Shoppers ‘had to pay for John Lewis circular’

William Hamilton with the letter. Picture: Ian Georgeson
William Hamilton with the letter. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IT always claims to be “never knowingly undersold” – and it’s hard to believe it would ever be knowingly understamped.

But John Lewis’ value policy has failed to live up to its usual standards after it unwittingly charged hundreds of Edinburgh customers £1.53 for the privilege of picking up a marketing circular flogging its latest credit card deal.

Customers listed on the database of the John Lewis Partnership, which includes supermarket Waitrose as well as the department store chain, were sent a letter advertising the product.

But a blunder at head office meant that none of the letters was franked, leaving the postage unpaid and the Royal Mail unable to deliver them.

Instead, all of the addressees received a card telling them that a letter was waiting at its depot. To take delivery of the letter, recipients were forced to pay £1.53 – before knowing what it was or who it was from.

Waitrose customer William Hamilton, who received one of the cards, travelled to his local depot in Gorgie Park Road and forked out the cash to pick up his mystery letter.

Mr Hamilton, from Lanark Road, said he was disappointed to find that the letter he had paid to pick up was merely an advertising circular.

Royal Mail staff told him that the letter, addressed to his wife, Anne, was one of a dispatch of hundreds of unstamped letters which had been sent out in error by John Lewis.

“I was asked to go to my local Royal Mail depot to retrieve an item which had been posted with insufficient postage and pay the £1.53 charge,” said Mr Hamilton.

“It was a letter that had been sent out with no postage on it at all and it turned out to be a circular from Waitrose to my wife inviting her to apply for a Waitrose credit card. I had paid to pick it up because I wanted to know what it was – it could have been anything.”

He added: “The clerk at the depot told me that he had three full boxes of such unstamped letters from Waitrose – hundreds of them. And that was just at one depot.

“It was a window envelope and there was nothing on it at all where the franking should have been. Clearly, it has gone through their post room and missed the franking machine, but the same has happened to literally hundreds or even thousands of other letters. It may be that it was a local regional mailing or the same could have happened in other areas of the country.”

A spokesman for the John Lewis Partnership, which has two Waitrose stores in the city as well as a John Lewis store in the St James Centre, said that the error had occurred due to a technical printing problem in its post room and offered to compensate customers.

He said: “Due to a technical printing error, a communication regarding the partnership card was sent to a small number of our customers without the postage mark printed on the envelope.

“We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience caused and are offering affected customers John Lewis Partnership vouchers by way of an apology and to cover any costs incurred.”