cos if the site made windoze users phone the 0870 number they would make more money.
Blighty's national parcel service has no online facility for Linux fans because its website only supports some Microsoft Windows operating systems and Apple's Mac OS X. Many have complained that Royal Mail's Parcelforce.com site freezes out anyone using a Linux distro. One reader told us: "When you try and ship a parcel [on …
You would expect this of an organisation which is the bastard child of the
British Post Office. It's the same mentality which gave us those wonderful
"Position Closed" panels behind which frosty-eyed women counted
stamps and pushed pieces of paper about, as the lunchtime queues
gradually lengthened to around three city blocks ......
Chris (ex-pat Brit, now, thankfully, living in Ireland)
"The spokesman added that the website supports 90 per cent of operating systems and internet browser users"
Why, in this day and age, would a company deliberately refuse custom from 10% of its entire potential customer base (and a lot of people will just go elsewhere instead of picking up a phone)? Not least because there's absolutely no reason to refuse a Linux Firefox user if Firefox works OK on WIndows and OSX...
Oh well, off to a competitor...
I tried to use their website last month on my XP/ Opera browser combo and discovered that they don't support that. So I tried Parcel2go and not only do they support it fine but they only wanted £8 for my shipping compared to Parcelforce's £25. Nice & quick too, they actually sent it DHL next day rather than than the 2-3 day service quoted.
Why is it that there are still idiot developers (no doubt egged on by idiot managers and marketing droids) who insist on putting browser checks in at all?
How hard is it to have a simple "we've tested this on the following browsers, if you're using anything else we can't guarantee it'll work" message? Unless you're relying on InactiveX, there's no reason for it.
Why do they need to care about the OS anyway? Their application runs in the browser and is quite happy to use Firefox. It's just that some clever idiot decided to check the OS and throw a wobbly when it doesn't see the magic word 'Windoze'. This is just sloppy programming by some Windoze shop.
"The spokesman added that the website supports 90 per cent of operating systems"
Bullshit, I bet we could spend all day listing operating systems.
"and internet browser users."
Granted, but if you cant write a website to work with Firefox/Linux then I suspect your programmers are incompetent; in which case I don't trust your security. Thanks, but no thanks.
It's a web page. What does it matter what OS you are running on? Nonstandard HTML is an argument, of course, but they say that they support Firefox 1.0, so that's probably not the reason.
Specific DOM quirks? No - Firefox support again rules this out.
ActiveX components? Euucch. But, given the general level of clue displayed, this is possible.
On the plus side, I've never had to use them so far, and now I'll just go and use someone else if I can't get in.
I'm afraid this doesn't surprise me. Parcelforce has yet to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. What other courier service would send you a second class letter telling you that your parcel is in the local depot awaiting customs payments. My small business tries to avoid them for this reason. Either you sit on their track and trace facility (which is so brain dead that it can't even remove spaces from the tracking number) or you wait for an extra two days while your urgent package sits in the local depot waiting for you to turn up with your credit card.
Every other courier we use can either take a cheque when they deliver, or can deliver and charge afterwards. I'm afraid they deserve to fail.
So.... arcelforce blows off 10% of potential customers by designing their site for certain operating systems instead of open standards standards.
Doesn't this sort of mistake require a lot of effort to get properly wrong?
arcelforce won't last long if they make a policy of turning away 10% of business
… they diverted the repaired palmtop that was being sent back to me (from New Zealand) through their VAT/duty collection procedures. The device was being returned to me after warranty repair, and was obviously not a new device that should be subject to these taxes. However, it is worth noting that Parcel Force themselves receive a hefty “administration fee” for VAT/duty items, and so obviously there is an incentive for them sending as many items as possible through this procedure.
No way was I going to pay about £50 for a device I already owned. I told them to send it back to New Zealand, as I would be back there a couple of months later, and could pick it up.
Two days after that, I was informed an empty box had arrived back in Auckland…
To be quite honest, I've always found them to be a rip-off anyway.
I tend to use www.interparcel.com for anything larger than a letter, and theyve always been very reasonable. No probs under Linux.
As has been said multiple times above, this is either a case of crap developers, in which case I dont trust putting my card details in, or a specific block against OS's other than those they list, which is idiotic. Its a frigging web page!
How about this?
Why don't you FreeTARDS get yourselves more than 1% of the operating system market and maybe you will get more than 1% of the development monies spent in the system dedicated to supporting you!
Oh wait because you guys want eveything to be free you guys aren't even the high volume big spenders customers worthy of dedicated funding support!
Curiously the Royal Mail website (www.royalmail.co.uk) is totally b0rked for me on Linux + Firefox, yet on Windows + Firefox it is fine. It's almost as if they are specifically breaking Linux support or something. Or maybe I've seen too many X-Files. Or maybe it's just my PC.
This is streamlining their service by focusing their efforts in the important areas. Their drivers also do it by leaving your parcel at the depot, quietly popping a "you were out" card through your door and sprinting back to the van before you can get to the door. The benefits of this are that it's quicker, easier and better for the environment. No-one loses out except the poor fucker who wanted to actually get their parcel delivered.
"Why don't you FreeTARDS get yourselves more than 1% of the operating system market and maybe you will get more than 1% of the development monies spent in the system dedicated to supporting you!"
I believe the point here is that there is no additional effort required to support Linux/other OS. The effort seems to have been exerted to *prevent* use by anything other than a few OS/browser combinations.
Now, does that make any sense to you?
Don't you just love these dusty old companies who never quite manage to modernise. They think delivering a modern service means getting a new name and logo that makes no sense to anyone.
If Thatcher hadn't have broken the unions and put an end to 'old Britain' back in the 80s, I doubt very much if any major UK company would have a website that worked in IE7 let alone Firefox on Linux. And the links would all be broken, the information decades out of date and every link that did work would be a random choice between PDF, DOC, RTF, ZIP or PPT formats. And online shopping would mean browsing a load of 48x48px GIFs before going down to an actual depot and queueing to buy the product.
No wonder they're not making any money and keep having to streamline. I think the Register should have first gone around the websites of their commercial rivals and reported whether people like DHL, UPS and Addison Lee can cope with Linux.
I'm betting it was a borked CSS. I'm betting it was styled on IE 6 which is totally borken when it comes to CSS. I should know I still have to code around it..
since on IE6 width !=width it's width+padding+margins+borders i.e width of 200px not going to come out as 200px unless margins, padding and borders are 0 even then it's suspect.
there is "hacks" for it but they are just UGLY!.
wonder if would pass the W3C tests.
Also it maybe that you have a "default" stylesheet running and that takes over when it can't find stuff...
Two years ago I signed up with Parcelforce, and I've arranged the collection of several hundred parcels from my Linux machine. I simply changed the user agent string to read:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:188.8.131.52) Gecko/20061204 Firefox/184.108.40.206 (actually running on Suse Linux 10.2)
The website worked perfectly after that.
"we pointed out that some customers would be unsatisfied with Parcelforce's advice that they should use the telephone instead."
So is this Linux users or geeks in general that would rather use a website than speak to another human being?
My efforts to persuade people that the IT department are not staffed by socially phobic wierdos and oddballs is dealt another blow.
"Why don't you FreeTARDS get yourselves more than 1% of the operating system market and maybe you will get more than 1% of the development monies spent in the system dedicated to supporting you!"
No idea why you're talking about 1% when Parcelforce themselves already admitted it's 10% they're not accommodating, which is not a percentage any good business would want to systematically exclude.
"Oh wait because you guys want eveything to be free you guys aren't even the high volume big spenders customers worthy of dedicated funding support!"
It doesn't work on iPhones either and, as mentioned above, has issues on Macs at crucial points (despite Macs being part of the 90% that Parcelforce thinks it DOES support). People who can afford these two devices are often known to fit into the "big spenders" category, so Parcelforce could actually benefit financially from a bit more funding in the cross-platform support area.
As is usual for all factless comments from angry trolls, you fail. Hard. Twice.
Yeah, I noticed this a while back, it does seem that they've gone out of their way to actually develop code to prevent Browser/OS combinations from accessing their services.
So I decided to go to the Post Office instead of using their dumb website, only to find that the real reason that we should be avoiding Parcelforce is the extortionate pricing.
Many people here and elsewhere wonder why GNU/Linux users get uptight since we are such a small percentage of the installed base. Some go on to point out that "you have to be really techie" to use it.
Now, if the second sentence has any truth, it's not bound up in the canard about printer drivers or command line, it's about others' failure to use standards. (Laziness, as already described above) The ordinary user gets their cheap netbook from Tesco or Asda and can't use it to send a parcel to their relatives.
They blame the computer, get one of those more expensive (not the really expensive ones...) ones, and so continue the status quo in which everyone ends up paying too much for software.
There are of course, other reasons why I think GNU/Linux based computers are a good idea.
It's wider than Parcelforce, and I could provide a list. Charities are the ones that I find particularly amazing, as you'd think they wouldn't do anything to exclude anyone.
For an illustration of how it should be done, nip over to the Central Office of Information and read their newly published website guidelines. They listened to us, we didn't rant and rave (it's on our website) we just asked for standards.
They agreed. Credit where credit is due. Just got to wait for the rest of the public sector to catch up :)
Proper standards, nothing more, is all that is required. We all know what that means, no cant about giving our customers "choice" in which "standards" to use. Tim Berners-Lee slagged that off in 1996, and I think we can all agree he knows a bit about it.
Open Source Consortium
their loss. As more and more people seem to be using a wider variety of OS's, it seems their customer base will decrease if they refuse online support for them. In this day and age, surely you would want your business to thrive, using any medium possible.
Love the Bill Gates icon next to freeTARD comment...genius!
I have seen this problem in the past but there is a nice add-on for firefox users
that will tell the website what is wants to see. Of cause it will not magicly add missing stuff
but at least you should be able to make the first step.
useragent switcher https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/59
If this works the page is a piece of crap since there is no busines to alienate customers about nothing.
Have a look at http://www.parcelforce.com/portal/pw/content2?catId=5800020&mediaId=10200111
"We are working on making our website more accessible following principles laid down by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)."
Apart from the lunacy of that link pointing back to the page it is on, I suspect that the WAI does not require the restriction to a single browser.
Paris, because she knows only one way to do things.
"Not a programmer of sites I've wondered if there are any great obstacles to overcome in making a site work for all browsers and operating systems? Or is it just plain (calculated) laziness?"
There are no obstacles whatsoever - so long as you're not using ActiveX you can put your onscreen output code together so that it'll work on anything (excluding really old browsers perhaps, IE5 for example). In fact, to actively exclude Linux creates more work than it would be to support it.
If the site already supports Firefox on Windows, then it should work using Firefox on *nix - if it works on Safari, it should work on Konqueror (*nix) and Chrome (Windows) as they're all based on Webkit.
They've actually bothered to get the user agent string and specifically apply rules to exclude certain Browser/OS combinations - presumably based on systems they've not tested the site with. So it's not laziness it's worse, they've deliberately made work for themselves to actively exclude certain systems.
I love the penguin, use it all day at work, but feck me, get over yourselves! The mail website probably doesn't Blackberry either or Amiga web browsers, or Lynx, but I don't here them complaining!
I hate it, IE the world most insecure browser used to access on the world's most secure websites, absolute madness but get a sense of perspective. MS may not be the most popular company right now, but they have a massive share on the PC market and Linux does not, a crying shame Iknow, but never the less, it's true. Make inroads in the places that matter, we will keep trying, but fighting over one website ( mail ) or a video player ( BBC ) is going to make us look like spoilt little crybabies everytime something doesn't go our way.
C'mon guys. This isn't a Parcel Force problem. Surely you know that this is merely the Linux "Shit Filter" at work, actively blocking access to companies known to be utterly crap. This is great software at work! Even Microsoft are trying to clone the technology so expect access for XP and Vista to cease with the next system update as well.
If you really do have the urge to hurl your temporal lobe into a blender and use Parcel Force, then simply go to Applications > Internet > ShiteFilter 2.0 > Preferences and remove it from the list of blocked sites.
In addition to this, Parcelforce REQUIRE my organisation to use this interface to log all our parcels, and it is impossible to link to the site directly from our intranet, requiring our operators to double-type the full dispatch details for all our orders. What's more, they need to run PC emulation on their Macs even to to do that.
We ship a lot of parcels to many countries.
...who last week managed to lose my passport and blamed it on the snow? And then said that I would have to wait 10 days before I could complain... I think I lasted about 10 seconds before I was on the phone to their complaints department and in the end I had to send a real courier to go and collect the passport from one of their sorting offices. Which was closed. Because of the snow. F**ktards!
They can support firefox on windows, but not the exact same browser when running on linux? I'm sure it would work if you modified the user agent... Intentionally discriminating against a browser or os is ridiculous. What's wrong with just making a standards compliant site and not caring what browser people access it with?
And the suggestion to call an 0870 number is quite insulting, those numbers are extremely expensive to call.
I ship a fair number of items out, things like ebay sales, and this ridiculous behaviour will make me choose couriers other than parcelforce for future deliveries.
@Lazy or practical: Making sites work for Firefox/ Safari/ Chrome/ Konqurer/ $standards_compliant_browser is pretty easy. Making it work right for different versions of IE is where the browser specific hacks come in.
I used to be a PowerSeller on eBay (until eBay lost the plot a few years ago - another story) and sent a couple of parcels a week via Parcelforce. I was charged £6.25 for 48 hour shipment up to 30kg and charged my customers on eBay exactly that. Needless to say I did very well shipping all sorts of desktop computers and printers and so-on for £6.25. I also offered £7.50 next day but no one ever paid extra for that - and not once did I get a complaint about delivery.
Also, I spent £100's per week at my local post office and in four years not a single thing was lost (apart from an item sat unclaimed at the sorting office once - not their fault). Everything I sent had the address clearly printed inside a documents enclosed docket.
I liked the ability to use my PC to print out the consignment label (something Royal Mail still charge a premium for oddly) - but I always used to take the parcels to the local depot for drop off because it was more convenient for me than waiting in.
I suspect their website hasn't been updated in a few years - spoofing the useragent cures the problem so hardly a big issue until someone at Parcelforce amends a text file?
As others have said they are (according to their own admission) purposefully turning away 10% of their potential customers. What no one seems to have mentioned so far is that because of the way that the overheads work; it is quite likely that every 1% increase in custom equates to (say) a 1.5% - 2% increase in profit. So essentially they maybe turning away a 20% increase in profit for no good reason (of course assuming that all their custom comes through their website).
It is similar to a few years back when M&S profits fell by 50%, due to a 15% drop in sales (can't remember the exact figures, but I seem to recall it was of that order).
'Thing is, Parcel Force just don't care. I know of two cases where they lost the shipment and still have their tracking site claim "your parcel is in the process of delivery..." two years (!) later.
There is a Quango called Postwatch to which you can winge - they can't actually do anything other than wring their hands on your behalf - but did rather nicely describe the Parcel Force complaints system as "obfuscation on an industrial scale".
If you have an ebay account and paypal account try this:
1.) create second ebay account with address set to whatever destination you need to parcelforce your parcel.
2.) on your main ebay account create a "buy it now" for an item for 1p, with shipping set at £12.
3.) buy this item with the second ebay account.
4.) mark item as paid, pay for postage through paypal.
You can now send using paypal's bulk rates for parcelforce 24 and parcelforce 48 rather than the crap rates you pay as a consumer, plus you will be able to use the paypal / royal mail system to produce the stamp and docs yourself through paypal rather than through parcelfarce.
I'm no fan of paypal / ebay but at least it's crossbrowser. And if that won't make me your BFF I don't know what will ;)
Just out of curiosity, I ran a Netcraft site report on ParcelForce...
Guess what? They're running Sun ONE Web Server on Solaris...
And just as interestingly, their nameserver sits at consignia.com, which has a rather interesting address: "Royal Mail Group Limited, 148 Old Street, London, EC1V 9HQ, Sweden"
...that whole "this site best viewed in..." bullshit. Cripes. Hey, you guys, 1995 just called; they want their lame-assed anal-retentive Webmasters' requests of users back.
(so, look; you guys have a little penguin icon, but no classic "Smiling Mac" boot icon. I'd rather not have to use Steve Jobs with a halo as while I'm an enthusiastic MacOS user, I really don't think the guy's been too goddamn' angelic lately. Either that, or how about Torvalds with a halo/horns?)
Jamie Kitson: "The Nationwide site just loops back to the login page with no error displayed if you try to login on a linux box."
No it doesn't. I've been using it on various Linux boxes for years and it's fine. In fact I've just logged in now to my internet banking on an OpenSuse 10.3 box using Konqueror and default browser ID (which includes "Linux") with no problems at all.
With and without a switching of user agent headers.
In fact I have used it a few times, and it has always worked. There is something else going on.
A lot of linux distros don't use FF, in fact most don't, they use GP or IW, FF can only be used if you are using a compile from source distro, like source mage or your own, or you get it from Mozilla.
Why would anyone voluntarily use ParcelFarce anyway? They're incompetent, corrupt and so in the pocket of the unions, it's scary. The fact that the website excludes a minority who could do with getting some sunlight anyway (my experience with most Linux fanatics) is the least of their problems.
Check these fine examples of Royal Fail and ParcelFarce mistakes:
Not to mention the number of kids who've had money stolen from christmas/birthday cards.
Privatise Royal Mail and open up the market. They'll have to play the game properly then. After all, Paris knows where to stick a nice, large parcel.
Have they actually *improved* their website now? It used to probe for a specific version of the Adobe Acrobat *ActiveX plugin* which is why it also required Windows and Internet Explorer. Yes, those enlightened Foxit users were also turned away. Isn't this still the case? I thought it was because they were using PDF forms which only the Acrobat activex supported.
Yeah, another flamebait article about Linux, and yet again we see the Linux 'fanatics/zealots' posting well argued reasoned commentary about the issue, and windows supporting trolls / shrills posting ad homein flamebait attacks.
Look, you did read the guidance from your masters ( google: Comes v Microsoft 'The slog' ) didn't you? You're rather failing at making Linux users look like kooks when all your posts can be summed up as illiterate teenage trolling. Or is that the only market share that hasn't woken up to how bad Windows and Microsoft really are?
"How about this?"
How about what? The Internet isn't Microsoft's plaything, you know. The reason why we have standards is so that people can have a choice about the stuff they use, and if that stuff behaves itself according to the standards then why should it matter who made it? Nobody should even care.
The whole "90% of customers" stuff is a total charade, not least because it pretends that a lot of work would need to be done to get from 90% to 100% when in fact, if standards have been followed, it should be zero effort. In fact, perpetrators of this "90% of customers" fiction have probably done more work than would be required in order to make their stuff specific to Microsoft technologies in pursuit of "the shiny".
It's like the whole BBC media format debacle. The BBC claim that "90% of viewers" being able watch their online content is doing enough of the job, but what you have is a situation where on top of paying the BBC's tax you then have to pay a private tax to Microsoft or whoever has booked a place at the trough. In this case, Parcelforce obviously think that their customers should be paying taxes to Microsoft, which is either generous or stupid depending on how generous we should be in assessing their performance.
Well, if you like to have a bunch of corporations effectively imposing taxes on everyone and can't see past the inadequacies of the "catering to the most popular brand" strategy, especially when "most popular" is an artifact of questionable business practices, then you're obviously a brandtard who shouldn't be expected to keep up with even the most elementary aspects of the discussion.
Sell them off......now.
All these polls that say large percentages want them to stay nationalised are taken exactly where?
How bloody awful do they have to get before HM the Q strips them of their "Royal"?
Not one single item sent by me during 2008 through their wonderful Recorded Delivery system (at extra charge) was processed correctly.
Still, if Tesco online has problems handling Firefox should we get too excited at the Royal Mail?
It's because they insist on the Acrobat plug in to print the postage labels it doesn't work. If you set your browser to pretend to be Windows it fails as it can't find the plug-in. OSX has the same problem. I had to use them to send a parcel last week ended up phoning them as I couldn't get a machine that would talk to their system.
Why would you want to book a collection with ParcelForce anyway? They're one of the worst companies I have ever used.
Their IT systems, from what I can tell, are complete rubbish. When you are not in, they card you and they can't deal with your enquiry unless you can say whether it is the first or second time they've carded you! So much for the package's reference number for being the primary key in a database table..it's clearly not.
I would dearly love Royal Mail/Parcel Force to go out of business, to be replaced by organisations that are up to the job...becare RM/PF are not.
I think there's little doubt that Parcelforce staff stole the palmtop I referred to before it left the UK. They (falsely) took my refusal of the parcel to be a lack of interest in its contents, and decided that they could help themselves.
The thing that sticks out in my mind is the shock in the voice of the electronics company representative in Auckland when I spoke to him on the phone. To explain; in New Zealand, a courier is what you use when you want a really professional, premier service. Up until that time, it was unimaginable to me that a courier would ever steal anything!
Good thing it was insured by the sender...
Should change the GPL licence - If a company can't be bothered to support Linx/Other/GPL OS's then they should not use Linux/GPL stuff internally.
Willing to bet a lot of the internal/web stuff at ParcelFarce run's on linux/GPL code.
Site written to be browser specific - OK can but live with that.
Site written to exclude specific OS - BAD (muppet for developers).
I have driven HGVs for Parcelforce, and they are the most incompetent firm still in business I know of.
Bowling with an antique wooden rocking horse? Check.
Losing a fully loaded trailer for 3 days (eventually found in the workshop)? Check.
Employing 6 men to do a job, cancelling the job, and 2 YEARS later they're clocking on, going to sleep on full pay, because the union has to approve ALL redeployments?
Managers having fist fights in view of the agency staff? Check.
However, they make a nice home for waifs and strays. ADHD, narcolepsy, morbid obesity, self harmers: all part of the job's rich tapestry.
It's not exactly advice if the advice is "either use IE or you can't use our service"
"We humbly force you to use our preferred browser. For no apparent reason. Even thought IE has the most risks. Thankyou for your co-operation"
Reminds me of all the website terms and conditions. "You do not have to agree to accept our cookie but if you do not you will not be able to access our website" and my favourite, the ID cards and new biometric passports . "You do not have to sign up for the ID/ new passports however if you do not you will not be able to leave the country/_____/_____"
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