OK, so Christmas is coming. That means one thing. T'is the season to queue up for hours in your local Post Office!
I've just returned from my annual festive visit to my local branch. It was not a pleasant experience. I thought I'd been clever - nipping out of work mid afternoon and avoiding the lunchtime rush. Even cleverer, I thought, I'd just use the self-service machine.
I had four jobs to do.
1. Weigh and post a parcel.
2. Buy some first class stamps for my first class friends and family.
3. Buy some second class stamps for my… everyone else!
4. Buy brown paper for 'oldschool' Chrismas wrapping.
Armed with my to do list and my time-saving strategy, I thought I'd be in and out within five minutes. Boy, was I optimistic! Twenty-five frustrating minutes passed by. Twenty-five minutes of disappointment!
Where it all went wrong
Disappointment 1. One of the two self-service machines was 'out of service' - whatever that means.
Disappointment 2. The five-strong queue at the machine that was working.
Disappointment 3. The 'working' machine's second class stamp roll had run out.
Disappointment 4. I had to get a ticket to queue up… again!
Disappointment 5. The 15 people in front of me.
Disappointment 6. No brown paper!
And another thing...
Oh, and it was my birthday last month and Royal Mail lost some of my presents. An item - which I have since found out was a lovely new scarf - requiring a signature was delivered to my home while I was on a two-week holiday (hard to feel sorry for me right now, I know).
Problem is, the local sorting office only holds such items for a week. So I was told my parcel had been sent to some kind of holding office in Belfast (why Belfast of all places when I live in London I will never understand) and to call customer services to arrange redelivery, for which I would need to quote my item tracking number.
So I called up, and hoped to speak to a real person. No joy. I spoke to a machine, which of course didn't recognise my tracking number and I couldn't find a way to speak to a human being either.
Having exhausted all other options, I resorted to calling the Royal Mail press office. A very polite chap took my item number and tried to look into it. But no luck. With no proof of posting (unfortunately the sender binned it by mistake), no claim for compensation or retrieval can be made. The scarf, I was told, would likely be "destroyed" in Belfast - regardless of the fact the item has a tracking number and the original delivery address. What a palaver!
So what do you do if an item gets lost in the mail this Christmas?
Senders need to fill in the 'Lost, Damaged or Delayed Inland Mail
Claim Form' available here: royalmail.com/sites/default/files/rm_inland_claims_form_eng.pdf
You will need to state the amount of postage paid, the Royal Mail product used, where and when the item was posted and the item reference number ('Recorded Signed For' and 'Special Delivery' items only).
To claim compensation, you must also have the 'original proof of posting' and 'original proof of value' of the contents, e.g. a till receipt or bank statement.
You can also try to call customer services on 08457 740 740. A Royal Mail spokesperson insists it is possible to get through to a real live person who should be able to help if you navigate your way though its menu system. I wish you more luck than I had!!