Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Broken Britain

The other evening we watched the Channel 4 Despatches programme "Secrets of your missing Mail" in which covert filming of the UKMail Courier depot in Bournemouth showed staff throwing parcels around, kicking them and boasting that they could dish out the contents of partially broken wine shipments.

Apart from the smug attitude of the presenter, the programme was rather more annoying than shocking as its entire evidence comprised about 3 minutes of filming which was endlessly repeated and it carried an implication that this is what private couriers are like whereas the Royal Mail are not. I'm fairly sure that any parcel sorting depot in the Country, particularly staffed by un-managed people on minimum wage, could exhibit examples of similar rough treatment and suppliers have to use bomb-proof packaging to counter it. Other Countries are even worse (never send parcels to Russia, is my tip).

I'm 100% against the proposed sell-off of Royal Mail and Parcelforce but let us not pretend that their service is in some way vastly superior to independent courier companies.

It reminded me of an evening about 20 years ago when I was running a small lighting business. We had a team of 6 packers in the warehouse packing small parcels of lightbulbs and flourescent tubes  to be collected each evening by a Parcelforce lorry. These parcels were all carefully and solidly stacked inside 6ft tall wooden trolleys called "Mates" which were duly wheeled onto the back of the lorry and taken off to the new state-of-the-art sorting depot in Peterborough. All very efficient.

Some of the staff (and me) were quite interested in seeing the new depot so one evening we arranged a minibus to take us on an official tour.

The manager of the depot welcomed us through the main receiving doors and proudly demonstrated the first stage of the automated sorting systems where the "Mates" are taken off the lorries and wheeled up to a large caged contraption.

"This is the Mate-tipping machine", he beamed. We watched in open-jawed horror as each Mate was hooked onto the device and jerked to a height of 10 feet and through 180 degrees to spew the entire contents onto a metal floor below.


Nota Bene said...


I'm not 100% sure where I stand on the proposed sell-off. I think, on balance, there's too large an element of public service for it to go to the private sector, but on the other hand long gone are the days when post and packages were mainly 'personal' so there's a logic that commercial mail should be carried by commercial organisations. I'm looking for a third way.

Z said...

The best courier service we had was the one that picked up the barograph we'd sold on eBay - he put it on the seat beside him and kept it there all the way to its destination.

Liz said...

We saw the trailer for that programme and made a note to avoid it. We've had parcels arrive damaged (Yodel were the culprits on both occasions) so didn't feel the need to watch a demonstration of how the damage occurs. The lazy journalism that goes into some of these "investigative" progammes is every bit as annoying as the poor service they try to uncover.

Rog said...

Nota: I think the concept of a true nationwide public owned service is a good one, with an obligation to deliver to the Scillies to the Orkneys. And lots of village Post Offices depend on the Royal Mail input to keep open. The tragedy is that they are pricing themselves out of the growth area of parcels and kept the letter post unchanged which is as MAD as the BBC PAYING Rupert to show all the BBC channels on Sky.

Z: Secret filming may have shown your baro-bow playing footie with it at Blue Boar Services.

Liz: Yodel - so called because it comes back to you! Agree very much re the sensationalist reporting - we don't normally watch such programmes for exactly that reason.

I really hope they never manage to do secret filming in my current packing bay as the language may prove a little post watershed.

Zig said...

I have had a few bashed parcels which have been annoying but I'm still a fan of the Royal Mail and PO - the one across the road from me is invaluable and a great many of us would be lost without it.

dinahmow said...

It's not just the Royal Mail! I think mail sorters and airline baggage handlers train at the same place!

broken biro said...

It's still all completely miraculous to me that any post gets anywhere (and I say that in terms of how impressed I am at any large-scale organised operations with everything that could go wrong, and as an ex-postie (summer job) who has put the odd thing through the wrong door on occasion *blushes*)

Rog said...

Zig: Country post offices are the life blood of every village! Apart from one near us that's run by a dictatorial scoutmaster.

Dinah: And they're all male sorters as well!

Biro: It is ridiculous to expect an individual letter to be taken from Thanet to Thurso overnight and delivered to an individual letterbox - all for 60 pence. You'd hardly get a packet of crisps for that these days.

allotmentqueen said...

I like the firms that can give you a one-hour timeslot when your delivery will arrive. We always presume that the football approach will be taken somewhere along the line so try to package with that in mind. eBay has been the saviour of many post offices.

Pat said...

I've given up on parcels -sending that is.
On the whole have been lucky with deliveries.