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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.

Phil says:
31 May 2012

I’ve had less trouble with Royal Mail than any other courier. DHL once put a “please collect from our depot” card through the door even though I was in and without even bothering to knock and find out. I’ve had stuff go astray, sent back because the driver couldn’t find the address (they apparently only hire non-English speaking mutes who can’t ask for directions) and left out in the pouring rain. Royal Mail/Parcelforce aren’t perfect but they are more reliable than the rest put together.

A recent house move has left me rather sour about these cards as my nearest depot is oddly enough not the one to which my parcels are delivered.

I do have to say however that I’d rather make the journey than have my items left with an unknown neighbour or even worse, as has happened before, I have returned home late in the evening to find my parcel left on the door step – luckily I live in a good area!

Surely there has got to be some kind of in-between solution that Royal Mail can devise to allow parcels to be left in a preferred secondary place. It would be wise for them to come up with a plan considering the demise of standard letters and the rise of small packets being delivered from online purchases.

I have to make regular trips to the sorting office to pick up packets that are too big or needed signing for and while this is not a big problem, it is very inconvenient.

I have two very good neighbours that I would be happy for parcels to be left with and I also have a covered area in my garden that would be safe to use but there is no way for me to notify the postman of this (they change too regularly to tell them in person).

Royal Mail do offer an alternative delivery location option but it is up to the retailer to implement it and offer it as a service and I have never seen it used. Why can’t I register on the Royal Mail site and have all packages treated in the same way?

The other solution is, of course, to update the collection facilities so that collection is less of a problem. Every sorting office I have had to use has had a woefully inadequate collections area that is usually grotty, uninviting and very understaffed, resulting in long queues in a less than pleasant environment.

Either way Royal Mail has to do something to address what is a problem that is only going to get worse as we all move to ordering more and more stuff online.

I have good neighbours too, but not everyone is so lucky. What happens when things go missing? I am not sure about the practicality of leaving packets with neighbours.

My Royal Mail depot is convenient and I have never had any problems with collecting anything except when I have ignored the card and called in too soon. My problems start when I miss collections from other carriers. One has a depot 80 miles away.

I agree that the problems could get worse because of the increasing use of online retailers. Perhaps the answer is to set up local depots that handle failed deliveries for all the major carriers in an area, funded by the companies involved. That could mean more depots and better service.

Norbert Colon says:
3 June 2018

You can’t register to have all packets left because they are sent by different people, some of whom won’t be happy to have their expensive goods left in your coal bunker.

I’ve had problems with deliveries via Royal Mail and other courier companies since the day I’ve moved in. Received “Sorry, you’re out” cards. Had items left out in the open, thrown over the fence and Signed for deliveries with forged signatures.

Had to make trips to the delivery depot even for items that would have fitted through the letter box. complaints to Royal Mail only result in the Standard response letters.

It got so bad that I recently canceled my membership with Amazon (after 12 years) as none of my items was delivered correctly.

As far as I am concerned, Royal Mail is not doing a good job.

Royal Mail, has dealt with the over 30 thousand complaints. “Sorry, you’re out” cards are gone now. They renamed them to “Something for you” cards.

Just received one such card in lieu of the parcel. I was in, no knock on the door. Just the card dropped through the letterbox. Was able to talk to the Post Women and she obviously did not have the parcel with her. What more proof is needed.

Suresh says:
12 June 2012

I once had a fun experience with a delivery company – not Royal Mail I must stress.

I had ordered about £800 of computer equipment, to be delivered next day before 12pm (guaranteed). I took the day off work, stayed in, sat in the front room with the TV off so I could hear the delivery. As they hadn’t arrived by about 2pm, I rang the company, who said they had been delivered.

Turned out, the delivery man had just left them on the pavement outside my house, on a busy street, had made no effort to deliver them. Then he had the cheek to tell the company he had left a delivery card (which he hadn’t). After some prying from the company I bought them from, they found out everything, pressed charges against the company, who then in turn sacked the delivery man, then the delivery company got sacked 🙂 The original company I bought off then went back to their old delivery firm and got them re-delivered the following day.

Stephen Davies says:
10 August 2012

Royal Mail is pathetic if it will not use Parcel Force to deliver items deemed too large for the letter box. When somebody pays postage for an item, it includes delivery to your home. For the last two weeks I have had cards posted in my door saying the package cannot be delivered as it is too large for the letterbox. I was in all day the day before on both occassions, and all that Royal Mail are doing is posting a card the next day – the items are not being delivered at all! Royal Mail / Parcel Farce is lazy, incompetent and making it’s very own customers do all the work for them! They take a nice pay cheque home while we have to haul ourselves to the depot all because the damn staff there are too lazy to do their job properly!

There are long queues of angry people collecting items that should have been delivered correctly, and it sucks!!!

Stephen Davies Aug 2012

Fiona says:
5 September 2012

Oh Indeed packets never leave the building i work for Royal Mail myself but i had a card quietly put through the door one day while i was waiting for a tiny packet that fit easily through the letterbox.I opened the door immediately and asked for the packet and was told as it was a saturday he hadnt bought any packets with him!!!

jay murray says:
21 September 2012

I recently received a “sorry you were out” card – even though I was home.
I went to the collection depot the next day (Saturday ) because I needed the parcel – it was a birthday present for the following Monday ( a bank holiday and the depot was closed). I arrived at the depot at 1105 and a note on the door said ‘Closed this morning due staff shortage open at 1245’ – I went home and returned to the depot at 1240 and waited until 1310 with 8 other people waiting to collect parcels.
I was unable to go again to the depot until the following Saturday – again closed due staff shortage.
I eventually collected the parcel on the 4th attempt – I live over 5 miles away – i travelled over 40 miles and received a very unsatisfactory reply from customer services. I complained at the next level and received a book of stamps for my trouble and still no explanation why the depot is always closed on Saturdays. 6 stamps is derisory compensation for the time and fuel spent

David says:
24 October 2012

My situation is more serious. I stayed in my apartment all day because I will recevie by BT Rounter by royal mail. I tracked my order from website hour by hour, there was an update about 4pm in the afternoon, and it is said, “13:45 no answer, not available for collection”, then, after half an hour, there was another update, “15:35 No Answer, ready for collection”. There was no missing card left to my flat or outside building. I went to the depot on 18:00, and the staff there bring my parcel in front of me, and said: I can’t give the parcel to u, because u have no red card!” WTF!! u never left the missing card for me, and website said ready for collection! And he said I need to speak to their manager tomorrow morning or arrange redelivery.

Jessica says:
29 January 2015

I’ve just had this exact thing happen to me

miley says:
26 October 2012

my letters are always thrown before my door instead of being in the letterbox .so pls help

Graham says:
12 December 2012

Royal Mail frequently leave “sorry you were out” cards at my address when my wife is in and the intercom is never pressed. Interestingly though I have recently had CCTV installed at home and it is clear that Royal Mail drop the cards off with no attempt to see if anybody is actually in! Now I have enough examples directing it to customer services.

We never have any issues with any other postage providers, the issues only seem to be with Royal Mail so we will use alternatives wherever possible.

Martin B says:
14 January 2013

Royal Mail is a complete scam, and should be overhauled by the givernment: money charged for services not rendered. ‘While you were out’ cards being pu tin with no real delivery attempt – this is the status quo – not one time, or some time, EVERY TIME.

Another part of the great UK money swindle.

steve says:
7 August 2014

[Comment removed for breaking our guidelines. Please be polite. Thanks, mods.]

Miss Moneypenny says:
15 January 2013

Last year I had to wait in for a Router to be delivered from BT. I stayed in all morning and at 1 p.m. I went out into the communal hallway and there on the mat was the red card stating – tried to deliver a parcel and you were out. The postman had not even rung my bell. I was furious. I then had to wait another 4 hours before I could collect it which I did and then went to the post office to collect it. The queue was about 27 people in length – I waited for about 15 minutes and gave up and went home. I tried again the next day and there was about 9 people in the queue. I can tell you I was not happy. I have another package expected next Monday so I have printed a large bright yellow sign which I intend to put on my front door stating my flat number and telling the post man I am in and waiting for a parcel delivery so please keep ringing my bell until I answer the door. If a Red card appears again, I intend to make a formal complaint.

Mark says:
29 January 2013

Well I’ve had the tale for a long time where being sat in the front the postman was spotted coming up the path and without knocking the card has just been popped through the letterbox, and over the years I’ve had loads of parcels delivered whilst “you were out” when in fact someone was in all the time, and again today, the doorbell (actually) rang but by the time we got to the door from a 5 metre walk from the kitchen, the card was on the mat and the postman pulling off in his van, so quick was he that there was no way he had time to wait and decide no one was in and then proceed to fill in the card, it was obviously filled in prior to his approach to the house