Update: Due to the threat of legal action, I've updated this post (and all linking posts) and removed all references to the company involved and replaced them with the name of a completely fictitious company - "FooBar Pty Inc". I've also changed the products involved so the "field of business" of the original company can't be identified either. Any comments that reference the original company have also been removed.

Update: 6 Jan 2010: I've disabled comments as it's becoming quite clear a lot of people are dissatisfied by the service offered by this company. If you have any issues, I encourage you to contact your local Trading Standards Office, Citizens Advice Bureau, BBC WatchDog and/or the Office of Fair Trading. I'm sure they'll all be more than delighted to offer some assistance in resolving your issue.

Update: 11 Oct 2013: The company that offered me my poor customer service and then threatened legal action because I was honest and didn't provide a glowing review has gone bust and their websites are now dead. You can now search Google for the company to see everyone else's experiences.

I'm a big fan on internet shopping. It's quick, easy, and best of all saves me money, especially if I can get cashback for my purchases. Over the years I've bought a lot of things over the internet including MP3s, CDs, DVDs, books, kitchen goodies, flowers, a TV and home entertainment system - I even ordered by car over the internet, so I can say I've done a fair whack of shopping online. In that time I've dealt with the full spectrum of retailers from the one-man proprietor all the way up to behemoths like Amazon, and in all that time I've had at least a reasonable level of service. I'm not saying it's always gone brilliantly, but it's been perfectly acceptable and reasonable without any major issues worth writing about.

Sadly, my most recent purchase from an online shopping company, "FooBar Pty Inc", once known as "BarFoo Pty Inc", both of which are part of "FooBar Pty Inc" group of sites, has managed to establish itself as singularly THE WORST shopping experience I've ever had to date.

As part of saving money, and to give myself a little tinkering hobby that won't break the bank, I've started to make my own "FooBars". I'm still experimenting with the "just add 'Foo', 'Bar', and wait" kits and so far so good. I did my research and have purchased supplies from multiple sources, including from "FooBar Pty Inc" without issue. However this most recent order has been a complete nightmare.

With the intention of having a nice batch of "FooBars" ready for Christmas, I placed my order on 27 September 2009 for:

1 x FooBar Kit
1 x BarFoo Kit
2 x 1kg Foobee
1 x 500gm BeeFoo

At the time of ordering EVERY item was "In Stock" (if it weren't, I wouldn't have been able to purchase it) and payment was taken right there and then.

Normally, it takes about 3 days for these peeps to process the order and send the email confirming dispatch, however not this time. 10 days later - yes 10 - I received an automatic email telling me the "FooBar" kit was out of stock and advised that I could wait or select an alternate product. Huh??!!! It wasn't when I placed my order. I've had to delay putting in orders with "FooBar Pty Inc" before as items I wanted were out of stock and the website wouldn't allow me to order them. Anyway, as the email said they were expecting delivery in 9 day's time (on 16 October), I let it be so they could dispatch the whole unaltered order in one go. Easier for them, and cheaper for me as I wouldn't have to pay postage twice - I also don't want to change my order as the reviews on the BIY and other websites for the other "FooBar" kits aren't as favourable.

Well, the 16th came and went without any notification or delivery. Then on the 26th I got another automatic email telling me the same thing, this time telling me they were expecting a delivery on 31 October. I did however follow the "View Alternatives" link only to find the exact kit I'd ordered was on the list, and IN STOCK. Huh??!! At this stage it's a month since I placed my order. I understand delays do occur and sometimes technical issues can happen, so I put this down to a "technical error" and left things as is - it was only 5 days till they're due the delivery. Or so I thought.

Guess what. Yes, you guessed it - 31 October came and I received ANOTHER automatic email. Once again the "FooBar" kit was out of stock, but now so too was the "BarFoo" kit I'd ordered (so much for order prioritizing). And once again, the "View Alternatives" link for the "FooBar" kit listed the kit I'd ordered and once again it was being displayed as "In Stock". That was the final straw. I wasn't prepared to wait around any more without challenging this, so I responded to the automatic email pointing out the contradicting information, asked for clarification as to which source was accurate, asked how I could order something out of stock, and advised that if the email was correct, they really ought to update their website.

No response. I then followed up again on 4 November, but received the following response to my first email:

Good afternoon Colin Seymour.

Thank you for your email and apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

We should be due a delivery from supplier this week for the out of stock items.
However if you would like us to dispatch out to you the products that we do have ,
please advise us and we will be happy to do this and we can send on the
remaining items as soon as we receive our delivery.

Apologies for the continuing delay of your order

Kind regards

"FooBar Pty Inc"

Ermm, someone clearly hasn't read my email or thought about my order before responding... I can't make "FooBars" if you can't actually send it to me - remember, your email said BOTH "FooBars" kits I'd ordered were out of stock. I replied advising that there was little point sending the rest of my order without the "FooBars" kits, so I may as well wait.

The next day, I then received an email responding to my "chase up" email sent on 4 November:

Dear Colin,

Thank you for your email.

I apologise in the delay in dispatching your order. Unfortunately the "FooBar"
kit you have purchased is currently out of stock. We are due a delivery from
our suppliers on Monday of next week and all outstanding orders will be shipped
the same day.

I also apologise for the incorrect information being shown on our website, this date
how now been amended to Monday.

As a gesture your order has now been upgraded to a next day delivery, you will be
notified of your parcels dispatch by email.

Kind regards

"FooBar Pty Inc"

Right, we're getting somewhere now. A personal thought out response that actually partly responds to my email. Better than the previous scripted response. At this point I was starting to feel better about my order. Based on this information I should have been getting my order on the following Tuesday.

Eh errrrrr!!!! Nothing on Tuesday, nor any emails. I gave it until Wednesday morning before I sent a chase email to find out what's happening with my order. No response!!! Well, almost. At 16:10 that afternoon I received ANOTHER automatic email telling my once again that the "FooBar" kit was out of stock. What!!!! Once again I followed "View Alternatives" and look...

[ Image removed as it reveals the original company and product involved ]

See, it's IN STOCK!!!. I'd had enough now. I responded to this email with a rather terse response...

This is getting ridiculous now.

Once AGAIN I'm receiving automatic notification for parts of my order being out
of stock and then asked to view alternatives which clearly state said product is
IN STOCK (see attached image).  This is now the 4th automatic notification and
5th delivery date I've been given in nearly two months and once again, the
information provided contradicts the public facing information.

I'm starting to get the impression we have a case of the left hand not knowing
what the right hand is doing and I'm the one stuck in the middle who's paid for
a product that looks like it'll never arrive.  No one has taken the time to explain
how I could order a product that was out of stock in the first place, nor how it
can be that I am continually told the product is out of stock whilst you're clearly
taking orders for said product, or even why this product is continually delayed.

As the next expected delivery date to you is tomorrow, I'll wait for the whole
order to be shipped in one go tomorrow (with next day delivery as promised).
BUT, if you don't take delivery of the "FooBar" tomorrow,
I expect the rest of my order to be dispatched tomorrow (with next day delivery
as promised) and the remainder of my order sent as soon as you DO take
delivery, at no additional cost to myself.  I do not wish to select an alternate
"FooBar" product as the reviews (both on your website and from other sources)
are not as favourable and all other products I'm interested in are more
expensive.  If you have no intentions of restocking the "FooBar" kit, please left
me know and refund the cost of this kit.

Once this order has been completed, I will seriously be considering alternate
sources for my future orders as this is singularly the poorest online ordering
experience I've every had.

Kind regards,

At this stage, 11:00 on Friday 13 November I still have NOT received a response to either of my emails sent on Wednesday, nor confirmation my order has been dispatched and I'm guessing the next time I hear anything will be when I get ANOTHER automatic email, probably later today or maybe sometime early next week.

As you can image, I'm not in the least bit impressed. This is just appalling customer service. No one has responded to my recent emails. No one has answered by questions (they're weren't rhetorical). No one has taken ownership of this problem. No one has made any attempt to think for themselves and actually send me the items they do have in stock with a promise to send the rest, when they become available, at no cost to me.

My job is customer service, so I know all about good and bad customer service, and about good and bad customers. I have been far from the demanding PITA customer people hate, but this is getting a bit much now.

I'll keep you all updated on how I get on. I'm not going to do this just yet - I like to give people a chance to rectify their mistakes before throwing in the towel.

Update 1 - Update 2 - Update 3 - Update 4