Steve's blog

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More SmartStamp pains.

It always amazes me how worse a product can become over its life time, Royal Mail appear to have perfected making SmartStamp annoy it’s customers on a frequent basis.

With home based business increasing thanks to sites like and eBay stamp printing applications such as SmartStamp are going to become a crucial tool.

Today all I wanted to do was print a single stamp for a small parcel to the USA.

Naturally I had to alter the printer and label when I started the application, see my previous post about the default label and printer, and then go through more pain to find the postage.

Having finally got the postage I wanted I hit print, enter my password and found out I have to do an update. It waits until I’ve spent ages setting it all up to do this. So the update happens, quite a big update, fortunately I have a fast internet connection so not to much of a problem.

Naturally being an important part of the computer I have to restart the PC to get the updates installed. However it did print my stamp for me. Wrongly! Up until today the one thing that’s always worked for me is the stamp has been well positioned. Not any more, 99012 label + stamp on a Dymo 320 looks something like this

So next I restart my PC incase the s/w needs to be updated like it asked me for. I wasn’t to happy as I was part way through downloading Vista RC1 from MSDN and the download program is a pain to find to get it to continue if you stop it part way. Actually I have no idea how to restart it I always end up back in MSDN and start another download then cancel that, but that’s another story of an annoying app.

Well after the restart which took an age (which if you are like me and trying to run an micro-ISV in your free time after work is time wasted you really could do without) the label is still positioned wrongly. Fortunately there are some confusing controls in SmartStamp to position it, so after a bit of guess work the label now shows the price like it used to.

Now for the next issue, I have to find my stamp again, USA, near the bottom of a long list of countries, I expect quite a lot of people post to USA, you would think that like most web sites and software they would have a few at the top that were very popular. But no. Then I find the stamp type, AirMail, then select the weight. Next I realise the one I wanted was actually Small Packet AirMail. Guess what, it’s decided not to keep my weight, so I have to go select one of them again.

Now I know it’s not all that easy to make the weight thing correct it’s self as there are different bands. BUT, this is really annoying every time you change stamp type it changes the weight to the min. Maybe I could just enter the weight in a text box, or use the selector, and if I’ve entered it manually then it can choose the best weight band for me. After all the one thing that’s not going to change is the weight of my parcel, but stamp choice, now that will change as I try to find the most appropriate one.

Personally I’m hoping the cheap postage scales will have a RS232 or USB interface one of these days, that would be really nice.

One day I am going to end up with the wrong stamp because of the resetting to default. Actually I just printed the stamp whilst writing this and if it wasn’t for the big SU on the label instead of the A I would have got the wrong one and the wrong weight. It’s to easy to do that. The stamp doesn’t say what weight it’s valid for either so that’s no help.

Now I have a stamp for Airmail Small Packet , I have to put a Airmail sticker on the packet and a customs declaration. Not to difficult. You can download a CN22 from Royal Mails web site and I can fire you the Dymo printer to print an Airmail sticker I have already made.

Did you make the same mistake I made. Thinking that as a label printing application designed for postage SmartStamp would include labels for Airmail and Customs declarations. Odd really, I have to print out a PDF on my laser and cut it down to size, then with a different labeller application I have to print the Airmail label. 3 Applications to sort out the stuff that has to go onto a parcel. I just don’t think anybody at royal mail has actually tried to use SmartStamp for real.

Before you correct me, yes I know that there is an Airmail logo I can use on the stamp, but not as a label by its self, and it won’t fit with the postage onto a 99012 label. So someone has clearly put 2 seconds of thought into it and stopped at that. And it’s not for small packet either. Maybe when you select an airmail stamp that has extra label requirements their could be an option to include these in the list of labels it’s about to print.

One more thing that really bugs me, and this was common in VB3 days, is the "are you sure?" exit message, that’s so old and annoying. If I’ve printed my stamp and pressed X then I certainly want to exit, don’t annoy me any more! All it tells me is the application development is still thinking VB3 style and it doesn’t really know what state it’s data is in.

Now I know I rant on about this annoying little application (which isn’t all that cheap at the end of the day), but as someone who uses it I feel I have to make my views known in a desperate hope someone may take notice one day…

Come on Royal Mail sort this product out. Please put a little effort into this, you may have won a best use of technology award for it, but it still needs a lot of attention to make it customer friendly and usable technology.

Update: As I continue to write this I’ve just tried a few more things and guess what, it’s remembered my printer and the label positioning (V3.0.0.10), I selected another label and it looks like that would also print wrong, but at least it’s remembered my settings, sad how something so basic should now cause me to be happy. Now I don’t know if that’s because of the update that just happened or because I just saved my label as a template in the hope that it would keep the label positions.

Well I’m off to search around the Royal Mail website to try and get a refund for the badly printed label. Guess what, that’s not part of the application either. I’m also firing up Napster for some music, theirs another application that continues to irritate me immensely, can they make it any more difficult and slow to play some music!


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