We use cookies to allow us and selected partners to improve your experience and our advertising. By continuing to browse you consent to our use of cookies. You can understand more and change your cookies preferences here.


When you click on a retailer link on our site, we may earn affiliate commission to help fund our not-for-profit mission.Find out more.

16 Dec 2021

Half of deliveries didn't go to plan last Christmas

Smashed wine bottles and binned deliveries: Which? reveals Christmas delivery disasters, and the courier most likely to let you down
Delivery issues

Last Christmas My received a photo from the courier firm Hermes 'showing a generic, non-identifiable lobby with a large pile of parcels,' as photographic proof of delivery of her daughter's gift.

Except the parcel wasn't there.

After months of being kept apart by the pandemic and then separated for Christmas, the gift felt more important than in previous years.

Her daughter spoke to several neighbours to find out if anyone had seen it, only to discover many others in the building were missing parcels and had been sent the same photo from the courier claiming it as proof of delivery.

Frustrated and stressed, My asked the retailer that sold her the gift for a replacement but it told her to wait 24 hours to see if it turned up.

It didn't and a replacement was dispatched , narrowly making in time for the big day, much to My's relief.

Unfortunately gift delivery stress isn't rare. Half of the shoppers we surveyed* last Christmas had problems with deliveries.

Late, damaged and disappearing deliveries

Of those deliveries that went wrong last Christmas, one in five were late and another one in five vanished entirely.

Among the issues experienced by survey respondents were parcels broken after being thrown over fences, including a crate of wine thrown over a garden gate, packages left in the snow and rain and deliveries put in a bin which was later emptied by binmen.

Several respondents also told Which? they had food deliveries sent to them which they had not ordered. One person said they had a courier push their parcel through a gap in the kitchen window, which then landed in a bowl of water.

Pile of parcels
Photo proof of My's delivery provided by Hermes

We asked Hermes about the problems My's daughter and neighbours had with their deliveries last Christmas and it told us that it provides its couriers with a comprehensive list of what is an acceptable safe place location.

It added that successful delivery photos are required to clearly show the parcel in its safe place location and this is backed up by geolocation to show it is the correct address. Hermes also explained that each courier is audited weekly to ensure compliance and any necessary action taken.

Be careful when agreeing to have a parcel left with a neighbour or in a safe place, it can be luck of the draw as to whether a retailer is willing to help you.

Of those who specified a certain neighbour or 'safe place' for a delivery 38% incorrectly believed they're entitled to a replacement if something goes wrong, such as a missing or damaged delivery.

Best and worst delivery companies

Delivery demand isn't waning, with more than eight in 10 of us buying something online to be delivered in the past six months.

In a separate survey conducted in November**, we also asked 4,002 members of the public to tell us about their most recent delivery experience.

We found a fifth have chosen to avoid a retailer because of the courier it uses, but based on a series of questions about the condition of the parcel, the timeframe it was delivered in and ease of arranging redelivery, we found that satisfaction levels are generally quite high.

BrandOverall score
Amazon Logistics90%
Royal Mail88%

Those receiving deliveries from Yodel in the past six months had the poorest experience. In particular, people reported having difficulties arranging redelivery through Yodel - with just 41% rating the process as 'good'.

A spokesperson from Yodel said: 'We are proud of the hard work and diligence of our workers up and down the country and welcome all feedback from our customers to support us in addressing the aspects of our service we can build on. Other independent review platforms - such as Trustpilot - have also indicated how much progress we have made in improving our service levels.'

Although satisfaction levels for courier firms are generally high, our research has also found that when things go wrong they can really go wrong and consumers can be stuck between a rock and a hard place when trying to get the problem resolved.

'I'm sick of chasing Yodel'

John Parker, who lives in Edinburgh, had been awaiting a delivery from the US when Storm Arwen arrived. John received a number of notifications from Yodel to tell him his delivery was on its way to him, but it failed to arrive.

After a few days of waiting for his delivery to appear, John queried its whereabouts on Yodel's Live Chat. He was told that there were delays and Yodel planned to recover the delayed parcels that week.

Another few days went by and John heard nothing further from Yodel, and so contacted its Live Chat team again. This time he was told that the last scan of the delivery was almost a week ago now and there was nothing more that could be done so John should contact the seller to arrange for the seller to resolve the issue with Yodel directly.

Frustrated by this response, John complained on Twitter. He told us 'I have sympathy for how busy they are and the pressure they must be under. But my parcel is lost and no one seems to care. I'm sick of chasing them up.'

After nearly two weeks of waiting, John's parcel finally arrived: 'No one from Yodel got back to me [regarding my complaints]. I received no notification about the delivery, there was just a knock at the door and there it was. After I received it then I got emails telling me the item was out for delivery. And despite them literally handing it to me, they still sent me a further notification saying that they'd left it with a neighbour!'

How to resolve a delivery problem

When a delivery goes wrong, you may find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place trying to resolve it.

But if you've ordered something that is late, missing or damaged, you do have rights.

Here are your need to know consumer rights if your delivery doesn't go to plan:

  • Your delivery must be made without undue delay and within 30 days from the point of purchase unless you and the retailer agree otherwise, this is stipulated by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Late, missing or damaged? complain to the retailer. Even if you think it's down to poor service from the courier, your contract is with the retailer.
  • Damaged and faulty deliveries can be return it for a refund, repair or replacement. The retailer is responsible, you shouldn't be told to take up your damaged goods complaint with the courier company or that you'll need to claim on the courier company's insurance.
  • Paid extra for special delivery and your order arrives late? You can claim back the extra delivery cost because the service wasn't delivered.
  • Be aware if you give permission for your delivery to be left in a specified safe place or received by a nominated neighbour and something goes wrong, you will still be considered to have received the delivery.

*Survey conducted in February 2021 by Yonder on behalf of Which? Of 2,100 nationally representative members of the public asking about shopping experiences between November 2020 and January 2021.
**Survey conducted in November 2021 by Opinium on behalf of Which? of 4,002 nationally representative members of the public, asking about delivery experiences in the last six months