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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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Rose says:
18 July 2011

Our postie is great, has a big delivery area (including a huge hill and many properties), and is always almost running trying to get the post delivered before the 2pm service level deadline. He’s often “asked” to cover another delivery as well and the amount he has to lug around is huge and will no doubt give him back/other problems over time (or cause him to have a heart attack whilst on his deliveries).
Whoever sorts the post doesn’t do a good job, though, as we regularly get post for another street with a similar name (so they no doubt get our post too), even though we have different surnames.
The van which delivers the larger parcels screeches up to the house, if I’m lucky he knocks loudly on the glass on the door (if he presses the bell he doesn’t press it right as it can’t light up and I don’t hear it),and he usually races away before I can get to the door, even though I’m young and fit enough to get there quickly and it’s only about 15ft from where I am at the time! I’ve also often come home to find packages just left by the doorstep (not even though the gate in a shed!), and often these days the parcels label exactly what the contents are for potential thieves (and our full names & address for anyone looking to steal identities)!
We also have days where we don’t get any delivery (presumably when the main postie is on holiday or ill), then we get lots of post at once some days. Second class post usually takes a week to reach us now, especially the banks’/similar organisations’ post that is sent “UK Mail” or similar (do Royal Mail hold these back to the last possible minute, or is it the organisations like UK Mail, whoever they are?!). And of course credit card companies always send post to tell you they’ve decided to decrease your credit limit (or other bad news you need to know immediately) by 2nd class post, so they can rake in more charges/fees!
Royal Mail staff seem very unmotivated and treated like children/machines by senior management. The good Royal Mail staff continue to think of the customers despite that, the bad ones mess up our post and do things like closing the sorting office gates an hour early on a Saturday morning when they decide the queue is long enough that they may have to work a bit later if they deal with everyone in the queue!
As for our sorting offices only being available until 2pm Monday to Friday for us to collect parcels, it’s beyond a joke and totally unacceptable in this day and age when, if anything, they should be open till 7pm!

Closing premises earlier than the advertised time is, I believe, illegal. You should have complained.

Duncan Day says:
9 December 2012

The person sorting your mail is at most times the person delivering the post unless he is only a part timer.

Martin says:
19 July 2011

Utterly atrocious service. The only thing consistent is how bad it is.

In the past year I have had 2 packages go missing without explanation, and a further 3 held at the depot with no ‘While You Were Out’ card. It was only after said packages being 2/3 weeks late and finding out from the sender they had been sent weeks before I visited my local depot speculatively. Lo and behold, there they were. On one occasion a member of staff filled out one of the cards WHEN I TURNED UP.
Bills have gone missing, with only a ‘Final Warning’ letter turning up weeks after supposed correspondence.
At my previous address we actually caught the postman dropping the card through the door and made him return to the depot to get my package.
Last week, on two separate occasions I received mail destined for addresses bearing no resemblance to my own and in fact situated across the other side of the city!

I know this is not a nationwide problem and instead down to the people who must deal with my specific region. I cannot find fault with the service I received when I lived in a different town, yet I am almost guaranteed to have some screw up with my mail in my current city.

Russ says:
19 July 2011

I run a small business and we have on more than one occasion not received mail that we know has been posted to us, we also know that mail we have sent has not been received. We generally have a different postman at home and at work every day, they also keep changing the rounds around which means we get other peoples post even though the address, name and postcodes are different

pickle says:
19 July 2011

Rose hits the nail on the head! Everything she mentions has happened to me….The posties vary their hours so from one week to another I never know when the post will arrive. Shock – I actually had the post arrive before 9 am one day last week!
Altogether the postal service needs tightening up and the managers made aware of what we, the public, think about it, then made to do their job.

Ian says:
19 July 2011

I only have praise for the Post Office – our postman is brilliant. My experience of private parcel / letter services is, however, terrible.

Ash says:
19 July 2011

I have to say my experience of the Royal Mail is that the service is going down hill.
We have had numerous different post men and women over the past couple of years.
I have had a number of times when neighbours have brought my post to me. I have had to do the same and take the post to them.
I have a number of occasions when packages have gone missing from amazon. Also items I have sent never arrived.
So my experience with Royal Mail is not very good.

My experience is at odds with most comments here, Ive had consistant and reliable service from royal mail over the past 20 years at my current address.

I don’t mind the once a week maximum of junk mail – it just goes straight back in the post box anyways, less for me to recycle
I have yet to have any confirmed sent mail go missing
Our posties are first rate, friendly, always say hello/good morning etc.

The only mumble about them would be that the expensive housing estate close by, get their mail early each morning whilst our one and only delivery arrives anywhere between noon and 2pm

On the other hand, if I had a pound for everytime a business has put the blame on royal mail for late deliveries of parcels etc, I’d be a very rich man!

Matt says:
19 July 2011

The Royal Mail service is bad and it has been designed to be that way because of EU directives and a weak UK government that wants it privatised. Simple as that really. Its all deliberate!!!

Our postie is very good. He even takes our outgoing mail away for us. I have no complaints at all and reward him at Christmas accordingly. We do live in the country and have been here for some fifty years, in that time ALL our posties have been very good.

Royal Mail is the cheapest in the postal service market. The best R.M service is destroyed by too much interference from the Govt.,watchdog and Management and completions. You ask any postmen that their views are not honoured . They are the front line staff who knows what the customer wants from R.M. They want early delivery so they can sort out all their bills,office work at the end of work. People wants regular services and they are ready to pay any stamp prices.
Royal Mail is closing many mail centres as a cost cutting measure. We do not understand why delivery comes later and later when R.M. has spent huge money in modern machineries and technology . R.M paid huge bonuses to their present and past directors and now looks they have set up this nice company in to the bad state so it privatised soon and taken over by the foreign company. It is very sad news that R.M pay very poor money to the postmen where as their Mangers get good wages as well as better bonuses.
Missing parcel and missing letter is the main concerned with us. It looks that they have got bad apples in their company which has created bad impression of the best company.
When our best brand ROYAL MAIL will privatised, it will be the end of the cheaper services and end of the best brand name.

blackshadow says:
22 July 2011

shire of rose has listed very valid points, I am a postman and I appriciate all the comments that praise the postmen, most of us try our hardest to deliver the correct items as quickly as possible. Due to the way the govt opened up post to the competition we have to deliver other companies mail at a loss and are not able to compete on a fair basis. With cost cutting that goes on sometimes we do not leave our delivery office till after 10am once all the mail has been sorted and prepared for delivery so unfortunately some houses and businesses will get their mail maybe up to 3pm. Despite money spent on machines there is still a lot of manual sorting and preparation that goes on. With the proposed closure of 3 London mail centres things could get worse as delivery offices will undoubtably recieve the mail later in the mornings for sorting and preparation.

I have to say that I think Royal Mail offers an outstandingly good service.

I have only once had an item go missing (and that did turn up, just 3 weeks late) in over 25 years of adult life and I generally find that items posted 2nd class get to the recipient as fast as first class (and by the way, that means next working day – I have never had a first class item delayed and arrive late).

My only concerns with Royal Mail are:
Too much government interference
Too much junk mail sent via Royal Mail (but as this helps keep postage costs down I grudgingly accept it)
Too much competition from cowboy mail delivery outfits (such as UK Mail and TNT mail) which uses the same mail system and mail delivery staff so it actually reduces Royal Mail’s efficiency.

i have had over £100 of items “go missing”, over the past three and a half years and the companies that send items to me are always first to point the finger of blame on me, obviously inferring that i have actually received the goods but don’t want to pay and i have ordered much less on-line as a result. This obviously means less business for Royal mail. What goes around comes around.

Chris says:
20 July 2011

I run a small business and find that the mail service has deteriorated drastically in recent years. In particular, small pacels, which we have sent out, are constantly being returned by Royal Mail, with a note on then saying “Not Called For”. This is supposed to indicate that the postman has tried to deliver, nobody was at home so a note should be left to tell householder to contact the local office to arrange collection or redelivery. Time after time the customer says that no note was left. At a time when the nation’s business is going through a tough time, this does not help.

I just cannot believe that two thirds of those surveyed are satisfied with Royal Mail services. The price of postage is exorbitant when related to the poor standard of delivery (our post rarely arrives before mid-day). The queues in our main post office (Southport) are a disgrace – more often than not less than half the counter slots are occupied by staff and even some of those are closed to customers.
The recorded “signed for” service is a waste of money – try to seek confirmation on the website that the item has been delivered – quite often there is no response and one has to hope that the item reached its destination.
Our postman is a very nice man but even he despairs of the way he has to provide the service to customers.
Everything points to one overall failing – a complete lack of good management.
Let’s get it privatised – the service couldn’t get any worse.

I find significant delays in airmail post. Sometimes it arrives four days later, and at other times its delivered within 21 days, yet I always send it from the same post office.
Deliveries vary between 10.0a.m and 2.0p.m depending on which postman is delivering.
I can remember when you never posted a card early morning or it would be delivered by lunchtime the same day! (Not all things have improved for the better!

Brian says:
20 July 2011

Like to add to the many plaudits given to the postmen and women. Ours too is great.
I’ve recently had problems in that a card was left the day we left for our holidays saying that an attempt had been made to deliver a recorded delivery package. This was three month’s ago and I have been trying to trace it ever since!
Did you know that only one delivery attempt is made with recorded delivery!
Did you know that your local depot will only keep it for seven days before sending it to their “graveyard” in Belfast.
Did you know that if a address address cannot be found but it is something of value, you could find it being auctioned off on EBay!
Beware of the Recorded Delivery Service! Did I say service!!

Duncan Day says:
9 December 2012

Royal Mail only ever make one delivery attempt on all items and have done for the 14 years that I have been a postman but you can request a redelivery if you want to. If I took everything out the next day that I couldn’t deliver the previous day by the end of the week I would not have room for that days mail.

Royal Mails depot actually keeps the item for 18 days not 7 before it is either returned to the sender if a return address is present or to Belfast where it is opened to try and find a return address, and then if none is found it is disposed of.

why-yes says:
20 July 2011

The above criticisms accurately reflect my experiences.
My wife’s diamond engagement ring immediately disappeared in “special delivery,” although we were compensated the full value, this hardly compensates for the sentimental value.
Received “while you were out” cards when fully present on a number of occasions.
REGULARLY receive post for other addresses similar to ours, and also letters for completely different postcodes.
Some of our post has not showed up at all.
The complaint process was inefficient and did not lead to any change.

Mike Cassidy says:
20 July 2011

I cannot praise our postmen and women enough. They deliver all the mail they are given whatever the weather. But, as a whole, Royal Mail is in a mess and I blame the management and past senior executives (Adam Crozier being an example).
I subscribe to a weekly American sports magazine called Sports Illustrated (I am not an American). To say that I receive them in patches is ridiculous. This weekly magazine has a published date of every Monday. I have actually telephoned the publisher in the US about the delivery and they have proven to me that my copy arrives at Heathrow Airport no later than two days after the published date. Why then does it take approximately 2-3 weeks to be delivered to my door? At this moment though (July 20) I am still waiting for the previous five issues!

Iain McCulloch says:
21 July 2011

Interesting thread. One of our clients was disappointed when their parcel went missing in the hands of the Royal Mail. If they had issued apology, he probably would have written it off. Instead, the RM decided to play the ‘thats unfortunate’ card and effectively said they couldn’t help. He came to us and we issued proceedings. At the final hearing, we failed in contract but were successful in tort…result = damages award of £200. V satisfying.

Martin says:
21 July 2011

I’ve just conducted a little experiment to either prove or disprove my theory that it seems to be bad luck living where I live.

Yesterday, at 12.40pm, I posted two identical letters ‘First Class’: one to myself, and one to a friend who lives 5 minutes away. The postbox itself is between both of us, in the city centre and the last collection is 6.30pm.

Wouldn’t you know, this morning my friend received his letter but the postie passed my door without so much as a junk leaflet. It will be interesting to see when it actually turns up.