Royal Mail 'sorry we missed you' card complaints up 25%
Complaints about Royal Mail's "sorry we missed you" cards have risen by a quarter in the past year, figures show.
In 2009-10, the company received more than 36,000 complaints about the cards, up from 29,000 in 2008-09.
As a result, Royal Mail paid out compensation in more than 1,000 cases, totalling £8,255.19.
The cards are becoming increasingly familiar as more people shop online, increasing the number of parcels that postmen deliver.
A BBC Freedom of Information request showed that problems appeared to be worst in London, particularly in the South East, South West and West.
The largest single payout was for £504.40 made to an address in SW18, South West London. The smallest was for 72 pence made to an address in SW16.
Other areas outside London that have suffered are Birmingham, Glasgow, Reading and Leeds.
Postmen have been accused of leaving packages at the depot and posting the forms through letter boxes whether people are at home or not, so they do not have to carry heavy parcels with them on their rounds.
This kind of complaint is illustrated by one made to PostComm by a member of the public who lives in a block of flats.
He received a "sorry we missed you card" while he was in his flat and the postman didn't ring the doorbell. The man noticed him through the window and went to ask him for the packet. The postman didn't have it and told him that "the van sends them out".
Some postmen refute these accusations, but Steven Betts, a postman in Edinburgh for 32 years, says this practice does occasionally happen, especially since websites such as eBay mean more packages are being delivered.
"Sometimes, van drivers deliver lots of packages to the same address. If they're constantly trying to deliver and not getting an answer, they might assume people aren't ever in," he told the BBC.
"The driver might fill out a form and give it to the postman to deliver on his round. If the postie delivers the form and the person's in, it can be embarrassing when they don't have the package on them."
Another situation is when the van tries to deliver the package in the afternoon but no-one is in, so they give the form to the postman to deliver on his round the next day.
The form refers to the attempted delivery the day before, but people think the postman should have the package on him.
Mr Betts said postmen want to get rid of the packages, because otherwise they have to carry them for the rest of their round.
"The last thing we want is to be carrying these around. We tend to find, on numerous occasions, that when we go to a door, you know the customer's in because you can see the TV on or even hear the hairdryer.
"We're ringing doorbells and banging doors. It's infuriating when they come to get the package the next day from the depot and say we didn't knock."
Complaints tend to increase when full-time postmen go on holiday, Mr Betts said: "Part-time postmen aren't trained up as well, and they don't take as much pride in their work."
Royal Mail said the increase in internet shopping has meant they are delivering more bulky packages that do not fit through letter boxes and require someone to receive them.
They say anyone with a complaint about a delivery should call Royal Mail customer services on 08457 740 740.
"We are constantly examining out procedures and services in order to improve it in areas where customers raise complaints with us.
"Fortunately, of the huge volume of letters and packets we handle, very few encounter a problem along their way, but we do take every reported failure seriously."