A Tale of Two Companies

English: The mdonalds logo from the late 90s
English: The mdonalds logo from the late 90s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s shitty customer “service” (Amazon, DFS and so many others already chronicled on these pages), there’s passable customer service and then there’s excellent customer service. Here are examples of the latter two which I’ve experienced in the last couple of weeks.

First up – McDonald’s. I not going to knock the food – on the whole we use them more than we should because they’re convenient and everyone in the house likes at least something on the menu. However, the other week we drove up purely to get McFlurrys as a take-away dessert. Gillian went up and had to send the first lot back as they were obviously dribbly enough to pour through a fine sieve. The second batch looked passable, but by the time they got back to the house (5 minutes drive, no more) they were akin to a glass of milk with chocolate brownie floating in it.

I emailed McDonalds, and about 5 days later got a stock reply offering a voucher which is fine – money back for a retailer where we’d normally go anyway is as much as I’d expect.

A week later the voucher arrives, for “a meal worth up to £5”. The McFlurrys had set us back over £10.

So from a potential customer saver to a mild slap in the face. As I said, passable customer service. Something was done, though it just didn’t seem like they cared much.

English: innocent logo
English: innocent logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next in the list – innocent, the drink/smoothie maker.

Gillian picked up a couple of large bottles of their juices and I opened one up late at night only to see little black flecks floating on the surface of the juice. I happened to look inside the lid and discovered a small but noticeable amount of mould dangling down – white and black, possibly some yellow/orange, but that could have been staining from the fruit. Either way, not what you want in your fruit juice.

Emailed innocent and had a reply back within a few hours. They described their packing and shipping process, how the juice should be transported and stored and asked for information on when/where we bought it, and for photos of the mould so that they could try to identify it and work out where in the chain it could have appeared.

Within two days we received a bunch of vouchers – enough for eight bottles – in a hand-decorated (pretty coloured flowers in pencils), hand-addressed envelope with a personal note from the customer care person I’d been emailing.

That ranks as excellent customer service. Swift, polite, informative and above and beyond in making up for something that may well not even have been their fault.

Me Vs Amazon update (Small Claims Court)

Bunch of twunts

The court, no surprise, found in my favour on May 2nd. Amazon didn’t submit a defence. In fact, from what I can gather by the fact I’ve received an “Extract for Payment”, they’ve not responded to the court over the judgement either. I’m not sure what happens next, whether Amazon get in touch and send me a cheque or if I have to chase them. I’ve emailed the court to find out.

In the meantime, I posted the following to Amazon’s UK facebook page. Feel free to like/comment until they inevitably remove it. [and this one, as the “posts from others” seem to be hidden while this one isn’t – hell, post your own messages!] I wonder if they’ll block me the way Arnold Clark did as well when I posted that they were pirates and thieves?

Yay! My Small Claims case against you finally came through after you refused to acknowledge your responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act to have my rather expensive tablet repaired. No surprise there as everyone under the sun other than your “customer lack-of-service” department knew you were liable.

Love how you sent me a “we won’t admit liability, but will give you the cash if you sign something saying you won’t tell anyone why we sent you money” letter during the case. That’s pathetic.

It seems you’ve not replied to the court at any point during these proceedings, either to put up a defence or to respond to the award being issued in my favour. Please don’t tell me I’m going to have to get bailiffs sent in…

Much love from an ex-customer.

UPDATE: A few people have asked for the address I sent the court papers to. This was 2014, but in case they’re still valid:

Patriot Court
1-9 The Grove
Berkshire SL1 1QP

Glasgow Sheriff Court case SA1024/14 – Mr Iain Purdie v Amazon.co.uk

Amazon (Photo credit: topgold)

Feel free to check this one out on what I assume will be public record once it’s over. Amazon are trying to keep me quiet on this one with a bribe… erm, “out of court settlement”, one condition of which is not telling people why they gave me the money I requested.

Sorry, I’m not going to shut up. Amazon have acted illegally, are currently acting illegally and will continue to do so as long as it’s in their financial best interests to do so. The general public has a right to know that Amazon refuse to recognise their legal responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act and that there are measures which can be taken to have goods repaired or replaced which have broken down outside of warranty.

Briefly, the tl;dr version:

  • You buy something expensive
  • It lasts 18 months – warranty was for 12
  • It’s a decent piece of kit (not a cheap knock-off), from a known manufacturer and you paid a fair bit for it. You – and any other person – would reasonably expect it to last for (say) 3-4 years
  • You can prove that the fault was inherent at the time of purchase and not the results of neglect, accidental damage, etc.
  • The retailer is liable to repair/replace under Sale of Goods Act
  • Amazon will deny this and try to foist you back at the manufacturer in the hope they may effect an out-of-warranty repair
  • It’s not the manufacturer’s responsibility – go to Small Claims Court instead
  • If you need to get a professional repair place to verify that the item did, indeed, have a faulty component then go ahead. You can claim any charge for this back as part of your case
  • Amazon will attempt to buy you off with an out of court settlement, but they will admit no liability while doing so. Accept or not, it’s up to you – but one of the terms is that you can’t tell people about how crap they’ve been.

Full version, including back-story:

In January 2012, I purchased an Asus Transformer Prime as a late xmas present for myself. It was a shade under £500, from a reputable manufacturer and their flagship product at the time. I’m not showing off – I’m justifying the fact that I’d expect it to last longer than a year and a half before packing in.

And pack in it did. In August 2013, it just died. It would boot as far as the opening screen and then sit there going no further. I tried a factory reset, reflashing the BIOS… nothing worked. I then looked online and found that this problem while not endemic wasn’t exactly uncommon. A faulty component on the motherboard caused it, and it was a “back to the manufacturer” job to get it fixed.

I checked and the warranty was the manufacturer standard (and legal UK minimum) of 12 months. I did enquire direct with Asus, but was told that even to have the fault diagnosed by their repair centre would set me back over £50 in courier fees – their repair centre is in Eastern Europe.

So I contacted Amazon, citing their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act; that if an item breaks down through an inherent fault present at the time of purchase, and has failed to last a “reasonable” length of time then the retailer is duty bound to organise a repair. That term “reasonable” is why I drew attention to the cost and brand of the tablet. If a knock-off £70 tablet I picked up on eBay that had been shipped from China broke down after 18 months, I’d chalk it up to experience. However, by buying a name brand I expected far better – and that’s reasonable.

However, and no small surprise, Amazon told me that as it was out of warranty it was of no concern to them and that I should try contacting the manufacturer who may choose to do an out of warranty repair out of the goodness of their own heart. I replied to this stating that they were having a laugh, re-directed them to the SoGA (which they’d failed to even address directly in their response) and got a reply I’ve had before: “send us the tablet and we’ll give you £75 of vouchers as a good will gesture”. And, of course, they’d probably refurb the tablet and have it on sale for twice that in a matter of weeks.

No, thanks.

Next stop was Trading Standards who told me that they’d had a ton of complaints about Amazon doing this, gave me a reference code, cited the regulations which Amazon were breaching and asked me to keep them updated. They also said I could go through my credit card company using the section 75 regulations by which they share the retailer’s responsibility.

I did start down this line, but gave up once I’d gathered further evidence as – damn it – it’s not MBNA’s fault that Amazon were being dicks. I don’t knw whether they would attempt to recoup the money from Amazon or just chalk it up. Either way, it was Amazon at fault, they’d not gone bust or anything and therefore I should be challenging them.

In fairness to MBNA, each time they came back to me it was to request more information or to say that some evidence I have given them wasn’t acceptable. And each time, it was for a legitimate reason which I could accept. For instance, I initially had a work colleague examine the tablet to locate the fault. However, as he was a friend and not a business, they wouldn’t accept his testimony. I get that, so I went to a shop who charged me £25 to tell me the same thing.

That’s the point where I just thought “screw this” and downloaded the paperwork to lodge a Small Claims case against Amazon. After a brief bit of research online, there seems to be a near 100% success rate taking this route and I know I’m in the right, so I sent the tablet off for repair so that I would be claiming back the correct amount.

This took almost four weeks (by now, we were into January…) and the repair bill was around £250. Add to this the cost of a registered post letter to Amazon with my initial complaint (as recommended by Trading Standards, the £25 diagnosis fee and the cost of lodging the case was £71. This I could also claim back. I also added to my claim interest at the “judicial rate” (set by the court and I have no idea how much it is).

After a bit of back and forth between myself and the court clerks who ensured I had the documentation spot on, it went to Amazon so that they could choose how to respond.

They did so with a letter stating that they’d refund all the money I was claiming for with the exception of the interest. But… they were accepting no liability for the actual reason I was making the claim. By accepting their cash, I would not be allowed to disclose to any third party the details of the settlement.

Basically, they’re like the rich kid in the playground who reckons he can get away with whatever the hell he likes by buying someone off.

Well, you know what? Screw you, Amazon. I’m in the right. You acted illegally. You continue to act illegally. You know you’re acting illegally because it’s cheaper for you to do so than treat people – your customers, the reason you’re rolling in cash – within the bounds of the law.

More people need to be aware of the fact that they have rights to refunds, repairs and exchanges; that they can claim these things direct from you and not the manufacturer; that they can go to Small Claims Court if they need to and know that the law is on their side.

And if I accepted your bribe – because, in my eyes and in my opinion (he stated very clearly – OPINION as permitted under libel legislation) that is what it is – I would not be able to tell people about these rights and option.

So I’m going to let it go to court. I don’t expect Amazon to send a lawyer – it’s too expensive and their bottom line is the only thing of interest to them. I don’t expect them to lodge a defence – they don’t have one. I expect them to be found liable for all the charges and for the reasons I set forward.

And I will then be able to tell you all that this works. That you don’t have to be screwed over by a big company just because it reckons it can ignore the law. More importantly I will be able to do it with a clear conscience because I went the right way about sorting it and ensured that a judgement was made at the end of the process.

Seriously, the Small Claims forms do take a while to fill in but it’s worth it to get the cash back. I’ve done the same with PC World in the past and got the same runaround and response. It’s cheaper for a company to fob you off than respond correctly. For every one person like me, there are a thousand who’ll just shrug and buy a replacement. And I bet a fair percentage of them will buy from the same retailer who just screwed them over.

I learned. I’m not buying any expensive items from Amazon again. Ever. John Lewis will be our first port of call for electronics now as they do a two year warranty as standard.

Thanks for the life lesson, Amazon. I hope a lot more people read this and take back from you what is rightfully theirs.

UPDATE: A few people have asked for the address I sent the court papers to. This was 2014, but in case they’re still valid:

Patriot Court
1-9 The Grove
Berkshire SL1 1QP

Arnold Clark – lying, two-faced ********

Lying ******** AVOID.

NEVER EVER EVER consider buying a car from these dodgy shysters.

To date Arnold Clark have:

  • Failed to return a car stereo in a vehicle I part-ex’d with them despite promising to do so. Sales staff simply stopped returning my calls after I purchased my new car.
  • Taken 3+ months to organise a half-day warranty repair. And then took 3 days to perform said repair. During the palaver, they claimed (to Renault, the only way I was able to organise anything was via the manufacturer!) to have spoken to me on several occasions – they didn’t. Not once. They also “confirmed” an appointment with me which I’d never spoken to them about and which I couldn’t have attended.
  • Mis-sold a car to my wife regarding size and specs, then refused to exchange our previous car back. Sales person lied to their manager about what he’d told us and how we had evaluated the vehicle. Manager believed him over us. We ended up having to get another vehicle elsewhere and ended up approximately £2000 out of pocket.
  • Sold my wife a car with a chipped windscreen (hidden by a sticker at the showroom), with a passenger door that won’t open from the inside, and a dodgy key that won’t start the car.

It’s a 7-seater and we need a vehicle this size. She’s been told that she has to pay for a hire vehicle (or specifically the insurance on one) while they fix their shoddy sale, and I will bet you our house that it will be something the size of a Clio, not the size we require. In other words, it’ll be useless.

The only thing stopping me driving down there and having it out with one of the lying, two-faced ******** is that she’s made me promise I won’t. I am FUMING at the moment and want nothing more than to go down when they’re busy and ensure that they make no sales while I’m on or near the premises.

I gather that Scotland has no trespass laws, so can they actually eject me? They certainly can’t have me moved on from the road outside…

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This is why I left Three

Huawei E160G - Three Logo
Avoid. Avoid. Avoid (Photo credit: William Hook)

Following is the content of a complaint I have just emailed to Three. I may follow it up with a letter to their head office:

I cancelled my account with you on August 15th. I gave you several months notice that I wished to do this after your staff lied to me and tried to blame me for my voicemail being broken for several weeks. I was told at that time to contact yourselves before the 15th of August to cancel my account and get my PAC which I duly did.

When I asked for the PAC I was lied to again and told that it would take 30 days to generate and that I should have given that amount of notice. This is a) wrong and b) illegal practice under British law. A PAC must be given on request either verbally or by text message within 2 hours.

I was contacted (after getting my PAC) by another agent who clarified that my account was fully closed and that I owed nothing. I queried him about the 30 days and that I was not going to pay for a service I was not using and therefore that I would not be expecting any further bills from you. I distinctly recall this conversation and being told that I would “certainly not” be charged in September for anything.

I received one further message from you telling me that I was 71p in credit. I decided not to chase this as, frankly, I didn’t want to deal with your awful call centre staff again. 71p was worth it to get away from Three and onto a decent network.

However, this morning in the post I find a bill from you for £23.77 (minus the 71p) for “Early Termination”. This despite cancelling my account precisely 24 months after signing up for the contract; following the guidelines being issued by your staff; and being told plainly that I would not receive any further charges.

In other words, one of two things has happened:

a) You’re made yet another mistake in handling my account.

b) Your staff lied to me. Again.

As things stand, you can whistle in the wind for the money. I am not paying it. I gave several months notice that I wished to cancel my account, contacted you when I was told to do so by your own staff, and was told (after querying repeatedly just to be certain) that I would not be charged for any time during which I was not using your service, specifically the time after I cancelled my contract.

Kindly send me an adjusted bill confirming that my account is closed and that the balance is zero, as I was told previously.

To clarify, when I started using Three I quite liked them. Good prices, nice web site for checking your statement, signal almost everywhere and so on. Once I started having to deal with their moody, pushy and – is it became apparent – dishonest staff in the call centres, however, it all went to crap.

I would not ever consider recommending them as a network again. And I apologise to the friends who are on them as a result of my earlier recommendations.

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