Parcel mishandling filmed By Channel 4's Dispatches (includes video)

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An investigation behind the scenes at Yodel’s sort centre in Shaw near Oldham, in the busy run up to Christmas period, one of the company’s main three distribution depots - airing tonight, Monday 1st February, at 8pm on Channel 4 Dispatches - reveals:

-some Yodel staff throwing packages around the depot and into vans while ‘fragile’ and ‘handle with care’ signs are ignored by some workers. Some Employees are caught on camera using a variety of track and field-like throwing techniques. In one instance two workers are filmed throwing a parcel to each other backwards and forwards in an apparent game of pass the parcel.

- Despite Yodel publically stating that their staff ‘are trained never to throw a parcel’, our reporter did not witness supervisors in the Shaw depot intervene or reprimand staff.

Inside the Sort Centre

Yodel says that in recent years they have significantly improved their service, spending an extra £20 million on extra staff and lorries during the run up to last Christmas. But some customers continued to complain on social media about the way Yodel handles their parcels. To find out why, Dispatches sent an undercover reporter to work in Yodel’s Sort Centre in Shaw near Oldham in the busy run up to Christmas when extra temporary workers are brought in to deal with the volume.

The undercover reporter worked as a sorter for more than two weeks and secretly filmed over six days. He was contracted by a recruitment agency and was paid the minimum wage on a temporary contract. He received an hour long induction from Yodel staff, mainly focusing on lifting parcels safely and being fast on the job.

Secretly filming he witnessed some good practice but he also witnessed some sorters throwing parcels on and off the conveyor belts. Some employees were caught on camera using a variety of track and field-like throwing techniques. At various points they were filmed throwing items shot put, discus and javelin style. In one instance two workers were filmed throwing a parcel to each other backwards and forwards in an apparent game of pass the parcel.

It appeared that ‘fragile’ and ‘handle with care’ signage was sometimes ignored as the reporter filmed items being dropped and even stood on. Yodel publically states that its ‘workers are trained not to throw parcels’, but he never once witnessed a manager intervening to stop the throwing during his 12 days in the depot.

Parcels are transported around the depot in tall cages. The Dispatches reporter was taught by his Yodel trainers to fill closed cages from the top. Most workers he saw either threw or tipped parcels over the top of the cage, often meaning a drop. Heavier objects would then land on top of items at the bottom. One manager told him staff could open the cage door and stack the parcels and it should be done that way – but this was not enforced.

At one point a thrown parcel with sharp edges narrowly misses our reporter’s head. His colleague thought the parcel was probably a picture frame. He is not concerned about the potential consequences of throwing the item saying: “It’s not mine and it’s not yours.”

Another colleague says: “Management aren’t bothered as long as they [the cages] aren’t overflowing everywhere. If it’s open you can fit more in, place it in instead of throwing. But most of them are too lazy. The just throw it in.”

Another member of staff tells Dispatches’ reporter that, because he knows how parcels are treated, he won’t order things online.

When loading delivery vans Yodel staff are taught to build a wall with larger containers and then place loose non-fragile parcels over the wall. Our undercover reporter filmed footage of parcels being thrown into the vans, bouncing off the roof.

Dispatches filmed a variety of boxes and heavy goods – including at one point a garden fork - being thrown onto the van on top of other parcels.

Viewing Dispatches’ footage Peter Moorey of consumer magazine Which? says: “I think it’s amazing that consumers seem to get anything that isn’t broken on delivery when you watch something like that. I don’t think people watching this would expect something that they’ve spent perhaps an awful lot of money on to be tossed around in that kind of way.”

And Professor Richard Wilding, from Cranfield School of Management who specialises in supply chain logistics says: “There are significant health and safety issues for those people working in there. Some of those parcels you would hope would be treated in a slightly different way.”

Yodel says it takes health and safety seriously - it also says that even though some of its goods might be labelled ‘fragile’, it is not a specialist company for handling such items and many types of goods are excluded from its network. According to Yodel – the damage caused to its parcels is in line with industry averages.

Yodel Right to Reply:

‘At the time of writing we haven’t been provided with the undercover footage captured by Dispatches. However, the allegations brought to our attention indicate some unacceptable practices that we are already addressing. If further issues come to light we will take appropriate action. We are very sorry for the occasions when we have let customers down.

Clearly there are still improvements to be made and we will accelerate activities which have already seen our customer satisfaction score increase from a disappointing 35% two years ago to over 80% today which is among the best in the industry.’

Notes to Editors:

Yodel claims to deliver 155 million parcels a year for 85% of the UK’s top retailers

Yodel says its ambition is to achieve 100% success, and most of its parcels are delivered ‘without incident’ and when mistakes are made it takes ‘corrective action’

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