Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Hot UK Deals tip damages Viking Direct

The £399 Medion 13.1 MD96698 Notebook - Viking Direct cleared at £229

Christmas Day set a new record for online shopping and I have to admit I was among those buying stuff, or at least attempting to.

Recently I've been browsing There, eagle eyed users post the best of the sales bargains, saving a lot of browsing. On Christmas morning I spotted a user's post for a clearance laptop from online office suppliers Viking Direct.

AT just £229 It looked like a steal for the spec. I wasn't the only one who thought so, the forum was alive with excitement. Users could barely contain themselves as they discovered all manner of ways to add to the deal - buying via cashback site Quidco, creating a new account with Viking Direct and so qualifying for a free Christmas hamper, or even adding a free watch. There was much debate about whether to create a business or personal account - and which users would be most likely to secure this clearance special.

I was caught up in this buying frenzy, but it was was 16.37 before I got around to finally completing my order. By that time I received an email saying my request was on 'back order'. I guessed that this was while Viking Direct reconciled their stock with the large number of orders they had undoubtedly received and that perhaps I'd be lucky, perhaps not. By this stage the HotUKdeals forum was jumping with anticipation about how Viking Direct would deal with the clamour.

Viking Direct was understandably shut so I had to wait until Monday 29th December to phone their customer service centre. My call was answered after 2 rings and a helpful operator explained the laptops had all been sold; 'someone posted the deal on some kind of forum', so she would cancel my back order as no more would be available. Oh well some you win, some you lose.

Unfortunately for Viking Direct their special offer didn't quite go according to plan and over the last few days their company's reputation has taken quite a hammering on Some of the bargain hunters who were advised their order had been successful and whose accounts were debited were then advised the laptop was sold out. Others received their free gifts, but not the laptop they were so anxious for. Yet more had cashback credited to their Quidco accounts but unfulfilled orders.

A huge mess for Viking Direct and a lot of unhappy customers - many who were buying from them for the first time. I would have been cross if they had taken my cash, but they didn't, nor did I apply for any of the free offers.

But what happened next is surprising, and has taken aback many of the users at The General Manager of Viking Direct, Richard Carvell has personally intervened on the forum to apologise to customers and explain what went wrong with the deal. He has also sent series of personal emails to all customers, including me.

Apparently Viking Direct posted the clearance on their site a few days before Christmas. They had 200 in stock. When the rush began these quickly sold out. Unfortunately for Viking they use a computerised system which fulfilled the personal orders over the business customers and carried on debiting accounts when the stock had all been dispatched. Normally this glitch would have been prevented, but the company had only a skeleton staff during the holidays.

Viking Direct's Richard Carvell has provided a full explanation, apologised on the forum and by email, ensured that all customers who've had money taken, but received no laptop receive a refund plus £20. They've set up a special hotline and telephoned customers to explain what is happening. He's even promised to see if he can source an alternative deal to satisfy disappointed buyers. Amazingly these Herculean efforts don't seem enough to satisfy some posters who threaten the small claims court and other nonsense.

I've never shopped with Viking Direct before, but I'm convinced they're doing their utmost to learn from their genuine mistake and will be doing their best to ensure it doesn't happen again.

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