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Is Royal Mail giving us a third class service?

Snail carrying mail

Our Royal Mail investigation has revealed how we’re getting a patchy and inconsistent service. If ‘while you were out’ cards and other people’s post are regularly dropping on your doormat, you’re not alone…

Royal Mail is to be privatised, but for the moment we’re all still receiving or sending items via our national postal service.

Not that there’s much that’s ‘Royal’ about it, according to most of the 500+ Which? members who contacted us during our research into the service.

Problems with the post

Admittedly you’re more likely to get in touch if you’ve had a bad experience than if you’ve had a good one. But we also asked 2,210 people to keep postal diaries over two weeks – completing 34,500 diaries in all – and they reported problems too.

Of these, 16% got a ‘while you were out’ card when they were in and 6% saw the card come through the letterbox without a knock on the door. This didn’t surprise us after many of you told us a similar story in a previous Conversation last year.

And when we surveyed 2,500 members of the general public we found that seven in ten had got someone else’s post in the last year, and over half of them hadn’t got post in the time they were expecting it.

Bring back the golden days

It all seems a far cry from the memory one Which? member had of four deliveries per day in the 1930s, or from the 1960’s experience of being able to post a letter in the morning and get a reply by the next morning.

But there was lots of praise for individual posties, and a significant minority had only good things to say about Royal Mail. There were heart-warming stories of postmen and postwomen battling through snow drifts, chatting on the doorstep, working out when post was incorrectly addressed – going the literal and figurative extra mile.

So how do you find Royal Mail? Do these findings surprise you – or ring true? What do you think of it being privatised in the future?

Royal Mail meets my expectations:

Disagree (45%, 459 Votes)

Agree (41%, 416 Votes)

Neither agree nor disagree (13%, 136 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,010

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I would love to know which areas are getting a good service. You would think that central London would be a priority, but our only delivery of the day arrives at lunchtime (slightly earlier on Saturdays). After years of sticking with Royal Mail a magazine I have delivered has now switched to a private service and the magazine arrives first thing in the morning.


Why should central London take priority over other areas? Let us consider everyone. 🙂

Duncan Day says:
16 July 2013

you may get it earlier because the delivery company only has a few customers to deliver to and they may also start their delivery at a different point to Royal Mail. I have nearly 900 calls on my delivery, someone has to be first and someone has to be last.

Duncan Day says:
16 July 2013

Didn’t you realise the world revolves around London? lol


I absolutely agree with Wavechange and I’d like to add that the postal service in Sheffield Hallam is absolutely outstanding in every way. (Nick Clegg’s constituency, but, I am thankful to say, he is a far more recent import than the superb postal service.)

One of the problems with the UK is that for a very long time now, certainly since Maggie’s time as PM but I think in fact a good while longer, anything outside of London is seen as insignificant, but when issues hit London there is hell to pay.

Royal MAil is not perfect and I know that, but it’s a damn site better than many give it credit for.


I concur. We get our subscription magazines on time, first and second class post within target times, and a cheery greeting whatever the weather. Norfolk is also famous for the Singing Postman [Allan Smethurst] – must be something in the air.

all@No6 says:
16 July 2013

We live in a village in Essex. We have a very helpful and friendly Local Post Office. Our postman Richard is extremely helpful and kind. Everyone knows him and is nice to him. He pauses briefly during his busy round to exchange a few niceties and everyone loves him.

There has been occasions when post has not turned up as expected or packages have got lost. However this is extremely rare. There are always failures in any complex process.

I collect Royal Mail stamps and the envelopes are always marked “do not Bend”. Our Richard always makes sure that they are not. In 30 odd years I have never received a damaged Royal Mail envelope and the one occasion when the stamp issue did not turn up I called Talents House and they promptly sent a replacement.

Maybe we should try thanking our postman a little more often. A word of thanks and encouragement goes a tremendous long way to boosting self esteem and hence motivation. Think of the last time your boss patted you on the back.

Dare I suggest that we go the extra mile and bake the Postman a cake or give him some chocolates. The carrot has alweays been a much more effective enducement than the stick. What a pitty that a Conversation such as this has to degrade into expletives and poor language when it could be used to bring about a change in the General Public’s attitude and hence to Customer Satisfaction.

By the way I work in the Service Department of a major agricultural machinery supplier, so I know what it’s like to be shouted at. Believe me the carrot works every time!!


The reason why Central London is important for Royal Mail, which I should have thought was obvious, is that this is where the most business in the whole of the UK is generated and where Royal Mail would earn the most money if it could be bothered to provide a good service.


I had assumed we were discussing domestic postal services, which might be different from business services – though I don’t know about this.