easier and preferable to re-buy those basic items.
Finally and probably most importantly - The person placing the order is just as much of a valuable customer as any other based in the UK (some might argue more valuable because of the regular house moving requirements). Remember, the military communities in overseas locations are often small...word spreads very quickly! That word will also end up back in the UK with their friends and family. Your reputation is on the line for poor customer service especially if the reason for not delivering is a blanket BFPO ban which is unreasonable.