1. Economics
December 21, 2018

“There aren’t enough hours in the day”: a self-employed private courier, on the Christmas delivery round

By The Secret

This festive season the new sport seems to be courier bashing. The latest installment comes from the Daily Telegraph, under the headline “Delivery drivers using ‘Sorry we missed you’ notes to get out of Christmas rounds, Which? survey finds”. As usual the story is twisted and distorted, and several bits of it don’t make sense if you are a self-employed courier trying to make a living developing parcels.

The Which? survey finds that 9 per cent of people have had calling cards pushed through the door, even while they were in. But it is unlikely that many of these notes were left by someone who made no effort to knock on the door or ring the bell. Unless the courier is paid by the hour, which few are, we do not get paid for posting a card and running away: we don’t get paid for a failed attempt, only for the successful delivery.

So if we’ve managed to make it to the house, why wouldn’t we complete the job, save ourselves a return visit, and get paid? Most couriers have, however, experienced the strange phenomenon in which a customer can’t hear you hammering on the door, but can, somehow, hear a piece of paper falling on their doormat.

The second finding, of customers being told by email or text that a delivery was attempted when no-one was seen or heard, is also easily explained. This is due to a glitch in some carriers’ notification systems which says a delivery was attempted, whenever it’s been carried forward to the next day for any reason whatsoever. The carriers don’t exactly broadcast the existence of this glitch, but it’s also not a secret: the tiniest amount of digging by either Which? or the Telegraph could have turned up this nugget. We couriers are trying to work with our carriers to get this system fault rectified.

Since Black Friday delivery numbers have been extremely high. I have been supporting my colleagues in neighbouring rounds. I also worked the following two Sundays: many of my customers have expressed surprise at seeing me on unusual days or at unusual times.

At this time of year I deliver between 100 and 150 parcels a day; some couriers have over 200. At those rates, you are left with less than a couple of minutes at each house, which doesn’t leave much time for knocking on neighbours doors trying to find the one person who is in, and who is sometimes getting quite grumpy because they have a hall full of parcels for neighbours who ordered things to be sent to houses that they knew would be unoccupied during working hours.

Stories about what happens to couriers under those pressures, and couriers who make honest mistakes when making decent attempts at safe place deliveries, are to be found in local newspapers up and down the country. I don’t condone couriers who dump parcels on doorsteps, over gates or otherwise cut corners; but any criticism of misdeliveries should take the demands placed upon us into account.

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We do our best to get your parcels to you when we receive them; but with numbers as high as they are at the moment often there aren’t enough hours in the day. Carrying a parcel forward without visiting a property is not done lightly. One day I had so many that I worked from before 8am until 9pm but only managed two thirds of the parcels assigned to me and, yes, that meant some people didn’t get their next day deliveries. It pained me to have to throw in the towel, but there was nothing I could have done. The next day I made my best efforts to catch up and many customers greeted me with, “Did you call yesterday, cause I was in.” They had all received those misleading emails that we couriers so, so love.

It is hurtful that the press do not take a more responsible and balanced attitude to reporting on these issues. But perhaps to do so would be more dog bites man than man bites dog.

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