Ask LH: How Can I Make Sure Packages Actually Get Delivered?

Ask LH: How Can I Make Sure Packages Actually Get Delivered?

Hey Lifehacker, How can I stop couriers and Australia Post from falsely marking packages as “Attempted Delivery” and leaving a card to collect from the Post Office, even though someone was available to receive the delivery? It seems like the delivery drivers aren’t even bothering to ring a doorbell because it takes longer than just leaving the card, but their actions then waste my time and the post-office staff time too. How can I prevent this selfish behaviour? Thanks, Post Off

Dear PO,

Unfortunately, this seems to be an annoyance of epidemic proportions that is affecting neighborhoods all around the country. Back in my days as a freelance reviewer, I would regularly receive “attempted delivery” cards despite being home all day long. With multiple deadlines mounting, an unnecessary trip to the post office is the last thing I needed. Tch, eh?

Here’s what Australia Post has to say on the issue:

In some cases we may not be able to complete delivery of an item, including: 

  • if no one was home to receive it
  • if it didn’t fit in your mailbox and it was either not suitable to safely leave at your address or was a rural mailbox delivery where the driver is not allowed to get out of their car
  • if special delivery instructions could not be completed or if they indicated we should not leave the parcel.
  •   In these instances you may receive a card in your mailbox or under your door letting you know which Australia Post retail outlet you can collect your item from.

Curiously, “the postman could’t be arsed” does not appear among the litany of excuses. Go figure.

If you want to go on the warpath, one solution would be to rig up an IP security camera on your front porch to catch the non-delivery “attempt” in the act. You can then send the evidence to Australia Post and demand that its postal workers lift their game. Australia Post aims to resolve most complaints within 10 working days, so you should receive a response. If you go down this route, be sure to follow the relevant surveillance/privacy laws that relate to your state. You can find an overview of rules here.

Alternatively, you could invest in a parcel locker service such as the My Parcel Box Vault and Pakman Parcel Delivery Box. These are ruggedised outdoor security lockers designed for parcel delivery. Unlike a PO box, they don’t require you to travel to an offsite location and can log deliveries electronically, which negates the need for a physical signature.

On the downside, parcel lockers aren’t particularly cheap with prices starting at around $200. Some also require a weekly “service fee” which can add up to $50 per year. Plus, you’ll still need to put your faith in postal workers to actually use the device properly. Can you really trust them to use an electronic security locker when something as simple as a doorbell appears to give them trouble?

One other possibility is to use your work address. You may find this has a higher success rate; especially if your workplace regularly receives postal deliveries. If you’re in a relatively small business, you can ask the boss directly. In larger organisations, check existing HR documents or ask your manager. If you decide to give this a go, it’s definitely a good idea to activate delivery tracking on orders. This will ensure you can see when the item is due and that it’s signed for when it arrives, which should cut down on parcels mysteriously disappearing between the mail system and your desk.

If any readers have additional suggestions of their own (or just want to vent about crap postal delivery in their area), let PO know in the comments section below!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    • That is an awesome concept, but unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any in Newcastle.

    • They infuriate me… they obviously cant be arsed to ring the door bell and get away with it. I have a broken leg and am home all day and you get an attempted delivery card in the letter box. WTF?

      Also the problem with the lockers is that you are still wasting your time to go to the locker box. In a busy city with traffic this could be up to an hour. The whole point of getting it delivered is to cut down on time spent getting your goods.

      If I wasn’t in an apartment block I would be very tempted to setup a camera to bust these lazy arsed postman. The part that p___es me off is that all other companies like startrack, DHL etc. all deliver their parcels to our address with no problems at all. Its just ALWAYS LAZY AUS POST that pretends to deliver it. The deliver guy is probably sitting out on his arse in his van down the street eating a large big mac meal and reading the paper…

  • “security camera on your front porch “… Porch? W.T.F…this is Australia.

  • This was endemic at my previous property.

    Most of the “attempted deliveries” are by AusPost contractors who are relatively free from accountability compared to actual AusPost posties. You can often see them in clapped out white vans with AusPost contractor cards in the window. I regularly complained about not receiving warnings, and was told by branch staff there was nothing they could do about it, and they were just as frustrated as I was.

    The branch staff also told me another reason they might leave a card is if you are in a “secure complex”, meaning you have a locked gate or door before your actual property’s front door. In that case they do not have to attempt delivery and can just leave a card.

    I second the parcel lockers as an alternative if you live near one.

  • Raspberry Pi with scrolling LED sign on your letterbox saying “I’m home, don’t you dare leave that card arsehole”

  • Bane of my existence. Just yesterday, had one come to the front door and shout “Parcel!” (no knocking or use of doorbell, mind you – just yelling), then immediately drop the delivery card, get back in his van, and drive off. All witnessed from my kitchen window – I didn’t even have time to get to the door to stop the blighter!

  • I use parcel lockers for my steady stream of orders from Bricklink (AFOL here!).
    Good points:
    – free
    – 24 hour access
    – text and/or email notification so you can go in your own time and collect your parcel with a code
    Bad points:
    – very rarely suffer technical faults which lock your parcel away for a number of days (this has happened once to me in about a year of using the lockers)
    – after 48 hours your parcel is put back into the postal hub and you have to collect it during their open hours (these are still longer than the usual post office hours though – but they are very busy at that 5pm mark)
    – they are only for things going through Australia Post, not courier deliveries (so items from overseas that would otherwise have gone to your house by Australia Post or its contractors are ok)
    Weigh it up points:
    – Parcel lockers are usually found at postal hubs so if one is near your home, or on your commute that’s handy. Otherwise, you have to drive to your nominated parcel locker to collect your parcel
    – Parcels have to be a certain size (not envelopes and not bigger than certain dimensions) and several other safety and security restrictions apply.
    All the info is on the Australia Post website, and I am happy to use them because my parcels fall within the guidelines they impose. Better than finding (or not finding) parcels on your driveway…

  • My problem is when they take the parcel back to my local post office, which is only open between 8am and 4.30pm. Which are the same hours that I work. I have to wait till Saturday morning (when I’d rather be having a lie-in and a relaxed morning) and try to get in there before they close.

    The best thing to happen to me in terms of package deliveries has been a Business Hub opening up nearby. It has an after hours collection service, so if they take my parcels back there, I can get home, pick up the card, and head over to collect it straight away. They’re open till 8pm so I don’t even have to rush.

    But I still prefer deliveries like my Amazon ones, which get left on the doorstep no matter what they are or what size they are. So much easier!

    • But I still prefer deliveries like my Amazon ones, which get left on the doorstep no matter what they are or what size they are. So much easier!

      A lot of online shops can do this they just don’t ask on the checkout form (it’s a bit of a liberty to assume you’re ok with your purchase being left unattended). I know personally I ship via Australia Post eParcel and I’ve got it set to ‘leave in a safe place’ by default. Most online stores use generic storefronts which don’t include a checkbox for whether a signature is required, but if you write ‘Hi, if possible can you please set this to be left at the doorstep without a signature? Thanks’ in the special instructions/comment box the people actually packing and shipping the goods will be happy to help.

      • Given the set up of our front doorstep, which isn’t visible till you’re quite close, I will often put a note in the delivery instructions, if I can, asking that they leave it. Sellers who include an “authority to leave” option in their sales pages make my life so much easier.

        I also quite appreciate couriers who make a second attempt the next day, having left behind a card that you can sign if you’d like them to just leave the item.

    • Most Aus post outlets have parcel windows on the side of the building. You can pick up parcels from 5:30am – 8:30am

      • My local is a post office agent, rather than an official Aus Post depot. There’s no one there at all outside working hours 🙁

  • In one whole year at my current address (in an apartment complex) mainly working from home, I have only had 1 actual delivery out of at least 20 ‘attempted’ ones – in all cases I was at home at the time. I wrote to Australia Post, only to receive an answer telling me it would be investigated. Needless to say nothing happened and I never heard back. My local post office staff are as fed up with it as everyone else.

    Why does Australia Post deny the extent of the problem?

  • We had a parcel “delivered” between 7:30am and 8:00am Monday morning. I say “delivered” because it was dropped at our front door. No attempt to knock.

    I know the times because I went out the front door at 7:30am to collect the milk delivery, and again at 8:00am to head to work…almost killed myself tripping over the parcel.

    Now, the front door is visible from the kitchen and is one of those modern half glass things. I have two young kids who were at the table having breakfast (and who race to the front door whenever anyone comes), and a wife who was there too. We didn’t see anyone. Didn’t hear a knock.

    And most of the time we just get cards saying attempted delivery.

    • If it’s a parcel that doesn’t need a signature, they’re not supposed to knock. They’re just supposed to leave it at the front door, same as posties leave letters in the mailbox.

  • “a rural mailbox delivery where the driver is not allowed to get out of their car”
    So how do they deliver the parcel? Throw it out the window?

    • thats exactly what they do, and sucks to be you if theres a puddle where it lands.
      Caught them at it twice now, luckily both times the contents were plastic wrapped properly so no damage, but i was not happy.

  • My pet peeve is suppliers that won’t ship to PO boxes. I subscribe to a PO box, but then the courier “cannot” (or will not) deliver to it. I currently have a shipment waiting at the mailhub 10kms away because the supplier would not ship to my PO box just up the road for security reasons, so the delivery to my home address failed and the package was taken to the wrong post office. Grrr.

    • If they’re not shipped by Australia Post (or by an Australia Post owned courier company) then the Courier company has no access to PO Boxes.

  • I have wasted so much time on this with Australia Post. Deliveries to my work, deliveries to my home, you name it, they just can’t be bothered. I have complained about almost all of them. Once I had “attempted delivery at 5:30am” (really.. impressive).

    Australia Post do not care. Their complaints people will “investigate”, then they’ll tell you they’ll fix it. Then nothing will change. It is as simple as this. It is cheaper for them to hire subcontractors who don’t deliver than it is to provide the service they promise.

    The solution is this. Don’t buy any product from any online retailer who uses Australia Post to deliver.

    I made all my complaints on the basis that surely Australia Post would want to know that its customers are losing faith and will eventually stop using Australia Post for parcel deliveries. Parcel delivery is the future of Australia Post, without it they will wither and die.

    But they don’t care, they won’t change, and it is my opinion we should give up ever wanting them to.

    As for parcel lockers – they are a solution made up to deal with a failing of the company. If Australia Post are unable to deliver packages, they shouldn’t sell a service purporting to do so. If the only way they can guarantee getting a package to a customer is by a customer paying them extra money to deliver them somewhere that suits Australia Post rather than the customer, then that’s just dumb.

  • There are also areas (like where we live) where Aus Post don’t even bother trying. The parcel goes directly to the local PO, and the card is delivered with the rest of the mail. Although we are rural fringe, it’s still bloody annoying.

  • So I told the guy who delivers my parcels for Straya post that my buzzer is broken and now he always toots his horn or call up to my appartment to check if I’m in.

    What a legend

  • This issue is only going to get worse, as more and more consumers shop online, the e-retailer’s are not getting the service they pay for , or are paying twice for the same delivery. As dogman above mentioned, it should be taken care of as part of the checkout process, don’t assume no one will be home when the driver arrives, they can’t tell you what time they will turn up, and you can’t always stay home all day waiting, it’s very frustrating. After 25 years in the transport / freight industry I have taken a stand and just released a new product designed to solve this. The parcel stamp is a highly visible, trademarked sticker that will make the couriers deliver the parcel first time, with no excuses, you can read more about it here –

    • I’m pretty sure that a sticker saying “Authority to leave goods” does not actually count as an authority to leave goods. It needs to be put on the consignment form.

      Also don’t see how a sticker will change a driver’s behaviour when they just don’t give a stuff.

      • The trademarked – industry worded sticker when applied by the sender before dispatch does work, don’t forget the e-retailer is the carriers customer, they must obey their customers requests, like wise the drivers when they see it are obliged to deliver the parcel and leave it, 43 e-retailers are now using these stickers and so far no one has given us feedback to say it didn’t work.
        The consignment form / note method is very unreliable (hence why the problem still exists) the driver’s are not obliged or interested in reading every con note,
        Our research has proven that the driver is happy to see the sticker, because he knows he can go to that address and deliver it quickly, the first time.
        I would be interested in hearing more feedback or questions from anyone in regards to the sticker, alternatively if you are an e-retailer go to and get a free sample to try it out.

    • What’s the difference between using that sticker and just writing “Authority to leave” on the box?

      And as Ogre said, I’m sure “Authority to leave” needs to be in the consignment note, otherwise if the parcel is stolen, no one would know if the parcel had that sticker on it or not. And if it’s in the consignment note, it doesn’t need to be on the box.

      • Hi Anthony, I appreciate your feedback, in response to your comments.

        1 / Everyday thousands and thousands of parcels are sent all over Australia, with a multitude of carriers, I have designed and trademarked the sticker because at present there is no industry standard process, they all do things differently. simply writing ATL on the box will not help solve the issue, because again some will / some wont take any notice, My sticker is about reliability and consistency.
        2/ If by ticking the box or putting ATL on the con note worked, this issue would not exist.
        3/ The sticker is applied by the sender, after getting the ok to leave from the buyer, hence they know which ones went out with my sticker on.
        If a parcel is stolen what difference would it make as to what it had on there?
        In the transport industry the majority of parcels that go missing are “lost in transit”
        There is a small percentage that are stolen by dis-honest drivers,
        There is an even smaller percentage that go missing from peoples front doors.
        My sticker is about choice, if you live in a flat / apartment / unit then you would probably not choose to use the ATL process at all, Collection from the post office / depot / or a parcel locker would be a more viable option. However there are still hundreds of thousands of houses in both metro and regional Australia, where the consumer wants home delivery and is happy for it to be left, if they miss the driver, don’t want to wait home all day, or it is too hard to collect.
        Online consumers deserve a choice, not be at the mercy of the carriers and their drivers.

        Hope that clarifies things for you.

  • It’s not just Australia Post. It’s Toll, it’s Star Track, it’s TNT. Full of lazy fucks who can’t be bothered to knock on a door or ring a bell, all of them. I’ve had that card from all of them when ready and willing to receive a package, when having taken DAYS OFF out of enthusiasm for an incoming parcel.
    I can only reach the conclusion that 95% of couriers are utter @#$&s.

    I have witnessed an ‘attempted delivery’ through my window before, not to mention the times I’ve made a point of being home in anticipation of a delivery and eventually coming to the realization that the only benefit to this was going out to check the mailbox periodically for THAT FUCKING CARD so I might potentially make it to the post office TO DO THE COURIER’S JOB FOR THEM before they shut.

    I know of one person who (let’s say hypothetically) started paying for ‘signature required’. When a couple big-ticket items (eg: PC parts, large screen TV) were deposited outside the front door without any signature being sought, said packages mysteriously disappeared. As can happen when you leave shit outside in plain view of the street. Investigation requests were sent to the senders, asking why the package had not arrived yet, or why the courier services had completed the order as ‘delivered’ when there was no evidence of their signature. Consequently, said items had to be re-sent. (I like to imagine at cost to the courier.)

    However… Instead of this pattern of mysterious failures of couriers too stupid or lazy to do their job, followed by mysterious package disappearances resulting in couriers actually getting motivated to start doing their fucking job for once the result was instead that the vans didn’t even bother to go out, and simply dropped everything off at the post office without the hassle of even going out to that suburb.

    There’s no excuse for this shit. It’s just prick behaviour. They’re assholes.
    If you KNOW a courier, you should respect them much less for it and should probably take any opportunity to spit in their food or at their feet. (Unless they only do office buildings, in which case the strike rate is much better and maybe only 25% of them are lazy @#&$s.)

    Seriously. Fuck couriers. Of all the services I’ve received in all industries, couriers are the worst.

    • Telstra Technicians are pretty bad too. I remember videoing the Telstra van drive by the street, filmed the jerk too. When I told Telstra I had video of the van driving by, not coming down the street from my balcony view and gave them the license plate they dropped the cost of the install but I still needed to take another day off to wait for the install. This one actually turned up as I said I’d be filming him from the balcony window.

      The look of horror on his face as the gate opened before he got close to was very funny.

      As for couriers, my problem is somebody is always home, but my unit is #1 and it’s at the back so they go to the wrong unit and than try to put the card in the mail box. I usually have intercepted them by than if I’m home. The worst thing, there is a map of the Units with fire safety data right next to the stairs they always go up to the wrong unit.

  • As someone who has previously managed a large parcel delivery centre, I am aware that there are some lazy drivers out there and these complaints of non-attempted delivery were always taken very seriously with the contractors. However as a balance to the debate often in further discussions with the complainant who said they were home all day, it would come to realisation that at the time of delivery they were home but unavailable or did not hear the knock (I.e. Out the back, in the shower etc.). Whilst I don’t dispute there are some dodgy drivers the majority I worked with were good, honest hard working people. Whilst it may seem your complaints aren’t taken seriously drivers who have a documented proven history of such actions can, have and will be dismissed.
    As other people have mentioned here the parcel lockers are a free and good service. They will continue to be rolled out to more places. Also from Christmas onwards retail stores will be permanently open on Saturdays which whilst it doesn’t solve the problem in the first instance at least does make it more convenient for a lot of people to collect the carded item.

    • As someone who’s received maybe 1% of my couriered deliveries in person but never lodged a complaint, I strongly suspect your impression of the extent of the issue is skewed by the volume of complaints you received.

      What I’m taking away from your comment is that I need to lodge a complaint every time for managers of parcel delivery centres to have even the faintest clue of just how lazy their drivers are.

  • My parcels are never delivered direct to my door. I don’t even try anymore. The last straw was a series of packages that weren’t delivered despite being home (just carded), and each of them were directed to a different post office/postal agency for collection.

    When I asked Australia Post why they don’t just nominate a single place where my parcels will go, I was told it depends on the route the driver chooses as to where the parcels will be left at the end of the day-no other rhyme or reason. So my package could end up at any of 3 different locations. One of which was open M-F 9-5 only (impossible), one which was open on Saturday mornings (better but still not great), and the agency which was open all day Saturdays. They were each sooo very slow and inefficient…but basically if it was left at the 9-5 post office I had to pay to have it delivered to the agency so I could collect it.

    I was also told by Australia Post when I complained that the driver didn’t have to attempt delivery if it meant going up stairs (I live in a flat, but it is not a secure building)-DHL don’t seem to have a problem. So now I do the work for them by using Parcel Lockers. At least its a solution, but not a very good one when it means I am doing the work they should be doing.

    You would think they’d be improving their parcel delivery services when they know that is where their future lies.

  • We buy nearly everything possible online and most are delivered by Aus Post. Because we have a swimming pool in the front yard and a wall surround the courier just left everything in the carport, no knock, toot, nothing. I kept an eye out and one day caught him before he took off and had a word to him. I explained that some of the stuff he was leaving was pricey and sitting in the carport until I came home from work was a worry so please at least open front gate and leave behind the wall. I was friendly and not agro and since that day he always comes up to the front door and knocks on the door, no more problems. Now we are besties!
    These guys start at 4am to start loading the van and work until they are finished so I have a bit of sympathy for them, altho not enough to stand for lousy service and losing my parcels.

  • Hm. That does sound a bit more reasonable a solution than the schemes I’ve been idly cooking up in my imagination, involving remote-triggers and/or sniping positions.

  • I actually got a card in my letter box the other morning from Australia post. The reason for not delivering was ‘To [sic] early to knock”. It was 7:45am on a weekday. Seems to me that that is the ideal time to knock, because I’m getting ready for work. The strange thing is, the item in question was a small parcel (a keychain, in fact). Yet the guy was able to leave a bigger, more expensive package (a NES console I bought off eBay) on the doorstep. Go figure.

    I’ve got a Ninja Block ( and a wireless security camera at my front door. When the doorbell rings, I get an email, plus a snapshot from the camera of who rang the doorbell. The last few times, I’ve found a card but no email.

    If the range of the 433mhz was better, I’d put a door sensor on my letterbox so as soon as anything was put in there, I’d get an email so I could run out and quiz the driver as to why he thinks it’s too early to knock.

    • What’s in the parcel is irrelevant. It’s what the person who posted it chose. The person who posted the keychain said it can’t be left. The person that sent the NES console said it could be left. It’s not up to the Courier company or the driver. They have to follow the directions of the sender.

      • Well the fact was, they didn’t even try to deliver the item that the company said couldn’t be left. There was no door ring, just a card in the box and off they went.

  • When I lived in Australia I caught the contractor leaning out his van window dropping “sorry you weren’t home” slips into the driveway letterboxes of my apartment building once. Didn’t even leave his van to try and deliver. Sigh…

    Meanwhile here in Japan I missed a post office delivery last night (Saturday) and have rescheduled it for this morning (Sunday) via the QR code on the “missed delivery” slip and the online reschedule system. Bliss!

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