EVERYBODY needs good neighbours. Luckily, I’ve always liked mine – even the one who lost a Canadian, who was eventually found sleeping on my couch, but that’s another story.
But good neighbours are so much more than just good friends. A good friend might take a bullet for you, but a good neighbour will take a parcel for you when you’re out. And I know which I’d rather have.
I’ve come to rely so much on this little perk of community living, I hadn’t realised that the Royal Mail was the only parcel delivery company in the UK that wasn’t allowed to leave packages with neighbours.
Finally, all those little: “We tried to deliver it but you were out” messages – or, more accurately: “We quietly put a card through your door while you were in and did a runner” – make sense.
The poor Royal Mail was simply not empowered to leave my stuff with my neighbours, but the good news is that very soon, it will be.
After trials in several UK cities, including Edinburgh, the Royal Mail is now satisfied that not only do people not mind their parcels being received by others, they positively desire it. In fact, 92 per cent of people desired it and 90 per cent of their neighbours were perfectly happy to do the receiving.
And I positively desire it more than anyone, because I had a Kafkaesque nightmare of a parcel delivery problem – not with the Royal Mail, I hasten to add – only this week.
I’d stayed in especially to receive a delivery, so my heart sank when I saw the tell-tale card on the doormat: “We thought about delivering your parcel, but we heard the sound of your hair-dryer, so we ran away and took your parcel back to our depot.
“If you don’t arrange re-delivery immediately, we will break it open, stamp on the contents and send what’s left back to Taiwan.”
So, I raced to the computer to grab another slot, but a “slot” was a weekday, any time between 7am and 7pm. And according to the website, I’d be waiting for days, so I called the number on the card, hoping to discuss the problem with a live human being.
The phone gave me five options. Each of the five options gave me another five options. I know, because I ended up calling them all. Two hours later, softly sobbing, I finally found a person to talk to.
“What’s your reference number?” he asked. I read out the number printed on the card, next to the words “reference number”. “No, that’s not the reference number. What’s your postcode?”
Eventually, we both checked out the website’s “delivery tracking” page. His page told him the parcel was “on the van”. The same page told me it was “back at the depot”.
Sadly, there was no bargaining to be done – someone has to be in, conscious, and probably bracing themselves across the front doorway, every day between 7am and 7pm, until the package arrives. So I need to call in a lot of favours from friends and neighbours, or I’ll never see this parcel in my lifetime.
How come I’ve never found a parcel-delivery service that will do its job between 5pm and 10pm, and at weekends?
How is it possible that busy, working consumers – who are presumably ordering stuff to be delivered because they don’t even have time to go out shopping – are putting up with this madness?
There is definitely a gap in the market for a parcel-sitting service. Pay me and I’ll stay in and receive your goods for you. Anyone who is at home most of the day could make a fortune.
Thankfully, at least the Royal Mail is feeling some of its customers’ pain, and with luck, “Delivery to Neighbour” will become an official part of their services by the end of this year.
I’m so relieved. At long last, I can go ahead and order that four-poster bed with extra-deep super-king mattress, safe in the knowledge that it will never be returned to sender.
And at the same time, I’ll find out for sure which of my neighbours are also my friends.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 21 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West