As you can imagine, with five Associations, 2,000 members, 200 councillors and five MPs, the West Kent Campaign HQ is a reasonable-sized customer of Royal Mail. I estimate we spend over £25,000 a year on their services.
On an average day we receive 30 items of mail. At busy times (membership renewals, appeals and during elections) we could easily receive 200+ items of mail per day. It is not difficult, therefore, to spot when something goes wrong and the mail ceases to be delivered.
In recent weeks, that has been the case. The steady flow of Business Reply Envelopes had dried to a trickle. Although August is traditionally quiet politically, we still have plenty going on - so I was quite surprised that our postal deliveries had been reduced to one or two items a day. However, the fact that one or two letters were being delivered indicated that all was well. If there had been a problem with our post, none would have arrived.
In today's post was a note from the local sorting office that 38 items of mail were awaiting collection at a £1.53 per letter surcharge. The reason they were not delivered, apparently "our Business Reply Service" had been cancelled.
Jon popped along to the Tonbridge sorting office with the money to retrieve these items, only to be told "there's another 23 items here which arrived today". That's another £35.19. In total £93.33 to retrieve our post from a closed account which we had never closed.
Then the blow. Apparently Tonbridge sorting office had just returned another 30 letters to the Royal Mail Returned Letters Centre in Belfast as we had not been to collect them. Unfortunately, had we been told they were holding them, we would have called to collect them.
A quick (35 minute!) call to Royal Mail's Business Services identified the problem. When we closed down our old Freepost service for the office in West Malling, they also cancelled the existing Business Reply Service at the same time. Given the two accounts have (i) different account numbers, (ii) different license numbers, (iii) different signatories and (iv) different addresses - I am not quite sure why they did this, and when asked why they did it they didn't seem to know.
We have been assured that our account will be re-instated, and they have promised that the extra money we have had to pay to retrieve our mail will be refunded. And they "hope" that the 30 letters sent to Northern Ireland can be retrieved. So perhaps all will be OK.
This, however, does not address the real issues.
1, Why did they close our account without authority or instruction?
2. Why did they not inform us that our account had been closed?
3. Would it not have been nice if we had been informed that 30 items of mail (most containing cheques, event bookings, membership payments and donations) had been returned to sender?
Maybe I have an old fashioned view of such things, but isn't this an odd way to treat a customer, regardless of how much they spend with you?