The weird farce of Royal Mail parcel deliveries

Now, when I say parcel deliveries, you might think that this story involves parcels or indeed deliveries. If only.

I was already familiar with the problem in many areas of people getting “Sorry you were out” cards through the letterbox, saying the Royal Mail had tried to deliver a parcel, even though they were firmly sat at home at the time.

I’d always thought this was a case of rushed staff wanting to cut corners near the end of their rounds by sticking a few cards through letterboxes without knocking on the door.

The truth though is far stranger. For in many cases the Royal Mail staff are setting off without the parcels in the first place – just the pile of cards:

The problem of postmen misleading customers came to light after a reader wrote a letter to the Daily Telegraph, saying that not only did she receive many of the “Sorry, you were out” when she was working from home, but she also confronted her postman only to discover he had no parcels.

The story also features Lynne Featherstone (due to the Daily Telegraph having picked up a similar story from her blog I suspect – a good example of the impact blogging can have):

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat MP, said: “[Getting a card through the door even though you are at home] has happened to me, and now it would appear it was not an isolated incident.

“The sheer number of people have come forward suggests it is systematic. And it is just terrible. The Royal Mail is enough trouble as it is with the postmen exacerbating the problem and causing customers to reach the end of their tethers.

“I will be writing to the head of Royal Mail and demanding an investigation.”

The full story is here.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Thanks Lynne for taking this us. This has happened to me, and is one of those minor things that really irritate me!

    While we’re on the subject of the Royal Mail, has Nick said anything about the strikes? I think it could be a huge political issue in the run-up to Christmas.

  • We have this as well. With the wee one the missus orders much on ebay and is in the house most of the time.

    Sometimes the Royal Mail person walks past our front door to stick the out card in the communal letterboxes without knocking, the other week they couldn’t even be bothered to get to the letterbox, leaving it stuck in the front door with a time on it some 5 hours before he put it there. The sorting office is 2 miles away in an industrial estate so not easy to get to if you don’t drive. Last Saturday morning there was a queue of 20 angry people waiting to get their stuff.

    When we rang the Royal Mail national Customer Service to complain about repeated failed deliveries the first line we were spun was that postman don’t have to deliver or bother ringing the bell of communal properties (as if that makes a relevant difference), then that they have that policy because of a spate of thefts (ironically my wife was just contacted by Royal Mail after a member of staff was caught stealing), and then on further inquiry promised to send a copy of this mythical policy that isn’t available on their web-site… still waiting…

    Just to test the point to absurdity I asked the senior manager on the line to confirm that it was Royal Mail policy to refuse to deliver to the elderly and disabled if they lived in communal blocks. This he did… which I’m sure is something Lynne should raise with them…

    I won’t go as far as to accuse all Royal Mail staff of being lazy, incompetent or dishonest, we have one postman who is great, gets to know the people on his round and makes sure parcels get through. The problems arise when it’s not his shift. However we can say the organisation has some staff who don’t give a toss, and at least one senior manager in their national call centre who appears to invent policies to excuse incompetence.

    With the strike then my sympathy is not with either side, at the moment the Royal Mail deserve to lose their customers. If that happens staff will lose their jobs, and all the union is doing at the moment is proving why competition is necessary to protect consumers as much as regulation.

  • Herbert Brown 9th Oct '09 - 2:41pm

    Another variation is the postman leaving the parcel on the doorstep (usually without even bothering to knock the door), presumably because it’s too much work to take it back to the depot.

  • David Blake 9th Oct '09 - 2:49pm

    I’ve had parcels left on the door step several times when I’ve been out. Bad enough because they might be stolen, but also an indication to potential burglars that you’re away if it stays on the doorstep for any length of time.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Oct '09 - 3:03pm

    More than once I’ve got downstairs to see that in the time it took me to get to the door (~20 seconds), the postman has got as far as the street, and had to call them back. They don’t seem to wait very long.

  • Anders Hanson 9th Oct '09 - 3:42pm

    Not that long ago you also used to be able to pick up parcels within a few hours of the postman attempting to deliver (that’s if they tried to deliver in the first place) but now they tell you to leave 48 hours before coming to pick up a parcel. If you can’t get to the delivery office during the week because you work and the card was left on a Saturday then you can’t collect anything for 7 days and then you have to join a long queue that goes around the block!

    Mind you, where I live now is a new building and they only deliver post every other day and some of the postmen clearly can’t find the address even if it is sent to the address that’s come from the Royal Mail website (it sometimes arrives with question marks next to the address, or try near Blonk Street, or even with the correct postcode crossed out and another one written on). I’ve also known them to return things to sender saying the address doesn’t exist, which caused me no end of problems with my bank as they assumed I had given them a false address.

    I used to defend Royal Mail when people said they weren’t any good. Not anymore.

  • Recently I went to a post office in France. They had a ticket and queue system for different types of purchase. The office was clean and efficient.

    Most of the smaller local branches have been shut and now I have to go to the city centre post office. The queue always takes at least 20 minutes and seems to consist mainly of drug addicts waiting to get their gyro.

    What a contrast

  • sanbikinoraion 9th Oct '09 - 4:27pm

    They had a ticket and queue system for different types of purchase. The office was clean and efficient.

    The one in Bath is just like this.

  • It’s happened to me as well, once recently I happened to be up at 6.30 am and heard scuffling at the door, went to take a look and caught the postie pushing the card through. Very bad, since they’re not supposed to deliver anything before 7am and worse, he hadn’t got the parcel (and certainly hadn’t tried knocking). Really, there’s no excuse for treating customers so shabbily.

  • David Allen 9th Oct '09 - 9:44pm

    “This … is one of those minor things that really irritate me!”

    More than minor, I’d say. How much petrol and time does the nation waste chasing up all these misdeliveries? The private companies can be even worse. There would be lots of votes in a good solution!

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