Here’s why your Aus Post delivery is taking so long to arrive


It’s busier than Christmas.

With social distancing restrictions making it near impossible for the retail sector to continue business as usual, online purchases have, unsurprisingly, skyrocketed. E-comm sales have increased 473 per cent across Australian online department stores, with fashion purchases in particular up by 203 per cent.

That’s a lot of online orders. Much like how countless Australians rushed to Centrelink in the wake of a nation-wide unemployment crisis, the flood of online orders has created a bottleneck in the postage sector, where parcel-delivery demand is not necessarily supplemented by a greater supply of posties.

It’s so hectic that Australia Post has reported being busier than Christmas time – the only difference, though, is that the end isn’t in sight. 

We’re online shopping A LOT more 

Recently I ordered a tiny pair of earrings online, and followed their journey from Barcelona, to Germany, to Louisville, Kentucky, to Honolulu, Hawaii, to Sydney, then Melbourne. I was stunned at how quickly a pair of gold sleepers circumnavigated the world, even while in crisis. 

I’m always stunned at how our society mobilises, especially as of late, to meet increasingly unreasonable consumer demands: free same-day deliveries and free returns, a capitalist catchcry of cheaper, quicker, easier. 

While online shopping can help support a struggling retail sector, even as we’re all trying to do our bit – that’s what we’ll call it – the postal sector can’t keep up. If your online orders have been delayed, it’s because (according to Australia Post’s CEO) up to 1.8 million parcels have been sent daily. That’s an increase of 80 per cent compared to this time last year. Yikes. 

To incentivise shopping, retailers are offering free deliveries and returns, only adding to the problem – for Myer, it’s down to $49. This creates a real Catch-22, where it makes sense to buy more, and for Myer, sales have been strong enough to allow a re-hiring of 2,000 stood-down workers.  But for our national Postal system, the situation gets worse, and for shoppers, the delays continue. 

Australia Post has only recently expanded its delivery services

Online shopping aside, the national postage service is under additional COVID-induced pressure, partnering with Woolworths to deliver groceries in the form of ‘basics boxes, and the free Pharmacy Home Delivery scheme for people aged 70 and over. 

One solution comes in the form of 2,000 new posties, who began motorbike training last month in a bid to relieve some of the current delivery burdens. Last week Australia Post similarly repurposed 15 new processing facilities and recruited 600 new casuals.

Delays continue as these workers are trained, and as flights in and out of Australia continue to be cancelled. The majority of online purchases are non-essentials (bread-machine buyers, I’m looking at you), coming from North American and European markets, and to fix this issue, Australia Post recently expanded its freight capacity to another eight freight-only flights per day, taking the number of dedicated freight flights every day to 17. That’s a great start, but it’ll take time to see the results.

We only have one major postal service

Consumer capitalism emphasises quick service and, right now, that’s not possible. So, you might ask, can I just order my package through another provider? Our National Postage service, unlike other countries who combine private and publicly-owned services, continues today in part because of Australia’s relative size and isolation. 

The United States Postal service, by contrast, services up to 151 million addresses, and so often collabs with private postal services to ease the load, but mostly, to create competition for consumers. 

At the moment, our delays stem from an off-the-chart demand, matched with an underperforming supply, so, no matter who you order with, it’s going to take some time. 

We’re a big, sparsely populated country with a pretty abysmal national rail network. Toll IPEC, StarTrack and Sendle are a couple of Australia Post alternatives out there, which might seem like good options as of late, if it weren’t for the fact that, with social distancing measures in place, limited air travel (even for freight carriers), not enough posties, and irregular working timetables, posties are only delivering every second day in metropolitan Melbourne. Unfortunately, that means your spiffy new activewear/long-awaited Glossier haul might still be quite far off.  

We also can’t forget that the expansion of privately-owned postal services is in large part responsible for the change in consumer expectations – things like same-day delivery, free shipping and free returns – so, depending on where your politics lie, these arrangements have real strengths, but also setbacks.

If you’re waiting on an online order (or three) this week (like me), hang in there. There’s nothing more gut-wrenching than rushing to the doorbell only to receive a stack of junk-mail catalogues and your mum’s bank statements. But equally, there’s nothing better than a three-week build-up, and an online shopping-haul surprise. Especially if everything fits and looks good. And really, if this is the worst we have to deal with during a global crisis, then we can count ourselves pretty lucky.

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