Problems with Royal Mail

As you will know from my previous posts, we are using Royal Mail - this works for letters and parcels and we ship quite a few routers out directly. The integration with our systems is really useful, and postage at franking rates or better is also good (without the annual rental of a machine or even paying for labels or ink!).

But I do start to wonder if we have made the right choice as there have been a few issues of late, and their handling of them is far from ideal...

The most worrying is that they lost a bag of post, between us and the sorting office, this week. I can see the sorting office from our office - it is a few hundred metres away. But they do not even seem that interested in investigating the matter even! So we are re-sending routers and stuff out today. I bet we will struggle to even get the cost of postage back from them.

The prices for their tracked service are not fixed, they are based on volume and weight overall, but somehow they are charging us slightly more than they said, which is annoying, and we are having to chase that.

As a normal postage customer, sending a special delivery parcel, if it does not arrive on time, you have to claim for the postage back (as it is a guaranteed service). But when you are an account customer, they know it is delayed (it is tracked), why don't they just credit to our mail account? They expect us to send in paperwork to claim a refund making a lot more work for them and us (well, if it happens again I'll automate it our end).

Their tracking API fails in odd ways - I can't use the multiple item track as one item causing an error stops access to any of the items. So I have to request one at a time. Even so, it is often saying "Service is unavailable due to an unknown reason. Contact RMG Customer Experience Team.". I have contacted them about 77 times on this now (it does say to contact them) but they are ignoring me!

Their shipping API claims that some email addresses are invalid when they are not, oddly not my short one, but ones ending in newer TLDs. Again, ignoring me when I ask for this to be fixed.

Oh, and we had a fun one today - we also have a freepost account, which we have to keep in credit, and they invoice for a top up when it is low. The invoice has terms and we pay in those terms by BACS so no ambiguity over the payment date at all. They had the cheek to call up and have a go claiming we paid late by a day, when we did not. But even if we had, this is a credit account and well in credit even before we paid, so it does not mean a lot to be "late". Statutory penalties don't apply as the service we are buying has not yet been provided, and if they had the cheek to suggest charging interest I'd want the same rate of interest on the credit balance from them all the time. Why waste time, two weeks after we paid, contacting us to say we paid a day late, especially when we didn't - that is a proper jobsworth type attitude and waste of their time and ours!

So, not a good start to the year using Royal Mail. One to watch out for. And I'd love to know where our post has gone. I may set TR-069 to alert us for any of the missing routers ever going on line :-)

Update: The missing post has just started tracking updates, after we have sent replacements. FFS!


  1. Have you considered reporting it stolen to the police?

  2. I think you should set up TR-069 to report if any of the routers ever connect. Because I'll bet they're not just lost.

  3. Ah the joy of postal/courier service when they lose stuff.

    We had a laptop in transit to London. Tracking shows it got to the London Depot of said courier. But never left (well, never left on a van to go to our customer).

    Courier insists there is nothing they can do and as we didn't pay 20% of the cost of the laptop for the shipment is only prepared to pay more than the usual refund of postage amount.

    In a case like this, where it is clear they were negligent in allowing said item to get lost within its premises (stolen by agency worker I imagine), there should be no such way to get away with it.

    Why didn't we have insurance... because we ship so many laptops, if they lose less than 1 in 10 on average, it's cheaper to take the risk.

    Which tells you everything you need to know if you think about it.

    Royal Mail are no better. They've lost our post before, in blatantly obvious ways, and nothing. They don't do anything to resolve.

  4. The reason they don't auto credit you is simple although in some ways could be described as dishonest. They rely on the fact that most people can't be bothered with the paperwork and don't claim this. I'd guess probably less than half claim a refund, and in some cases it would probably cost you as much in staff time to claim a refund as to just shoulder the loss. Meanwhile, someone annoyed at the delay can have a refund, which means they can call it a guaranteed service, while minimising the cost of offering such a service.

    Dishonest perhaps, but then in some ways no more so than targeted discounts that rely on the display of coupons (every pizza delivery place ever) etc.

  5. Also...

    "why don't they just credit to our mail account?"

    Because most people give up bothering to claim. Make it difficult enough and people don't bother, which means:

    1. Take money for service.
    2. Fail to provide and make hard to claim
    3. Profit.

  6. I used to run The Linux Emporium (back in the late 90s) and did a lot of account work with the Royal Mail.

    There was a very definite shift in the handling of their failures during the time when I was using them. In the early days, a Special Delivery package not being delivered on time was easily dealt with. I'd just phone up the relevant number (in Oxford IIRC) and they'd say, "Ah yes, I can see it was delivered late. I'll credit you." Then everything was moved to a central location (Southampton?) and it became clear that their main objective was to prevent claims going through. The best you could get over the phone was a promise to send you a claim form, which you then had to fill in and send back. As someone else said, they're trying to make it hard in the hope that you won't bother. Quite dishonest, but so many companies are now.

    My best one with the Royal Mail was a package which I sent by expedited (i.e. meant to be quicker) registered (i.e. insured) air-mail to Spain. After a reasonable length of time, the customer complained it hadn't arrived. When I queried it with Royal Mail they first said it had been delivered and signed for, then when I requested proof of delivery they changed their story and said it hadn't been delivered, but it wasn't their fault and so I had no claim against them. They squirmed every which way, and finally said that the value of the package was "consequential loss" and thus not covered by the insurance.

    I recovered the money from them by other means - which I won't go into here - but the impression I was left with is they're now just as dishonest as car insurers.

  7. I post four batches of about 500 large letters every year. Smartstamp, while clunky, worked very well for us. Couple the demise of Smartstamp (and finding all the alternatives completely unsuitable) with their complete incompetence in fulfilling an order for stamps and I've torn all my hair out.
    However, one quick call to Whistl and we're set up with our own account manager and postage three-quarters the price of RM. Oh, and they'll come pick the packets up from me rather than demand I lug half a dozen 11Kg bags to the sorting office.
    We'll see how the first Whistl collection goes in three months!

  8. They seem to be stuck in the 1970s, in terms of their attitude to customer service.

  9. Users liked Smartstamp, but it was a terrifying security disaster zone unless suitable surgery was done on it. A good way of letting an unprivileged user take control of a machine (Smartstamp facilitates privilege elevation), very very bad indeed, but completely fixable if you know what you are doing. Goodbye then, one less thing to worry about, and thank god the bad guys didn't spot it. Absolutely thoroughly clean up if you are no longer using it, don't just leave the app there, remove everything associated with it.

    1. We never used the app anyway, we had Linux code that sent the soap xml and generate postscript.


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