Ch 4 Despatches: Undercover with Yodel

Tonight Channel 4 Despatches promised to reveal “Where’s my missing mail” as they went incognito to find out what happens at “Britain’s leading online parcel company”, revealed to be Yodel.

Having seen the program two years ago when Despatches did an expose on UK Mail, we already know what to expect from the program. However now it’s Yodel’s turn, so an undercover reporter went to work at Yodel’s Shaw depot in Oldham.

Yodel Truck hmParcel handling

The first half of the program dealt with parcel handling. Yodel were billed as the biggest independent player and Despatches immediately pulled out the broken poppies, Christmas delays and late Mother’s Day deliveries, all examples from a couple of years ago.

We all know (or should know) what happens in a parcel depot, the truth is so many parcels go through a high volume depot that they’re simply not going to be handled with kid gloves. Pack well or it’ll arrive broken, don’t assume a ‘Fragile’ label is a replacement for sufficient packaging. That said the footage of a couple of workers playing pass the parcel at a slack time won’t go down well with Yodel bosses.

Lorry loading isn’t a task that is likely to be taken gently – let’s face it these trailers are massive so the ‘wall’ of boxes is going to be placed but then other parcels are going to be lobbed on top and seeing as trailers are about 10 feet high it’s not like workers can reach the top in any other way.

Parcel Delivery

As soon as the second half of tonight’s Despatches program started, they picked on one customer who hadn’t received their delivery. Despatches call this a common complaint so they got another undercover reported to get a job as a Yodel delivery driver.

We all know that all delivery companies leave parcels in ‘Safe’ places, but with the undercover reporter working as a casual driver on 60p per parcel there’s a temptation to be as quick as possible. Yodel apparently varies the amount they pay depending on whether the round is rural or in town.

Problems with scanners that were highlighted are understandable, tech isn’t always that reliable especially in rural areas where there’s no signal.

Again Despatches had no problem pulling out some examples of dodgy ‘safe’ places such as the parcel on the roof. Let’s be honest however, cutting a few corners isn’t unique to Yodel, plenty of other courier companies have had the same issues with a driver occasionally.

Our Expectations

Despatches were pretty up front in pointing out that a free or very cheap delivery isn’t going to give the same services as a £6 delivery. You pay for what you get. Do we all want to pay higher delivery charges or are we happy to live with the odd damaged or lost parcel or a delivery left in a not so safe place?

Was the program fair?

In truth there was nothing in the program that surprises or shocks me. Sure you could handle everything with kid gloves but then your parcels would be stuck in the system for days, no courier could cope with the volume and the price of delivery would go up both to retailers and the consumer.

If we don’t want to pay more for carriage, either as retailers we need to package with the knowledge of how parcels will be handled, or we need to charge our consumer a higher price and use a specialist low volume carrier.

It’s worth remembering that retailers like Amazon, Argos and John Lewis do a sterling job of packing. Amazon often face complaints that they over pack, but they don’t get many for damaged goods. We as independent retailers need to do the same.

If you’re attending The Delivery Conference tomorrow, Dick Stead, Yodel’s Executive Chairman, will be speaking and sure to have some interesting comments to make on this week’s Despatches.