An unknown number of John Lewis and Waitrose customers have been asked to pay a £1.53 postage charge by the Royal Mail after a franking machine failed to correctly stamp letters sent out as part the firm's latest credit card marketing campaign.
The Royal Mail notices started dropping through people's letter boxes in Scotland last week, asking householders to arrange collection of a mystery item that had been sent to them without enough postage.
It was only when people turned up at sorting offices they realised that the mystery item was in fact a circular pushing the Partnership's credit card. That meant paying a £1 handling charge plus a steep 53 pence for the postage, which is the individual rather than commercial letter rate.
When contacted by Computerworld, John Lewis admitted the error, claiming that only a "small number" of people had been affected. But on the basis of a report in Edinburgh press noting that several hundred letters had been sitting awaiting collection at a single sorting office in the capital, the numbers seem more likely to run into the thousands at least.
"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," read a press statement.
Affected customers would be sent £5 vouchers as compensation for the inconvenience regardless of whether they had picked up the marketing letter or not. The other winner from the affair is the Royal Mail, privatised in 2013, which will make a healthy sum as long as enough letters are collected.
Of course, if it had mentioned the nature of the item perhaps fewer people would have made the trip to their local sorting office although the option of paying online was offered as an alternative.
"We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience caused and are offering customers John Lewis Partnership vouchers as way of an apology and to cover any costs incurred."
The customer support number for John Lewis is 0345 604 9049, for Waitrose 0800 188 884.