ROYAL Mail bosses have paid out more than £20million in compensation to customers who have had their post damaged or stolen.
It also emerged nearly 600 posties were caught stealing since January 2010 and some customers are still waiting for their Christmas cards.
Over the last three years nearly 3.75 million complaints have been lodged against the national courier service.
Royal Mail claimed one of the reasons for the increase in thefts or damaged goods was that staff were being targeted by criminals while doing their rounds.
But campaigners said postal workers have to “get their act together” in order to justify increasing postal charges.
The startling figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, show £20,421,848 was paid out between 2009 and 2012.
Compensation was paid out for mail that was either lost, misdirected or damaged.
Other handouts were given for stolen goods such as Christmas cards containing money and valuable parcels.
Post bosses also claimed any worker convicted of was dismissed from Royal Mail.
The statistics also show an increase in claims as £4.4million was paid out in 2009/10 compared with £6m in 2011/12.
Robert Downey from Forum of Private Business said: “Many businesses rely on the Royal Mail to get their wares to customers safely – these figures suggest this is happening less and less.
“This increase in compensation comes despite hefty price hikes by Royal Mail not 12 months ago.
“Royal Mail have to get their act together when it comes to delivering items on time and, preferably, in the same state as when posted.”
Gary Kinghorn, a postman from Musselburgh in East Lothian, escaped jail despite hiding 2,500 letters in his loft and car.
The 46-year-old failed to deliver the mail and blamed it on the stress of dealing with his brother who was charged with murder.
He was discovered after a customer complained he hadn’t received any birthday cards – Kinghorn was handed a 200-hour community payback order last year.
In July last year Christopher Scott admitted stealing Tesco clubcards from people’s mail.
The Aberdeen postie was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
In 2010, Aberfeldy postman William Harvey was also given community service after he was caught stealing money from birthday cards.
A Royal Mail spokesman said: “We take every complaint seriously and continually strive to provide the best possible service.
“If something goes wrong our aim is to promptly deal with the problem and rectify it as soon as possible.
“We remain very vigilant to any risk to the operation, including any threat from criminals outside Royal Mail who target postmen and women to steal mail they are carrying.”
Sian Jones, a spokeswoman for the Communication Workers Union that is responsible for post workers, said: “We do not condone theft and thankfully only a tiny percentage of mail items are affected.”