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Can they deliver? Unwrapping the truth about dodgy deliveries

A damaged letter

Ever wondered what goes on with your mail between the sender and you? What exactly happened to the letter you should have received a fortnight ago? Why did that parcel marked ‘fragile’ arrive in bits?

If you are nodding your head sadly, read on… The truth could be more shocking than you think.

In last night’s Dispatches programme on Channel 4, Which? reviewed secret footage filmed in a UK Mail depot in Bournemouth. The footage showed some workers displaying scant regard for your precious parcels, with packages falling off the conveyor belt, being kicked around and dropped.

The programme also followed private postal company TNT, where post delivered on bikes was shown to be poorly secured and often delayed.

Across the online shopping industry, problems with deliveries cost businesses an estimated £851m a year. With secret footage like this, you can see where some of this money may be being frittered away.

Pass the parcel – who’s responsible?

Last night’s programme reflects our findings. When we asked more than 2,000 people about their experiences of online deliveries in November last year, more than six in 10 people told us they had experienced problems. See more in our delivery rights video:

But if you’ve experienced problems with damaged goods, who is responsible? The Sale of Goods Act states that the seller is responsible for goods up until they are delivered to you. Any damage or breakages that occur en route are the responsibility of the seller. You should never be left out of pocket for damages. So don’t let companies worm out of it by asking you to take your problem up with the delivery company!

Knowing what to say when you want to make a complaint can be puzzling though – what phrases should you use to inspire action? We have a template letter to request damaged goods be replaced – you can send the letter by email or download it to print off and post.

Were you shocked by the footage on last night’s Dispatches? Have you ever tried to solve the mystery of a missing parcel or a lost letter? What did the sender say when you raised your concerns?


It is worth watching the Dispatches programme, which is available online, despite the stupid adverts.

It would be very easy to investigate the treatment of parcels by putting an accelerometer in some packages. These devices are now commonplace in many electronic gadgets. I don’t know if Which? or any of the delivery companies are using these devices in their research or quality control.

The companies that are mistreating our mail deserve large fines. That is the only measure that is likely to tackle the problem effectively. There is no reason why companies cannot use CCTV and their own undercover investigators to weed out the staff who behave irresponsibly. I feel very sorry for those staff who do their job conscientiously.

As I have reported before, I have virtually no problem with letters and packages delivered by Royal Mail. From previous Conversations, I know that I am not alone – and fully appreciate that many have not been so lucky. I did not have much time for the nationalised industries that have been privatised but I do hope that Royal Mail can be kept in public ownership.


Last week I came home to find my parcel locked inside my gas meter box. Couldn’t understand why it hadn’t been put through the letter box as it was small enough.


I suspect this is because letterboxes can be damaged by putting parcels through them and some householders get a little upset about this. Mine was damaged in this way, but its the letterbox manufacturers that deserve the blame for making products unfit for their purpose.


Some companies are just in denial, When I report issues to the Royal Fail, like packages on the doorstep etc ( in the rain). They’re only reply is “there are many delivery companies that operate in this area, its not necessarily the fault of the Royal Mail”, Yet they retreat into their shells when questioned with “so how many of those deliver packages with a Royal Mail frank on them?”

It’s high time, someone clamped down hard on bad practices.

Maybe if compensation was upped? Royal Mail offer a book of stamps, whoopiee.

When mentioning that to the local delivery manager he did agree with it but refused to request it from his management..
Having said that I get poor service from most delivery companies, I think its the targets their under, to deliver so many items within a set time, regardless of how far apart the deliveries are spread. So of course some people will just cut corners to make them.


Of all the carriers that deliver to us, we find Royal Mail or Parcel Force give the least cause for concern. The packages are usually in sound condition and fully intact, they don’t leave things with any old neighbour, they don’t put things in the dustbin or chuck them over the side gate, and they leave you a properly completed card with details of the recipient and consignor where available, state the nature of the delivery [ie parcel, packet, bulky, signed-for etc], and allow collection from the local post office. Most other carriers either do all the wrong things or else they redeliver the next working day and if you’re not in and you still want the item you have to go to their depot [30 miles away in most cases] or pay them to bring it as a new consignment.

We also have very problems with deliveries by UPS or DHL, and City Link [who seem to have been making massive losses] are also fairly good. The less said about the remainder the better – perhaps it is such a cut-throat business that they have to cut corners as well. We are frequently having to return damaged goods or complain to the consignor about the condition of delivered parcels. Unfortunately, companies often select the cheapest carrier without regard to quality of service. So often we find boxes have either been badly mishandled in the various transfer depots or obviously broken into. “Fragile” on the packaging used to mean “breakable” but now it means “broken” [when signing for things always add “Damaged” or “Unexamined”].

Regarding delays, the worst carriers are those who drop a load of parcels off at someone’s home for them to deliver as and when they get around to it in their old banger. The upside is that the items usually arrive in better condition and the delivery person is rather more courteous than the usual types for whom waiting for the resident to come to the door is clearly a major inconvenience.

Unfortunately, there was a change of programmme on Channel 4 in our region last night so we did not catch Dispatches [good title!] so, as Wavechange recommends, I shall try and view it on line.


First line of second paragraph : please insert “few” before “problems” (incomplete delivery of mesage).

D64 says:
2 May 2013

I used Interlink Express (my supplier’s choice) and they were absolutely, absolutely, brilliant. Told me they had the order, told me when it would arrive, sent me a follow up letting me choose next day or a neighbour if I wanted. They told me the time slot it would arrive (and they were absolutely bang on time), parcel arrived completely undamaged even though not brilliantly protected. Praise where praise is due.

John Goodwin says:
4 May 2013

Same here, cannot fault Interlink Express. Beyond all others in their care and service of delivery.
Unbelivable in their contact with customers clients.