New office game: pass on parcels

We've probably all done it: directed the parcel delivery to the office rather than home.

Companies, though, are starting to push back, appealing to staff not to jam the office mail room with personal packages.

It's not just the paperless office that's fallen by the wayside. Firms daily take delivery of an emporium of online purchases that employees find more convenient to direct to their workplaces than their homes.

For NAB's wealth division, that collection included televisions, shoes, wine, cosmetics, books, saucepans, handbags and even children's toys. All too much for the division's general manager Paul Carter.

“At least 60 per cent of all courier items currently received are not work-related, which equates to around 50 pieces of mail each day,” an exasperated Mr Carter told staff in an email. “This is unacceptable and I ask that all future personal items are directed to your home address.”

Online shopping boom

One cause of the mail room mayhem is that more people are researching and buying goods online. Those purchases have to be delivered somewhere, rather than carted out of a traditional shop, and the buyers are choosing to send them to the office rather than home.

With staff working longer hours, it's also more convenient to grab the parcel from the office pigeonhole rather than hope someone hasn't walked off with items left on the home doorstep.

A post office alert for a package is also not much help if the local post office opens only during business hours, Mondays and Fridays. Bigger offices open on Saturday are also likely to be packed, adding to the incentive to direct mail to the workplace.

'Business use only'

Big employers, though, are losing patience.

Telstra said it is now updating its policy to make sure “our people know that they should be using the mail system for business use only.”

“If we identify anyone abusing the system, we talk to them about it to make sure they know what the policy is,” the spokesman said.

Another financial firm, Rabobank, has also warned employees in its Sydney office that the mail room is not a personal drop-off point for packages.

“We have a relatively small mail room and they only have a certain capacity,” a spokeswoman for the company said. “A message had been issued reminding employees to be considerate of our mail room capacity in terms of personal mail.”

Rising tide

Persuasion may need to have some teeth to be effective.

For one thing, the tide of parcel deliveries is rising, particularly from overseas.

Data from Australian Customs and Border Protection Integrated Cargo System show the volume of small parcels delivered to Australia from overseas has doubled from 23.5 million in 2006-7 to 48 million pieces in 2010-11.

The growth, around 20 per cent a year, may rise or fall, depending on the strength of the Australian dollar - and the competitiveness of overseas retailers.

Local parcel numbers are harder to come by, but anecdotally, the increase is large and creating opportunities for newcomers to the business.

Established brands like David Jones and Myer are rapidly developing so-called “omni-channel” strategies that include easier shipping choices for merchandise bought online.

Convenience

Start-ups sense some money to be made in solving the delivery difficulties facing employers and their staff.

ParcelPoint.com.au, for instance, charges customers a small price to direct deliveries of goods bought online to any of about 500 newsagents, petrol stations and convenience stores for pick up when it suits the shopper.

The businesses holding the packages also get a chance to diversify their income streams and taps some additional foot traffic into their stores.

"We're trying to do something that's potentially more convenient than the default method now, which is that either you pick it up from the post office...or you have to arrange a re-delivery and wait at home for that re-delivery," said Parcelpoint's co-founder Julian Leach.

The 14-month-old company, backed by a private equity group ArdenPoint, competes against Australia Post and Star Track even as it coordinates packages for delivery from the two.

While competition in this new space is likely to heat up, new entrants can be confidentt that the era of corporate cost-cutting will mean greater vigilance on inhouse delivery costs.

Companies are asking themselves why, at a time when business correspondence is falling, are firms spending more on their mail rooms. The answer, according to one delivery company insider, is that "half the boxes" are from online retailers like Iconic and Asos.

In other words, it won't just be the cheque that's not in the mail.

The story New office game: pass on parcels first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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