/ Shopping

Signed, sealed, but not delivered?


As we hurtle headfirst into the final week to Christmas, the challenge of wrapping and packing awkwardly shaped presents is nigh. While some will be wrapping this week, others will still be waiting for gifts to be delivered…

This year I bought from a mixture of places – some presents I purchased in person earlier in the year and some I hunted for online when I found little inspiration on the high street.

Thankfully all of my presents are hidden under my bed and are ready to be adorned with festive paper this weekend. But some of the 2,000 people we recently surveyed aren’t in that lucky position…

Christmas deliveries

When we asked more than 2,000 people about their experience of receiving deliveries in the past month, we found that just a third had received all their deliveries as expected.

For one in five at least one delivery was late and the same proportion told us that at least one delivery did not arrive at all.

People complained about lengthy delays, lack of communication, delivery instructions ignored, and packages being damaged when forced through letterboxes.

Around 10% said a delivery had been left outside the door without consent, 4% had a delivery left in a rubbish or recycling bin and 3% had it thrown over a hedge or fence.

Retailer responsibilities

When things go wrong with your delivery, it can be difficult to know who to turn to. Is it the courier’s fault for leaving your parcel with the ‘neighbour’ 11 doors down? Or, is the retailer’s responsibility to ensure your goods arrive with you?

In a different survey we ran recently we also found that there’s still confusion about who is responsible when something goes wrong during the delivery process.

Only half of these shoppers knew to contact the retailer if posted goods go missing after being left on the doorstep or in the garden without permission. Around a third incorrectly thought that they should contact the delivery company and one in seven said that did not know who to contact.

It might seem odd to blame the retailer in a situation where it was clearly the courier who left your order out in the rain. But, the reason you wouldn’t make a complaint to the courier is because the courier is employed by the retailer to deliver your goods to you. Ultimately it is the retailer’s responsibility to ensure you receive your goods.

Does buying online outweigh delivery issues for you? Are you still waiting for Christmas presents to arrive?


I’ve had a drama with a Christmas delivery. I ordered a present on behalf of my grandmother as the item had sold out in the shops. I paid for next day delivery and the estimated arrival was Monday 18 December, on Tuesday morning I had an email to say that the delivery company had posted the parcel through my letterbox at 21.53 on Monday night… it definitely wasn’t there. I checked with neighbours and even in the bins too, the item hadn’t been delivered. I spoke to Amazon who told me to wait another 24 hours for it, so I did. The parcel still didn’t show up. So I contacted the delivery company and they told me it was definitely missing so they’d investigate and in the meantime, I should go back to the retailer. I followed up with the retailer who finally agreed to refund me my money (I’m yet to get the refund) and confirmed that it was missing. I’ve now had to order the item again and hope that this one turns up…

You seem to have left things a bit tight, Lauren – do you have a Plan B?

Proving you haven’t had a delivery is one of the problems in these scenarios because the seller is likely to believe their carrier over the customer some of whom possibly tell porkies.

I don’t know what the service like is these days but people living in the Harrods van delivery area never had these problems. The green van and the man in the green uniform were 100% reliable. Even for a set of handkerchieves, no charge.

I am surprised that “one in five never received their delivery at all”. Extrapolating the survey would mean that 172 million parcels will not be delivered this Christmas. I think, perhaps, the basis of the survey could be questionable.

Unless a retailer uses a signed for service, i think the onus should be automatically on them to prove delivery, not on the recipient to prove it was not delivered.

I was dubious about click and collect as an alternative, but as, like most people, I go out shopping regularly and now there seem to be a huge number of shops that will act as click and collect agents, it seems a very practical approach. I can collect when I like, and not have to wait in for a delivery from “7am onwards” on a particular day. And there will be no dispute if my parcel goes astray.

I think making the seller prove delivery rather than the customer having to assert non-delivery would be a very good move. The seller is responsible for fulfilling the order but, from previous Conversations on this subject, it seems that many of them put up al sorts of defences and tell the customer to deal with the carrier, which is quite wrong. Adopting that rule would make it more likely that companies would employ better carriers who took care to deliver correctly and had a good recording system to provide evidence of delivery. I don’t use my normal signature for signing for deliveries but a very bold and clear version; if the carrier came up with a squiggle I would know at once it was a fake.

If you need evidence about a carrier’s failures causing you problems, you might consider taking screenshots of the carrier’s tracking page and note the time you took the screenshots; storing the file with a name that includes the time and date of taking the image is helpful.

I’m currently tracking Parcel Force’s third attempt to deliver an item I particularly want and haven’t been able to find a suitable substitute for, and have already had two conversations with what passes for their customer service. Over the last two days and this morning, I’ve taken a series of screenshots which absolutely contradict several things PF have told me in phone calls. They claim the reason for non-delivery is their driver cannot find my address, yet their live map on my item’s tracking page has my home clearly marked spot-on accurately, which refutes the ‘cannot find the address’ claim.

I’m severely disabled and can’t get out of the house without help, so I’m able to catch all the changes to the tracking page, which I appreciate most people would be unable to do, but if you can, it can be helpful to have that evidence to back up your complaint. Learning the keyboard shortcuts to taking screenshots is helpful, too, it makes doing it quicker and simpler.


Carole says:
23 December 2017

We have problems with DPD deliveries in our area as they refuse to deliver a neighbour even when specifically requested and instead take a photo of our front door without even trying to knock on our neighbours door.

When I nominated a dry safe place they dropped the parcel over my back gate in the pouring rain and have left parcel in front of my house on the drive when I did not nominate a safe place.

Despite numerous complaints to both DPD and retailers I am now at the point where I avoid shopping with retailers who send parcels using DPD.

That is a great shame, because in many comments here DPD have been regarded as one of the best carriers. They were the first to introduce real-time tracking with map locations and one-hour delivery forecasts. I have always found DPD to be satisfactory and very reliable. I have to say, though, that I have no experience of how they operate when the consignee is absent. It would seem from what you say that they will only deliver to the actual address unless they have received specific on-line instructions from the customer to deliver elsewhere and will take no notice [for obvious reasons] of a message taped to the front door saying take it somewhere else, for example. They also seem to prefer to deliver on a different day if the recipient will not be present to take in the parcel and have a facility on their delivery notification for the consignee to alter the delivery date right up to the time of delivery.

The parcel delivery industry does rather expect people who have ordered goods on-line to be available to receive them on the scheduled date but this is made difficult with companies [like Amazon] who give a delivery window of several days and sometimes deliver in advance of that period – but they tend to use their own logistics operation and not carriers like DPD.

It is possible that your bad experiences are related to a particular DPD depot where some poor customer service practices have taken root. If goods are left in an exposed place, or where they can get wet, then that should always be taken up with the consignor [seller] so they are aware of unsatisfactory deliveries and review their contract with the carrier company. Many on-line retailers will not say which company will be doing the delivery since they use a number and it will depend on the origins and destinations of multiple consignments on the day.

The parcel delivery business is highly competitive and it could be that DPD have lost their edge and slipped down the satisfaction league table recently. Consignors are usually looking for the lowest cost operation which is not particularly good news for their customers – only when the cost and inconvenience of dealing with customer complaints and sending replacements exceeds the marginal cost advantage of using a particular carrier will things change, so it is important to notify the seller of all delivery problems.

We buy quite a lot on-line from John Lewis and they use DPD; JL’s order confirmation notifications are inter-linked with the DPD system which then takes over the delivery notification process so DPD are effectively the delivery arm of John Lewis for small goods. We have never had a problem but always make sure we will be at home when a delivery is due and if necessary choose a specific delivery day. In the run-up to Christmas we managed to take in deliveries from five different suppliers on the same day [plus a Sainsbury’s order]. The hall looked like a parcels depot at one point.

Helena Poldervaart says:
24 December 2017

I’ve twice had large and very heavy bags of compost left in my recycling wheelie bin. They only stopped when I started specifically asking them not to do it in the delivery instructions.

On 2nd January I placed an online order with M&S with a promise of standard delivery within 3-5 days. Today is day 8 (or 5 working days), but having just checked the e-mail order confirmation the items are “still awaiting despatch” and they have now moved the delivery goal posts to “arrive before Monday 15th January”, a total of 13 days (or 9 working days) after the order was placed. I have just repeated the same online order without following it through to payment and they are still advertising delivery within 3-5 days for exactly the same items.

Their helpline takes you to another online link which repeatedly takes you round in circles and back to the beginning down a road to nowhere with no obvious telephone contact number. There is no legal redress on my part as the confirmation email states delivery “before 15th January” which should in fact have read “before 9th January” (today), to comply with the original order, and moreover, it asserts the order cannot now be cancelled nor is it refundable.

Failure to deliver within the delivery period advertised but then moving the goal posts to cover themselves after you have paid for the goods is a clear case of misrepresentation. There was some urgency for the items ordered and I would have taken my custom elsewhere if I had been made aware of the delay prior to ordering.

Their T&Cs state “during times of sales there may be some delay in delivery”, which is neither here nor there as retail sales are now ongoing at any time of the year and can be used as a means of protecting themselves from Consumer Rights legislation.

Good morning, Beryl. Try giving them a ring on 0333 014 8000.

I ordered from M&S on 26th December and it arrived 5th January using standard delivery.

As they have not delivered within their original delivery date, you could try and get a free return out of them when the goods arrive.

I suggested that they added this email to their website last time I contacted them, but to no avail. Many companies don’t advertise email addresses even if they have them.

Many thanks everyone for the info. I will chase them up today when I am fully compos mentis. My somewhat detailed post was meant to highlight the lengths some retailers will go to to take and hold on to your cash once you have pressed the “pay now” button. You are effectively left entirely at their discretion. Would the 14 day return principle apply if the goods are still awaiting despatch after that time has elapsed?

In fairness Beryl I doubt that M&S do this to deliberately hold on to your “cash” and as most will pay with a credit card, they don’t actually pay until at least 30 days after the transaction date. We have dealt fairly often with M&S online and generally find it more convenient to use click and collect. We get an email when the item will be available and delivery has been very prompt.

CRA guide says: 10. 14 day right to cancel for goods bought at a distance or off-premises

If you sell goods to a consumer at a distance….. then the consumer has a 14 calendar day period in which they may change their mind and cancel the contract …..The consumer may use this 14 day cooling off period to cancel without giving a reason, if goods were bought off-premises or at a distance.

The 14 day period starts the day after the consumer, or someone selected by the consumer, receives the goods.

So the 14 days starts from your receipt of the goods.

I have spoken to M&S, but all they could offer was a compensatory £10 voucher, which I declined. I did request instead, they despatched the order by express delivery due to its urgency, but that apparently was no longer an option. I did request that the phone call be recorded as I made the point, which was addressed to the management, that competition in the high street is pretty intense at the moment and that M&S cannot afford to rest on its laurels and continue to misrepresent delivery dates on their online orders, and rely upon their reputation indefinitely, in a highly competitive online marketplace,

Malcolm I understand from your previous postings that you are longstanding and staunch patrons of M&S, but they are not beyond reproach, especially when they misrepresent delivery dates to attract more customer support, and I think you misread my previous comment by stating that “M&S deliberately hold on to your cash” All other payments, apart from debit or cheque, take about 3 days to reach the payees account, in which case M&S will have been in receipt of payment for the items I ordered online since last Friday with no guarantee they will arrive (if at all) before Monday 15th January.

Amazon Prime would have delivered the next day. British Retailers need to improve their customer services if they are to stay ahead of global foreign competition.

Beryl, we regularly use M&S as you say but when we have had a problem we’ve had no difficulty in getting it satisfactorily resolved. So we still shop with them.

My point was that if you paid by credit card, you would not part with any money for several weeks, so it would not be your cash they were holding on to. But i don’t think this is a tactic they use, from our experience with on-line purchases from them,

However, to take the matter further I’d suggest you email their CEO, currently, I believe, steve.rowe@marks-and-spencer.com

Thanks Malcolm