The Postman Barely Knocks Once

I write this with one ear turned toward the front door and will probably stay that way each day for the next several days. My wife’s Christmas present has still not arrived. I allowed extra time to account for the Christmas rush. I remembered that the Royal Mail often have strikes at this time so both they and rival services might suffer further delays so allowed still further time. My wife is a reasonable person so has no issue with receiving the present late; the issue lies with the oddities of parcel carriers. A group of whom I have a poor experience.

The Royal Mail are quite sensible about deliveries: if you are out they leave a card and take the parcel to a nearby depot for several weeks for your collection. However some rival parcel carriers use on a different model: leave a card saying they will try to redeliver at a later date and return the package to sender if they fail to deliver twice. Without a delivery slot or even knowledge of which carrier has the parcel I am reduced to a life of brief scurries to the shops minimising the minutes I am away from the house.

Are you sure we cannot make the process less efficient?
(image public domain)

The organised among you will no doubt be considering using the time my wife is at home for trips to the shops: for supermarkets and other shops that open longer than standard office hours this is an option; the internet and habitual forward planning have mostly avoided the need to visit places that do not. Therefore being at home is more inconvenience than issue.

The real issue lies in the process used by many delivery drivers between the van and the addressee:

  1. Prepare a “We Are (Not) Sorry We Missed You” card
  2. Walk to door
  3. Ignore the buzzer and knock once
  4. Put card through the letterbox without waiting for an answer
  5. Run back to the van and drive off

So I need to stay close enough to the front door that I can not only distinguish a knock from the wind rattling the door but also get to it in time to catch the driver before he makes it back to the van.

I live in a basement flat with a separate front door (with a large sign identifying sign), so some of the least enterprising drivers add a variation: knock once not on my door but on the ground floor and leave a card if I do not magically appear. Wise to this trait I have taken to going outside if I hear a van engine or van door; more than one driver has turned from the front door to find I have risen up like a less friendly Mephistopheles.

Usually these irritations fade quickly into a general distrust of parcel carriers once I receive my delivery. One driver reset the bar below ground level though. The sender had provided the tracking number with the confirmation of dispatch so I had real-time tracking. Like a sixteen year old posting on a crush’s Facebook wall I refreshed the page:

  • arrived depot
  • loaded on van
  • left depot
  • estimated delivery 0900-1200
  • driver in area – estimated delivery 10:30-11:05
  • next delivery – estimated delivery 10:55-11:05.

At 11:10 I began to wonder what might disaster might have struck to prevent a firm with such fine grain processes from reaching me safely.

At 11:13 I found out: Status – delivered. I checked my doorstep. I checked behind the bin and in the utility cupboard. I checked with my neighbour on each side. No parcel. The carrier informed me that any query needed to be made to the sender. Strangely – despite such accurate tracking – the sender informed me that the carrier could not provide details of the delivery until the driver returned to his depot. At 15:00 I received an email from the sender enclosing the relevant extract from the driver’s electronic log. Signed for by: CUBBORD

With cryptological skills rivalled only by children I concluded that (1) he meant cupboard and (2) unless Jim Henson had worked on my house in secret it did not sign for my parcel. I dutifully rechecked all my external cupboards and hatches. I went again to my neighbours and sought permission to search their external cupboards. Still no parcel. The sender investigated further and informed me that the driver had told his supervisor that the cupboard was at the side of the property: as I live in the centre of a terrace it was clear even to apologists that the parcel had been left without signature at another address. The driver would come out the next day to find it.

At this point my wife arrived back from work. Free of the weight of stress she suggested he might have delivered it to a nearby street. Heading out again I discovered a rather puzzled man outside the same number on a parallel street trying to extract a parcel that had been wedged behind his electricity meter.

The sender is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of electronic parts and goods, including Sat-Navs. I took great pleasure when informing them I had located my parcel in also suggesting that there might be a business opportunity in upgrading the carrier’s Sat-Navs.

Do you have any interesting anecdotes about deliveries? Do you do all your shopping in person to avoid them?

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