Royal Mail rant

Strikes, delays, lost parcels and general indifference on the part of Royal Mail have caused headaches to many small online enterprises over the past year, including The Frockery, so we thought we'd blog an end of year rant before focusing on rather more positive news in future posts.

Royal Mail is in fact the weakest link for many small ecommerce businesses who need to send goods from A to B at reasonable cost and expect delivery to be made within a reasonable timescale. In short, Royal Mail simply can't be relied upon and seem to be getting worse, a complaint that is regularly raised on various business forums.

Several of our pre-Christmas orders have not yet reached customers and we are left wondering if they ever will. Yes, the weather has been especially inclement and most reasonable people will understand that some slight delays and disruption to normal services are inevitable. However, it is becoming less likely that parcels will actually reach their destination unless we pay through the nose for special delivery - and even then, there is no guarantee, as we found recently to our cost. One customer emailed last week to say she had just received the dress she ordered in September and which had been posted to her the same day. Naturally there was neither apology nor explanation as to where it had been for three months.

Claiming compensation is made so difficult that there is almost no point in bothering. The hoops are designed to be so difficult and time consuming to jump through that it is often less troublesome to take the financial hit than waste time and energy filling in the paperwork. What it means is that small online businesses are effectively held to ransom by a combination of Royal Mail bureaucracy, the whims of the postal workers' union and the vagaries of the weather. We lose out every time.

Our New Year's resolution is to send goods by alternative means such as courier services where practicable, and by recorded or special delivery when using Royal Mail. We will of course endeavour to keep our shipping costs as low as possible for our customers who will always receive a full refund in the event that their order does not arrive. What a pity Royal Mail can't do likewise.