Missing parcels, non-deliveries: PostNL’s problems continue

Photo: Brandon Hartley

It seems like everyone in the country has a negative story to share about PostNL. The beleaguered postal service is often criticised for its confusing policies, unreliable app, and missed deliveries. A year after our first article on the problems, here’s what both Dutch News readers and the company have to say today.

The death of an Almere rabbit, squashed after a PostNL delivery worker carelessly tossed a 15 kilo bag of dog food over a fence, is one of the more extreme examples of things going wrong.

In Utrecht, an estimated 1,160 voting cards for the provincial elections were found undelivered in the van of the postman – resulting in him being sacked on the spot.  In July, publisher DPG Media grew so frustrated with delayed delivery times that it began warning its subscribers that their periodicals could show up several days late or not at all.

PostNL delivers more than one million packages every day and says 98% are delivered at the promised time. But that still means 730,000 packages and parcels are late or wrongly delivered every year.

Customers are now supposed to consult PostNL’s app or emails for the whereabouts of a package, but the information isn’t always reliable, and packages regularly go missing or are delivered somewhere else entirely.

One of the most common complaints is that delivery staff make no attempt to actually deliver packages or they’re severely delayed. Many customer have begun to assume their stuff is being taken directly to nearby PostNL punten.

‘It always gets me that when the PostNL delivery person wants to knock-off early they just declare whatever is left to be delivered as ‘bezorgd’,” Michael in The Hague said. “You won’t even necessarily get it the next day.”

Parcels from abroad

As a year ago, Dutch News readers again have a litany of complaints about deliveries from overseas. In particular they are critical about the confusing policies concerning taxes and fees on international shipments that can take weeks or even months to arrive. They often require a payment prior to delivery.

“This is one of the issues of moving from paper to electronic,” Michael said. “The electronic procedures are neither complete or checked. The system should have sent me many emails, texts, or even WhatsApp messages informing or warning me about a package that was eventually returned to the USA.”

Bill shared a story about a business-sized envelope that took four months to arrive at his home in Alphen aan den Rijn after it was sent from Kentucky. That’s the blink of an eye in comparison to what a British expat named Patricia went through while trying to get a used book she ordered from a shop in New Zealand.

It took nearly two years to arrive at her house in The Hague after it was sent back in 2020. PostNL deemed it ‘unclaimed’ and she says no attempt was ever made to deliver it or inform her of its whereabouts. The shop eventually contacted Patricia about the situation before mailing it a second time. It finally arrived in September 2022.

“I calculated it had travelled almost 30,000 kilometres in total,” she said. “I hardly dared add up the additional costs and it was for an essay I had completed almost a year before!”

PostNL spokeswoman De Jong encourages customers to contact PostNL’s customer service agents whenever they have problems, no matter the hour.

“Consumer questions can be answered at any time of the day, seven days a week, with our increasingly smart chatbots,” she said. “If customers are unable to resolve the issue, we also offer other contact options such as calling and chatting with a customer service representative.”

But problems, especially complicated ones, aren’t always dealt with quickly or properly.  ‘Keith’, who lives in a large apartment building in Amsterdam said that he, his husband and neighbours regularly receive notifications that a parcel has been delivered only for it to be nowhere to be found.

“Sometimes it lands in the hallway a few hours, or days later, or never. Parcels have gone missing several times or been ripped open by unknown hands… Last week the app said ‘bezorgd’ but the item involved never arrived,” he said. “Yesterday it said ‘bezorgd’ but it arrived hours later. Basically, I have given up on reaching out to PostNL because of their patronising responses.”

Stressed-out staff

Delivering everything from letters to packages that weigh over 20 kilos through the crowded streets of the average Dutch city isn’t an easy task. Employees have long complained about low pay and working conditions, but staffing shortages have made things worse. At the time of this writing, there are over 1,000 job postings on its website.

To help attract staff, the company has worked to improve its pension scheme and now offers more permanent contracts. Nevertheless, much of its staff still consists of subcontractors or those who work through outside employment agencies.

“Like many companies in the Netherlands we are suffering from a tight labour market,” De Jong said. “It remains a challenge to find enough people every day everywhere in the Netherlands. We do everything we can to inspire people to come and work for us. We immediately offer a permanent contract, a lot of freedom, and flexibility, making this part-time job easy to combine with other activities.”

PostNL is bringing in a new director of Mail Nederland, its postal division, on 1 January. To help improve its image, the company also rolled out a cheerful new ‘Tot Snel’ [See You Soon] advertising campaign in August. 

De Jong also encouraged frustrated customers to keep contacting the company whenever they have a problem. “It is extremely important that people report things that go wrong to us because this is the only way we can act on it and improve services.”

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