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UK Mail apologetic after Dispatches exposes some staff ‘running amok’

07 May 2013

The boss of UK Mail has apologised and launched an investigation after Channel 4’s Dispatches programme showed undercover footage of some staff at one of its sorting depots dropping, throwing, and kicking customer’s parcels.

The recently aired programme sought to shine a light on the performance of parcel companies, particularly as they gain in importance as online retail develops at a fast pace.

Footage showed staff mishandling and damaging parcels and discussing selling on product from damaged parcels.

An undercover reporter took a job at the depot and secret filmed his daily work routine.

Parcels were put onto a conveyor belt before being placed into vans for local delivery. The reporter saw parcels, labelled as fragile, being dropped, kicked, thrown and falling off the conveyor belt. In one incident a member of staff threw a box that narrowly missing the reporter’s head.

In response to the footage, Guy Buswell, chief executive of UK Mail said: "I’m disappointed with all of it on the basis that we spend an awful lot of time making sure that our staff are well trained and last year UK Mail delivered 29 million parcels. I have 486 claims for damage so again I would say that clip doesn’t really show our business in a true light.

"We need to investigate those clips and see exactly what happened at the time to allow those guys to run amok, which is clearly what they’ve done.

"Of course I’m going to say sorry to the customers affected by that footage. We need to investigate it, see what went on, and take a view from that point onwards.”

Wine bottles
The undercover reporter came across damaged goods belonging to exclusive wine merchant Hedonism when office staff at UK Mail’s Bournemouth depot were completing a damage report. He witnessed staff bragging about selling on product from damaged parcels.

A conversation went as follows:

Staff 1: "Is that the same stuff as that one?”

Office Boy: "No, no, no that’s just the boxes for these ones.”

Staff 1: "Oh, I’ll have four of them then, 80 quid a bottle?”

Undercover Reporter: "What have you got to fill out the damage reports or something or…?”

Returns Person: "Yeah.”

Staff 1: "How much, 600 euros?”

Returns Person: "This is 615 euros…no sorry $615 for that I found online.”

Staff 1: "That’s about 400 quid then that a bottle?”

Returns Person: "A bit more than that yeah.”

Undercover Reporter: "So what are they, what are they gonna say? Do you have to send them back or something?”

Returns Person: "Yeah, we’ll have to return them.”

Undercover Reporter: "Well not all of them… [referring to the broken bottle]”

Returns Person: "Hopefully, if they say oh can you please dispose of them, then we’ll be like … [claps hands together] straight on Ebay.”

Hedonism’s logistics manager Richard Ellis viewed the footage and told Channel 4: "That’s just, that’s just despicable isn’t it.

"It will be us ultimately [paying] because the customer hasn’t got their wine and the service we offer is to get the goods that they purchased, from us to them, in a pristine condition.

"I’m quite lost for words really. I think that’s appalling.”

Find out more and watch the programme on Channel 4oD - http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/episode-guide/series-115/episode-7

DA Systems managing director David Upton said: "As online commerce continues to grow, more and more retailers are aware of the significance the experience their customers get when they take receipt of goods and the impact this can have on their own brands.

"The Dispatches programme shows how poor practices result in a negative online shopping outcome for some retailers. Managing the so-called ‘doorstep experience’ is a big challenge for retailers. It is also something they have less control over because of the requirement to subcontract retail distribution to third party companies.”