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Esumables.com Fawlty Towers online?
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Ever wondered what it would be like to stay at Fawlty Towers? To receive abuse, experience inefficiency and be treated as a nuisance because you're a customer? My experience with an online store called esumables.com was like that, and I hope that by reading the article below you will decide to stay well clear of them.

If you shop online, you’ll know that the Internet is one of the easiest and safest places to buy almost anything. It’s so quick, painless and far more secure than many people originally thought. After all, it makes more sense to give credit card details via a secure encryption process than read it out over the phone or send it by post, thus running the risk of your number falling into the wrong hands. And thankfully the majority of online vendors are honest and reasonably efficient. A company like Amazon.com for example is a byword for integrity and good service. As always, though, there are a few who aren’t – and this article is intended to warn you off one of these.

One of the most common consumer products is print cartridges. It doesn’t help that almost every make of printer uses a different type of cartridge, making it impossible for all but the biggest stores to stock them all. The Internet therefore is a useful way of replenishing your supplies, and there are many online stores that sell these items. It’s hard to know which stores are the best, and often it comes down to choosing one from the results of a Google search. One store that may appear in such a search is a company called esumables.com (also esumables.co.uk). This is a small, family-run company based in Scotland, trading as Redstick Ltd. The very fact that it is a small family business means that normally I would be only too happy to support them over large, bland big businesses. Unfortunately, after my experiences with esumables.com I can only say stay away unless you enjoy making endless chase-up calls, being personally insulted, lied to and receiving the wrong goods.

In November 2006 I needed to get some cartridges for my portable printer, a Canon i80. Those familiar with this excellent little printer will know that its only drawback is that its cartridges are small and run out quite quickly, especially when, like me, you print a lot of black and white crossword grids. My local high street store had run out so I looked on the Internet and found esumables.com’s web site. Their site gave the impression of efficiency and quick delivery so I made a bulk order – 4 black cartridges and one colour. This amounted to a total of nearly £90.

When there was no sign of the goods after a week I started to worry a bit. I phoned and was told no problem, the cartridges would be sent the next day. Not true, and several such calls elicited the same answer over the next week or so. By then I did not have all that long before I was due to go to Prague for a long period, so I decided that the best thing to do was to suggest offering an alternative delivery address. I phoned again and was assured that the goods had now been sent, so there was no need to worry. This was on a Monday. I wasn’t very confident as the person I spoke to sounded half asleep and my fears were confirmed when I received an email confirming that the goods had been dispatched the following Thursday evening. We were now well into December with the resulting slower Christmas post and there was no chance I would get the goods before I went to Prague – meaning that they would be taken back to the post office and eventually returned to sender. I wasn’t exactly pleased about being lied to so I phoned again and this was where the real trouble started.

As things stood so far, I could accept that I was perhaps asking a bit much expecting a delivery of relatively uncommon cartridges in less than 3 weeks during the run up to Christmas. Hence I was happy to cancel the order or give an alternative delivery address. However, I do not appreciate being lied to – we’ve all heard the “we’re sending it tomorrow” one but to be told that the goods had been sent when they hadn’t was a blatant lie and totally unacceptable. Which I stated when I phoned to complain, and this resulted in a torrent of abuse and sarcasm from the person I spoke to. I quote:

“How dare you have the audacity to order stuff from us if you're swanning off to the Czech Republic”

“They have been sent and will arrive by post, you know, that red van with Royal Mail written on the side”

“We work late into the night, because customers like you keep phoning to complain”

Roll over Basil Fawlty! I wasn’t prepared to listen to any more so hung up, and arranged with a friend to collect the delivery note if the goods ever did arrive in my absence and pick them up from the sorting office. Just before Christmas I got a message from my friend to say that they had at last arrived and, bless him, he’d sent them on to me. The package duly arrived here in Prague and I opened it to find an invoice for 4 black and 1 colour set of Canon cartridges (exactly what I ordered) accompanied by 2 black and 2 colour cartridges for a Lexmark printer! The Lexmark cartridges are a completely different shape and size so useless to me. Esumables.com had managed, in addition to being dishonest and abusive, to get my order completely wrong.

I would rather give away the cartridges to a friend than have any further dealings with esumables.com and I would strongly recommend that anyone who reads this has no dealings with them either. They are obviously a cowboy outfit who lack the ability or inclination to offer any sort of decent service. It may be a bit curmudgeonly writing such a damning piece just after Christmas, the season of goodwill, but I have written this in the hope that anyone who reads it will decide to take their custom elsewhere. I did look this company up on the Internet to see if my experience was a one-off and there were any words of praise for them – instead all the comments I found described experiences similar to, or even worse than, mine. One was written by someone who had ordered £112 worth of cartridges and never received anything at all.

UPDATE 2015: This company has now disappeared, probably thanks to a torrent of complaints from customers on review sites, as well as several referrals to Trading Standards. Dodgy characters have a habit of reappearing though, so watch out for any similar company that pops up in Perth owned by one Forbes Sime. If you do come across such a company, you would do well to investigate further before purchasing anything from them.