My colleague James brought to my attention this morning an article saying that online retailers are growing concerned about the impact of Royal Mail’s absolute uselessness on their businesses.

The worst postal strike for nearly 20 years is “destroying online companies” and will hit internet Christmas sales because customers can no longer buy confidently over the web, industry executives warned last night.

Really? Customers in general must be slow. Royal Mail lost my confidence a long time ago. In fact, I’m not sure how you’d even notice that there’s a strike on, since the normal service is so awful.

I’ve witnessed a postman actually sign for a ‘Signed For’ package himself before leaving it outside for my neighbour to collect. If she’s lucky.

I’ve had two packages disappear so far this year, and another take three weeks to reach me from north London. On another occasion, I received a card to tell me that a package hadn’t been delivered and was waiting for me at the infamous Mandela Way depot. When I turned up to pick it up, they had nothing for me.

Speaking of the sorting office, if Royal Mail fails to deliver a package, it ends up back there to be collected at the your own inconvenience. Technically, you can call to arrange for redelivery. In practice, they don’t answer the phone. The card warns that it takes at least 48 hours for an undelivered package to return to the sorting office. I assumed that this was a cover-your-arse estimate—it’s only a couple of miles from my flat to the depot—and foolishly turned up a mere 24 hours later to pick up one parcel. No. It really does take 48 hours for Royal Mail to move a package a distance that I can cycle in under ten minutes.

When you turn up at the sorting office, you realise how backwards the system is. There appears to be no automation at all: finding a parcel is achieved by someone disappearing into a back room and trying to find it.

Even when they’re not on strike, they’re rubbish. I’m sure that as much blame lies with the management as with the staff, but I find it hard to have any sympathy for any of them.

It’s no wonder that, at the depot, they have to work behind toughened glass, and that there’s a sign saying that violence against staff will not be tolerated. People get angry for a reason, and the smug, indolent incompetence of the place would make the Dalai Lama see red.

I accept that postal deregulation has been done in a way that disadvantages Royal Mail, hamstringed by its universal service obligations. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t buck their ideas up. Otherwise, they’ll drive away their remaining customers.

In the meantime, the smart retailers won’t be hurt by postal disruptions: they have already realised that not using Royal Mail is a selling point.