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Stop sending me ‘Sorry, you were out’ cards!

Knowing that a little brown Amazon box is waiting for you when you get home is one of modern-day life’s little pleasures. But what about when you expectantly open the door only to find a little red card of disappointment?

My latest ‘Sorry, you were out’ card was left on my doorstep because the two standard-sized road maps I had ordered were ‘too big’ for my letterbox. Using Rhod Gilbert’s anger scale of 0 being somewhat angry to 10 being as angry as Tom Cruise at Alton Towers, I was at about a 4.

Not receiving two road maps when I had expected to was not the end of the world. But the effort to get them in my possession was, well, still not the end of the world, but an inconvenience nonetheless. In fact, the insignificance of these maps only magnified the annoyance.

A Saturday morning stroll

So my relaxed Saturday morning in the sun turned into a Saturday morning trek to an industrial estate on the other side of town and a twenty minute queue with other disgruntled customers waiting for their non-letterbox-sized parcels. Tom Cruise at Alton Towers scale 6.

I now felt a bit of resentment towards these two innocent road maps, but at least they were in my possession.

Having trudged back, I approached my door and sized up the letterbox deemed too small to fit two road maps. I wonder… yes, the parcel easily fits through my letterbox. Call me Tom Cruise.

Do parcels leave the delivery office?

We’ve had a Conversation about ‘Sorry, you were out’ cards before and there are clearly some contradicting opinions as to whether it’s the parcels or just the red cards that actually leave the delivery office. Russell thinks it depends on the size of the package:

‘If the postman has a number of items which won’t go through the letterbox and he knows there is usually nobody home, he may well leave them behind and just deliver a ‘Sorry, you were out’ card. The recipient then knows the item is available and can collect it or agree a time when there will be somebody available to take delivery.’

Our survey in 2010 found that a third had received a ‘you were out’ card through their letterbox from Royal Mail or Parcelforce when they were actually in. And it was recently reported that Royal Mail had received 32,000 complaints in 2011 about the same issue.

Previously I had assumed that I had only ever received a red card after the postman had attempted to deliver my parcel, rang the bell and got no answer. But now I’m not so sure.

So, are you suspicious that sometimes only ‘Sorry, you were out’ cards leave Royal Mail’s delivery office? Have you had a similar experience or gone to inconvenient lengths to collect a parcel that could have easily been delivered?


I imagine that any postman who delivered cards instead of packets is soon going to be found out if there is someone is at home.

I am a frequent visitor to the Royal Mail depot, but the packets are always to big for the letterbox, sometimes because of excessive packaging. This is an inconvenience and will contribute to the cost of post & packing, but that is getting off-topic. So is the fact that meter readers sometimes leave cards when I am at home.

Putting large items through letterboxes can cause damage and I have been a victim. In my case I think it was the paperboy rather than the postman at fault.


Compared with some so-called courier companies. the Royal Mail does a splendid job in my opinion. We have separate deliveries for letters [normally in paper envelopes or polythene wrapping]and for parcels and packets [usually in cardboard]. This seems to make life simple as all the heavier or fatter stuff goes on the van for the packet & parcel delivery; I have never been at home and found the delvery person putting a card through the door without trying to get an answer; I have never had to collect anything from the delivery office that would have gone through the letter box; and if they do have to leave a card they ususally write on it who its from, whether it would be better for them to deliver another day because it might be too big to carry from the PO, and at what time it will be waiting for collection. I suppose things aren’t so well organised in the big cities and one of the joys of living in the country is the tradition of superior service and thoughtful personal attention [except from the private parcel carriers of course!]

Eileen Brown says:
28 August 2012

I can only congratulate you on your fine delivery man and your luck. I have had 4 cards put through my letterbox in the last two weeks when I have been at home. On one of the days I checked my front door a number of times to see if he had arrived yet, only to find the dreaded card yet again timed at 8 mins before I had last looked.
I have a bell which I made sure had new batteries in and it was duly tested as working.
I daresay this goes on in certain regions. My house is literally 10 minutes walk from the sorting office and I figure they think they can get away with leaving the cards as we are easily able to walk across to the town centre.
This is OK for me but what about people with limited mobility and older people?


I’m in agreement with both WaveChange and John Ward – All cards except one were for packages too big for the letterbox. This is far better than dropping them on the door step as has happened – one of these contained an item costing just over £350


I have had items left on the doorstep and even chucked over a 6 foot fence into the back garden, and occasionally they have been small enough to fit through the letterbox. One courier threw an expensive external hard disk into the back garden. It was in the manufacturer’s box and not in any waterproof packaging. I complained and got no response, so I have not used the online retailer again.

Leave me cards please.


I am a big fan of Royal Mail deliveries – probably mainly because I live just down the road from the sorting office, so it’s never a problem to pick them up. I find couriers far more frustrating (and I have had experiences where couriers have left cards without ringing the doorbell) as their offices are usually miles away, requiring me to either drive (I don’t have a car) or arrange redelivery between 9-5 (when I’m at work).


On the contrary, I find that Amazon’s delivery service is far and away superior to Royal Mail. I almost always receive an e-mail informing me that ‘the parcel is to be delivered today’, which it invariably is.
On several occasions I have found a ‘sorry you were out’ card from Royal Mail when I was certainly at home. I’m afraid that this still continues, undoubtedly because RM are not interested in addressing the problem.
I think it would be a good idea to inform the sender of such occurrences and suggest that they use a courier in future. Royal Mail do not deserve the lucrative parcel delivery service if this is the best they can do.


I have nothing but good things to say about our good old posties!
A company that will only allow one delivery per week of “junk” mail and can stop this at my request – I choose not to stop this as it helps them stay in work – is a shining example to other companies in the industry who are more concerned with saving time than offering a good service.
Our posty always brings out small parcels on the normal post round, I’ve seen them fighting with huge sacks especially around Christmas time.
On the odd occasion where a card has been necessary, I’ve normally been late answering the door and they are struggling with the electronic hand machines, the cards are pre written and issued to the posty with the parcel from the sorting office.

Royal mail staff are friendly and work damned hard, they have my full support.