Unless you work from home or are blessed with an understanding employer who offers flexible hours, waiting in for a delivery can feel like a sojourn to the seventh circle of hell.
'Your delivery slot is 8am to 10am,' intones the recorded voice. But you don't believe a word of it. In fact, you know they're lying, much in the same way you know the taxi driver isn't 'just around the corner'. No, he's five miles away and has yet to break into third gear.
So it comes as little surprise to learn that people whose delivery is late, turns up broken or doesn't arrive at all spend on average two and a half hour sorting out the problem, That's according to Citizens Advice, which is preparing for a rise in people seeking help for problems with deliveries. The charity says that this time last year there was a 32 per cent increase in calls about this issue, as well as a 60 per cent spike in people getting online help on 18 December as they tried to track gifts down before Christmas.
All told, Britons experienced 4.8 million delivery problems in 2015/16, leaving many out of pocket. In addition to the sheer annoyance of missing items and absent delivery men, there's a financial cost here too. Citizens Advice estimates that customers who failed to get compensation were down by £30 per parcel - that equates to a nationwide total of £148 million comprising damaged or lost goods, hours wasted and time away from work.
Depending on the retailer, a missing or delayed parcel - irritating though it is at the time - can be a blessing in disguise. A couple of weeks back, when thick snow blanketed my village, a friend of mine took pity and dispatched an emergency bottle of prosecco forthwith. It was meant to be next day delivery but the M&S man failed to show. In fact, it took another two days for my care package to arrive.
M&S coudn't account for the missing parcel but, to their credit, sent out another parcel. In the end, I was two bottles of prosecco happier and all was well with the world.
But I suspect my experience may not be the norm. Citizens Advice has plenty of stories that tell a different tale. One involves a man who was passed from pillar to post as he tried to sort out a damaged parcel that was mis-delivered. He spent time and money contacting both the retailer and parcel operator but was still unclear about his rights to a refund.
Another person sought help from Citizens Advice after they failed to obtain compensation for a damaged delivery. They had sold a laptop to someone online but, when it arrived at the recipient's house, it was damaged. It was only then that they learned their insurance didn’t cover the cost of such an item.
And then there was the caller who was hit with unexpected handling fees after buying a phone from China. Although she had ordered goods from outside the European Union before, the phone parcel charges were in excess of previous packages.
So, what can you do to guard against these problems? Citizens Advice has a number of helpful tips. For example, if you have bought something online and it hasn’t arrived then get in touch with the company you bought the item from - it’s their job to make sure the item is delivered to you. They should chase the parcel delivery company and find out where it is. And if your item went missing after being delivered to a place you didn’t agree to, the retailer should replace it or provide a refund.
If your item arrives three or more working days after it’s due (or 24 hours for Special Delivery, guaranteed 1pm service) you can claim compensation for the delay. And if it doesn’t turn up after ten working working days (five days for Special Delivery) you can claim compensation for loss.
Helen Nugent is Online Money Editor of The Spectator