Thursday, 5 September 2013

Victory!

Reg Speller/Getty Images
So, the Royal Mail Twitter Team responded to my second reply. Here’s the gist:

I’m sorry you remain dissatisfied with my colleague’s response. The advice provided by our PO Box team is that the requested payment of £59.40, representing the difference between a PO Box collection and delivery service, has been correctly applied. Unfortunately I’m unable to cancel or reduce this amount.

I appreciate why you're unhappy with the outcome however so, If you'd like to take your complaint further, I can arrange for a member of our Escalated Customer Resolution Team to give you a call. They'll review the case and contact you within 2 hours.

My reaction to that was to ask:

"Correctly applied" by what criteria?

What are your terms and conditions as regards to you changing your service in the middle of a contract? And how did you make these terms available to me?

Yes I'd like the Escalated Customer Resolution Team to contact me, but it's not convenient for me to speak by phone during office hours at the moment, so they'll have to email me. Please ask them not to send a letter to my PO Box address.

Two hours came and went.  In fact, twenty-four hours came and went. But just before lunchtime today, I did receive another response, this time from Royal Mail Business Customer Service:

I am sorry that you are unhappy with the previous response to your complaint

I do understand the inconvenience that may have been caused by the relocation of your PO Box resulting in you requesting a delivery service to be attached to your existing PO Box. Furthermore I understand the frustration that may have been caused when you received an invoice requesting an incorrect fee for this service.

If I may take this opportunity to explain that the fee charged represents the difference in a PO Box with collection (£244.20) and a PO Box with delivery (£303.60) for the fees charged in 2013. In actual fact the invoice should have been relevant to the fees charged in 2012 (PO Box with collection, £222.00 and with delivery £276.00). A difference of £54.00.

However, as a long standing customer and as a one off gesture I have arranged for this fee to be waived on this occasion. Please note that your PO Box is due for renewal in March 2014. At this time, should you wish to continue with your service you would be required to pay the full fee of £303.60 to have your mail delivered.

Once again, please accept my sincere apologies on behalf of Royal Mail for the problem you've had, and our thanks for taking the time to make us aware of this.

Of course, all the time I've spent in communication with the Royal Mail and writing these three blog posts far outweigh the £54 credit I'm receiving. But it was always about the principle, not the money - the principle of a large company riding roughshod over the little guy, not because they're right, but because they just can. And to get get any kind of justice it seems that you have to expend more effort than it's worth to actually receive that justice.

But it still feels like a win. Yay for the little guy.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Royal Mail Strikes Back

Image stolen from letterstotheeditorblog.dallasnews.com
I’m delighted to inform all of you who read my previous blog post, PO Box Bollocks, that the Royal Mail Twitter Team wrote to me via email to respond to my concerns.
That was after I had been asked by @RoyalMail to ‘follow’ them on twitter, so that they could send me a ‘private’ message to ask me to email the link to my blog post to the Royal Mail twitter 'back office team'… although they forgot to send me their email address.
Why they couldn’t simply forward the blog link on to their own team I have no idea, unless it was all a ruse to get another twitter follower.

Anyway, I did what I was told in the vain hope that there would be some kind of positive outcome.
Here’s their message in its entirety with my comments interspersed:

Hello Gary

 Hello Twitter Team.

Thank you for your message in relation to the closure of Leigh-on-Sea Delivery Office. I am sorry if this has caused you any concern or inconvenience.
We do not take operational changes such as this lightly and give them a great deal of thought including a 6 month consultation period with our trade union colleagues.

Do you mean the trade union colleagues who are balloting whether or not to go on strike over the plans to privatise the Royal Mail? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-23933039

 All parties are in agreement that it is vital that we change to enable investment in new technology and equipment and upgrade operational facilities. This helps to ensure we have a world class organisation which will provide the most efficient and effective network for delivering the post and a safe working environment for our people.

Good luck with that.

We appreciate any changes may impact on our customers and our planning activities always give due consideration as to how we can best protect and serve their interest. This will continue to be a top priority during any operational changes. Such considerations include the way we collect mail for delivery and how customers can collect undelivered mail.

If you are unable to visit your nearest Delivery Office to collect undeliverable items, we can arrange a redelivery back to your address or an alternative address within the same postcode area free of charge or to a local Post Office for a small fee (please note Special Delivery items cannot be delivered to an alternative address). This can be arranged by calling the number on the 'Something for you...' card we leave or by visiting: www.royalmail.com/redelivery

And thank you for cutting and pasting a number of stock replies, the last one of which doesn’t actually address any of my original comments. But I know it must take simply ages to read through all these letters of complaint and reply to them all individually.

Anyway, now we come to the real bone of contention…

With regards to your PO Box service, I’m also really sorry to hear of the invoice you’ve received due to the change is (sic) circumstances, I’ve contacted my colleagues who deal with PO Boxes and they’ve confirmed that the £59.40 is correct …

No, it’s not correct. It’s blatantly wrong.  

… as that’s the difference to have your PO Box with delivery service attached. To collect your PO Box mail the amount is £222.00, which you have paid previously and to have PO Box mail delivered the charge is £303.60.

Well no, actually, the difference between £222.00 and £303.60 is £81.60, not £59.40. You’re getting confused because the current price of a PO Box is £244.20 (it’s gone up since I renewed my PO Box service).
So actually, if you’re billing me for PO Box Delivery back dated to the start of my contract, shouldn’t you be charging me the prevailing rate at the time I renewed the agreement, which I believe was £276.00, not £303.60? So perhaps you meant to be charging me the difference between £222.00 and £276.00 which is £54.00, not £59.40.

But, honestly, I really don’t think you should be charging me any extra at all.

I’ve already spoken to your PO Box team, which is why I sent my original tweet. They, like yourself either didn’t understand my complaint, or chose to ignore it because well, what the PO Box team says is the absolute truth and cannot be challenged.

Customer service isn’t simply repeating company policy over and over ad nauseum.

My point is that you have no legal right – or certainly no moral right - to charge me the entire difference (or indeed any difference) between the advance payment for my PO Box Collect and the PO Box Delivery, as I explained to your PO Box team, and as I explained in my earlier blog post.

Let me try again:

I renewed my annual PO Box account with you in March this year on the understanding that I would be able to collect my mail from the Leigh-on-Sea delivery office at my convenience.
You have now closed down that sorting office without any consultation with the local authorities or local community (you have merely notified us). There is nothing (so far as I can see) in your terms and conditions that might cover such an event.

Therefore I see it as a breach of contract. My “change in circumstances” to which you refer, is not my desire or choice, but has been forced upon me by the Royal Mail. I have now been given the choice of either (a) collecting my mail – which I have already pointed out is now a ten-mile round trip, with all the inconvenience and travel cost that implies, or (b) paying an additional charge for my PO Box mail to be delivered.

This would be fair enough – but only when and if I decide to renew my PO Box account, which will be in March 2014. The Royal Mail have withdrawn a service to which I signed up in March 2013 - namely to collect my PO Box addressed mail from the Leigh-on-Sea delivery office.

I would think any fair-minded company would at least offer to deliver my mail for the remainder of my current service period. But no, not only have you withdrawn the service I paid for in advance, not only are you insisting that I pay a further fee to have my mail delivered, but you have the sheer effrontery to backdate the additional fees to cover a five-month period during which I have already collected my mail.

So no, it’s not correct. I believe that if you can’t honour your agreement with me, then you should at least deliver my PO Box mail to me free of charge for the remainder of our agreement. If you must insist on adding insult to injury (by closing the local delivery office and then charging me for the inconvenience) then can you please explain how the Royal mail can justify charging me for delivery of mail that I have already collected?

Once again I’m really sorry for the closure of your local office Gary, and for any confusion with the PO Box invoice.

I’m not confused in the slightest. I am, however absolutely livid.

Please feel free to drop me a message if you’ve any questions.
Kind regards
Royal Mail Twitter Team

Yes, I’ve got one question. Seriously, are you still going to bill me for £59.40?

Even if I accept the Royal Mail’s faulty premise of the delivery charge being backdated for the whole of the twelve months (even though I collected my own mail for five of those months), I should only be charged the difference between those two services at the prevailing rate at the time of the start of that contract, i.e. £54.00.

Of course, I reject that premise and assert that it’s probably illegal for the Royal Mail to try to charge me for those five months, so the maximum I believe you should be able to invoice me is for seven months delivery, which I calculate to be approximately £31.50.

But I’m sure by now you’ll understand my position a little more clearly, and you will have no option but to conclude that the Royal Mail should have an obligation to deliver my PO Box mail for the rest of my agreement free of charge.

It’s a no-brainer, right?