UK mail boss apologises after staff 'run amok' with customers parcels

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The boss of UK Mail has apologised and launched an investigation after viewing secret filming of staff at one of its sorting depots running ‘amok’, dropping, throwing, and kicking customer’s parcels.

With shoppers increasingly relying on private parcel companies to deliver online purchases, Channel 4 Dispatches went undercover to find out why couriers sometimes fail to deliver.

Secrets of Your Missing Mail, airing tonight (Monday 29th April at 8pm), reveals:

· Shocking footage of UK Mail staff mishandling and damaging parcels (see above)

· UK Mail staff discussing selling on product from damaged parcels

· Posties working for TNT, the first private company in the UK to deliver customers post, binning letters, and leaving their bikes with bundles of mail unattended on busy streets.

· Lack of security features on the TNT postal bike – resulting in a significant risk to theft of customer’s mail.

· Case study of a business appalled by damaged to its parcels

UK Mail is one of the country’s largest courier companies. Channel 4 Dispatches heard of problems with parcels being mishandled inside their Bournemouth depot and decided to investigate further.

Our undercover reporter took a job at the depot and secret filmed his daily work routine.

Parcels arrived from all over the world and were put onto a conveyor belt before being placed into vans for local delivery. Parcels come from the likes of Marks and Spencer, Tesco and Dell – items that can be both expensive and fragile.

UK Mail promises to deliver quickly, safely and securely.

However, everyday our reporter saw parcels, labelled as fragile, being dropped, kicked, thrown and falling off the conveyor belt. In one incident a member of staff throw a box narrowly missing our reporters head.

Some workers were conscientious, however our reporter never saw anyone from management on the depot floor keeping an eye on those who weren’t.

We showed our footage to Which? and to Consumer Focus, who monitor our postal services to ensure a fair deal for the customer.

Robert Hammond, from Consumer Focus, says: “This shows people quite blatantly, quite openly throwing around items without the least care and consideration. This is chaos as simple as that, there is really no proper management going on in this depot.”

Richard Headland, Editor of Which? Magazine says: “A lot of us suspect that this kind of thing goes on. To see footage as graphic as that is quite shocking.”

UK Mail Reponses

Channel 4 Dispatches showed the footage to Guy Buswell, Chief Executive of UK Mail.

Guy Buswell says: “I’m disappointed with all of it on the basis that we spend an awful lot of time making sure that our staff are well trained and last year UK Mail delivered 29 million parcels. I have 486 claims for damage so again I would say that clip doesn’t really show our business in a true light.”

“We need to investigate those clips and see exactly what happened at the time to allow those guys to run amok, which is clearly what they’ve done.”

“Of course I’m going to say sorry to the customers affected by that footage. We need to investigate it, see what went on, and take a view from that point onwards.”

Business reacts to footage of their damaged parcels

So who’s ultimately paying for the products the workers have damaged?

Businesses like Hedonism, an exclusive wine merchant in London’s Mayfair.

Across the online shopping industry problems with deliveries cost businesses £851m a year.

Hedonism’s Logistics manager Richard Ellis is responsible for sending them to customers across the UK. He says: “Yes, we’ve had a few [problems with products being couriered] unfortunately that have been smashed or broken in transit that have been returned to us or even sent to the customer with broken glass in the box.”

Our undercover reporter came across one of Hedonism broken boxes of wine when office staff at UK Mail’s Bournemouth depot were completing a damage report. He witnessed staff bragging about selling on product from damaged parcels:

Staff 1: “Is that the same stuff as that one?”

Office Boy: “No,no, no that’s just the boxes for these ones.”

Staff 1: “Oh, I’ll have four of them then, 80 quid a bottle?”

Undercover Reporter: “What have you got to fill out the damage reports or something or…?”

Returns Person: “Yeah.”

Staff 1: “How much, 600 euros?”

Returns Person: “This is 615 euros…no sorry $615 for that I found online.”

Staff 1: “That’s about 400 quid then that a bottle?”

Returns Person: “A bit more than that yeah.”

Undercover Reporter: “So what are they, what are they gonna say? Do you have to send them back or something?”

Returns Person: “Yeah, we’ll have to return them.”

Undercover Reporter: “Well not all of them… [referring to the broken bottle]”

Returns Person: “Hopefully, if they say oh can you please dispose of them, then we’ll be like … [claps hands together] straight on Ebay.”

On viewing this footage Richard Ellis says: “That’s just, that’s just despicable isn’t it.”

“It will be us ultimately [paying] because the customer hasn’t got their wine and the service we offer is to get the goods that they purchased, from us to them, in a pristine condition.”

“I’m quite lost for words really. I think that’s appalling.”

TNT – Security concerns and case of dumping letters

Channel 4 Dispatches also investigated the private postal service. The government has said the Royal Mail will be privatised later this year. Soon it may not just be your parcels that are delivered by a private company but your letters too.

Twelve months ago TNT became the first private company to deliver its customers post, including organisations like banks and health trusts, directly to households in West London.

It’s a pilot scheme and if it goes well your town could be next.

However, Channel 4 Dispatches have heard there had been problems with their mail turning up late and sometimes never at all. Dispatches sent an undercover reporter to work as a postie for TNT.

Our reporter discovered he had to leave his bike with bundles of mail unattended on busy West London roads most days.

More concerning, was the lack of security features on the bike. The panniers were not securely locked to the bike and bundled of mail were accessible by pulling up on the Velcro openings.

Dispatches found other bikes left unaccompanied around West London as TNT postal workers delivered the mail, including one delivery bike containing letters from companies like Barclays and Thames Water that had been left unattended for about thirty minutes.

We showed this footage to Robert Hammond, from Consumer Focus.

“Well clearly there’s a security angle here, any amount of that post could be taken and it would only take a moment to do so, it could be easily lifted off the bike and removed,” he says.

“I think they [TNT] would need to review their arrangements because this seems to me to be short of the standards that one would expect to be able to comply with the code.”

In a statement to channel 4 Dispatches TNT says:

TNT Post takes the security of its customers’ mail very seriously.

We are further securing the panniers to the bike and increasing the lock security on them to ensure that they cannot be accessed by non-Posties.

TNT posties dumping mail

The potential for post to be stolen is not the only problem Channel 4 Dispatches uncovered. We were shown evidence of TNT posties binning customer’s mail.

Joe Ogden was walking in his local park and photographed a TNT postie dumping post in a litter bin.

Joe Ogden says: “He [the postie] was bent down over a litter bin. So after he had left, I went to the litter bin to see what had happened when I looked in there, there were half a dozen torn letters in there which was a little bit of a shock, a little bit of a surprise.”

TNT says the postie responsible for the incident in the park was sacked.

However, the Communication Workers Union, which represents many staff at rival Royal Mail, says this isn’t the only case of letters dumped by TNT.

They found mail dropped outside people’s doors and they say one of their members saw bundles of TNT mail in a bin as recently as last month –- TNT confirmed they had fired that postie too.

TNT told Channel 4 Dispatches in a statement:

Our posties must deliver to every door.

The photographs show deliveries which clearly didn’t satisfy that policy and we will take immediate necessary action to correct this.

Out of 600 people who delivered 190,000 rounds of mail we have unfortunately had to dismiss 12 people for non-delivery of mail in the past year.

Secrets of Your Missing Mail: Channel 4 Dispatches, Monday 29th April at 8pm

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