The Royal Mail strikes, called by the CWU union, have been timed and arranged to cause maximum disruption to customers, so it is not much fun for us being caught in the middle, trying to give you a good customer service while they are actively trying to make that harder. Because of the repeated and coordinated nature of the strikes, Royal Mail has struggled to catch up their backlog, making the service even on non-strike days quite unreliable. And the overspill to other couriers has caused carriers we have also tried (Evri, DHL and DPD) to be overloaded too, with parcels going missing, or them refusing to take our parcels at all. Other carriers are refusing to take on new customers such as us until the strikes are over.
We are substituting other services in situations where we think you have a better chance of receiving your parcel in a timely manner, but nothing is guaranteed at the moment. In most cases, parcels are still getting through, but if you are one of the unlucky ones with a disruption, please accept our apologies and bear with us while we try to sort this out.
What are the Royal Mail parcel services?
The Royal Mail services you are probably most familiar with are 1st Class and 2nd Class. These are completely untracked and there is no way of knowing what is happening to them in transit. Commercial businesses have access to 24 and 48 services, which roughly correspond to 1st and 2nd Class, but have a barcode which the postman scans on delivery or attempted delivery. There’s no way of knowing where it is in the system until then. We also have access to Tracked 24 and 48 which may sound similar to standard 24 and 48, but they are very different.
- They are considerably more expensive for us.
- They are fully tracked.
- Royal Mail has a service quality target and counts parcels that meet or miss it.
- Tracked parcels get priority over untracked in the system.
What Royal Mail services are you using at the moment?
We are only using the tracked services. Even if you have only paid for standard delivery (or got it free), we will upgrade you. We simply don’t trust the untracked services. This is costly for us, but we feel it is the right service to use. However, we encourage you to pay for the upgrade yourself if you can. This also tells us how urgent you think your parcel is, and may affect our dispatch prioritisation.
What other parcel couriers have you tried?
In order to get you your parcels faster, we have tried using Evri, by dropping off parcels at their parcel shops since we have to commit to a large volume to get a commercial account and collections. But this has been erratic, since the majority have refused to take any parcels for reasons like their scanner not working; or if they have no space left for storing parcels. Even when we can drop parcels off, they may not be collected that day. And once they are in the Evri system, we find that they are not noticeably more reliable than Royal Mail tracked, even with the strikes.
We have tried DHL Parcel UK, but they are much more expensive, especially for outlying areas, so we can’t easily offer a flat fee, and the rate of missing parcels is still higher than we would like. We are also experimenting with DPD bet they also have a reduced service.
Other couriers you have heard of are much too expensive for us at our scale, or won’t even deal with us at all because we are too small.
Can you send my parcel by a different courier?
We can probably arrange this if you contact us for a quote. But bear in mind that we do not have daily collections from anyone other than Royal Mail; so in most cases the collection will be booked for the next day.
What guarantee do you give on speed of delivery?
Normally, we aim to dispatch same day for orders received by 4pm on weekdays. We usually do a Saturday dispatch and the cutoff is 12pm. On or around strikes, this changes. Our cutoff for using alternative services is much more fluid. For example, we generally need to take parcels to Evri in the morning, and even once we have dropped the parcels off, there is no guarantee that they will be collected same day.
Unless there is a strike affecting the day of collection, delivery or a day in between, then the tracked service is fairly reliable. Royal Mail 24 Tracked is usually next business day, and 48 Tracked is 2-3 business days. But there are no guarantees. We are putting your parcel on a carrier service with a target not a guarantee. We don’t get a guarantee from Royal Mail or a refund if it is delayed. However if you tell us your parcel is badly delayed and you have paid extra for postage for it, we will generally give you a refund even though we have fulfilled our obligation by putting it on the carrier service.
If Royal Mail is still the best option, why is my parcel delayed?
You may have seen the photos of mail piling up in depots. We think this is mostly the untracked stuff. Here is what we think happens behind the scenes at Royal Mail… If the lorry collecting from the depot is full one evening, or staff are a bit busy, it may leave without some of the untracked parcels, and then they are put to one side in what we imagine is a bit of a dead pool with a big sign over them saying “Late”. It can take a long time for them to get out of the dead pool, as newly dispatched parcels seem to take priority over them. In other words, they think it is better to have one parcel very late than two parcels a little late.
Tracked parcels seem to get treated a bit differently. They are much more reliable than untracked. Normally they are scanned at Royal Mail in the evening we dispatch them. However at the moment we are noticing they are sometimes not, and these are the ones that go missing for a while. We think this might be related to Royal Mail’s performance obligation. If they have not scanned in the parcel on receipt then for their performance data it looks like they have delivered on time. For example, a 24 Tracked parcel dispatched on a Monday was not scanned in until the following Sunday, and when it is delivered on the Monday after a week, it will be documented as delivered “on time”.
Disruptions happen not just on the day of a strike, but around them due to the backlog. But for tracked parcels, this is still the exception rather than the rule. We are very sorry if this kind of thing happens to you. It is unlucky but there are very few other options and parcel delivery in the run up to Christmas during a Royal Mail strike is a bit of a lottery with all carriers, not just Royal Mail, as they have to deal with much more volume because of the season and people shifting from Royal Mail.
My parcel is delayed, but I need it urgently… what can I do?
The simplest option is to order it again. Contact us if you need free shipping. We will also let you return your first shipment free of charge for a refund when it arrives. It is incredibly rare for a parcel to disappear entirely, so while we would not hesitate to refund or replace a missing parcel, it gets complicated if we do that before we are sure it is actually missing.