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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May, 2004, 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK
Is Royal Mail delivering for you?
postman emptying post box
Millions of items of mail are lost every year in Britain, a postal watchdog has found.

Nearly 60 percent of these are simply put through the wrong door.

Postwatch is launching a campaign to encourage customers to complain having found that only one in 10 customers contact Royal Mail about missing post.

Royal Mail says that the 14.4 million items of 'lost post' makes up a small proportion of the 21 billion items that are delivered every year.

What is your experience of Royal Mail? Have you complained about the service? Send us your postal stories.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Look, it's your post, and we want to deliver it. Royal Mail's been told by the government to start making a profit - but we can only meet the targets by firing 100,000 - yes 100,000 people. How can we be expected to train anyone new while we're under such strain? Of course the quality's gone down. Give us the money and we'll deliver your post. And bring in some competition so that us posties can prove how hard it is and well we do to sort through 80 million letters a day by ourselves!
A Postman, Essex, UK

This is yet a further example of the slide in standards of service that the general population took for granted in previous years. We used to be proud of the services provided be it the Royal Mail, Transport, Roads, Police and NHS for example. Unless something radical is done to rectify these problems all our services could eventually be on par with a Third World nation.
Brian Rees, West Drayton, Middlesex

Our postman changes from week to week
Ed Montgomery, Belfast, Co Antrim
I have had enough with Royal Mail. They have "lost" far too many parcels that either friends abroad have sent or I have ordered off the net. Our postman changes from week to week and I am not blaming them as they have a tough job. It is the management who are slow to react to consumer demands and customer care issues. Privatisation would only make matters worse for us all.
Ed Montgomery, Belfast, Co Antrim

It irritates me that all our public services are compared to those of a third world nation. We have very good public services, with the workers trying their best despite years of under-funding. If you want to see third world services go to a third world country, and when you come back you will be grateful for what we have here.
Brendan, Sheffield UK

The Royal Mil should stop employing agency workers, who do not show the same amount of care. You will find that letters and parcels (Gone missing or stolen) or even been opened will be reduced.
Jenny, Wellingborough

Posties up and down the country generally do a great job but even the most dedicated and diligent are pushed to their limits by Royal Mail's foolish policy of preventing anyone from becoming attached to a particular postal round. At one time one postie would deliver in a particular area, get to know that area and its people well and would be part of the community. The early morning whistling postie used to be a backup alarm for me at one time but now neither the delivery time nor the postie remains the same for long.
I often deliver mail which has been mis-delivered and, although I known our local area well, some houses take a great deal of effort to locate. Nobody can become completely familiar with a delivery area at the drop of a hat: it takes some time and experience to achieve, something Royal Mail managers appear not to know. Reliability and customer satisfaction will only come about when those in charge, the managers(?), understand the job.
JohnM, LyneMeads,U! K

Don't you think it's time the government took responsibility for destroying one of the few areas of British industry that actually worked? They'll be contracting it out to some French company next.
Ian, Brit in USA

14.4 million letters going astray, so how come bills always get through? Just a thought...!
Geoff Burt, Bordon, Hampshire

Our postman is very friendly and hugely reliable - in fact we can tell when he's on holiday by the large amounts of wrongly addressed post we receive. We moved house a year ago and only paid for redirection of our mail for 6 months. There's no need to pay any more as our postman brings our old post to our new flat as a matter of course. Fantastic service, plus he's always smiling and knows us by name.
Judith, Balham

I dread to think what will happen next month. We are being forced to use a postal vote in the local council and European elections. I wonder how many of the votes will reach the counting offices.
Jon, Belper, Derbyshire

These figures give 99.93% faultless deliveries. 7 mistakes per 10,000 items... well done to all the employees of the Post Office. A private business would have published such figures with a different 'spin'.
Richard, Edinburgh,UK

Since the advent of the new Chairman and Chief Executive I have noticed a tremendous deterioration of the service
Raymond Rudaizky, London, U.K.
Since the advent of the new Chairman and Chief Executive I have noticed a tremendous deterioration of the service. Having said that, my experience of the delivery staff is a good one. I feel that the problem is a motivation one as the future for Royal Mail is a dismal one because of competition from technology and other well managed delivery services.
Raymond Rudaizky, London, U.K.

I seem to get most of my incoming post. But I have lost a lot of outgoing post, chiefly caused by local hooligans stealing mail from post boxes or setting post boxes alight. I now post all my mail outside my local area. Recently, two local postmen were attacked by a gang while doing their rounds - one ended up in hospital. Since those incidents, we have been lucky to get a postal delivery once a week as the postmen will only come out in pairs. So calling them 'lazy, greedy incompetents' is a bit harsh I think when you consider what our postmen have to put up with.
Lydia, Poplar, London, UK

I object to defensiveness or even nonchalance in the face of 14.4 million errors
Michael, London / Japan
In 17 years of having a Japan address, not once has a letter meant for another address been delivered to me, nor one meant for me delivered to another. I understand human error, but I object to defensiveness or even nonchalance in the face of 14.4 million Royal Mail errors every year.
Michael, London / Japan

I think Nathan must live in my flat! I'm in WC1H and it's the same for me. Half the post is for a different building altogether!
Richard, London UK

Royal Mail managed to lose not one, but six parcels sent to my daughter from New Zealand for her birthday last year. We harrassed them for weeks but they insisted the recorded delivery items never arrived in the UK. Finally, they arrived back at my mother-in-law's home in New Zealand - and stickers confirmed they had been to the UK. Royal Mail improved for Christmas, and all the parcels arrived - hopefully next year, my daughter will actually get her gifts before February!
Helen, Edinburgh

First class service? I don't think so!
Chris Malpas, London, UK
I had to post an item recently to a friend who lives in the same London Borough as me approximately two miles away as I couldn't get to his house to give it to him myself. Even though it was sent first class with the correct postage it took 5 days to get there. First class service? I don't think so!
Chris Malpas, London, UK

I worked for Royal Mail for almost fifteen years & I took pride in my job, likewise my colleagues. Then we were 'vetted' before being offered a position. We got a trial period and training, if you were not good enough you were out. Nowadays there are no checks and I can remember Royal Mail managers coming into a pub to recruit staff. No wonder mail goes missing ,unscrupulous methods results in what you get, poor service. Management adopting bullying American style approaches has reduced a once envied service worldwide into a shambles. The union is answerable too for the decline.
Tim Mcmahon, Pennar, Wales.

I am trying to move all of my business communication to fax and Internet (e-mail, web) as Royal Mail's unreliability is disastrous for business confidence.
M J Marshall, London

It is time to open up the market to competition
James Murphy, Dorset, UK
I'm sick of lost post, strikes, broken promises and NO compensation for the shoddy service they sometimes deliver. It is time to open up the market to competition - they gravy mail-train has reached the station. Not allowing other companies to deliver private mail for under a pound is unreasonable and unjustified.
James Murphy, Dorset, UK

Ever since they got rid of the overnight mail trains the quality of service has been, frankly, pathetic. I don't know whose idea that was but I suggest replacing the incompetent fool with something more able to do the job. A turnip, perhaps.
Al, Aberdeen

Why do all the bills manage to get through and yet the good stuff, like my Star Wars magazine always disappears?
Dameon Brown, Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK

We work in customer services for Royal Mail. We do receive complaints about mis-delivered mail, but 99.9% of the time this is due to mail being incorrectly addressed. Customers also complain about mail going missing, most of this mail is sitting at our returns letter branch because no-one has used a return address for us to use. Stop digging us, we try our very best to provide a service that is extremely good value for money, especially with the amount of mail we deal with.
Zig and Zag, UK

My mail (Ealing, W London) was pretty good with a cheery postie coming like clockwork...until single deliveries. Now? Irregular post and delays. A birthday card arrived 3 weeks late. First class? If staff are permanent and fixed to one round and one sorting task then the opportunity to thieve is minimal as it will soon become apparent who is light-fingered. The current floating, agency, temp arrangements full of new, ever-changing faces is a thieves' paradise. Now Royal Mail has the right name back, let it get its GOOD name back!
Tim, London

If they didn't post so much junk mail the statistics wouldn't look as bad.
Mick, UK

Royal Mail sorters seem unable to distinguish between 'Road' and 'Park' and we receive a constant stream of post for people who live at the same number whose street name is the same but have 'Park' instead of 'Road'. This mistake has happened only in the last 6 months as well a lot of other wrongly delivered post for which there is no explanation for the errors. At work I recently received 3 important letters delivered all on the same day, posted 2 in December and one at the end of February. What is happening?
Chloe Baldi, London W5

We never forget that we are customers of our own service too!
Pat, UK
As a postie, we frequently investigate complaints of items that were not delivered by Royal Mail - complaints by proxy. Also, we never forget that we are customers of our own service too!
Pat, UK

I am a music journalist, and therefore rely on items (CDs) being delivered on time so that I can write reviews on them. This is never the case with Royal Mail. I moved house 4 months ago, since then I have complained 20+ times, had numerous 'standard' responses and still no mail. I have taken to asking the record companies to use private mailing firms in order that I can do my work! Royal Mail are not having a good couple of weeks are they? As for the 'postmen', I don't thinks it's all their fault. At the end of the day, if management is bad at their job, it's going to filter down to the rest of them isn't it!
Kevin, London

I have always felt that Royal Mail has been excellent value for money, and to be able to send a letter hundreds of miles for less than the price of a bar of chocolate is outstanding. Maybe if RM were to increase the price of stamps a little, the amount of mistakes could be reduced. Even 50 pence for a stamp would be good value for money.
Jim Chambers, Bury, Lancashire

We have a bad service about which we have complained frequently. Not just letters coming to the wrong house but things being lost (cheques, credit cards) and recorded delivery envelopes just being popped through the letterbox, no signature asked for. I never even received an acknowledgement of my last complaint, let alone a reply. I tried to ring our local sorting office to find out who to address my complaint to - but they never answer their phone.
Lucy Koshiw, Reading

We had an excellent postie in WC1H who managed to deliver even partially-addressed mail accurately for several years. Then he was moved to another round, against his will, and the service descended into chaos. One day alone last week, no fewer than 31 items of other people's mail were delivered to our flat! As far as we can tell the new postie simply dumped the entire staircase's mail through our letterbox. When I spoke informally to a manager at the Post Office about this I was told that the risk in making a complaint was that things could get much worse!
Nathan, London

None of this surprises me in the least. In the past 3 weeks they've lost three items of my mail. Complaining has done no good whatsoever. They're just forcing people to use alternatives. What they don't seem to realise is that once customers leave they don't come back - it's not like in the BT ad.
Rich, London, UK

It's sad to see how a once great service has deteriorated, especially in recent years
Ang, Edinburgh
Royal Mail used to give a good service - the first post arrived early in the morning and the other by lunchtime, delivery times were reliable and matched the postage paid, and mistakes were rare. Now it's anybody's guess as to when mail will arrive during the day/week, my family often get damaged items, we still get other people's mail, despite having complained, and it appears that no-one cares enough or has the ability to remedy the situation effectively. It's sad to see how a once great service has deteriorated, especially in recent years.
Ang, Edinburgh

In my view, the government is entirely responsible for the current state of the Royal Mail. Post delivered to your door is a public service yet the government no longer supports our postal service. In addition to this the Royal Mail is expected to compete with companies who are not legally obliged to (and would never even consider) delivering non-business and rural post. This is, of course, a ridiculous situation as the competition can choose to compete in only the most profitable business delivery areas. Post Watch should either take a more lenient stance on the Royal Mail, or force the competition to compete on a more level playing field and the general public should stop complaining so crassly, they'll miss the Royal Mail when it's gone!
Andrew, Brighton, England

You pose the question: "Have you had to re-deliver a letter which was wrongly delivered to you?" As the BBC claim to be fair and impartial, I can assume you will run a feedback section with the question: 'Have you ever had a letter correctly delivered to you despite the fact that it was wrongly addressed?' I won't hold my breath!
Rob (postman), Harlow, Essex.

Contrary to some comments here, missing post is not only a matter of simple human error. In Headington (Oxford) someone recently found sacks of mail dumped in a field. And I have repeatedly had letters and package go missing, even though they were sent with the signed-for service. Besides, the long delays due to random wild-cat strikes are just as painful as lost mail: Today I received an invitation for a job interview, including a request to confirm the interview date a week ago.
Jan, Oxford

So today's the day to stick the knife in the Post Office and postal employees. A very adversatorial approach, without any consideration of the realities. I am not a postman, but I was a temporary postman for three Christmases when I was a university student. Many times each day I was contronted with letters with addresses written in virtually indecipherable handwriting, letters with street names, but no number, and letters with a ? after the number. Postmen resolve these problems many times each day. We rely on an enormous amount of goodwill from our postmen, which you make no effort to acknowledge.
Chris Collins, Newport, South Wales, UK

I have had constant problems with my mail being put through other people's doors and mail intended for others posted to me over the past year. Despite several time-consuming complaints to the Post Office customer services, the problem still persists. when I made a formal complaint to Postwatch their response was to accept a Post Office denial of a problem existing and to unnecessarily advise me to ensure that my mail was properly addressed!
Paul Whyles, Oxford, Oxon

Over the past 2-3 months the quality of mail delivery seems to me to have plummeted dramatically. Whereas we used to get post of some sort on 90% of days, we now only seem to have deliveries about half of the time. Either the pattern of mail sending has changed or the local post office is "batching" mail. A number of expected items have never materialised, and similarly several items sent have either taken 8 days to arrive within the UK or have just never appeared at all! Things have definitely changed for the worse!
Jon, Sandhurst, UK

25 pence for next day service? No other country in the world offers that and delivers to the same standards. Remember the fuss everyone made on how "bad" 192 was? How "atrocious" British Rail was? And what do we have now?
Steve Wynne, London, UK

My old postman was brilliant - always turned up by the time I left for work, never mixed up my mail and was very efficient. He sadly left because the wages were too low for him to live in London. We now have a new postie. He turns up about 2pm - and is always mixing things up. When I pointed this out to him in a friendly way, he wasn't interested. I called Royal Mail who said it was teething problems - what, for 6 months! Isn't it about time we had a professional postal system run by an efficient company. And they wonder why people are resorting to other means of communication!
Jack, London

Keep our mail Royal Mail, don't let it go private Then we would have something to complain about.
Derek Timmis, Freckleton UK

Cutting costs is not the answer
Stephen Farrow, Reading, England
Ever since the new Chairman and new CEO joined their changes have hit deliveries. Cutting costs is not the answer, looking after the customer first would mean customers would use the service more and prevent the need for cost cutting. What is the point of having a postal service that cannot deliver to homes before people go to work! Come on Royal Mail get your act together.
Stephen Farrow, Reading, England

Over the last 5 years I have noticed an increasing tendency by postmen to leave items too large to fit through the letter box outside the front door - instead of taking it away and leaving a card asking me to pick it up. Who knows what has gone missing this way, as I don't know anything has been delivered if there is no notification.
Maria, Southampton, UK

My street has a different postman doing the round every few days and I often see the post trolley left unattended on the pavement - factors which might go some way to explaining why so much post goes missing in our area and why so many misaddressed letters are put through my door nearly every day. I resent having to do the postie's job every week but do know how it feels to be waiting for letter or parcel which never arrives.
After the postal strikes last October our postal area, SW4, received a letter apologising for the inconvenience caused and claiming that as 'compensation' to its customers, Royal Mail was going to donate 1,000,000 to the London Olympic bid. Surely this money would have been better spent on training and recruiting more staff? No wonder they're going under - I certainly don't trust them anymore!
Shelley Gould, Clapham, London

I agree that there are flaws in the service but it seems that we do not help matters - how difficult is it to send on mail if it is delivered to you by mistake? My sister is a 'postie' and she works very hard, often facing abuse from people who seem to think junk mail is all her fault! Also, I received a letter a few weeks ago which had completely the wrong address on but our 'postie' had recognised our name and delivered it to us - now that's service!
Anne, Merseyside

I was continually getting correctly addressed mail incorrectly delivered to me. Only after complaining to the Royal Mail 5 times has it (hopefully) stopped. How can the Communications Workers Union blame training - can't the postmen read? I've also had several DVDs go 'missing' (or stolen). But that's another story.
Richard, Bristol

Overall our Posties do an excellent job and we are pleased with the service we get. Local second class letters that we send out are often delivered the next day. Yes, we do occasionally receive mis-directed letters for a company with a similar name, but we have the same problem with couriers.
Philip, Herefordshire

I do urge people to make a complaint if mail is persistently delivered to the wrong address. Last year we used to get lots of mail addressed to the building next door. I used to just take it round myself, but it got to be a pain after a while. So I made a complaint, and after a week we stopped getting next door's mail altogether. By the way: it did not escape my notice that next door was round the corner, up some stairs, and had a letterbox just 10 cm wide, and in an awkward position.
Ian, Brighton

I have complained numerous times to Royal Mail about my post being delivered to the wrong flat in my building - all I ever get back is a standard letter and a 6 first class stamps. No wonder people don't bother to complain if you just get this standard response back!
Anita, Folkestone, Kent

I do think that postman deserve part of the blame. What do you need more training for to deliver mail to right address? We regularly receive mail for neighbouring addresses and when I pointed this out to the postman I was met with nothing but ignorance and contempt. I have set up a network with my neighbours so that we exchange letters that were delivered to the wrong address.
Till Stenzel, London, UK

Stop knocking Royal Mail
Mike Frost, Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Royal Mail do a fantastic job in delivering mail within the UK. To have only 0.07% of letters substantially delayed or wrongly delivered puts the issue into perspective. It would be interesting to know what the performance levels of Deutsche Post and other European rivals are! Stop knocking Royal Mail - they're not perfect but deserve a better press
Mike Frost, Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

I've lost count of the number of Christmas/birthday presents sent that have never arrived. Similarly parcels from the Open University have disappeared, I'm at a loss why anyone would want to steal these. There is now no point in trying to get anything by mail order from England as the chances are it will get lost somewhere. So British firms are losing out on custom.
Margaret Hunter, France

I order from Amazon extensively as well as receiving post from my family overseas. I have always felt the Royal Mail to be amazingly efficient - in South Africa and I think most countries 'next day delivery' is not an option. I think because there is a common message of "Royal Mail is bad and inefficient' people tend to repeat this without thinking for themselves.
Andrew Foster, London (from South Africa)

Please, Please, Please don't privatise the mail! Yes I get the odd wrongly addressed item and sometimes things have gone astray but look what happened when rail was privatised! You can be standing on a platform and a train arrive for your destination. BUT you are not allowed to get on because you have not got a ticket for that company! Can you imagine the confusion of mail delivered, sorted and connected countrywide by Private firms!
Lyn, UK

My sorting office in Shepherd's Bush say they are experiencing a 3 week backlog on letters. I'm still waiting for a parcel my mum sent me on April 6th. Apparently it's all due to complications caused by the new once-daily delivery. Our new postman doesn't even have a uniform!
Gordon, London, UK

I am a postman and would like to know how many of these "lost" letters are because of incorrect addresses, I deal with the mis-sorts in our office and am sure that some people just guess at the address. We try our best to deliver mis-addressed items but it is not always possible
Dave, Kent UK

So now the Royal Mail are so lazy and incompetent that we now have to spend our time chasing them up. Which in any case doesn't matter, in one instance a letter marked return to sender with the address highlighted on the back and addressee not known clearly written on it was returned to me 3 times. End the monopoly lets have a real postal service.
Anon, Liverpool

I think if they would introduce some quick fixes then complaining would achieve something
Johanna Kaschke, London
I constantly complain to Royal Mail about services, e.g. bad service from sorting office for PO BOX clients, long waiting times, when the postman does not wear a uniform and looks scruffy, mail gets lost, compensation claims. However in my experience when writing to watchdog in SW1 they write then to Royal Mail and it can take up to 4 months to get a reply and then they say it's due to restructuring. I think if they would introduce some quick fixes then complaining would achieve something. It is also very time consuming to constantly complain. I could complain at least once a week and sometimes more often.
Johanna Kaschke, London

After selling our house, my husband and I informed the Post Office that we were moving house. They informed us that a form was to be filled in and send away. About 3 weeks later we still had not received any post. I went to the main sorting office who informed me that they had no instruction form their head office to deliver. It took several weeks before we received any post.
Carol Woodall, Warwickshire

I rely heavily on Royal Mail and they lose valuable items that I send to customers with monotonous regularity. The latest loss, for which I have claimed, has not even been acknowledged and I put a claim in about 3 weeks ago! I have literally been forced to use either 'signed for' or 'special delivery' to ensure "hassle free" claims when items are lost. Talk about forcing customers to use enhanced services through stealth!
Tony Hoskins, Tewkesbury UK

I am a postman and I know that the vast majority of posties do a great job. How many people out there could deliver 7 bags of mail each weighing up to 16 Kg and delivered in approx 3 1/2 hours and not get a single item wrong? Get real we are human!
Garry, Lanarkshire

Didn't these people learn from what happened with directory enquiries?
Jon, Was UK, now Australia
Stop knocking the Royal Mail! They seem to be a trendy target for misguided 'consumer' organisations. Didn't these people learn from what happened with directory enquiries? Try living somewhere else and you'll realise what an excellent service the Royal Mail offers overall - far better than any fully or part privatised solution will be. But keep complaining and that is what you'll get.
Jon, Was UK, now Australia

In reply to Jon, I lived in Western Australia for 30 years. In this time we had a grand total of zero, yes zero mail strikes. In the 3 years I have lived in Oxford we have had at least six. Privatisation is not the answer, but neither is keeping quiet and letting these lazy, greedy, incompetents ride roughshod over our rights as consumers.
Roger M, Was Australia, now Oxford UK

Royal Mail urges pricing shake-up
27 Apr 04  |  Business
Royal Mail sorry for snail mail
25 Apr 04  |  Business

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