Documentary series about life in contemporary Britain. The story of how City Link tried to survive in the high-stakes world of overnight deliveries, before entering administration.
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Ooh, very nice. Like Christmas Day.
Nobody actually knew that this was coming,
apart from the ones in charge of City Link.
I knew the company was losing money. We all knew that, but
we were always told that we were doing better.
And then all of a sudden it's just gone.
Someone turns round and says,
"Well, we're not making money, we're going to close you down."
MUSIC: William Tell Overture by Rossini
In 2014, the number of parcels delivered in the UK
would exceed two billion for the very first time.
Thank you, see you again!
City Link would handle over 60 million of these,
so City Link delivery men like Shabaz Ali
would be run off their feet.
About 140 stops a day, so every time I stop, I deliver.
See you again. Ta-ra.
I'm starting knocking doors about 8 o'clock in the morning
and I work all the way through.
All right, cheers.
-There you go.
Every three or four minutes I'm stopping, delivering...
Do you run the whole route?
I do, yeah. I tend to run cos it's, er, quicker.
While us customers might happily deliberate for weeks
about what to buy online, we're often less patient
when it comes to waiting for things to arrive.
Keeps you fit, running round, though.
It is hard. It is hard some days
when you're sat there with over 200 deliveries on your van
and you're thinking, well...
Then you get caught up in traffic
and you're pulling your hair out cos you're missing time slots.
But erm...you've just got to crack on with it, just don't give up.
Shabaz's commitment to the job
has made him one of the company's top delivery men,
and inspired his brother Naj to follow in his footsteps.
Tell me about the number plate.
I bought it to wind the wife up. But it is literally true,
I am never home.
Sign and print, just on the screen there...
Dinner time, coffee time's like a swear word in this game.
You don't even undo your seat belt!
No, no. It's easier to do it this way, it's a quick way of doing it.
He's always running!
We used to deliver a lot to businesses when I first started,
but now I think the houses have overtaken.
-I deliver more to houses than I do to businesses now.
-Why is that?
Cos online shopping, it's what... It's the new thing, innit?
Buying online, shopping online.
A lot of people would rather sit there and shop online
than go out and buy stuff.
Christmas time, it's easier just to sit down at a computer
and do your Christmas shopping online, not even leave the house!
But it's good for us.
Right. Back to it, yeah?
# Dimples and cherry cheeks
# Cherry cheeks Cherry cheeks
# Those pretty dimples and cherry cheeks
# Sweet enough to eat
# I rode one day to Santa Fe... #
Poppy Sommerville owes her love of online shopping
to her prize puppies.
With her husband regularly away on business,
she can lavish her attention on Chloe, Harvey and Bonnie-Bow.
It is a no expense spared thing with my dogs.
They go more or less everywhere with me. They stay in hotels.
Most of my friends -
and I've got quite a long list of people who have said this to me -
they're going to be reincarnated as my dog.
I'm like, "Join the queue."
Cos there's just so many of them.
That's quite a compliment, isn't it?
I mean, everybody says it to me.
Unimpressed by the canine treats available locally,
Poppy turned to the internet...
and she's never looked back.
If everything could be done online
and I could have everything delivered,
and I didn't have to spend a day ever going shopping outside again,
I would be quite happy.
Because I just feel it's a waste of time, shopping.
So these are the crates which they sleep in at night.
So I order all of these on the internet,
and these are the doggy quilts.
So that's a summer harness, very lightweight,
and it's got the bows and the crystals.
So these are the dog collars. One for every occasion.
Some of the T-shirts are for when it's really hot,
so they don't get sunburnt.
He looks nice in black, Harvey.
I do want to pull up the drawbridge and have peace.
Maybe that's why I like online shopping.
Because when I'm here, why do I want to go into a big town and shop?
I know that if I need to get something,
I probably will be able to get it,
without having to drive to a few towns to try and find it.
-# There's a rainbow
-# You can see the rainbow
-# In the valley
-# Way down in the valley
# Since you... #
When I've got a delivery, a lot of people can't find the house,
so I usually see them on the camera
driving up the road.
And then they'll drive back down the road,
and then they'll drive back up the road. And then they'll ring me.
'So is it on the right or left as I'm going up?'
If you're going up, it's on the right-hand side.
# He must know it's my lucky day... #
What have we got here, Bonnie?
I love getting parcels in the post.
Next day delivery is really important,
because it doesn't tie up the rest of the week.
These are cooling fans. To keep you nice and cool in your crates.
It's a fan.
And then that'll just act as a cooler.
I always opt for next day, or named day.
At least if it's named, you know when it's going to arrive.
Who wants to hang around for parcels being delivered. We don't, do we?
The demand for deliveries within 24 hours means the courier business
is now more competitive and pressurised than ever before.
A parcel can be sent from Scotland to Wales overnight.
It's er...it's crazy how they do it, but it happens every day.
Before it reaches the hands of the delivery men,
a parcel will travel from source to a central hub near Coventry,
where it's redirected to its final destination.
I wouldn't like to work there, in the hub.
Cos I bet it is absolutely manic there.
MUSIC: Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss
This is the heart of City Link's delivery network,
but with parcel volumes increasing every year
and greater demand for next day delivery,
the business has been struggling to cope, and haemorrhaging money.
When I joined in May of 2012,
for the previous company's financial year,
which is January to December,
they'd just posted a £34 million loss.
Bob Powner is an industry veteran, and has been recruited by City Link
to help get them out of the red and into shape for the future.
My own family don't appreciate what happens. They order online,
and they think that they press the enter key on the keyboard,
and somehow miraculously it gets delivered tomorrow morning.
We don't put any thought really into what happens -
we just all expect that it's going to be there tomorrow.
Trying to manually handle
the 200,000 parcels passing through the hub every day
has been proving a challenge.
So Bob wants to modernise,
and is overseeing the design of a new sorting machine
to help City Link cope with rising demand.
We're just coming up to the new sorter that we're installing.
It's a really exciting time because it's a big investment,
it increases capacity in the hub.
It weighs the freight, it scans the freight,
and it sorts the freight to a particular destination,
therefore reducing the risk of mis-sorts.
About to go bust in 2013,
City Link was taken over by investment company Better Capital.
Their appointed managing director Dave Smith is confident
that Bob is the right man to help turn the company round.
Better's view, shared really by the board of directors,
is that it's a growing marketplace,
and with the right investment in technology, in equipment, in people,
we can move into a very successful future.
And it says to our employees there's a bright future here.
With City Link trying to claw back its place as a contender
in the £6 billion delivery industry,
there's a lot riding on the success of Bob's machine.
This is costing well in excess of £1 million.
So that's quite a heavy investment.
I wouldn't say it was a brave move,
because I have so much confidence that it's going to work.
It's a journey we can achieve.
I mean, already we can start seeing light at the end of the tunnel,
and that light is quite bright.
And part of that light is in the sorter,
and that is a real big signal to everyone who works in City Link
that our owners are taking it seriously,
taking our strategy seriously, believe in us
and know that we'll turn the corner financially.
Between the courier companies and the customers
are the businesses, that must also embrace the future to survive -
even when their brand is a hymn to the past.
What are we going to be putting up on the ceiling here?
We might actually put a chandelier, I'm not sure.
-Possibly the one that we've got next door -
we'll just put it up there and it'll just...bing!
It'll be a central... good eye-catcher.
-I think something sympathetic to the room would be fantastic.
Liz Mouat is Laura Ashley's Head of Buying,
and in charge of making their merchandise
irresistible to online shoppers.
What we aim to do is make our products
look really comfortable and at home in some amazing properties.
The idea is that they should be aspirational as well as inspirational.
-Yeah. It looks lovely there, doesn't it?
Right now, just 20% of the company's sales are made online,
but by harnessing the full potential of the web,
Liz is intent on seeing that figure grow.
What's fantastic about having the internet,
we essentially have, to a certain extent, elastic walls.
We call them elastic shelves, elastic walls.
We can get so much more product on the online website
than we can in stores.
Mel Mel Davies has been making the trip across town
to her local Laura Ashley store for the last 25 years -
but now all that's changed.
Since the internet came along, it makes it much easier for me
to buy things and have the parcels delivered to my house,
which is the bit I now enjoy immensely.
How does your home make you feel?
Safe and cosy, I think would be my two words.
Yeah, I like the idea of that kind of, like, cosy feeling
when I get home from work at the end of the day.
If I could have my ultimate dream,
I think it'd be a thatched cottage in a country village.
I grew up here in Moss Side -
busy, diverse cultural area -
and I don't think my house reflects sort of inside
what goes on outside actually, in this area.
I decided that when I bought the seat pad, I'd buy the bunting...
Nice little Laura Ashley frame here.
This one room is done in Laura Ashley paint. Laura Ashley bed linen there.
Bought this from Laura Ashley, it's an initial of my name.
I bought this clock.
It's meant to look like the inside of a grandfather clock.
It gives you the inspiration to like, make a home,
and I think that's a lost art these days.
Liz wants to reinvigorate the lost art of homemaking,
as well as company profits, with the help of the latest gadgets.
It is amazing how much our customers really do want that ease of shopping,
especially on the iPad which enables you to be a bit more flexible
and you can move around the room.
That as a drape... would look lovely really.
I can visualise that, and I could put something next to it,
like a cushion or something, and see how I was going to work a colour.
Almost like I'm putting a tiny cushion on the sofa,
so you can get an idea.
If I was going to buy this chair and this footstool,
I probably would use it in an area like that in the corner of a room.
-How are you doing, all right?
-Good, thanks. Cheers.
Quite exciting actually.
Even though I know what I've ordered, I'm sort of still eager to see it
because you've got it in the house
and you can see where it's going to go.
Oh, that's good.
Two new seat pads, which will replace the ones I've got down there.
So it's nice, cos it's almost like it's come from a boutique
because you've got the nice tissue paper, and I like that
cos it makes it a bit special.
Mel Mel's dress, along with her other special buys,
have come from the company's warehouse in Wales,
where Helen Green oversees the picking and packing
of 90,000 online purchases every month.
This dress is, erm...
one of the most current dresses -
it's not actually part of the launch that we're in now, it's been a previous launch.
OK, I'm really pleased with this.
It looks pretty.
It certainly makes me feel special wearing a dress like this.
How many of these dresses came in originally, do you reckon?
Probably between 1,000 and 2,000 units, I would think.
Sold quite effectively, and we don't have a lot of these units left now.
This was £50, but it's an investment buy.
I know I'm going to get a lot of use out of that.
This again is a very popular version, another throw.
People pick a lot of bedding. An awful lot of bedding.
Nostalgia is what goes through your head when you think of Laura Ashley.
I do have a love of the '40s,
a feeling of times gone by. The simple life that people used to live.
You know, potentially growing your own vegetables,
and a sense of community that we've lost these days in a lot of places.
I think the technology is part of the life we're living now,
and I know some people would say, are we going to lose the whole thing
of the high street, are we going to lose that as a community centre?
But I just, you know... It's a difficult one.
I'm busy, so I don't get to get to the shops in the same way
that I used to. It's sort of like, a necessary evil, if you like.
Oh, shopping's changed immensely.
Most people are going internet now, aren't they?
Their lives are too busy and they're basically going the internet route.
I think the general town little shop areas is...
is going to be a thing of the past, unfortunately.
-Do you think?
-I think so, yeah. Yeah.
It's been 20 years since a CD became the first item bought online.
And back then, our web purchases tended to be small and inexpensive.
But as our love of internet shopping continues to grow,
so too does the size and value of the packages being sent.
We'll do your baby seats, mattresses...
So we do do the larger freight,
which some of our competitors don't really want
and would never entertain putting on their automation systems.
Bob's new sorting machine is due to go live in just a matter of days.
So it's undergoing a series of last-minute tests
to ensure it's fit for purpose.
I hope things don't go wrong,
but if they are going to go wrong then I want to find them now.
Well, everybody's looking at this through, not just the eyes of
it's a piece of machinery and it'll work and that's fine,
but it's much more about the symbolism
of where it's taking the business
and the hope for the business for the future.
Cheers, buddy. Ta, mate.
But unfortunately for Bob,
the machine is malfunctioning.
'Better are... They're like all shareholders, really.
'What they want is a business that's successful,'
and ultimately, do we make a profit
and do we make a return for the shareholders?
The data logic guy doesn't know what the issue is currently? OK.
It's absolutely vital that this piece of equipment works...
..because if it doesn't,
the next time the operation comes in and says we need something -
"You sure that's going to work? You haven't got a great track record."
How's it going?
-Not very well.
-They're trying to work out the issue.
Confident, yes, but with a degree of nervousness attached to it
borne out of 20 years of experience watching some of those things
not work as well as you'd hope.
If it is the compressor, they knew about it yesterday,
it should have been sorted in time for today.
I am ultimately responsible, and it's started to get a bit hairy now
cos the company's reputation and my personal reputation's
hanging on this.
I can see me going a bit greyer in the next couple of days, to be fair.
As more sophisticated systems are developed,
it's become possible to deliver
even the most delicate and fragile of goods to our front doors.
It's one of the things that we quite enjoy, that
if it's someone coming for the first time
there's nothing at the front that gives a clue,
and they walk through what looks like a fairly normal terraced house
and they come out the back and - "Oh! Wow."
Gaz Jones has created an exotic jungle
in the back yard of his two-bed semi in Luton,
and most of his precious plants have reached their new home
by overnight delivery.
We like to buy things from specialist nurseries,
because they have the things
that the big garden centres and the big boxed sheds just don't have.
I think online is so crucial to that, because first of all
you wouldn't find out about a lot of these plants very quickly.
Would having this garden be possible without online shopping?
You'd be able to create something similar -
the Victorians loved exotic plants and they didn't have the internet -
but it would have been a slower process.
Do you think the garden is a reflection of your personality?
I'm not sure. Probably.
I work for an accountancy firm
so I guess accountants have a reputation
for being boring, introverted characters,
so I don't know whether this is that kind of garden.
I like to think it's not.
Gaz has been nurturing his tropical paradise for the last nine years,
ably assisted by his equally green-fingered partner.
For a lot of people we know that are growing gardens like this,
the husband or the wife that's the non-gardener reins them back in
and says, "No, we've got to go and see Great Auntie Mabel"
or whatever it might be at the weekend, whereas we go to a garden centre and we both get excited.
Gaz and Mark have been together for ten years,
and for Mark, their garden is a little slice of home.
I'm originally from the Philippines. I'm a nurse.
I like the fact that I take care of patients
and at the same time when I get home, I take care of plants.
So I suppose in that manner it matches with my nature.
I like to care, as cheesy as that may sound.
I saw these ducks. Something not so serious.
It was my idea, I saw them in the shop and thought, "Ooh, I like it."
Knowing me, I don't just stop at one so I bought a couple more,
so I've got three of these rubber duckies now.
How much do you think you've spent on plants online?
Can we plead the Fifth(?)
How long is a string?
There's no need to know, we don't need to know.
And you'd probably look at the number and go, ouch!
Like many couples with busy careers,
almost all of Gaz and Mark's shopping is now done
via their computer, and delivered to their home.
All the roof tiles, garden furniture -
even the double glazing, electronics, appliances.
Our dining chairs.
Even one of our cats we bought via an advert on Gumtree.
-The cat's called Knickers.
But today, it's a selection of exotic shrubs
that have tickled their fancy.
-You happy with this one?
-OK, "add item to my wheelbarrow".
With a tap of the keyboard, Gaz and Mark put in motion a chain of events
that should ensure their precious plants arrive safe and sound
and within 24 hours.
MUSIC: Flight Of The Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov
Deep in the mountains of Snowdonia lies Crug Farm,
where Gaz and Mark's exotic order is just arriving.
You get the feel of what sort of garden people have.
This person looks as if he's got sort of a tropical type of garden.
Can you get me one from the back too please, cos they're flowering...
'We're really out of the way here.
'I think without going into the mail order, we might have closed.'
So this has been our saving grace, I'm sure.
The main secret is not to have them rattling about in the box.
The whole thing is to get the plants to the customer in good condition.
I also like the packaging to look neat...
..rather than scruffy. Like me.
-All right, CJ?
-Yes. How you doing, John?
-How many have you got for us?
-OK, CJ, see you tomorrow.
Next stop for Gaz and Mark's package
is the local depot in Wales,
where it's loaded onto a lorry
ready for the 200km drive to the Coventry hub.
And as most of us are settling down for the evening,
lorry driver Rob is beginning his shift.
This is my home for the night.
I have my satnav, so I don't get lost!
Crisps, chocolate bars. I know I shouldn't.
Music as well - Stereophonics, Meat Loaf.
I've got my Welsh flag, there's a bed,
I've got a little oven.
A pasty or something and warm it up - 20 minutes, boiling hot.
I love driving, I totally love it.
It's the best job I've had.
Rob makes a round trip between Wales and Coventry five nights a week.
With another two hours till he arrives,
the central hub is already reaching its nightly peak.
Why is it so busy?
Every day, we're getting a lot more freight in.
So we've got extra trailers, more freight's coming in.
Do you feel the pressure?
No, it's an everyday thing for me.
-Are you on time?
-Yeah, I'm ahead of my time tonight.
So er...yeah. Everything is good, so far!
An army of 200 work through the night
to ensure the parcels are sorted and sent out to the correct locations.
The lynchpins in the system are the 66 forklift truck drivers,
who must load and unload the lorries at breakneck speed.
'It's organised chaos.
'Turnaround roughly about 180,000,
'200,000 plus parcels in a four-and-a-half-hour window.
'So the pace of the job is quick.'
'It's not a job for the faint-hearted.
'When you've got 66 trucks in a warehouse,
'shooting out of 48 doors,
'it's going to have danger.'
Tony has been a forklift driver for the past 15 years.
And he's one of the most skilled in the business.
The job itself, because I've been doing it so long, is second nature.
It takes... Oh, you can't really explain it.
You're a little bit different.
-It's just a job that not everybody can take to.
And you need that sort of...
..capability to be able to drive a truck to a certain level.
-If you haven't got that level...
-There's no point being out there.
..you wouldn't do it.
-Concentration is a must.
You cannot afford to switch off.
You switch off, and you'll have an accident or...
unfortunately cause some damage.
What do you buy online?
I don't shop online.
Truthfully, I've never had a mobile phone. I don't use PCs.
I don't drive. I haven't got a licence.
I've never been to the bank and I've never had a credit card.
So obviously I live a life which is a simple life.
I'm not into modern technology.
To be honest, I don't really buy online myself.
-I have a few times in the past.
I prefer to go to shop and just buy something then and there.
Do you shop online yourself?
Buying online? HE SIGHS
I suppose it's all right.
I haven't tried it yet, personally.
It's going to take a great force to twist my arm to try it as well!
RADIO: Since You Been Gone by Rainbow
What do you buy online?
The last thing I bought online was my marker lights
on the front of the lorry.
They were the last things I done.
And I got another truck driver to do it
cos he had an eBay account. I haven't got one.
Just before midnight, Rob pulls in at Coventry...
..and the forklift team sets to work unloading his cargo of parcels.
That's our new multi-million pound sorting machine.
Is that making your job easier?
Well, they said it's going to be easier,
but when it's fully up and running.
By 3:00am, Rob's ready for the three-hour journey
back to his depot,
his trailer refilled with parcels destined for homes around Wales.
RADIO: Bat Out of Hell by Meat Loaf
HE SINGS ALONG: # Like a bat out of hell
# I'll be gone when the morning comes
# When the night is over Na-na-na hell
# I'll be gone, gone, gone...
# Like a bat out of hell
# I'll be gone when the morning comes... #
If I get four hours' sleep, I know it doesn't sound a lot,
but four hours' sleep seems to work for me.
A lot of people say, "Oh, I couldn't do your job."
I say, "What, drive a truck or work nights?"
And nine times out of ten, the answer is work nights.
I think you get used to being on your own.
I've been doing it for eight years
and I don't regret...working nights.
Because I love the job I'm doing.
I love driving,
and driving a truck is just the icing on the cake.
Are nights bad for relationships?
..I'd probably say yes to that.
I'd probably say yes to that.
-Can we pull in by here?
Yeah, that's a sore subject with me at the moment, that is.
Well, I'm divorced now. So...
Yeah, that one's a bit of a sore...
..sore subject, that one is.
Gaz and Mark's plants have arrived at a depot outside London
after a 400km journey through Wales and England.
Do you know what that is?
If you see someone making that effort
it should be something that's very exotic,
probably something maybe a bit expensive.
Yeah, probably some very expensive plants.
And hopefully it won't get crushed by any heavy boxes.
-Should be all right.
It should be all right.
Not I hope, it should be all right. Cos that's my job, to get it...
You have to be careful. Even if...
If I was sending a parcel, I don't want it to be damaged.
So I always try and take care of all the parcels with the utmost care.
Elton Chirata has a whole day of deliveries ahead of him
before he's due to hand over the precious plants.
I've been very excited.
Something nice to look forward to after a stressful day at work,
to have nice goodies, nice plants to add to the garden.
Gaz and Mark's estimated delivery time is between 4:00 and 6:00pm.
But Elton is battling to stay on schedule.
I'm about 20 minutes behind on my ETA,
but I'm still within the window so I'm still good.
'A little bit of hesitation and anticipation.
'Excitement of what they're actually going to look like.'
Ooh, very nice. Like Christmas Day!
-Enjoy your plants.
-Thank you so much.
All right, bye-bye.
Welcome home, guys.
Welcome home, guys!
You know, I've been doing it for years
but the excitement is still exactly the same each time, you know?
Every shipment is, ooh, very exciting.
I can't wait to open it.
But I'll take pictures first because this is something to relish.
What I'll do is I'll just relish the box,
pay homage to it, take a few pictures
and I'll send them to Gaz before I open it.
I should have enough.
There you go.
This should make Gaz's phone buzz.
Box from Crug Farm has arrived.
-Hiya. Did you see the photo?
Yeah, I did see the photo.
Have you ever given any thought to how these parcels get to you?
Not in any great detail, really.
You kind of just sort of imagine it...
probably a smaller operation than it really is.
You think there's a guy with a van
who picks it up and brings it to your door.
-I bet it's not!
-But clearly there are depots and all sorts in the way.
You only care really when something goes wrong.
I think you expect it to work and to arrive when it is supposed to arrive
and that's kind of down to them,
to work out how to schedule all of that.
As the customer, you just want it to turn up without any damages
at the point in time when it's supposed to arrive,
-with minimal fuss, really.
Hannah speaking, how may I help you?
Can I take your consignment number, please?
It's James calling from the escalations team...
My name's Jamie, I'm calling from the escalation team in Hatfield.
'When you order something online,
'it's not a single person making that... You know, packaging it
'and delivering it to your doorstep.
'It has to go through weighing, it has to go through packaging,
'it has to go from A to B.
'And it's not often that things go wrong,
'but unfortunately things DO go wrong.'
City Link, Hannah speaking, how may I help you?
Hannah is part of a customer service team
that takes around 2,000 calls a day.
Though not all complaints, if a delivery HAS gone astray,
they're certain to hear about it.
It is easier to be horrible to someone over the phone
than it is face to face.
But what I say to my agents
is it's harder to be horrible to someone that's nice on the phone
so smile whilst you're talking.
Listen to what they're saying, and often when they're shouting
they'll say it, and if you allow them to say it
they'll run out of energy and then they're willing to listen.
How far can people go?
People have wished cancer upon myself and other agents.
They've wished death on family members.
We've had bomb threats.
We get it all.
He called me a monkey and then called me an ape
and that I should go back to my zoo.
And I found that quite offensive.
You get some people that are abusive towards women.
We've had homophobic abuse. We've had racial abuse.
At the end of the day, it is a parcel that we're delivering
but some people take it too far.
'This is the end of a catalogue of cockups.'
'Well, I'm glad it is being recorded, actually!'
There's no-one that you can speak to in the call centre
who is higher than myself.
What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
Er...they wished that my unborn child dies.
-Were you shocked?
At the time, yes.
I look back now and I just think that's ridiculous.
But, yeah, for someone to be that vile
about just a delivery that they'd ordered, then yeah,
that was extreme.
I used to take it personally and now I think it's part of my job.
I'm not going to ever bump into them, they don't know who I am, so...
I don't think they mean it directly at me
but I am the voice of City Link
so I just have to take it and get on with it.
When customer patience runs thin,
it's not just the voice of the company that bears the brunt of it
but also the face.
Thankfully for the delivery men,
there is an incentive.
We get paid per stop,
so every time I stop we get a payment for it.
So if I've got, like, 140 stops a day,
you can make serious money out of it.
Well, you're talking footballers' wages, basically!
I wouldn't say Premiership,
obviously they're in a different league!
Yeah, yesterday I delivered to number 11, which is next door,
and number 15, which is there,
and today I've got number 12.
The more you deliver, the more you get paid.
So probably tomorrow I might have 14 and 16!
If you can do 200 deliveries, like I do in Christmas,
you're going to... You're on serious money, you know what I mean?
They see us delivery drivers like, obviously,
thinking it's a minimum wage sort of thing
but it's not.
It's nice to have something nice to get into at the end of the day.
It's a perk, isn't it?!
Why did you decide to buy yourself this?
Well, I had the opportunity to get one.
I'd been looking for a while.
And I've always had nice cars,
and this came up and I had to have it.
So I went and bought it!
But, yeah, best thing I've bought.
Are some people quite surprised
when you say you're a delivery driver?
Yeah, but it's the old saying, isn't it?
You never judge a book by its cover.
You know, they see me in the van driving around, delivering,
you know, grubby clothing and all, from working.
And then all of a sudden they'll see me drive up in this
and they're very shocked, like, "How could you do that?"
It's hard work, like. I've done it for 20 years.
I managed to save and get one of these
and I'm happy with it.
For some of us, the rise of online shopping has opened the door
to worlds that we may otherwise have never ventured into.
For the last 20 years,
Roberson Wine has operated
from a shop on one of London's most exclusive streets,
selling wine worth up to £3,500 a bottle.
My office is a reflection of my life.
I bought that at an art fair but it's great.
The expression is fantastic on his face.
And he's doing pretty well at cards, as you can see.
I like this one, too. I like the nail varnish.
And this is a head I bought that some people don't like.
The trouble is that the teeth and the eyes look pretty real.
This is my mouthpiece if I...if I need people!
And here it is, "His master's voice."
Ooh! Bang bang.
Cliff Roberson has done well on the profits from the shop.
But business has really boomed since his company expanded online.
I'm just looking at your desk.
Where's the technology on your desk?
Uh - you caught me out!
Erm...I don't have any.
I'm very low-tech.
I am an old-fashioned guy in that sense.
How can you function without e-mail and a computer on your desk?
Well, I have Jacquie.
So Jacquie does all of my e-mails in and out,
all of that particular side of my business.
-Do you ever touch a computer at all?
-So iPads, all that kind of thing?
I have to confess, I've never even sent a text.
Here we are, where all our stock is held.
This is all fine Bordeaux, here.
Gruner Veltliner from Austria.
Corison from California.
Minuty from the South of France.
Wines from Chile.
We're holding here about 10,000 to 12,000 cases,
in this warehouse.
How much do you reckon it's all worth?
I really don't know. I would guess...
Historically it was a fairly upper-class business,
supplying wines to fairly maybe upper-class customers.
This has changed now.
It's so broad that everybody drinks wine, from...
It's...you know, the common tipple, to a certain extent.
In the last eight years,
online wine sales have grown nearly 500%.
And in Essex,
Tony and Simone Holland are recent converts.
Some of the finer wines actually are not as expensive as you think.
Don't get me wrong, some of them cost quite a lot.
But some of the real nice ones... they're not that expensive.
DOORBELL PLAYS THE FOUR SEASONS
-Hello, mate, are you all right?
-Is it your wine?
-Packaged quite well.
It is good, cos they put them in them sleeves, don't they,
the bubble wrap sleeves.
Nice. They do package them good, don't they?
-Go on. Do you want me to move this?
-It's like a lilo, isn't it?
-Shall I get this one out as well?
No, shall we leave that one for the minute and do this?
Oh, it is a different one, so we haven't tried that yet.
Yeah, we've not tried this one but it is a Shiraz.
We've come to realise that we like Shiraz,
but we didn't know that at first, did we?
It was only after we'd got a few and thought, "Oh, that's nice."
And then you looked up, didn't you,
and had a look at the ones you had bought.
It's only dawned on me as we started reading the labels
it was all Shiraz, so we've got no...
-But you didn't used to like wine.
You never used to like wine, you used to drink beer.
I mean, it's only, literally, since our wedding
that you've got into wines.
I mean, you don't really like whites or roses, do you?
You are more red.
Tony and Simone both work in the finance industry,
and have been married for three years.
We got married at the Ritz, up in London.
And we had a sommelier pick wines
that would accompany our dish and canapes.
And we went along, didn't we, had a try,
picked what one we wanted and that's how you got into wines.
Because Tony, as we say, was always a beer drinker if we went out.
After that he was like, "Cor, that was amazing," and the sommelier guy
explained it all, where it came from.
And then I don't know what happened, but even on the day
people say, "Were you nervous on your wedding...?" I wasn't.
I knew I was getting married, that was it.
I remember sitting there drinking red wine, and we had a few glasses that day,
but I had the clearest head in the world. And I was like, "Wow! Can that happen?"
I thought, "I've got to get this wine," and I looked through a couple of websites
and I remember thinking, "That's hard work, it'd be easier to go in me car and drive somewhere,"
and then I went onto the Roberson one and found this wine.
I saw the postcode and it was SW, I thought, they've got their shops in Kensington High Street,
"That's quite posh." And I thought, "Oh, I'm buying wine from there and perhaps I shouldn't be,"
and I thought, "Hold on, it's quite reasonable." So I'd never have known.
Do you think we're getting to a more cultured, French style of drinking?
No, I don't think that.
I don't think we're like the French, no!
Maybe years ago you had to go to a nice restaurant to
get a nice bottle of wine, I don't know. Maybe. But you don't now, do you? We're proving that today.
I think it's more elegant having a glass of wine, you know?
Yeah, you wouldn't get ten rugby players standing round drinking wine, would you?
-So you're right, perhaps it's more...
-I think it's classier, yeah.
Yeah. It doesn't matter where you're from, you can
-have a bit of class, can't you?
In Coventry, it's a very special day.
Deano. Got a knife?
Give us a knife.
The multi-million pound sorting machine is glitch-free and about to
be launched, fuelling the company's hopes for a return to profit and a
MUSIC: Fruhlingsstimmen by Strauss
Puts a smile on everyone's face.
It should see us through
the future, and if it works we'll get another one in and get more freight
and bigger customers in.
That looks great, yeah, absolutely. That looks fantastic.
As the mastermind of the entire project,
the last few weeks have been stressful ones for Bob.
So we are ten days behind where we wanted to be, but that has allowed us
to do some further testing.
So we're pretty tested out, to be honest with you.
There's a small group of us
that have been working a horrendous amount of hours over the last two or three weeks.
So you can see our freight ready to go onto the sorter this morning.
The sun's shining, the balloons are up - it's looking good.
With the machine about to go live,
Bob's invited the whole company to witness the fruits of his labour.
You all right? Five minutes, yeah?
Top man. Mikey...!
Two minutes, two minutes down here.
Get the team over.
We need 'em over here.
Get all the team over, two minutes.
I don't want them to miss this, yeah?
Top man, thank you.
Bob's boss has the honour of officially launching the machine.
Today is a tremendous day for the business.
A year on from when we started to develop the idea
that Bob came to me with,
and after six months of testing and trialling,
we've finally come to the big day where
City Link can be proud to say
that it now has sortation equipment
in its main hub.
So, without further ado,
I'd just like to say thank you, everyone, enjoy the new piece of kit and good luck with it!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
I feel shattered.
Bob, I just wanted to say congratulations,
this is an amazing day for the business and for you personally,
-a triumph, a real triumph.
It's a proud day for me.
Are you having a pint tonight or something?
I'll have a rest, to be quite honest with you.
There is a sense of relief that the lights have come on
and it's started to sort parcels.
I'm not going to have a pint to celebrate tonight.
I might have eight hours' sleep.
Stood in front of all of the night shift, and I said, I need
to be here one day looking in the whites of your eyes and say,
"Bloody hell, it's been tough and on occasions it's not been pleasant,
"but look where we are now."
Good evening, Happy Christmas,
and welcome to BBC News.
In the past hour we've been hearing the parcel delivery company
City Link, which employs more than 2,500 people,
has gone into administration.
I ask myself all the time, you know, how could a company,
a multi-million pound company, just close in a day?
They got the Christmas deliveries out of the way, thank you
very much, that's the end of your job, and 14 years,
which I've put in there,
I thought, "Thank you very much, it's the best Christmas present I've ever had(!)"
Especially to find out off the news on Christmas Day that I was being
made redundant, and I just find that very, very hard.
So people who invest in business obviously want
to see a return on their investment.
Our owners were obviously not convinced
that that was either going to happen, or happening quick enough,
and clearly that would have been the reason that they decided
not to invest any further money into the business.
We were expecting a bumper payday, cos Christmas is the time of year
when you go out and earn the money, you go out and
slog your guts out and earn the money.
But I'm owed almost £6,000. I mean, it's just a hammer blow.
We spoke to the administrators, they wouldn't come down
to tell the City Link staff, right.
We had a word,
and he said you'd be lucky to see a penny in every pound.
And that was his words - "lucky to see a penny in every pound."
I was angry, I was emotional. I was no different than anyone else
who heard the news on Christmas Day.
There's dust on the sorter, there's no parcels left any more.
It's a warehouse with a big piece of red kit in there, and some empty cages.
The parcel industry is competitive,
and gets more competitive as each week passes by.
Everyone needs to be on top of their game, on top of their strategy,
think about the future demands of the customers, and how they can react to that quickly.
There's enough parcels out there to support the parcel industry -
let's just hope there's not another City Link around the corner.
In 2014, courier company City Link went into administration. Filmed in the summer of that year, this tells the story of how the company tried to survive in the high-stakes world of overnight deliveries.