12/11/2012 12:40 EST | Updated 02/10/2013 05:12 EST

Despite complaints of late arrivals, high prices, Canada Post says it delivers

OTTAWA - It's supposed to be a time when festive packages are delivered with care and yuletide greeting cards are opened with glee.

But for some Canada Post customers — and the postal employees who have to deal with their complaints — it's not exactly the hap-happiest time of the year.

As the volume of letters and parcels being delivered by the Crown corporation reaches massive levels over the holidays so, too, does the griping.

When Canada Post issued a release on its Facebook page Dec. 3, urging people to check international send-by dates for Christmas packages, there were dozens of not-so-kind responses from people bitterly upset about lost parcels, late deliveries and high postage costs.

"Purchased an item through Best Buy. Got your tracking number. The package was bought on Nov 28, delivered on Nov 30. I have not received anything. Where did the package go?" wrote Hamad Naqi of Toronto.

Similar messages can be found on other social media websites.

Faster technology has made it easier to locate packages, but has also raised people's expectations of how quickly their goods should arrive, said Canada Post spokeswoman Anick Losier.

"Our No. 1 call to the customer service is 'Where's my parcel?,' the day before it's due," she said.

"We're now in a world where we're ordering online and the next thing we do is go track our parcel to see where it's at."

"We call it the 'Generation-I-Want-It-Now.'"

Some people even post their parcel tracking information online when they complain publicly about the service they receive.

Adam Rose did just that, detailing how a package he sent Nov. 20 from Calgary never arrived at its destination in St. John's, N.L., by Dec. 3 when the item was marked "out for delivery."

Within 20 minutes, Rose, who alleged that the package was stolen, received an online response from a Canada Post customer service representative.

"We'll respond to you via DM (direct mail) shortly. Kind regards, Joelle."

Canada Post says it has an on-time delivery rate of 96 to 98 per cent, depending on the time of year and the way an item is being delivered.

It's a massive feat, considering the agency delivers about one billion pieces of mail, including parcels, letters and advertising mail over the holiday period — fully one quarter of Canada Post's annual retail volume.

This year's delivery rates are tracking better than normal, said Losier.

"Our own performance is actually better than it has been in the last few years," she said.

"We are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Many people are seeing us deliver on the weekend and are a bit surprised by that."

At the same time, calls to the corporation's "complaints, compliments and suggestions" line were down by 25 per cent as of the last week of November, compared with a year earlier, she said.

The agency also gets complaints about the cost in Canada of delivering mail and other packages, compared with costs in other countries.

"I want to sell many items on eBay such as books and records, but the Canada Post costs more than the item sells for," Peter Sanderson of Cornwall, Ont., wrote to The Canadian Press.

"In the U.S., they can sell a book for $8.00 with mailing included."

Sanderson said he ventured across the border last week to mail a large package to New York at a cost of US$16. The same package delivered from Cornwall to Quebec City, he said, would have cost almost twice a much by Express Post.

Canada Post's online price calculator shows that a 5-kilogram package, measuring 24 cm x 24 cm x 5 cm, would cost $47.35 to go from Ottawa to New York City, with delivery expected in 3-to-4 business days.

The cheaper Expedited Parcel cost would be $27.65, delivered in 4 days.

The same-sized package delivered by the United States Postal Service would cost a flat rate of US$39.95 with delivery expected in two days. It would cost US$15.45 for priority mail, delivered in 2-to-3 days.

Losier says it simply costs more in Canada because of the country's wide geography and much smaller population.

"Canada's a big country with low population density, as opposed to smaller countries with a lot more population," she said.

"It definitely makes a difference."