No surprise that Royal Mail auctions lost parcels

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A seller has got more than a little irate when they discovered that an item they had sold and was lost in the post turned up for sale on eBay. It made the BBC news this weekend.

The back story is that the seller sold a selection of valuable Scalextric cars for over £400 and shipped them on Royal Mail First Class postage with Recorded Delivery (Signed For). When they went missing, Royal Mail apparently paid just £1.10 in compensation.

There are two things of interest here and the first is that the seller used the wrong shipping method. As a business customer Royal Mail is only ever going to refund the cost of the item (that is the cost the seller paid, not the price they sold the items for). It’s not Royal Mail’s job to insure your profits, only your costs. Regardless of this, if you post something worth over £400, whether as a business or an individual, use an appropriate shipping method and pay extra for the appropriate level of insurance if you expect to be reimbursed for any loss.

The second thing that is worth noting is that yes Royal Mail do dispose of items lost in the post if they’re unable to reunite them with the owner. The seller in question seems rather shocked at this notion accusing Royal Mail of acting dishonestly. The thing is though that Royal Mail delivery billions of items and have been doing so for over 500 years. If only a tiny fraction of parcels are lost that still adds up to a mountain of undeliverable items. Just what are Royal Mail supposed to do with all these things other than to dispose of them in some manner or other?

No one is saying that Royal Mail should be careless with items in the postal system and they are a fantastic service. Sometimes items will be badly wrapped, labels come detached or items damaged. These things happen and when they do it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to discover Royal Mail won’t keep your items in a gigantic lost and found warehouse for the next 500 years.

Moral of the story, ship with insurance if you’re despatching valuable items and if you don’t then swallow the loss as a business cost. That applies with Royal Mail or any other courier you may choose to use.

16 Responses

  1. Even if sent recorded, Royal Mail should have been able to identify the sender, surely? Just tap in the barcode. They’ve clearly made zero effort here.

    The guy has a right to be cheesed off about this.

    Despite having our address on the back of everything we send out, the only returns from “lost” items we ever see come from overseas. Nothing “lost” in the UK ever comes back to us.

    Frankly, RM does not give a damn about returns, as there is no money in it for them.

    Quite the reverse. If they don’t even try to return them, they incur no costs and can flog them on Ebay.

  2. I have lost count of the number of times eBay sellers send me postcards with no return address, and no documents inside. Aside from problems if they get my address wrong or delivery goes wrong, and Royal Mail then can’t return it, it’s just unprofessional not to include an invoice or note to say who it’s from.

    Often these postcards are bought by MY customers who have me stamp & return them, and they buy the same design from several sellers. Without documents I don’t know which sellers’ cards have arrived and which have not.

  3. We use Royal Mail 6×4 labels, with the return address on the bottom – printed not hand written, Royal Mail PPI at the top (with our unique licence number) and include an a4 invoice with our address, company number and VAT number on…

    Guess what… we still get items lost and almost never have items returned to us that have been “lost in the post”

    What more can you do apart from hand deliver the items to the customer yourself?

  4. royal mail need to take a leaf out of ebays global shipping service
    insurance is for the total amount not just cost or profit,
    if an item has not been received ebay refund in full with little or no stone walling.
    we use royal mail for inland domestic simply because of inertia and convenience .it would not take much of a push for as to move to another courier

    we always include a return address always sending signed for or special delivery
    admittedly not many items are lost by royal mail ,though any returns are few and far between.
    we believe royalmail make little effort to return un- collected items

  5. Personally I have not had a problem with any of my items I send out, I included my return address on the Royal Mail label and an invoice inside the package, any items that don’t get delivered or are “lost in post” eventually find there way back to me.

    However I also buy alot on eBay and it is very rare for a seller big or small to include a return address on the package or an invoice inside, even just a note inside saying who it is from seems to be too much like hard work.

  6. I’m not convinced RM try to return items, it’s quite rare a parcel comes back. One particular line we sell has our return address on the actual product yet it’s RM has put this on eBay twice. The address is also printed on the packaging, RM label and on the invoice.

    Most things are sent using FBA now, automated, reimbursements based on the price sold yet price is reasonable vs RM.

  7. Having worked for RM in the nineties, rising to the dizzy heights of acting delivery office manager (JV5), the stuff with some sort of return address on front or back got blue crayoned and returned. It might take a week or so to get round to the skip with them in, but we did it. But nobody was allowed to open anything.

    Items without a return address on the outside were sent to an office in Belfast, where officials would open them to see if there was a return address.

    But from what I’m being told by people still working for RM, these skips with undelivered mail now sit around for weeks or months. Everyone now works to fixed jobs, so nobody is spare to deal with them.

    With the recorded item mentioned by Chris in his piece, a return address is obligatory or you can’t send it. So, again, it’s difficult to see how RM could fail to return the item to him, rather than flog it.

  8. Happen to think the Posties do a great job, Most professional sellers will make sure the items are well packed and addressed (obviously we still have the issue with poorer markets like eBay with all those wrong addresses). Problems with many private sellers with handwritten post etc. Not putting return addresses etc.
    Anyway £400 I would most probably would not have actually used Royal Mail but a courier with genuine end to end. Or at least used Special delivery.

    However even Royal Mails so called guaranteed delivery is a sham, we have just been put through the mill with them, had to go to escalation team in the end to eventually get a payout. Honest the service when something goes wrong is disgusting. You pay pay premium price to get poor service as a business customer. Anything to put you off claiming, it is being done deliberate to cut down on the compensation and to put the customer through as much hassle as possible.

  9. Alistair White is lucky. Every item I send has a return address on the outside and inside it has an invoice with both the buyer’s address and my address. Even supposing the outside is damaged and the label is made illegible or ripped off, opening the parcel will give RM everything they need to forward or return. Yet these days, unlike previously, very little ever comes back from Royal Mail, although the rate of loss stays the same. Admittedly this is low, and doesn’t cause me a problem, but there is no excuse for any item ever being lost – either RM don’t check, the item is delivered to the wrong address, it s completely destroyed by RM handling and is unrecognisable or the buyer is fraudulent.

  10. I think Royal mail do a good job considering the amount of mail they move and how little they lose.

    All our items are sent out using a 4×6 label with a 2d bar code / tracking number as well as our return address.

    Inside the box there is an invoice with our name and address clearly on it.

    The new 2d tracking on our mail has lessened the amount of lost items. The items we get returned are those that are not collected./

    Items that are lost seem to stay lost.

  11. As the seller and sender in question, let me point out a few facts.
    I have a royal Mail account with a daily postal collection. The parcel was sent correctly labelled as follows : Postage label with our unique business number on it, Recorded Delivery label with tracking number, docket envelope on the front containing the invoice with our business address on it, customers full delivery address including postcode etc.
    The parcel was signed for on collection. The customer contacted his local delivery office when it never arrived, and received a letter from Royal Mail confirming that the parcel never reached there. I stated a Royal Mail Compensation Claim 4 weeks after posting the parcel, and received the standard form letters. I sent all the required documents (copy of despatch book receipt, purchase invoices for the items, etc). Royal Mail take weeks to respond to any of this.
    The items turned up for sale on Ebay, so I started a Royal Mail Security Investigation (different to their customer service and claims department) and also a Police Investigation. The Ebay seller was arrested but produced a receipt showing the items were legally bought from an auction house. The Police pursued this and the auction house confirmed the sale, and also that they had a continuous contract to dispose of Royal Mail parcels.
    I have had the run-around from Royal Mail for many months and many letters, which Royal Mail finalised by sending £1.10 compensation, which doesn’t even cover the cost of the postage, before closing the compensation claim. Although confirming they lost the parcel they have never admitted to selling it. They have given no explanation as to how a parcel so clearly marked with so many identifying labels would be classed as missing and then sold, and refused to discuss any proper compensation despite the proof of value.

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