A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Thursday, 5 April 2012

Hooptedoodle #47 - Royal Mail: we are not worthy


It's a good while since I had a rant about Royal Mail, but I think it's time.

Recently I wound up a small business and, as must always be the case, the dross lying around at the end includes outstanding bills to be chased up. In the overwhelming majority of cases, I am happy to say, my former customers always paid up promptly, so this really is just a sad little blip to finish off with.

If they don't pay, and if the bill is big enough to bother with, my procedure is to send one last reminder by some form of registered mail, saying that if I am not in possession of cleared funds to settle the account in full by such-&-such a time and date a month hence I will submit an application to the Sherriff's Court to recover the debt. I use the registered mail service since the digital signature on the Royal Mail website's tracking service provides proof that this letter has been received.

On Tuesday, I sent one such Very Last Demand by what Royal Mail describes as Special Delivery. This costs the princely sum of £5.45 for a small letter, but guarantees delivery the next day and, of course, the recipient has to sign for it. Ideal.

On Wednesday evening, I checked the RM website, to learn that they had failed to deliver my letter. They had attempted delivery at 08:44, but - since this is a business which opens at 09:30 - there was no-one there to sign for it. So they left a postcard which says that the item can be collected from the local sorting office, but please don't try until the following day, so that the roundsman can get it back there.

Today (Thursday) the tracking information on the website has changed. It says that they failed to deliver it again at 06:22 today, and left another postcard. It isn't looking very promising, is it? Is it just me, or is it possible this service is not very good value? I keep trying to be an enthusiastic customer of Royal Mail, and I have to say that they have delivered an awful lot of stuff safely for me over the years, but occasionally they let me down badly and I forget how much I love them. Usually this is when they are required to think what they are doing.

I always try to make this blog useful if it is possible to do so. Since our perception of RM's service is obviously so dependant on the key issue of whether we are at home or not when the postie arrives, here's a useful little notice to help him. Right-click on the picture, select Link from the drop-down, right-click on the big version and save it, and then you can print it out and laminate it and attach it to your door when it matters. Naturally this is only of immediate use to UK residents, but if you are outside the UK you could still give it a try. Please don't bother to thank me, I think we all have an obligation to that nice Mr Cameron's Big Society.

9 comments:

  1. An excellent idea. As an enthusiastic supporter of Cameron's Big Jobbie, sorry Society, I think you should get some money out of those bank accounts he has just raided to progress your idea further...stick on smiles for the counter staff at my local PO would come in handy.

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  2. Absolutely inspired - and bloody well executed! Give that man a sub-contracted multi-drop delivery owner-driver who knows what he's doing!!!

    Hugh

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    1. Thanks Hugh - sadly, my experience with couriers, overall, has been much worse than with RM. I have sent in an email complaint to the Faceless Ones at RM, which they promise to reply to in 4-5 working days. What's the betting I get Standard Excuse #87a, the one about how difficult their job is, quoting me irrelevant, meaningless percentages of successful deliveries in the UK?

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  3. Hi Tony - I have to disagree slightly with you on Royal Mail. I worked for many years as Operations Director for a Toy Mail Order business that by the end (my end) was shipping over 80,000 items a year via Royal Mail & Parcel Force. The number of items that genuinely went astray was really tiny despite the common perception of inefficiency. Whenever I looked at competing courier businesses they had some good rates at first glance but deliveries to rural areas were always pricey (and when you run a mail order business there are a lot of customers in rural areas - strangely!). The reason for the increase was because these companies would hand over all such items to Royal Mail for delivery because they didn't have the infrastructure to handle them themselves! The thing is though, being realistic there will always be times when people aren't in to receive a delivery and Royal Mail's prices for their services are actually very reasonable. I like the joke Jack Dee made a few years ago about people moaning about the price of a first class stamp when he said "How far do you think you'll get delivering your own letter on 26p?" (26p was the price then). I don't think Special Delivery is a timed service (they just have to deliver before a certain time) so maybe this was the wrong service to use?

    Like so many things we Brits love to knock Royal Mail but I have a suspicion that if we lose it the alternative will be much more expensive and probably less efficient...

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    1. Hi Ian - you are right, of course, about the mainstream service RM provide - I use them a lot and think that they are wonderfully reliable and the prices are good - especially when you see what it costs to get stuff sent from (eg) Spain or USA. The particular problem I have this week is located in a small country town which has a single delivery office, where they probably know all residents by their first names, and their business, and where they certainly do not have a great many Special Deliveries on any given day. It looks rather as though we have entered on an infinite series of failed deliveries and postcards - I find it hard to believe that their staff are cretinous enough to fail to see that a delivery at a time when someone will be around (i.e. during opening hours) would not only cheer up the customer but also avoid an open-ended string of pointless re-visits for their own staff. I am sure someone will point to some kind of Service Level Agreement which proves that they have actually done a great job, though they have merely screwed up what I was trying to do, using a service recommended for the purpose to me by their chums at Post Office Counters Ltd.

      I will still buy my book of 1st Class stamps and happily trust my mail to them. As far as using a special service to help me, I think I will look elsewhere in future. In this particular case, I could have achieved a quicker delivery using 2nd class mail - I would not have got a signature, of course, but then I haven't got one anyway. The idea that someone gets their mail delivered too early is almost incomprehensible to me - our mail here is delivered around 2-3 pm, and if the weather is bad, or it is a Monday, it may not arrive at all. What works in the South of England does not necessarily achieve a lot up here!

      Good to hear from you - and, as I say, you are right - cheers - Tony

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    2. Sorry Ian - I'm putting this here simply because you offered a defence! Google Maps shows me that in the town in question the mail sorting office is 250 yards from the delivery address. 250 yards - presumably that is why they tried to deliver at 06:22 on the second day.

      We all take our infrastructure services for granted, and I agree that having a pop at them may often be thoughtless, but we also are all products of our own background. In my professional working life, and in the business involvements I have had, I am accustomed to people getting things done, in spirit as well as letter. I have a very limited appetite for lengthy excuses why it hasn't happened, especially if they repeat daily!

      If someone rang at my door at 06:22 with a postal delivery I promise I would be very angry indeed, unless it was a telegram from Her Majesty. Cheers - Tony

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  4. The Royal Mail could easily be summed up in one word ... 'crap'

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    1. Hi Steve - I think that's probably a little harsh, but I have certainly uncovered a crap bit in the last couple of days! Cheers - Tony

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    2. They can't be any worse than the crap shoot with the Devil that is dealing with An Post, though to be fair An Posts failing are slight compared to the Clousseau like antics of the private contractors that operate here.

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