International parcels disappear into ‘black hole’

news: International parcels disappear into ‘black hole’

THE RESIDENT has learned this week that “between 150 and 200 Royal Mail parcels dating back to December 1”, sent from the UK to expats living in the Algarve, have not been delivered and are still in a sub-contractor’s depot in Albufeira. It has also come to light that some Christmas presents sent from the US have also failed to be delivered. In addition, it seems that, when parcels do arrive, they have travelled “halfway around the world” before finally making it to their destination address in the Algarve – a situation that is causing unreasonable delays.

Lengthy saga

Albufeira business owner, Gary Thomas, informed The Resident of the situation after he experienced a frustrating saga in trying to locate a parcel sent from England on December 17, 2004. Following lengthy correspondence by email with the Royal Mail, more than a dozen phone calls and a personal visit to the sub-contractor’s handling depot, Gary finally located his parcel on January 14, 2005. This took considerable persistence and, for the less patient, there may not have been a successful outcome. “The postage cost more than 20 pounds sterling and included insurance and a tracking service, therefore, the service I received is totally unacceptable.”

Multiple sub-contractors involved

According to Gary: “The Royal Mail passed my parcel onto General Parcel, Germany, whose contact details were not known by the Royal Mail’s customer service staff. I only located them by making an internet search. General Parcel then sent my package to France and from there it went to a company called Transnáutica in Porto. It was then sent to Lisbon firm, Personalis, which forwarded it to their depot in Albufeira. This is where everything seemed to ‘stop’.” In an email to the Royal Mail, Gary was informed that his box had already been delivered and signed for by a ‘Gary Thomas’ – this was not correct as he had still not received the parcel.

Hundreds of “lost” parcels lying in Albufeira depot

Gary continues: “When I found out that a company called Personalis was supposed to be handling the parcels, I located their depot in Vale Paraíso. I was horrified to see, and be told, that they have between 150 and 200 Royal Mail parcels, dating back to December 1, that have not been delivered. Staff there claim they do not know the addresses, even though they are clearly printed on all the boxes. Without looking carefully, as well as locating my own parcel, I saw two addressed to people I know that had been at the depot since before Christmas. I called these people and collected their boxes while I was there.”

When asking why his parcel was never delivered, Gary was told: “We have had your parcel since December 30 and tried to deliver it on several occasions.” However Gary says: “On the days and times that Personalis claim to have attempted to deliver the parcel, my shop was open and fully staffed, so I believe they just hadn’t made any effort to make a delivery. I also find it strange that they never left any calling cards.” In fact, Gary’s sports shop is five minutes away from the depot and is situated on a main road.

Parcels from US disadvantaged

Mr. Gregson from Santa Bárbara de Nêxe was fortunate that, by chance, Gary spotted his “lost” package in the warehouse. “I was sent a parcel from the US which was posted on November 29 at a cost of 70 dollars, an amount that guaranteed a seven-day delivery time – however, I only received it at the end of January. The address was 100 per cent correct and the Personalis sticker says it was received on December 17. If it had not been for Gary, I would not have my Christmas gift. It is considered a federal offence in the States if it is proven that post has not been handled correctly,” he says.

Mr Gregson says his neighbours are still waiting for a Christmas parcel to arrive that was sent by their family in Boston. “Maybe it is at the Personalis depot, who knows?” he says.

‘Sometimes it’s our fault’, says depot

The Resident contacted the Vale Paraíso depot where a source confirmed: “We do have more than a hundred parcels waiting here to be delivered. Sometimes it’s our fault, but often other couriers in the chain have used their labels and the addresses are incomplete when we receive the parcels. We also have many addressed to Apartados (post office boxes) that we can’t deliver.”

André Marcelo, from Personalis’ head office, contacted The Resident with an official response: “A company called Transnáutica is the current GLS delivery partner but, from March 1, Personalis will take over. It is not correct to say that there are hundreds of parcels waiting at our Algarve depot, but, yes, there are some. I wouldn’t like to solely blame Transnáutica, but they were completely unprepared to cope with the Christmas period and so called upon Personalis, at the last minute, to help make the deliveries. Notes should have been sent straightaway informing clients that we were unable to deliver their parcels, but this has been done now and we are waiting for responses. We are making a big effort, at our own expense, to resolve this situation and assist Transnáutica with the backlog. This is a sensitive situation and we are trying our best to help out, even though our contract does not begin until March. We have a good reputation and offer an excellent service throughout Portugal. When our contract begins in March, please be assured that the service will be of a high standard.”

Not a new problem

Carol Jenkins from Faro says the poor service is not only related to the Christmas period. “My mum posted me some pageboy suits from the UK in May for my nephews to wear at my wedding and they disappeared into the system for an unbelievable six weeks. I phoned the Royal Mail several times before getting the number for Transnáutica, who claimed they had never seen my parcel. Eventually, after phoning them on a daily basis for several weeks, they discovered my parcel at their Matosinhos HQ. The parcel had been sent to my work address, a major Algarve resort, but they claimed they could not find it so returned it to their Matosinhos HQ (near Porto). Eventually, I arranged for Transnáutica to deliver the parcel to a friend in Lisbon as they said they knew the street. The delay caused me considerable stress as the outfits only arrived just one week before my wedding.”

Will Royal Mail improve its

Portugal service?

The Resident also contacted the Royal Mail’s head office in the UK to inform them about the problems. Christine Gregory from the Press Office told us: “We admit there have been problems with the Portugal service, particularly over the Christmas period, and we apologise to customers for these problems and for any inconvenience caused. There are items at the depot for which addresses need to be verified and there are many parcels with only an Apartado address. Personalis is currently writing to all these customers and, in the case of post office box addresses, arranging for customers to come and pick up their parcels. Royal Mail Parcel Force is doing everything it can at this end to ensure the problems are solved and to make sure they do not happen again.”

For anyone in the Algarve concerned about the whereabouts of a parcel being sent from abroad, Personalis suggest emailing their customer help desk at callcenter@personalis.pt or faxing them on 219 667 190. Alternatively, they can be telephoned on 219 667 100. Full contact details and the GLS parcel number should be supplied in all correspondence. If you have been informed by the Royal Mail that Transnáutica/Personalis are definitely handling your parcel, please also supply some useful directions to your property (if it is normally difficult to find) and the best time to deliver. Caroline Cunha