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A Sydney Morning Herald home delivery customer speaks out

Here is a note I received yesterday from a long term Sydney Morning Herald home delivery customer.

I found your details and wondered whether you could assist, or at least provide comments.  I don’t know how to write a blog on your website.

This was my Facebook rant last night and gives you all the details of this appalling lack of service since the  newsagency informed Mum they could no longer deliver her daily paper …

I am so angry, and before I begin my long rant, (apologies), I would really welcome any like experiences or feedback

Mum has subscribed to the SMH daily for 30 years.  Earlier this year her local newsagent advised that home deliveries had been outsourced.  Since then, Mum has never received a paper to her door (she lives in a Villa complex of 10).  She is 85 and has had a stroke (sorry Mum for the disclosure 😘).  She can’t walk down the driveway which in Winter is icy.  The papers are sometimes wrapped, unwrapped (and wet), shoved on the letterboxes or in bushes, and last week found right across the road.  We have heard all excuses “the truck is too big” (joke) “the driveway too narrow” (joke) … the drivers’ “aren’t insured” (wrong).  They are entering common property, as confirmed by Strata.  Mum is not getting the service she pays for.  We have battled for 8 months to get answers, and a resolution, and today I wrote to The Editor and cc’d one of the numerous people we have spoken to.  No, I have not heard from Lisa Davies the Editor, but I had a call straight away from the Team Leader who said they cannot “control or make” drivers deliver to the door.  What exactly then is “home delivery”?  How is this different from Coles Online or Amazon?  These drivers from National Delivery Service (NDS) are just lazy bastards … and no, you can’t speak to NDS.  I even registered with them pretending I was interested in being a delivery driver!  Yep, no response.

How sad that in her later years she can’t start the day with her paper as has been her routine for years and years.

Mum & I will somehow continue the battle … Just call us “Erin” … Erin Brokovich.  😡

Mark, I would welcome your feedback.

This plea for help is indicative of how broken newspaper home delivery has become. In an effort to drive down costs newspaper publishers pay less and less for what is a premium service, and customers suffer.

Note – I removed identifying details of the customer and the newsagent.

Newspaper distribution

Join the discussion

  1. Peter

    I feel for an 85 yr old not able to access a home delivered newspaper. Particularly at this time of isolation. There are 2 points that need to be made though and they are no fault of the author.

    1/“Mum is not getting the service she pays for” . The service shouldn’t really exist anymore. It has been break even or loss making for most newsagents for a long time. Publishers that take delivery in house will find this out quick enough.

    2/ “What exactly then is “home delivery”? How is this different from Coles Online or Amazon?” Extremely different. There is only a tiny margin on what is a low price point item. Also, online retailers can charge a much higher once off delivery fee. Imagine if I told you in order to deliver one paper to you I was going to charge you $10. You’d cancel your home delivery pretty quickly. But that would be closer to the true cost needed.

    The hard work and sacrifice of many newsagents has masked this problem for a long time. Now that circulation has collapsed, OH & S compliance has increased and wages and vehicle costs are constant there is no future in home delivery of newspapers


    • Margaret Hinchey

      One possible solution: Fairfax pay a decent amount for those who are prepared to do the deliveries.


  2. Peter

    I might add, the only way this situation will ever get better, is if we suddenly notice a rash of complaints from 25 yr olds who are having issues with getting their paper delivered.


  3. home delivery is broken

    to the OP, For 30c a day, the operator is up at 3am wrapping your papers and driving to your property to throw the paper.

    They’re not lazy, they’re underpaid. Try offering $10/day instead for delivery and see service level rise.


  4. Julie R

    I pay for home delivery of SMH. We live near a popular park in the Inner West which has a cafe about 100 metres from our house. My Herald is delivered nowadays in the gutter, next door’s gutter or, if I am lucky, on the pavement. I want it on my property.


  5. paul jack

    i used to deliver the papers in the eastern suburbs right up to when nds took over i would always make sure the paper at least got over the fence but these people throw it anywhere when nds took over they contacted all the newsagents informing them that they would consider hiring the current delivery man or woman but guess what NO i am australian born anglo and this ruled me out straight away and yes try and contact nds it is impossible


  6. Lyn

    We are also very disappointed to have sporadic delivery. When our arrives it is at least on our driveway apron outside the front fence. Originally we thought it was being stolen, but thorough surveillance indicates lack of delivery. So disappointing for those of us that have supported the non digital format. Some valid points made by others highlight the need for greater accountability for NDS & maybe higher payment to drivers.


  7. Mark Fletcher

    Decisions of newspaper publishers over recent years are a how-to for killing newspaper home delivery and over the counter newspaper sales.


  8. John Cleeland

    NDS also applies for the Herald Sun in Melbourne. The level of service is so poor that we have cancelled it. This is not a business arrangement, but it is a central command that is not negotiable with the customers. It is silly to suggest that there is no option between 30c and $10 that would have an acceptable wage and level of service. Have we dumbed down so much that we can’t do better than NDS? How about consulting customers and service deliverers to get a better outcome? This is worse than the Victorian Government who are here to help us.


  9. Alan

    We have recently cancelled our SMH home delivery subscription after more than 20 years of home delivery. Since the switch to a centralised delivery centre, we’ve had nothing but problems. Our previous service from the local newsagent was totally reliable.

    The issue escalated last year with days and sometimes weeks of non delivery, late delivery or being given the wrong paper. Countless calls and emails to Metropublishing were fruitless. Our complaints were escalated to “management” on numerous occasions. Apologies readily given and promises made to contact the delivery centre. It made no difference.

    An offer to extend our subscription date was the default response, but this is meaningless if you’re still not receiving what you paid for.

    We’ve now switched to the digital subscription. Perhaps this was the aim all along?


    • Graeme Day

      Alan, unfortunately for all this is the aim. The reality is it is happenning to a lot of yesterday situtuations.
      Electronic media is taking over however having said this advertising hasn’t followed newsprint gets 75% of its revenue from advertising They do not have any other choice than to follow this pathway. We all suffer and have to adjust or die.
      The truth is we are a victim of circumstances with a master and pupli relationship -Principal and Agent contract in legal terms with as seperation clause ot mutual terms of for quitting.
      Newsagents have and continue to adjust with offering more community services within its retail environment.
      IT’S CALLED PROGRESS…I truly wonder of the benefits this word today provides.


      • Les

        Spot on comments, everybody.
        For me the Sydney Morning Herald “Morning” is a misnomer. Delivery at 11:30am is only 30 minutes short of the afternoon. No longer can I go out on the weekend and take it with me – now I know why I see so few people at the beach reading it.
        Keep up the good work NDS, you’ll wipe out print news altogether!


  10. Llieda Wild

    I also am experiencing frustrating and exasperating problems with my SMH delivery. I live in a house, not a unit and I am in my early eighties with various mobility problems. I have asked so many times for my paper to be delivered on my property nearer the house but it is always left out in the street where I can’t get to it. So many complaints, so many phone calls when the paper is a no show and so many false promises from SMH. They really don’t care. Maybe a complaint to the Elderly Discrimination Board might stir things up, but probably not. Surely there must be someone in authority at SMH to look into these complaints and rectify the problem, because SMH your reputation has gone down the gutter, along with my paper.


  11. Llieda Wild

    Also, why offer a Home Delivery service that doesn’t exist? I would call that false advertising!


  12. Marlene Davies

    I am that “MUM” now nearing 87 and still have the same issue of non-delivery of a SMH Monday to Saturday. After 5 days without a newspaper late last year, I cancelled the direct debit and Fairfax cancelled my subscription of 45 years without my authority. I let it slide for a few weeks and renewed my subscription on 24 January, 2022 and to date, 14 February received ONE, yes ONE SMH last Friday 11 February. The numerous emails and phone calls just does not fix the problem. The drivers are lazy, not delivering to a short street, not driving up common property, have written off 4 vehicles and still they are employed. Fairfax is in breach of the contract I entered into and, through sheer frustration and fury, I intend to put my complaint out in the public domain. Time is running out.


  13. John McKay

    I too have had a continuous run of non-delivery of The Australian. Just as an example, since 1 December 2021, 10 weeks ago, I have had 10 non-deliveries – a rate of one per week. And the record of non-delivery goes back well before December 2021. All have been registered with The Australian who in turn have texted back a confirmation number. Separate complaints to the News Corp “Customer Support Group” email address have only seen a confirmation that the complaint has been received but absolute silence since then, in spite of stated commitments to come back within 48 hours after looking into the issue. So all just promises from News Corp/The Australian and no corrective action initiated. I have tried also to contact the actual newspaper distributor for my suburb, National Distribution Pty Ltd, but to no avail. Local newsagents who lost the distribution rights a couple of years ago also report unacceptable unreliability of NDS’s physical newspaper deliveries even to those newsagents. It’s extraordinary that News Corp/The Australian would put up with such a damaging impact on their brand and reputation caused by an external 3rd party providor over whom they appear to have no control. One thing is evident – if Rupert Murdoch was in charge he wouldn’t put up with this unacceptable newspaper delivery performance for a second. Heads would have rolled both at News Corp/The Australian and at NDS Pty Ltd and the business relationship with the latter terminated.


  14. aji patwardhan

    Delivery issues since July 2021 thrown on street which is 320 ft from the T junction of homes. Previously no problems with the newsagent, The usual excuses esclate issue etc to no avail. After 40 years of SMH delivery . Driveway is common and wide.


  15. Mark Fletcher

    If only Nine Media was interested in customer service.


  16. Diana Meeth

    Sporadic delivery of weekend papers especially on Sunday. Wide driveway but when it’s raining the paper is always in the gutter.


  17. WC

    I had a real battle when it started. It was a mixed service, sometimes on the property, like the local newsagent ALWAYS did, but mostly way off along the footpath, in the gutter, and even on the roadway. Now it has settled to excellent weekday service, always on property by a particular driver, and utter trash – really just littering the street – at weekends by a recalcitrant and perniciously uncaring driver. He consistently misses all three properties in the street due to his often over-the-limit speed and utterly inept attempts to launch the paper during this antic.

    I have sent over 200 emails to the Fairfax complaints team, and apart from general sympathy, and no doubt some real intercession with the company “responsible”, no progress has been made regarding that driver. This weekend was yet another “delivery” debacle by him.


  18. Jane Stevenson

    I have my SMH delivered, supposedly to my home. The service is very unreliable – I think at least 1 paper a month fails to arrive. What is particularly annoying is that the least reliable is the Saturday paper, which costs nearly $5 to replace. The SMH extend my sub by 1 day to compensate for a missed delivery, but this does not allow for the extra cost of the Sat. paper. I won’t go into the difficulty of actually FINDING the paper, which can across the street, under a car, next door, once on the garage roof.


  19. Locals Corner

    Dreadful SMH delivery service. One paper a week at least does not arrive (out of the 4 days I pay annually in advance for). No amount of follow-ups seems to fix. Terrible damage to the SMH brand.


  20. Graeme Day

    The Distribution of newspapers in the Sydney Metro area is managed by News Corp with NINE fitting fitting in by tagging along.
    This is because News Corp overall have the greatest numbers. They have the greater say over the Distributor.
    One suggestion may be an answer is to get hold of the Distribution section that delivers your paper and speak with them directly. It shortens the chain of command and they would know if they are responsible or not and let the end consumer know.
    It is a shocking service, far from the days where the newsagent cancelling delivery for a single day, stop /start the next day etc.to this.
    It’s almost as if the Publishers wants to shut down the print edition except for casual sales where the numbers are the greatest.
    A recent survey I founfd the comparison price this year to last year te number were down Sales were down in figures and nett Profit up Y.O.Y. for newspapers sold in newsagencies.


  21. Peter

    Nine and News have given up on home delivery and they are just using our shops to catch what they can in retail. They have managed their demise selfishly and poorly.


  22. Allen

    We too have had a very poor service. Our blue mountains deliveries became erratic after the local newsagency decided that it was uneconomic to accept the paltry offer from Fairfax. After extensions to our renewal date became irregular we started to record the days when the paper actually arrived.. In 126 days the paper was not delived 83 times and we have only been credited with an extension for 30 of these missed deliveries.
    We could be excused if we took them to court for breach of contract.


  23. Graeme Day

    Hi Allen,
    Same problem all over. I have it here in the Central Coast however I do have the electronic version (sames news yet updated) in ipad -computer and iphone.
    I prefer the print edition and until recently it was delievered by the local newsagent and I didn’t want to cancel his part of te income out.
    Since he handed his delivery back I am reconsidering the TOTAL purchase as I find there are many updates daily from many different sources.
    The newspaper companies really didn’t get the real meaning of the last mile and the service newsagents gave for the last mile pittance.


  24. Penelope Scott

    I live in hornsby and have not had a paper delivery for 4 weeks .Herald response making it an urgent matter with delivery agent .I email every week days to get a reply so furious would find it had to be polite if I rang .Any ideas please .


  25. Kenneth Evers


    Again this morning( 12/02/2023 )no delivery

    Phoned 136666 and said such, from customer service
    ‘ We will send an email to confirm your complaint ”
    No email
    I can not log in ( incorrect password ) The website will NOT allow me to change my password

    My subscription number has been changed ( to conceal the poor quality of SMH non-delivery)

    Deplorable acitions by a so called independent newaspaper !!


  26. Simon Macks

    I have had this battle with SMH for years. I email to cancel but keep getting half price subscriptions just to keep me going. I should bite the bullet and just leave instead of putting myself through this over and over again.

    Our gutters don’t drain. They stay full for a day or so. So the deliverer threw it into a full gutter of water this morning. I’m now wondering if this was on purpose because of my regular complaining?

    Fairfax assure me they will email the deliverer and I explain that this doesn’t work. But they keep saying this time will be different.

    The only solution is to force them to redeliver. Then they’ll make sure they get it right first time.


  27. Harry Volting

    After several years of phone calls and emails I am now finally getting a pretty consistent delivery of the SMH, nearly always onto my property. Previously it was delivered onto a public footpath or road, meaning I was paying for public domain delivery, not home delivery. Early morning walkers or passers buy had easy access to a free newspaper fully funded by me.

    My problem is only partly solved however. I am now on a mission to have the paper either wrapped in 100% waterproof material or, if the existing plastic is continued to be used, tightly rolled before delivery secured by an elastic band. Rain penetrates the plastic and the flat delivery of the paper renders it sodden wet and unreadable.

    The old newsagent used a wrapping machine to tightly wrap the paper, rolled in plastic film. Very rarely penetrated by rain so no problem there.

    Surely this can be fixed.


  28. Mark Fletcher

    The challenge, Harry, is that newspaper publishers think they know more about newspaper home delivery than newsagents. Good luck with getting them to resolve your problem.


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