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Broken promises and dodgy deliveries – sound familiar?

Dodgy deliveries campaign image

Ever had the displeasure of late or damaged deliveries? As we launch our campaign to stamp out dodgy deliveries, our chief exec writes that there’s no excuse for keeping customers in the dark about delivery times.

With the notable exception of delivering a child, there is no excuse for not knowing when you are going to deliver something. ‘Some time before 2pm’ doesn’t cut it in an age when everyone is busy and many companies can give a one-hour delivery slot – and consistently meet it. Another message that doesn’t cut it is: ‘Don’t talk to us about delivery, we just sold it to you – talk to the manufacturer.’

It saddens me to say that the retailer which recently trotted out both of these messages to me was John Lewis. This is a shop that promises much, and usually keeps its promises. I am a long-standing customer, for all the reasons that led you to rate it as one of the top retailers in our online shops survey. But when the delivery of your item is not by John Lewis directly but by a third party, such as a manufacturer, the company can lose control of the customer service that it rightly prizes.

Hanging by the telephone

I bought an AEG appliance at John Lewis recently and its staff assured me that AEG normally delivers within four days, but would certainly call me to arrange a time. Since no one was going to be home four days later, I waited for the call to tell AEG we’d need to rearrange.

Two days passed, and no call. So I phoned John Lewis and staff assured me (again) that someone would call. Call they did – on the fourth day, just as the delivery truck was approaching the house. A neighbour rescued the delivery, and John Lewis apologised and gave me a small goodwill gesture. But this was a waste of everyone’s time – never have there been so many ways to communicate with customers.

I think John Lewis would be offering better service if it was the single point of contact, rather than passing its customers on to fend for themselves. And many services offer tracking, text alerts and even a one-hour slot. DPD, which you rated top in our delivery survey, gives you your one-hour slot the day before delivery and the system works well. Why can’t this be the norm? Time is money, or annual leave, for many people. So companies should show that they value yours.

Help us stamp out dodgy deliveries

In the past year, one in four Which? members has had a problem with a delivery. Among the major irritations was not being able to choose a suitable time.

Which? is calling for all shops to give specific time slots for deliveries on a named day, to confirm the time with them on the day of delivery and to ask them upfront what to do if the delivery is unsuccessful. You can help us stamp out dodgy deliveries by signing our petition and sharing your experiences.

Wouldn’t it be nice for our top-rated retailers, such as John Lewis, to lead the way?


Hi all, thanks if you’ve supported our dodgy deliveries campaign.

We also have some responses from John Lewis and AEG:

Mark Robinson, Director of Customer Delivery Operations at John Lewis, said:

“We know our customers appreciate a variety of choices when having products delivered from us. Working with suppliers allows us to offer a greater range of products and therefore more choice in how customers receive their purchase.

“In terms of our current delivery options, all of our premium deliveries for smaller items are now carried out by DPD which gives customers a text-message time slot as well as easy-rescheduling options. For in-house deliveries of large furniture and/or electrical items, customers are able to choose an appropriate day and time slot for delivery and have the option of paying for a smaller delivery window if needs be.

“For the long term, we are constantly reviewing our delivery processes to see if we can further improve our existing proposition.”

And an AEG spokesperson told us: “AEG has an excellent track record on deliveries and it is unfortunate that Mr Vicary-Smith experienced an exception to this due to unforeseen circumstances during our order to delivery process.”

Andrew Crook says:
21 October 2014

Some months back a delivery arrived via Yodel. As I was working from home that day you might have thought the arrival of my parcel would be announced by a ring of either of my mains-powered doorbells (don’t ask why I have 2 – it’s a long story).

The actual event that alerted me to its arrival was a loud thud outside. As I looked out of the window I saw the back of a delivery man heading down the steps away from my house.

On further investigation, the thud turned out to be the sound of the parcel landing behind my 6′ garden gate! Fortunately, it was not raining that day and the parcel only contained well-packed plants, which had manage to survived their unexpected flight through the air. Just as well it did not contain bone china or a camera!

I dropped an email to Yodel to complain about the failure to deliver to me in person and the poor handling of the package. To be fair they did apologise.

They also indicated that this was not their normal standard of delivery service, although a quick google of “Yodel throwing parcels” may suggest this assertion is somewhat optimistic.

Here we go again with divided responsibilities. As with so many campaigns there is a failure to keep responsibility and control firmly coupled.

Responsibility (including contractual and legal responsibility) in the case of delivery of physical ‘things’ should travel with ‘thing’. If Royal mail or a courier company have accepted an item with a clear contract then it should be enforceable on them as the organisation in control of the delivery process. Redress should be available on clear and unambiguous terms to either or both of the sender and the receiver as both may suffer loss / inconvenience etc.

There are far too many let outs and privileges especially in the case of RM as another Which? campaign / conversation shows. The present structure dates back partly to the time of carters, carriages and mail coaches and in elements from more recent times to when delivery was the exception. Now, with telephone and internet shopping it is becoming the norm. Also, the bulk of sending is moving from large companies – like John Lewis – to smaller companies and individuals few of whom can take on RM and the big courier companies.

What we need is not another fudge and lash up but a clear analysis of the present and future of delivery and a set of rules and laws that protect the consumer and not the carriers.

DibDob says:
22 October 2014

I had to complain on Facebook to get my mother’s cooker delivered by John Lewis this summer. She was passed from pillar to post with numerous phone calls, garbled, unintelligble messages were left by the delivery company and no-one seemed to be able to help until I complained in a public forum. Magically, things were sorted out and she had one point of contact – surely it should have been like that from the start. It took two months to finally be delivered and has put me off spending the best part of £1000 with John Lewis on a new washing machine and a fridge freezer. I couldn’t recommend them to anyone.

Brian says:
23 October 2014

I have been using a firm called FMS for some 15 years. Up until a fortnight ago that is. On that day I ordered 5 assorted cassettes for my HP printer for ‘next day delivery’ as advertised, after waiting 3-4 days I emailed FMS asking wher they were, I got a replay saying there was a mix-up with the address and they would arrive last Monday (20/oct/2014), a blue bag was duly given to mywife(pegging the washing out down the bottom of the garden). I didn’t see him but from the wife’s description it was a UP van. When she finally brought it in for me to open I found only 4 cartridges all mangled pretty much, I immediately emailed FMS asking them to sort it out, so far with zero response. This is now in the list of dud firms no longer to be dealt with. I’d welcome any suggestions as to what to do next.
PS FMS = Findmysupplies

You may be interested to see the best and worst delivery companies: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2014/10/we-reveal-the-best-delivery-firm—and-the-worst-381917/

My daughter ordered a chest of drawers. On the day it was due to be delivered she was home all day. Citilink claimed they had tried to deliver it and put a card through the door- both untrue. She subsequently went into hospital to have a baby. When she came out, she was told it had been returned to the manufacturer, and she would have to pay another £25 to have it delivered. Outrageous.

Laurent says:
28 October 2014

I bought (and fully paid) a sofa and matching footstool from County Furniture Stores on 31-Jan-2014. As at 28-Oct-2014 – 9 months later! – they still haven’t delivered me the footstool. I chase them by phone and email countless times. They never gave me a date by which it would be delivered and now ceased to respond to my emails. I will likely have to litigate to get my money back.

I am certainly never going to buy from them again

[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Having given up on Royal mail and Porcelfarce I had to look around to find a service to deliver an unwanted item that I sold to a man and needed to send from the West Midlands to East Anglia. I went on the Parcel2Go (P2G) website which does a handy comparison of rates and service level and was seduced by the offer from Herpes / My Herpes (as they are known in my wider family – and I was soon to find out why!) who collected on 26th November.

Around four of five days after collection I received an email announcing delays due to a fire in Warrington (I think) . . . somewhere in the NW anyway and nowhere near the obvious routes from the Midlands to East Anglia.

Since then, nothing! The ‘tracking’ says the item was collected and reached the local concentration point. Nothing more. So far three weeks. What chance Christmas presents then?

Neither P2G nor Herpes can be contacted, the ‘chat’ facilities on their web sites time out long before conversations can get anywhere. I’m thinking a County Court claim as at least these outfits are contracted to deliver unlike Royal Mail who have their own law absolving them of any contractual responsibility or duty of care . . .

Even as I was writing this the children’s Christmas parcel from their aunt in Ipswich arrives in the porch. As usual well wrapped and addressed front and rear, as usual battered and torn with a suspicious strip peeled through all the wrapping probably to see what was inside. Time for major change I think . . .