John Lewis error makes customers pay for mail

William Hamilton picked up unfranked letter only to find it was a circular. Picture: Ian Georgeson
William Hamilton picked up unfranked letter only to find it was a circular. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IT always claims to be “never knowingly undersold”.

But John Lewis’s value policy failed to live up to its usual standards this week after it unwittingly charged hundreds of Scottish customers £1.53 for the privilege of picking up a ­marketing circular flogging its latest credit-card deal.

Customers listed on the ­database of the John Lewis ­Partnership, which includes supermarket Waitrose as well as the department store chain, were sent a letter advertising the product.

But a blunder at head office meant none of the letters were franked, leaving the postage due unpaid and Royal Mail unable to deliver them to the intended recipients. Instead, all of the­ addressees received a card from Royal Mail telling them that a letter with no postage paid was waiting at its depot. To take delivery of the letter, recipients were forced to pay £1.53 – without knowing what it was or who it was from.

William Hamilton, who received one of the cards, travelled to his local depot and forked out the cash to pick up the mystery letter. Mr Hamilton, from ­Edinburgh, said he was disappointed to find he had stumped up for an unwanted advertising circular.

Mail staff told him that the letter, addressed to his wife, Anne, was one of a dispatch of hundreds of unstamped letters which had been sent out unfranked in error by John Lewis’s marketing department.

“I was asked go to my local Royal Mail depot to retrieve an item which had been posted with insufficient postage and pay the £1.53 charge,” said Mr Hamilton. “It was a letter that had been sent out with no postage on it at all and it turned out to be a circular to my wife inviting her to apply for a John Lewis Partnership credit card.

“I had paid to pick it up ­because I wanted to know what it was – it could have been ­anything.”

He added: “The clerk at the depot told me that he had three full boxes of such unstamped letters from the John Lewis ­Partnership – hundreds of them. And that was just at one depot.

“Clearly, it has gone through their post room and missed the franking machine, but the same has happened to literally hundreds or even thousands of other letters.”

A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership said that the error had occurred due to a technical printing problem in its post room.

He said: “Due to a technical printing error, a communication regarding the partnership card was sent to a small number of our customers without the postage mark printed on the envelope.

“We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience caused and are offering affected customers John Lewis Partnership vouchers by way of an apology and to cover any costs incurred.”


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