What Does Item Retention Mean for Your Royal Mail Delivery?

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Have you ever received a message from Royal Mail saying your item has been retained? This likely left you wondering – what does item retention mean and what should you do next? Read on for a detailed explanation of Royal Mail item retention, why it happens, and how to get your package delivered.

What Exactly is Item Retention with Royal Mail?

Item retention simply means Royal Mail is holding on to an item rather than delivering it on the usual day. There are a few key reasons retention may occur:

  • The delivery address is incorrect or incomplete.
  • No one is available to sign for the item on delivery.
  • There are access issues preventing delivery, like a locked gate.
  • The item requires a customs charge to be paid before release.
  • The recipient has requested for the item to be held at a delivery office for collection.

Essentially item retention puts a temporary hold on delivery while issues blocking the standard delivery process are resolved.

Why Would Royal Mail Retain My Item?

There are a number of common reasons Royal Mail may retain a package or letter instead of completing delivery.

Incorrect Address Details

One of the most frequent reasons for Royal Mail retention is incorrect or incomplete delivery information. If the address is wrong or lacking key details like a recipient name, mail carriers cannot successfully deliver. Retention allows time to clarify or correct the address.

No One Available to Accept Delivery

Some Royal Mail services like Special Delivery require a signature upon delivery. If no one is available to sign for the item, retention gives the recipient time to arrange redelivery or collection.

Access Issues Block Delivery

Sometimes obstacles like closed gates or “beware of the dog” signs prevent mail carriers from accessing the delivery point. Retention holds the item safely while access issues are resolved.

Customs Charges Due

International items may be retained until any required customs fees are paid by the recipient. This allows time to contact the recipient and arrange payment.

Recipient Requested Hold

Recipients can also proactively request Royal Mail hold an incoming item at a local delivery office for convenient collection. This puts the delivery on hold until the recipient picks it up.

How Will I Know if My Item is Being Retained?

Royal Mail will contact you to explain your item is being retained and why. Here are some of the common notifications:

  • You receive an “Sorry we missed you” card through your letterbox indicating your item is awaiting collection from a nearby delivery office. This often notes the retention reason e.g. “No access to delivery address”.
  • You get an email or text notification from Royal Mail advising your item has been retained and often specifying the next steps e.g. to call and arrange redelivery.
  • The tracking status for your item updates to a message like “Retention – Item being held, addressee being contacted”.
  • You receive a phone call from Royal Mail explaining why your item is being retained and your options to still get delivery.

If you’ve received one of these notifications, your item is likely awaiting your action before delivery can proceed.

How Long Can Royal Mail Retain an Item Before Returning it?

Royal Mail will typically retain an undelivered item for around 15 days. The exact timeframe depends on the service:

  • For Special Delivery items, retention is normally for 7 days.
  • First Class, Second Class and Signed For items are usually held for 15 days.
  • Parcelforce deliveries may be retained for up to 21 days.

If the delivery issue has not been resolved within these retention periods, Royal Mail will return the item to the sender. So it’s important to promptly follow-up on any notifications that your mail has been retained.

What Should I Do if My Item is Being Retained?

Don’t panic if you get notice an item is being retained – there are straightforward next steps to get your package or letter back on track for delivery:

  • Correct any address issues: If retention is due to an incorrect address, reply to Royal Mail immediately with the accurate recipient and delivery details. This allows them to complete delivery.
  • Call to arrange redelivery: For retention due to lack of signature or access issues, call Royal Mail as soon as possible to book a convenient redelivery date.
  • Pay any customs fees: If international post is being held for customs charges, promptly arrange payment via the method advised in your notification.
  • Collect it yourself: Rather than redelivery, you can opt to collect a retained item from your local delivery office. Just contact Royal Mail to confirm the collection location and opening times.
  • Contact the sender: For any other retention enquiries, get in touch with the sender to confirm whether they have any additional insight.

Acting quickly and decisively will get your item moving again. Leaving retention notifications unresolved can result in delayed or missed delivery.

What Delivery Office Will My Retained Item be Held At?

When Royal Mail retains an item, it gets held at the delivery office responsible for your address. To find your local delivery office:

  • Check the “retention office” details provided in any notification from Royal Mail.
  • Use the Royal Mail “Find your Local Delivery Office” tool and enter your postcode.
  • Refer to the return address given on any “Sorry we missed you” card left by your postman.
  • Call the Royal Mail customer service team who can advise your closest office.

Having the correct retention office address ensures you can efficiently collect retained items if needed.

How Do I Collect an Item that Has Been Retained?

If redelivery is not suitable, collecting the item directly from the holding delivery office is straightforward:

  • Wait at least 48 hours from receipt of the retention notice before attempting collection – this allows time for the item to reach the office.
  • Take along the retention notice or “Something for You” card as proof of collection authorisation. A photo or email copy is acceptable.
  • Be prepared to show valid photo ID to accept and sign for the item.
  • Royal Mail does not charge a fee to collect a retained item, however any outstanding customs charges must be paid before release for international items.
  • Check the delivery office opening times in advance as many close earlier on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

Collecting in person is a reliable way to get retained items without waiting longer for redelivery.

Why Might a Parcel be Marked as Retained After Delivery?

Sometimes Royal Mail tracking may show an odd “Retained in delivery office” update even after you’ve received the item. There are a couple reasons this can occur:

  • The parcel was initially retained and tracking was not updated after the later successful delivery.
  • A mail carrier scanning error incorrectly flagged the item as retained in the tracking system.

Unless Royal Mail contacts you to say otherwise, if you’ve received the parcel there’s no need to take any action. The retention notice is likely just a tracking glitch.

What if I Think Royal Mail has Lost a Retained Item?

It’s very rare for retained mail to go missing within Royal Mail’s process. But if concerned:

  • Contact Royal Mail and formally report the apparently lost item. Provide tracking details and any retention notices.
  • Request confirmation in writing if Royal Mail believes the item has been misplaced and cannot be recovered.
  • For missing Special Delivery items, or those with merchandise value, you may be able to make a compensation claim with evidence of loss.

Reporting missing retained mail kicks off Royal Mail’s internal tracking and recovery procedures. But in most cases, items flagged as retained turn up a few days later after investigation.

Top 5 Tips for Dealing with Royal Mail Retentions

To recap, these key tips will help you get retained items delivered swiftly:

  • Respond quickly to any retention notifications from Royal Mail.
  • Double check address details if incorrect delivery information is cited as the retention reason.
  • Book retention office collections for high value/fragile items instead of risking further delivery attempts.
  • Know your local delivery office location in advance to easily collect retained items.
  • Act within 7 days for Special Delivery retention to avoid automatic return to sender.

With the right information and swift action on your part, item retention only needs to delay your Royal Mail delivery by a matter of days at most.

Item retention ultimately exists to help get your post to you safely once any initial delivery obstacles are cleared. So don’t see it as a nuisance – just a temporary pause before great customer service gets your package where it needs to go.

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