Ch 4 Despatches: Undercover with Yodel

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Tonight Channel 4 Despatches promised to reveal “Where’s my missing mail” as they went incognito to find out what happens at “Britain’s leading online parcel company”, revealed to be Yodel.

Having seen the program two years ago when Despatches did an expose on UK Mail, we already know what to expect from the program. However now it’s Yodel’s turn, so an undercover reporter went to work at Yodel’s Shaw depot in Oldham.

Yodel Truck hmParcel handling

The first half of the program dealt with parcel handling. Yodel were billed as the biggest independent player and Despatches immediately pulled out the broken poppies, Christmas delays and late Mother’s Day deliveries, all examples from a couple of years ago.

We all know (or should know) what happens in a parcel depot, the truth is so many parcels go through a high volume depot that they’re simply not going to be handled with kid gloves. Pack well or it’ll arrive broken, don’t assume a ‘Fragile’ label is a replacement for sufficient packaging. That said the footage of a couple of workers playing pass the parcel at a slack time won’t go down well with Yodel bosses.

Lorry loading isn’t a task that is likely to be taken gently – let’s face it these trailers are massive so the ‘wall’ of boxes is going to be placed but then other parcels are going to be lobbed on top and seeing as trailers are about 10 feet high it’s not like workers can reach the top in any other way.

Parcel Delivery

As soon as the second half of tonight’s Despatches program started, they picked on one customer who hadn’t received their delivery. Despatches call this a common complaint so they got another undercover reported to get a job as a Yodel delivery driver.

We all know that all delivery companies leave parcels in ‘Safe’ places, but with the undercover reporter working as a casual driver on 60p per parcel there’s a temptation to be as quick as possible. Yodel apparently varies the amount they pay depending on whether the round is rural or in town.

Problems with scanners that were highlighted are understandable, tech isn’t always that reliable especially in rural areas where there’s no signal.

Again Despatches had no problem pulling out some examples of dodgy ‘safe’ places such as the parcel on the roof. Let’s be honest however, cutting a few corners isn’t unique to Yodel, plenty of other courier companies have had the same issues with a driver occasionally.

Our Expectations

Despatches were pretty up front in pointing out that a free or very cheap delivery isn’t going to give the same services as a £6 delivery. You pay for what you get. Do we all want to pay higher delivery charges or are we happy to live with the odd damaged or lost parcel or a delivery left in a not so safe place?

Was the program fair?

In truth there was nothing in the program that surprises or shocks me. Sure you could handle everything with kid gloves but then your parcels would be stuck in the system for days, no courier could cope with the volume and the price of delivery would go up both to retailers and the consumer.

If we don’t want to pay more for carriage, either as retailers we need to package with the knowledge of how parcels will be handled, or we need to charge our consumer a higher price and use a specialist low volume carrier.

It’s worth remembering that retailers like Amazon, Argos and John Lewis do a sterling job of packing. Amazon often face complaints that they over pack, but they don’t get many for damaged goods. We as independent retailers need to do the same.

If you’re attending The Delivery Conference tomorrow, Dick Stead, Yodel’s Executive Chairman, will be speaking and sure to have some interesting comments to make on this week’s Despatches.

16 Responses

  1. Absolutely shocking how they treat the deliveries & what was she thinking about 60p for 30 parcels that took her 4 hours or £4.50ph before expenses such as petrol / running costs

  2. I’m not surprised about anything shown on the show (except the parcel on the roof) however with eBay pushing for sellers to offer free postage or receiving negative feedback if you charge too much for postage (even though you should be able to charge for the box,bubblewrap,label,tape and the actual full price of the courier)it seems like everybody will just have to except that people will just behave like this in any parcel company in any country around the world and we have to just take it on the chin.

  3. A useful reminder ro pack those items more than adequately. Not convinced Yodel is any greater an offender in chucking items than any other carriers.


  4. Bought a big monitor off Amazon. Delivered by Yodel in one piece. Delivered the day they said they would. The man was polite, even shut the gate. Well done Yodel!

    3rd Party Amazon Seller

  5. The bit with the young lad with the mug that got broken several times was silly, packed in a flimsy plastic box inside a poly mailer, zero protection.

    Your parcel, our football, pack accordingly. 🙂

  6. Dont know what all the fuss is about ,every ebay buyer knows all you need for 100% protection is to add a fragile label to the package

  7. Nothing changes in fact its probably improved ,My very first job as a young man in the very distant past was unloading parcels from express trains, that had. A 5 minute stop at the station, most were in mail sacks , they were flung from the carriage onto the platform at speed with no thought to the contents ,you were in real trouble if the train was delayed,even if we did have x ray vision to read fragile on packages in the sacks, it was getting them off that mattered

  8. point is we would rather packages took a little longer and survive rather than this idiotic lemming like leap for instant delivery

  9. Talking about the good old days when Post and Parcels went by Train I once stood and watched as a Mail Train was unloaded in Derby. Frantic throwing of mail sacks from train to Post Office Vans. Then the train and the Vans left the Station. Looking down there were several Mail Sacks on the tracks that had obviously got missed. Obviously they were later rescued but when I was there nobody was interested in them.

  10. There is a time and place for Yodel. You really do get what you pay for in the parcel delivery market.

    There’s a huge requirement for “premium” delivery networks but again, people must realise that you cannot expect big carriers like UPS, DHL, TNT, FedEx etc to deliver for Yodel prices.

  11. Had to feel sorry for ‘Dick Stead’ presenting today at the delivery conference the morning after this was released.. He came off very well all things considering!


  12. I’m one of the few employed Yodel drivers left and we do all give a good service to all our clients. We have to – we are victimised so much that we have no choice if we want to keep our jobs. Bottom line is that management want us OUT – at any cost, on any flimsy pretext – so we can be replaced by cheap, self-employed (usually foreign) labour or by “lifestyle couriers” as demonstrated in the program to excellent effect by Becky. Make money delivering parcels for Yodel on a self-employed basis? Forget about it – and WAKE UP!!!!!!
    I work in a service centre in the south of England, I won’t say which for obvious reasons, but bullying of employed staff by management is rife and, regrettably, is encouraged by senior management.
    We employed drivers do not – and WILL NOT – leave parcels in daft places or “self-sign” for them.
    The fact of the matter is this – the “Dispatches” program highlighted a lot of serious issues with Yodel. But it only exposed the tip of the iceberg.
    Sure, all logisitics companies handle parcels in the same way at national sortation level, that’s a no-brainer, but the underlying issues loom a lot larger than this.
    The conclusions drawn by the business analysts at the climax of the program were fair – ie that people had to realise that they had to PAY for delivery if they wanted a superior service.
    At the same time, Yodel management have to realise that the current DOM (Depot Operations Model) they have embarked upon over these last five years, ie cheap foreign self-employed labour and self-employed “neighbourhood couriers” plainly does NOT WORK.
    For Yodel’s owners – the choice is stark – either revert back to a DOM consisting of circa 80% properly employed drivers who genuinely CARE about giving good service to our customers and recipients alike and PROSPER – or continue with the current madness and wither and die on the vine.

    The choice, ladies and gentlemen, is entirely theirs.

  13. This article is from an apologist for Yodel. Are they sponsoring or advertising on the site? There’s no excuse for poor service or breaking people’s property. It’s criminal damage. I quickly stopped using yodel and most people will follow. Matt is right, it’s all about a quick buck for the few at the top. Citylink anyone?


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