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When you access the ebuyer.com website the banner across the top of the screen reads "the UKs largest independent online retailer of computers, components, electronics". I can't comment on how true or not that statement is but I can comment on my experience with them recently.
THE LAYOUT OF THE SITE
As a site that sells IT related items the site itself is very basic. It's not what one would call a professional looking or flashy site - but it serves its purpose well enough. "Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap" I think is the expression that springs to mind…
The home page (current as at January 2007) has a large red banner advertising the January sale, which when you click, takes you to a page where you can access sale items in notebooks and PC's, TVs & Displays, Camera/Camcorder, Software, Printers, amongst other items. Some examples of sale prices include: a camera tripod for £4.99 instead of £7, Ebuyer Extra Value 2Gb SD card for £12.92 instead of £16.21, a Viking 2Gb flash drive for £15 instead of £20.88, a Vistron Plasma & LCD Screen Cleaning Kit for £1.99 instead of £4.98, a PHILIPS 32PF9967D Cineos 32" HD Ready LCD TV With Freeview & Swivel Stand for £899.98 instead of £1,292.49, a Mustek PVRH 140 Portable 7 in 1 multimedia center 3.6 screen 40gb HHD for £149.99 instead of £199.99 and many more bargains (all prices quoted include VAT).
Going back to the home page, down the centre of the page we have what seems to be their most popular and bargain items, such as a Kingston 1Gb SD card for £7.04, Acer Aspire 5051AWXMi AMD Turion MK36 2.0GHz 512MB 60GB DVD SuperMulti 5in1 Card Reader 14.1" TFT CrystalBrite Windows XP Media Center Edition - Free upgrade to Vista Premium (bargain laptop) for £398.86, Garmin Streetpilot C320 Portable Sat Nav System + European Mapping for £124.98, Epson Stylus Dx4000 (printer) for under £50, and so on. I've had a quick look around and these prices really do seem to be bargain prices and with the offer of free delivery on all orders over £99 (incl. VAT) this seems to be a very reasonably priced site. Or not… More about that later.
Down the left side of the home page we have the option to browse by categories which are headed as follows:
Most of the above categories are further broken down into sub-categories to make it easier to find specific products.
At the top of the screen you have the Ebuyer logo at the top left and two tabs to choose from - "home" and "see all product categories" which are self-explanatory. At the top right you have the option of choosing from forums, view cart, your account, help and contact us.
To post anything in the forums you need to be registered first, which is quite simple to do. If you were buying from the site you would have to register anyway, I can't imagine many people wanting to post to the forums unless they've already used the site anyway. Some of the forum headings are: The Buzz (chat on all things hardware related), Graphics Cards (discuss latest and upcoming graphics cards), Memory (compatability and performance discussions), Open Source (raise views on latest open source software), PC Games (post views on latest games), Gadgets (stuff about cool gadgets), etc. The forums seem to be all related to technical discussions but you can also introduce yourself in one of the forums and make suggestions or choose the forum to talk about anything and everything (The Blah Bar). The forum seems popular with some threads in their 100s and posts in the 1000's. Seems like it's a useful forum for techy people and people wanting to get advice on various aspects of computing.
View Cart takes you to your virtual shopping basket to view any items you may have placed in there, delete items, change quantities, etc. On the home page to the right, there's actually a 1 square inch or so box which tells you how many items are in your cart, the shipping costs and total (excluding VAT) - you can actually switch off the option to have this box displayed.
At the moment they seem to be heavily advertising Windows Vista, saying it's available for pre-order on 27th Jan and can be delivered by 30th Jan.
The "Your Account" tab takes you into a screen where you can view your orders, catalog (a list of your favourite items), my profile, my business profile, my security details and returns amongst other things.
The Help option takes you to a screen with FAQs and a few options of clicking links to other pages. Not really very useful to me as none of the FAQs answered my queries.
The "Contact Us" tells you how to telephone ebuyer from Monday to Friday 09:00 to 19:00 (not Bank Holidays), in writing by post or by sending them an enote (an online request). Here on this page they also tell you how long it took the longest caller to be connected yesterday and the average waiting time to be connected and that they respond to enotes within 24-48 hours.
I placed my order on a Monday morning and it was easy enough to do this and set up an account with my chosen username and email address and password. I was charged £4.49 for delivery for the goods to be delivered by Friday of the same week. The total order value came to just under £50. This was for a 4 day delivery and if I wanted Saturday delivery I could choose another option which was to pay an extra £20. Easy enough, put in my credit card number and felt safe in the knowledge that the site displayed the "Verified by Visa" sign.
I would also add here that when you first open an account with them (as with many other companies), they can only deliver your goods to the address on your credit card. Apparently from your 2nd order onwards they can deliver to your work address or somewhere else of your choice. Really not much good to people who can't afford to take days off work to wait for a delivery which might never turn up!
(You can skip the next two paragraphs if you don't want to read about Citylink - the courier service ebuyer uses.)
BLUNDER WITH THE DELIVERY
Interestingly enough when I tracked my order online, which in theory, is a really cool feature of the site, it said the goods were loaded onto the van at 05:57, delivery point (my home) was closed at 09:00 and returned to the branch by 18:07 the same day, I find this most amusing (or should I say annoying) as I left for work at 08:50 that morning and the card was already on my mat saying delivery had been attempted. There was no time of delivery attempt written on the card, nor was my name on the card - so only because I was expecting delivery that morning did I assume the card was left for me. The consignment number was barely legible and whichever way I punched the number in when I called the 0870 number about re-arranging delivery the consignment number was not recognised. Now you might be wondering why I'm going into so much detail about Citylink - they are the couriers that ebuyer uses and the website says "If you are not at home delivery will be attempted to a neighbour." Two points here, my neighbours were in and no one tried to leave anything with them and the main point of this huge irritation of mine is the fact that I was actually at home. I knew delivery could come any time from 08:00 onwards so I made sure I was within earshot of the front door, as I said no time was written on the card about attempted delivery BUT the tracking status on the website says delivery was attempted at 09:00 which is a total fabrication as I left home at 08:50 to go to work and there was no Citylink vehicle in sight of my house and believe, I had a good look around in case I could catch the driver who obviously didn't even bother ringing or knocking!
When I called Citylink when I arrived at work 15 minutes later the automated 0870 number (oh I SO hate these automated services) advised me to key in the consignment number. I tried about 4 times and even tried typing in a 2 when the number was clearly supposed to be a 7 (they really should insist their staff write more legibly on these cards). I was getting very frustrated that the code wasn't taking and the message just kept repeating to key in the consignment number - I just randomly hit the # and * key and only then was I given an alternative number to call which was for my local branch of Citylink. Basically after holding for more than 10 minutes with a message literally every 5 seconds telling me I was still on hold, I gave up and looked up the number on the internet - I found a different number to the one given by the 0870 automated service and after holding for 3 minutes I got through only to be told quite rudely that Saturday deliveries were not possible, I could pick up the parcel myself from them if I wanted to but they couldn't do anything else. I thanked the grumpy woman for her help and hung up.
COMPLAINING TO EBUYER
Straight away I went to the ebuyer site for contact details to email them. This proved impossible apart from filling in a query enote from the "contact us" area. I advised what had happened (after reading on the site that if I didn't rearrange delivery within 5 days the goods would be sent back to ebuyer and I'd get a refund). I couldn't be bothered to waste too much more time on this so I kept my email brief and advised that they needed to keep their goods and provide me with a refund as no sensible option had been suggested - I was not going to spend 2 or 3 hours collecting my goods from a Citylink branch when I had already paid for delivery. One of the items was an SD card and this could have easily been put through my letterbox (my delivery card said there were 2 parcels and I had only ordered 2 items). I advised them that I could not possibly take time off work to sit at home and wait for an order to be delivered by a company that didn't even knock at the door and just leave a delivery card when I was actually there at home at the time.
A few hours later I got an email from ebuyer which really annoyed me, it seemed they didn't even read my email as it just said "Your order will now be held at the local City Link depot for you to make contact between the hours of 09:00 - 20:00 GMT. Please can you contact City Link to arrange delivery at your earliest convenience or to collect the order. Goods will be held for 5 working days before being returned to ourselves for a refund, in which case they will have to be ordered again". Oh why did I even bother emailing them?
I'm now just waiting for the 5 days to be up and the refund to be applied. Oh and I'm not ordering from them again EVER!
My gripe with ebuyer is not just based on my order; a colleague of mine recently ordered a UPS (costing over £300), the delivery was completely messed up and took 5 working days instead of the 1 working day that he'd paid for. There was a complete mix-up with the item being delivered late and then to a different building and then when tracked he was advised that it had been delivered days ago but they couldn't say where. It was eventually tracked down to the security office (which has nothing to do with our offices but for another company down the road) who were waiting for it to be collected as it wasn't clear from the packaging which company it was supposed to be for!
Overall I have to split my rating of ebuyer. For ease of using the site and placing orders I'd give them 7 out of 10 (they lose points because the site is so bland looking and it's impossible to find a direct email address to contact customer services from the site). For the actually delivery of orders and after sales customer service they score a measly 1 out of 10. To average out my rating I'm giving ebuyer a 3.5 out of 10.
I think I said earlier that the items were really cheaply priced - well at those prices and with the headache they gave me with the delivery, they weren't worth it.
One thing I've learnt from this experience is something I should have already known - do more research about companies you order from, I've read some pretty bad reviews about ebuyer since my debacle with them and various friends and colleagues have told me even worse tales of botched up deliveries. Well, as they say, you live and learn!
I've now reordered my SD card (which was the main reason of my order) from another site. I feel another review coming on…
Just to let any interested parties know - I received a full refund from ebuyer eventually for the full cost of the goods ordered as well as the delivery charge.
Also they insisted on keeping me on their email spam list for ages, even though I unsubsribed several times over a period of months. When you click the unscubscribe link you have to enter your email address and then click another link in another email to confirm that you've unsubscribed. Have done this several times and eventually just put all emails from ebuyer into my blocked senders list!
Hey fab review - did you have an update for us?> Did you get a full refund including delivery for example? As i know a lot of places only refund the price of the goods and not delivery but for nearly a fiver a time...