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back to article dabs.com says sorry for delivery debacle

dabs.com has apologised to customers for months of delivery delays following the replacement of its back-end purchasing systems. The BT-owned online reseller dragged itself into the 21st century by replacing its DEC Alpha monster - running software reputedly designed by founder and previous owner Dave Atherton - with one running …

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Facepalm

BT Business Direct

They couldn't even send orders to the right address after the system upgrade, which was annoying for the small office with a few desks as they filled with boxes meant for me and for me as they were lawyers very angry at me.

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Stop

Microsoft Dynamix?

Surely you mean Microsoft Dynamics AX or one of the family (NAV, CRM, AX, GP...)? There's no such thing as Microsoft Dynamix.

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Facepalm

There were definitely some issues

I've been a Dabs customer for quite a few years with not a single problem. I ordered something while they were having the issues and it did take a bit longer than normal, but it was sorted out relatively quickly. I gather some aren't so lucky, but I will certainly be remaining a customer. although I'm sure there will be some that won't. I've had worse shopping experiences, with the worst one being with a certain overclockers retaiIer. THAT was a painful experience.

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Silver badge

BT in IT-related tits-uppery?

Say it isn't true!

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"It was a bit of a disaster zone"

Just about sums Dabs up these days. I used to use these guys all the time, but after many years of faithful custom they started messing me about so I went elsewhere.

The final straw was when I returned a faulty item and the posting label I printed off from their RMA system had the wrong postcode on it. So the item went missing (well, it went to their admin building). Dabs swore blind they hadn't received it and refused the refund (over £400). When they eventually found the package 5 weeks later, after I suggested they check the postcode, they had the damn cheek to accuse me of getting the postcode wrong. The postcode was still wrong on their label printer weeks later. They hadn't done anything about it.

It all went downhill after BT bought them. The number of products dropped significantly. Items were often out of stock for weeks on end (basic stuff live hard disks and RAM) and prices went up.

Worst of all was the Customer Service. BT tried switching over to a fully automated system so all you got was auto generated emails for all enquiries. No phone number to call. An utter disgrace. It has improved a bit now, but you know when they have problems when the live chat facility goes offline. You're then down to 3-5 days response time on email.

All in all, you can get everything from Amazon or Play these days at a lower price. Dabs has been overtaken through complacency.

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Thumb Up

I tried and failed to order from them a couple of months back.

Having read the article, I now know (or suspect) why. Having read your comment, I'm now glad that I couldn't place the order.

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I've given up too...

I echo your remarks. They used to be ace a few years ago. Cheap, great choice and speedy delivery.

It's all been going downhill with orders being delayed and sent via HDNL who have been the most incompetent couriers I have ever experienced.

I have given up ordering from Dabs and stick to eBuyer these days :)

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Anonymous Coward

I gave up years ago

Mainly as I ordered some parts to get my computer going again to finish a course (paid for by someone else as a gift.

Sent by HDNL, who I phoned to ask for a delivery estimate, which they refused to give, phoned dabs who told me HDNL had messed up and it wouldn't reach me that day, HDNL claimed dabs stuck it out the door late

HDNL and Dabs spent the morning blaming each other and refusing to tell me where the parts were (we're not sure, we can't tell you HDNL security policy, blah blah blah BS, BS, and more BS)

After a bit of googling, I get the number for a Glasgow depot who quite helpfully do a search and lo and behold its in aberdeen, get the number, call them, get snotty attitude, but told they will make it available. Get there and they are starting to close up, hours before they are meant to.

All this on my birthday so therefore interrupting cider time....not happy!

Useless fapping bankers, and Dabs have not have a single order since, could have if they had agreed not to send stuff to me via HDNL and instead use one of the other carriers they used at that time.

Citylink now as just as bad, same useless call centre model, depot now MILES away and service reduced, where are previously depot within 10 miles, depot number published and driver usually in area around noon...and the ability to phone mid morning and get a rough estimate of delivery time ie "I've spoken to the driver and he thinks he should be there between 1 and 2.30, but should be about 1" 2 minutes tops at most. Heck even Tesco can manage a 2 hour delivery slot and to get an update from the driver (well they did phone drivers when I worked for Dotcom a few years back anyway)

But yeah, HDNL, Dabs and Citylink now suck royally.

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Anonymous Coward

Oddly enough

a few years ago eBuyer had a bad rep for delivery and customer service. They seem to be OK now though.

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The old days

I wonder what Dave Atherton and Bruce Smith are doing now?

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Devil

And do you really want to know?

I would not. Google why. No further comment on that one.

In any case, I am not surprised in the slightest.

As someone who has run service on an Alpha I know what it takes to replace it with Micro and Soft hodgepodge. People seriously underestimate how many transactions per minute could those machines churn out.

I have seen anything between 4 and 10 times underestimates on Alpha replacements :)

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Title

"I'd have expected something better from a business owned by BT."

Er, why?

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Flame

Check their forums

Dabs? Never again. Check their forums, quite a few horror stories, including mine. The "new system" was a complete disaster, customer services completely melted down, and even once things got "better" they were still incapable of reading a simple email and answering the questions in it.

www.dabs.com/forums

That is all.

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Pint

Dave Atherton

In his case anyway, going 'a bit Charlie Sheen' with his half of the enormous wodge they made selling DABS to BT...

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6101696.ece

IIRC I seemed to remember an interview in the local press that he's now off the columbian crazy dust and trying to get back on an even keel. I was a Dabs customer of very old (back when they were Dabs press) because they were very local to me & I could go and pick stuff up from their warehouse but I gave up on them a while back. BT have not been a positive influence on them as a business.

(pint because.. well, I'm sure he had the odd drink as well...)

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utter shambles

I've been stuck in order failure hell with dabs for most of the month - Placed an order on Thursday when all the items were in stock, expecting a monday delivery, as promised. Monday came and went, and no delivery - their site still said "Processing". I ended up cancelling the order and buying from Scan (who got the delivery to me by 10am the next day)

But it doesn't end there - a week later, I got a dispatch email, despite having cancelled the order. I was told that was just how their cancellation system worked, and the order would just go straight back into the return queue.

Then I got billed for the order (almost £300)

I've so far managed to get refunded for half the amount (they seem to want to refund each item individually)

Still waiting on their other half.

I've been told all sorts of random stories by their email support. Their phone support might as well not exist, as it takes hours of being on hold to get through to anyone.

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Sounds like...

... it's time for a chargeback. If you paid with Visa (Debit or Credit) then the Visa Chargeback scheme protects you. Tell the issuing bank that your refund has been delayed unreasonably and they have to refund you and then it's up to Dabs to say why it shoudln't be refunded. If you paid with a Mastercard credit card then you're protected under UK legislation assuming you paid more than £100 (though many issuers protect you for any amount), if you paid by Maestro then you have no protection...

On the subject of a systems upgrade, I would never expect BT to get one right. If I said any more I'd have to be an AC :-P

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FAIL

Stopped using them

DABS used to be *the* place to get most parts at a reasonable price (talking mid-2000 here) quickly.

For the last year I have noticed their stock levels (as indicated on the website) had been falling, with a significant proportion of graphics cards being marked as 0 stock, ordered on demand, or 1-2 days. In practise the "1-2" days has, in my experience, been a wholly unreliable indication for a few years.

Last time I used them, I carefully ordered all "In stock" items with the normal delivery option (not fast). After a week and a bit of no goods arriving, I phoned them.

Took over 30 minutes for the phone to be answered with no indication of queue length (honestly, in THIS day and age???). The lady I spoke to was helpful enough and said: sorry, actually out of stock.

I asked why they hadn't emailed me to let me know? "Email's up the spout" she said.

I asked her to cancel the order. She couldn't as the system would not let her. She did make a note on the system to give me an RMA to return without question when they eventually came though.

I tried to cancel the order on the web too: that said it had succeeded - but reloading the page brought the order back as "Pending".

Eventually the goods came and I phoned up for an RMA - another 30+minutes waiting for the phone to be answered... They did at least send a courier round to collect.

That demonstrates an IT system in a complete mess - not just a little glitch.

Me? I'll never use them again - Ebuyer all the way now - the goods I ordered from them came on time and as expected...

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Don't worry. They'll never let you forget them.

Our office currently receives one Dabs catalogue, for almost every member of staff that has ever worked here over the last decade (including several temps and one remote worker). That's a total of twenty seven catalogues, a time. None of us can remember ordering anything from them.

To paraphrase El Bueno from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: "I've never seen so many trees wasted so badly."

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FAIL

ebuyer?

Ebuyer are nearly as bad. Ordered a complete computer system from them. When it turned up the power supply was faulty and the power switch cable had a loose wire. Ordered a new power supply from them, It turned up after 6 days and was the WRONG power supply and when i plugged it in (as i couldn't wait any longer) it was ALSO faulty. Had to go out and buy another power supply. Plugged it in, and found out the hard drive was ALSO faulty.

On top of all that, I went on the website to RMA the WRONG and FAULTY PSU and was first told that the Xenta PSU that was sent was the same as the Casecom one that i ordered just with a different name, they were both the same manufacturer etc. Wrong, it didn't have a PCI-E connector.

As it was the wrong one, they told me they could go ahead with an RMA. so i go on the website to do it and receive a message that i needed to PHONE them to complete the process. This is part of their RMA procedure, you have to phone them no matter what the problem is and it's not a freephone number. They're as much of a joke company as DABS (who i might add deleted my account because i hadn't ordered from them for 6 months without any notification they were going to do it)

cclonline from now on :)

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BT: more accurate than you think

The usual problem with BT is that they never communicate with you. Them sending you the wrong stuff too late is probably an improvement :-)

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I dropped them years ago

I dropped them years ago after they changed their transaction system. They did something that caused my bank to block my card every time I bought something from Dabs. The bank didn't really want to discuss the exact mechanics with me.

I tried to provide feedback to Dabs because I thought they might value it. They weren't interested. So now I use other suppliers.

It's a shame, because when they started out, they were excellent

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FAIL

...and that's why I dropped them, too

It seems their system used to make a tiny charge on the card as part of its verification procedure.

The security people at Visa told me that's also one of the things card fraudsters tend to do. The result was that every order I placed with Dabs was blocked by "card problems", so delivery times were extended to several weeks while I tried to communicate with them.

Like The Dark Lord, I told Dabs what the problem was, but they weren't interested. Fortunately, the world is not short of online electronics retailers.

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Bronze badge

Hold on

So, they migrated from a DEC Alpha to an "upgraded" system. That upgraded system couldn't then cope without further "performance upgrades".

1) Not much of an upgrade.

2) You wasted a lot of your money to get back to *exactly* where you were when you started (if not even further behind than that).

Great advertisement for a IT company, that. We can't handle moving a few million records of a million customers without ballsing it up, even with access to all the computer equipment we sell every day, and months of migration time. And to boot, the new system can't have been doing anything that the old system wasn't capable of anyway (given that the new system slowed to a crawl and died).

And whatever happened to proper testing - rather than ballsing up the back-end of a major company for months trying to fix things? Hell, record all transaction on old (live) system, playback on new (testing) system and see if it copes as well as you hope. When it can take those same queries live and return the same answers every single time, within good time, then you can slowly migrate the client PC's one at a time and not suffer a second of downtime.

Modern-day IT: Whack the version number up, buy more computers, put a bigger processor in, don't bother to test, end up with less functionality, break lots of stuff, spends months "fixing" it and then call it a success.

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It's been down hill all the way!

I used to use DABS ... they were one of the best at one time.

Then BT bought them, and their customer service started to take a dive.

It comes as no surprise they've had more problems recently (fortunately I don't use them). So often good companies only lose quality & personality when purchased by a large organisation like BT.

It's happened so many times in my 30 years in IT. This won't be the last!

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Anonymous Coward

No real surprise

Anywhere Micro$oft products are involved, chaos and failure ensue.

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Surprise!

"It was a bit of a disaster zone," said the source, "I'd have expected something better from a business owned by BT."

I wouldn't

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FAIL

1234

I'm STILL waiting for a refund for a duff DVD Drive that I returned a month ago. It's still 'awaiting testing' apparently.

They've really gone down hill the last couple of years.

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Devil

BT services customers..

As a bull services his cows.

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Megaphone

So who *would* you use?

I have been a long time dabs user and like everyone else on this thread have had a terrible time recently with orders taking much longer, refunds not being posted and customer service generally being non-existent (and let's not talk about trying to access *old* orders, what a joke!).

I used them for the single reason that their returns service was excellent - no questions asked, quick RMA, quick refunds, quick replacement with generally no cost to the customer. It's this last part that is so crucial - if you have some "specialist" company that insists on charging you everytime you send back duff kit (and let's face it it happens a lot) and then takes two weeks to turn around the RMA it makes life miserable.

So who would YOU use, that has decent prices and a decent, cheap RMA policy?

(I guess my money would be on amazon)

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Anonymous Coward

re: So who *would* you use?

Mainly eBuyer and CCL

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Title

They certainly have had some issues. The worst was that they just stopped processing our orders, everything ordered over a period of two weeks just didn't get processed. Finally turned out that our account was on stop. Woudn't mind so much, but:

1. The people on the phone weren't aware of the issue and said on a couple of occasions that they didn't know why the orders weren't shipping.

2. We don't, and never have had, a sodding account with them. Everything was purchased on a card.

I'm using scan or even ebuyer these days when I want a cheap box shipper.

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Thank you MICROSOFT!

We got lucky, received part of an order without being invoiced. Contacted them, saying - please can you invoice us so that we can pay for these goods.

Received a copy of the invoice that we *had* paid...

Profitable, but not quite as good as the time a few years ago when Ebuyer didn't charge us VAT on a shipment of machines... there too their system was incapable of dealing with a "please can we pay what we owe you?" request.

Our DABS account manager is a willing & helpful bloke, I feel sorry for him being stuck in the BT machine.

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Did anyone else get posted free shit when they upgraded ?

I got posted an original iPad 32GB about this time and thought I must have won one of the loads of competitions I'd entered and they just got dabs to dispatch on their behalf but guess it could be due to the screwed upgrade. Anyone else have this happen to them ?

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Holmes

lucky git

Colin you coward!

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FAIL

Who did the design+implementation of the systems upgrade?

It wouldn't be another part of BT would it?

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Trollface

What? microsoft slower and less reliable than previous old kit?

Hee hee... Nothing changes, eh?

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Childcatcher

BT

Simple motto that will get you through life:

"If you want something fucked up properly, get BT to do it."

Now, combination of BT and Microsoft, I can't imagine anything worse!

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Flame

Heed the warning signs

Last time I used DABS was around two and a half years ago. The order itself was fine, but ...

As always, I carefully selected all the "DON'T SPAM ME" options. So what happens? Yep, a regular stream of SPAM follows.

DABS instantly blacklisted. I've been a happy ebuyer user since then, but I do regret seeing the field narrowed. And I've missed out on that particular nightmare.

Moral: take heed of straws in the wind. When a retailer goes bad, don't shrug it off! Above all, never do business with a spammer: not even one who has been a good supplier in the past.

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Anonymous Coward

Are they still in business?

Worst company I've ever tried to deal with, by far. Just impossible to communicate with them: no phone number, emails only get automatic replies, letters ignored etc. They really should have folded by now.

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Shipping costs vary

I wonder if now they'll stop the practise of charging more for shipping for business customers?

That reason alone was enough to put me in the direction of Scan. Who give excellent service.

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Huh ....

Both Dabs and Scan nowadays screw customers in the northern half of the UK for carriage.

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It's the problem with a software changeover

No matter how much planning and testing you do, switching this kind of software will always be painful. You've got to retrain your entire staff, work out the best way to use the new features, learn how to adapt your business processes to the way the software expects it to run and so on.

Working for a company that sells this kind of software, it's *never* as smooth as you'd like it to be, but the improvements are seen in the long term, usually 12-18 months down the line.

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Anonymous Coward

By which time..

.. it will by time to "upgrade" again.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the problem with a software changeover

I'm afraid that's not true. I once worked on migration of a system from TOPS-20 to VMS, the main requirement was that it was to be totally transparent to the end user. Switchover went without a glitch, there is no excuse for bad planning or testing.

Also anybody who replaces a perfectly stable system running on Alphas with what I understand to believe is an off the shelf package for PCs needs their head examined. The big problem with these packages is that you need to change your business model to accomodate what the package can't handle, once you start doing that you may just as well throw out your current business model and start from scratch.

>Following this migration, some processes did run slower than anticipated, which caused a backlog affecting a small number of customer orders," revealed a spokeswoman.

Rough translation

>slower than anticipated <=> didn't work

>small number <=> hell of a lot

All the bad will and expense of the new system will more than likely far outweigh any savings they might have been duped into expecting by some MS sales droid and their glitzy presentatoins.

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WTF?

"improvements ... 12-18 months down the line."

That might have worked ten years ago, but htf does that work for an outfit like dabs where there are *plenty* of alternatives just waiting to take the business? Just ask Steve Bennett about their upgraded business systems at former dabs competitor jungle.com (or was it still Software Warehouse when everything went pear-shaped for them?).

OK it *might* work for what used to be dabs due to them now being the BT Shop, and BT still being the default supplier of overpriced goods and services to the naive and ill-informed. But that's no excuse for a fouled-up upgrade and "12-18 months to see the benefits".

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Gimp

Dabs?

Used to use Dabs all the time and even used to go and pick stuff up from the old Woking and later Bracknell branches.

But after the BT buyout i ended up using Ebuyer for 90% of our business and Scan for the other 10%. Having spent thousands with Ebuyer now, I've been really impressed with their operation despite the tales of woe people kept telling me about when i first switched.

When stuff has gone wrong it has been replaced without fuss. The only thing is you have to deal with them through their online ticketing system. But to be fair it seems to work.

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Artificial Stupidity

My experiences have been the same as everyone else - no order processed since 27th Feb. I used to be a loyal and frequent purchaser, but no more.

This is a genuine email received in response to trying to fill in an online contact page requesting cancellation of an order:

Dear Sultana,

Unfortunately, there was no content included within your query. Please re-submit your form via the 'contact us' link on our website, ensuring that you complete all the fields and any comments you may have and we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you in advance.

Regards,

Sultana

Customer Services

dabs.com Plc

(I have of course no idea who Sultana is)

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Coat

Sultans

Sultana is obviously the nane if their currant IT system.

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"perfectly stable system running on Alphas "

The VMS-based hardware and software may have been perfectly stable (such things usually were, back in the day, and indeed still are where people care less about hype and more about functionality) but the people in charge of dabs were entirely capable of fouling things up without needing computers to help.

Abandoning a workable (if not perfect) custom setup for an off the shelf job (worse, a Windows-based off the shelf toy) *is* a big and very visible foul-up, but BT are BT and this deal was probably not decided on its technical merits, but by CEOs on the golf course or similar.

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FAIL

Replacing something

purpose designed by an ex-BBC Micro guy with something concocted by Microsoft? What do you expect? Classic example of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

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