Royal Mail airsure track and trace: “Sorry. There is no data …”

March 4th, 2011 | by Sean |

Living in Malaysia, I’ve come to accept a little bit of ‘post tax’. I receive somewhere around 4 out of 5 items mailed unrecorded to me from overseas. I don’t mind the occasional credit card going astray – it never seems to result in fraudulent transactions. Toys and clothes for the kids sent by relatives that never turn up make me think there must be very happy children somewhere.

Royal Mail airsure "There is no data ..."

Royal Mail airsure track and trace "Sorry. There is no data ..."

What does bother me is post sent (mostly to her grandchildren) by my mother going astray. She’s elderly and lives in the UK where almost all mail arrives next-day and so far as I know if you put something in the post the addressee will receive it. She gets distressed by extended delivery times – it’s frequently a month before letters and parcels she posts arrive here in Malaysia. She is almost inconsolable when presents for her grandchildren go missing. I was distressed by ‘post tax’ the first couple of times it happened, but now it just seems reasonable – given how unreliable everything else is.

My mother sent a small gift to my kids – something they’d asked her for on the telephone – on 16th February 2011. She didn’t want it to go astray, so she paid extra for Royal Mail airsure. She was excited about the prospect of knowing where the parcel was en route, so she dismissed paying more for postage than the items themselves cost as “a small price to pay for knowing the parcel will arrive”. I checked a few times and got the “Sorry. There is no data currently available for this tracking reference. Please try again later.” response.

The parcel arrived on 3rd March 2011. A note to people selecting premium delivery methods to Malaysia: post here is delivered to a post box by the roadside, not through a letterbox in a front door. We live in gilded concrete cages in walled compounds with remotely-operated security gates that would make an ex-convict shudder. Royal Mail airsure is not ‘signed for’ – only barcoded. The postman does his best : he puts mail in a letterbox which is more conveniently placed for ‘post tax’ than it is for the addressee to collect it.

Royal Mail’s tracking system still has the “Sorry. There is no data…” message the day after I received the packet. I’ll call my mother tonight to tell her I’ve got it, but I’m not looking forward to telling her that the expensive mail option she chose was worthless. What annoys me more than anything else is that tracking a parcel and putting the data online is such a trivial, simple matter that it simply boggles my mind as to how Royal Mail has failed to do it. My expectations of the local post service updating their end of the data were already low – we frequently use tracked mail here and missing or tragically late updates are normal (although delivery of tracked items given to Pos Malaysia has been 100% for us). Is it also ‘normal’ for Royal Mail to fail at such a simple task? How can there be not even an “accepted for delivery in the UK” update?

I’m extremely disappointed. Royal Mail’s own description of airsure doesn’t help:

Airsure® can be up to one day faster than Airmail. Your item will receive priority handling at home and overseas and benefits from an online tracking facility so you can check your mail’s progress along the way.  We work closely with our international partners to ensure and maintain a high quality of service for our customers.  For that reason, Airsure® is only available to selected destinations.

I guess marketing something on the basis of “up to one day faster!* should serve as a heads-up that perhaps you should save your money and avoid the pain of misplaced hope. When you also factor in the fact that track and trace doesn’t work, it appears to me that you’re paying a large amount of money for Royal Mail to share with their ‘selected destinations’ for precisely … nothing. I’ve asked for a response from Royal Mail using their web-based Customer Service form. I’ll update this article with any useful information I receive.

* Aren’t Internet Service Providers currently in hot water for precisely this kind of optimistic wording in service descriptions? ‘up to one day faster’ when a packet can only arrive one day or the next is – in plain English – “either one day faster or not faster at all”, or even “not really any faster at all, given the timescale”.

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