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Service with a Smile?
Dabs Direct


This is one in a series of articles illustrating real-life dreadful service in the UK.

I suppose I'm something of a Service Excellence Zealot. I really don't like being treated poorly - especially by people being paid to do better.

I hope that this little tale of woe is entertaining. But I also hope you'll be encouraged to recognise poor service when you receive it, and to take action to correct it. Too often the British Desease keeps us from "making a fuss", and this doesn't serve any of us well.

Of course, few of us actually enjoy "unpleasantness", and most of us will find it difficult to stand firm when surrounded by angry people who disagree with us. But I hope you can see how persistence will win though.

I won this case, and I feel good about it. But if you are encouraged to go out and win yours, I'll feel even better. And if you tell your friends, or write about it here, or document your experience in a reputation manage like www.dooyoo.co.uk - then we can grow a community of robust customers who will not be slapped around by arrogant unpleasant people. Over time things will change for the better. In a thousand small incidents, we'll be Fixing Britain!

OK, so I wanted to upgrade my PCs memory. I had heard good things about Dabs' service and their website. So I surfed on over, found a product described as "industry standard" PC memory, and bought it. It arrived, I installed it, it didn't work.


Dabs' telephone support lines were continuously engaged, so I called Crucial who make the memory. They told me that the memory I had was "registered" (a technical term referring to structures internal to the chips) and that it would not work in virtually any desktop PC.

OK, mistakes happen. I bought the correct memory from Crucial. I sent the Dabs memory back, explaining the situation, and asked for a refund which they agreed to.

So far, so good.

But when I got my Visa statement, I found they had withheld 3.46 of the refund, which I discovered was their small order handling charge.

Eh? They advised me to buy the wrong memory, and I have to pay them for that service??

I worked my way patiently through support, customers services, then the customer services manager and finally David Atherton, the Managing Director.

None of them showed any interest in refunding my money. They all parroted the same thought-free company line. None of them would accept that I bought the wrong memory because their website advised me incorrectly. For a period of weeks my emails to customer services were entirely ignored by Dabs. The worst treatment of all was received from David Atherton, Dabs' MD.

So, eventually, I contacted Bolton trading standards (Dabs are based in Bolton). An officer there gave Dabs a call who agreed to refund me immediately.

Sorted? No.

Months later, the refund had still not happened. Another call to Bolton Trading Standards finally kicked Dabs into submission, and I got a cheque.

Of course, it's not about the money. It's about being ignored, abused and treated with contempt.

I have included the entire dialogue below, with commentary. But if you prefer, you can go straight to my conclusion.

We begin with the order confirmation. Two things to note. First the order cancellation instructions - they don't mention retaining an order handling charge. Perhaps they should. Also service excellence commitment at the bottom. Sounds good, dunnit? Too bad it bears no resemblance whatsoever to reality.

From: enquiries@dabs.com
Sent: 17 September 2001 21:08
To: Me
Subject: dabs.com PLC Order
No 2350778 - Shipping Confirmation

We are writing to inform you that the following items from your order were sent out on Monday 17 September 2001.

You should get them within 48 hours.
Manufacturer : CRUCIAL
Product : 256Mb 168DIMM PC133 ER CL2
Quicklinx : SHYWS

This completes the above order.

Thank you very much for your business and we hope we can serve you again.

<Shipping details deleted>

If for any reason you wish to cancel this order, this cannot now be done on the Web site. Please email enquiries@dabs.com with your order number.
If the parcel is delivered by carrier or other signed method, please refuse it on delivery. This is the most efficient way to cancel. Your monies will be refunded upon receipt and examination of the item.

This message is generated automatically each time we process delivery note.
This means that your goods have been packed and for card customers, your payment has been cleared. The goods may be in our warehouse goods out
section, or actually in transit.

We listen to our customers and what you think of our service. We always strive to match and beat your expectations of dabs.com as an Etailer.

Please take the time to complete our short Online Web Questionaire and let us know what you think of our service at http://www.dabs.com/contactus/ordsurvey.asp?so=2350778

Thank you very much for your business. We know you have a choice.

Internet Sales Admin
dabs.com PLC

From: Chris
Sent: 18 September 2001 11:29
To: enquiries@dabs.com
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778 - Shipping Confirmation


The memory I bought from you does not work in my PC, and Crucial technical support advice me that this is because the memory is "registered".

I selected this product from your website because it was described as "industry standard", but "registered" is apparently not used in ordinary desktop PCs.

So, I would like to return the memory in exchange for some memory which works.

My PC is a Dell Dimension XPS T600.

Both your technical support & customer service helplines are permanently running large queues, so I'm sending this email instead.

Please let me know how to proceed.

Thanks & Regards,

From: Chris
Sent: 22 September 2001 11:29
To: enquiries@dabs.com


Please respond to my email.


From: Chris
Sent: Monday, September 24, 2001 10:58 AM
To: Customer Service
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778 - Shipping Confirmation

Please respond to my email.

From: Customer Service [mailto:cs@dabs.com]
Sent: 25 September 2001 06:57
To: 'Chris'

Hello Chris,

Thanks for your mail.

<details of returns procedure deleted>

On return we will check and refund the memory. Please feel free to re-order
the correct version on-line.

Regards, Stuart

From: Chris
Sent: Thursday, October 18, 2001 10:50 AM
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: Refund


I bought some RAM from you then returned it as it wasn't working.
Your refund excludes the small order handling charge.
This doesn't seem reasonable.

The RAM was ordered from you on faulty advice provided by your company.

Please therefore, credit me with the balance.

I am Chris, <personal account details deleted>

Thanks & Regards,

From: Customer Service
Sent: 24 October 2001 10:50
To: Chris
Subject: RE: Refund q-354378

Hello Chris,

Thanks for your mail.

The RAM was returned on condition of incompatibility. There was no mention of us advising you incorrect, especially as you have ordered on-line.

Please can you advise of the name of the person in question and include any
e-mail correspondence where the information was supplied.

Regards, Stuart Lossman
Customer Support Executive

From: Chris, Sent: 24 October 2001 10:57, To: Customer Service
Subject: RE: Refund q-354378

Hello Stuart,

The RAM appeared on your site as "industry standard".

But in discussion with Crucial, it seems that RAM is for servers, and is unlikely to work in any standard office PC.

This is the basis of my "incorrect advise" proposition.
I mentioned this to a lady in your customer services department
whose name I don't have.


From: Chris
Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2001 10:18 AM
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: Refund q-354378


Please deal with this.

From: Customer Service
Sent: 18 November 2001 11:54
To: Chris
Subject: RE: Refund q-354378

Dear Chris

As stated in previous Emails we dont refund the 'Small Order Charge' for goods wrongly ordered.

Kind Regards
Ian Pennington

From: Chris
Sent: Monday, November 19, 2001 11:09 AM
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: Refund q-354378


Please read the rest of this dialogue. [which was attached to the original email]

As I have pointed out, the item was ordered wrongly because your advice at the website was incorrect.

You had labelled this product "Industry standard", whereas in fact it was not suitable for ordinary PCs.

So the error was yours, not mine, and it's unreasonable to expect me to pay anything in consequence of your mistake.


From: Chris
Sent: 04 December 2001 10:27
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

For months now, I've been arguing the toss about the fact that you have not returned all of the money I gave you to buy the original memory.

I have pointed out several times that the memory was ordered in error because your website gave faulty information when it labelled the memory "industry standard" when in fact it was not suitable for almost all desktop PCs.

Please acknowledge receipt of this email and arrange for the return of all my money soon.


From: Chris
Sent: 10 December 2001 12:19
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Please sort this out.
From: Chris
Sent: 31 December 2001 10:35
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Please sort this out.

I am keeping a complete record of this incident, and I will be using it to publicise your customer service performance in this incident shortly.


From: Chris
Sent: 07 February 2002 11:08
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


From: Chris
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 6:38 PM
To: Cs@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order
No 2350778


From: Customer Service
Sent: 13 February 2002 02:59
To: 'Chris'
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


We are unable to offer the refund on the small handling fee.
If you wish to take this one further you will need to email my supervisor on
pshencoe@dabs.com <mailto:pshencoe@dabs.com

Andrea Helme

From: Chris
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2002 7:08 PM
To: pshencoe@dabs.com
Cc: datherton@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


Please take this up, and also tell me why I have received such APALLING service on this.

I've been ignored and fobbed off.

Why should I be left out of pocket because I acted on faulty advice from your website?

And why should I have to keep bugging you over many MONTHS to get you to
even respond?

I hope you hear from you soon.

From: Paul Shencoe
Sent: 13 February 2002 03:18
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


I am sorry if you feel that you have been unfairly treated with regards to this matter.

The memory is correctly described as an industry standard which applies to Non-Parity (NP), ECC Unregistered (EU), and also the ECC Registered (ER) which you ordered. In addition PC66, PC100 and PC133 are industry standards, but you do need to ensure that you own equipment supports the relevant type of memory.

In view of this I feel we are quite justified in not refunding the small order handling charge as we did not misadvise or make any mistake in the description of this product.

Paul Shencoe
Customer Support Supervisor

There are three noteworthy elements to Paul's email.

1. The phrase "I am sorry that you feel..." comes up often in complaint responses. It can have an unsettling effect to the unwary. Don't let it get to you. You are disagreeing certainly, but that's not the end - it's the beginning. Pursue the disagreement using facts and logic. If you are right, they will either cave in to the force of your argument, or avoid the argument. In my experience they never give in - they always avoid, and we'll see some of that shortly.

2. Then there's the techno-Babble. None of that is relevant. What is relevant is that my PC is standard, and the memory doesn't work in my PC.

3. Finally, an extremely common characteristic of Customer Service responses - the "no response response". Paul has completely ignored my comments about being ignored.

These days, many website only offer a web form as the means of contact. This means you don't get a copy of your outgoing correspondence - which makes it difficult to remember what you said, or to assess responses against your inputs.

Cahoot is a good example of this, and an extremely bad example of Customer Service in action.

I recommend you copy your outgoing forms in notepad or something similar, and keep a copy. Then paste it into their form.

By the way...

Try to keep emotional energy low when dealing with these correspondences. It's often extremely annoying to have to waste time exchanging emails with idiots who are game-playing.

But avoid it. Not only might you blow a gasket, but you're likely to use language which will undermine your position as a reasonable customer. This gives them an opportunity to take the high ground; you may then recognise your errors, and feel you have nowhere to go except away. That's a win for the enemy, and so should be avoided.

Just address the issues. Try to make it impossible for the issues to be ignored. This can be very difficult and frustrating, but it is, unfortunately, the only tool you have.

Frankly, if I had a big stick, and immunity from prosecution, that would be my tool of choice. But in the real world, the logical pursuit of the issues is the one to go with.

From: Chris
Sent: Wednesday, February 13, 2002 7:23 PM
To: Paul Shencoe
Cc: datherton@dabs.com
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your prompt and informative response.
I also respect your stance in not caving in for a small amount of cash.
As a retailer myself, I know how people will try anything in order to pilfer
trifles from shops, and so on.

But this is not what I am doing. I was advised by Crucial - who make the memory, and from whom I eventually purchased the correct memory - that the memory I received from you was "registered" and so was unlikely to work in ANY standard desktop.

It certainly did not work in mine.

Please clarify this for me. Was Crucial wrong?

If so, why didn't the memory you sent me work in my PC?

You have also chosen to completely ignore my complaint about being persidtently ignored.

Please address that for me now.

Thanks & Regards,

From: Paul Shencoe
Sent: 14 February 2002 09:00
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


The ER memory will work in a motherboard that supports ECC Registered and some supporting motherboards place restrictions such as physical number of DIMMs to be used minimum/maximum etc.

As regards possible chipset that would support this ER memory, it all depends on the way that the board manufacturer implements support over and above the actual
chipset support.

As regards the lack of prior replies, I cannot categorically state why this should be so and there is no feasible way that I can check for incoming emails from yourself during the recent period due to the sheer volume of emails we handle each day. It would require me to check each CS staff members sent and deleted folders on an individual basis and also public folders.

In general we reply to customer enquiries by email within 24-48 hours of receipt.

Paul Shencoe
Customer Support Supervisor

Yep. Another double-blank.

It seems unlikely that Crucial would be incorrect when they say that the memory they make will not work in the vast majority of desktop PCs. I guess Paul may be mistaken, but I think he is being clever. I guess that's how he made it to supervisor. What a shame.

Too bad he doesn't use his gifts for the betterment of mankind, rather than the shafting of it.

The next step to take with him would have been to ask him what percentage of desktop PCs have "motherboards that support ECC Registered DIMMS2". He would then probably have replied that he couldn't say. Stalemate.

And on the lack-of-response issue, his response is again, entirely unsatisfactory. Claiming you "don't know and can't find out" is another very popular reposte in the toolbox for avoiding embarrassing questions. Unfortunately, this one is generally a win for the enemy.

So - I escalated instead.

From: Chris
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2002 2:48 AM
To: Paul Shencoe
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


Your response is entirely inadequate on both counts.

Please give me the name & email address of your supervisor, and I'm not going to waste more of my time working with you to move it into the acceptable zone.


From: Paul Shencoe
Sent: 15 February 2002 00:40
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


It is unfortunate that you think my response is inadequate and if you wish to escalate this matter, then forward your grievances to David Atherton, da@dabs.com as he is the Managing Director.

Paul Shencoe
Customer Support Supervisor

From: Chris
Sent: 15 February 2002 18:32
To: David Athetrton [DA@dabs.com]
Cc: PShencoe@beta.dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Dear David Atherton,

Paul says you are his supervisor.

I am unhappy with the way he and everyone else at Dabs has dealt with my complaint.

Here's the summary:

  1. I bought some PC memory from your website

  2. The site advertised the memory as "industry standard" but when I got it, it did not work.

  3. Dabs phone lines were always busy.
    I eventually contacted Crucial, who told me that the memory I had was registered - and would be unlikely to work in any standard desktop PC. I bought new memory from them, which worked fine.

  4. Dabs gave me a refund on the memory but kept the small order handling charge, and would not budge on this issue.

  5. For a time my emails were ignored completely.
    Now I have our attention again, but Paul is unable to explain why I should be paying Dabs for receiving incorrect information from them. This faulty information lead to much wasted time and effort.
    Paul did not adequately address my complaint about being ignored for so long. Nor did he apologise for it.

The amount involved is small, but the principle is not.

I'll happily go away without the money if you can explain why I should be paying you for giving me bad advice and wasting my time. If you can't or won't do that, then I'll remain unhappy.

I really don't like being treated badly and point-blank ignored for extended periods. The only acceptable endpoint from my perspective would be for Dabs to EXPLAIN their conduct over these months.

I hope you can help me in that.

Thanks & Regards,

From: David Atherton
Sent: 18 February 2002 02:03
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Thanks for your email. You bought the wrong stuff; that was your fault, therefore we said what we said.

I am sorry you find this unacceptable. Any other retailer would reply likewise.

David Atherton
Managing Director, dabs.com plc

Yes, I was depressed.

But as soon as you give up, you lose and they win.

So. Press on with the "just focus on the issues" tactic...

From: Chris
Sent: 18 February 2002 18:22
To: David Atherton
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


Are you disagreeing that I bought the wrong stuff because your website told me it was the right stuff?


From: David Atherton
Sent: 18 February 2002 02:23
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

I really don't want debate this. Our website just repeats the information Crucial give us.

OK, so much for sticking to the issues.
My next email was sent in haste, and doesn't quite scan.

From: Chris
Sent: 18 February 2002 18:50
To: David Atherton
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

I'm sure you don't David.
Neither do I.

I've been wasting my time trying to get Dabs to do the right thing for MONTHS.

Which of us has the right to feel most fed up with whom?

But your company has taken my money and is refusing to return it.

Dabs has also shown great reluctance to discuss it with me, and now - at the very top of your organisation - you're showing the same reluctance.

Your website told me which RAM to buy.
I bought it but it didn't work.
Crucial say that this is because the advice was wrong.
Now you won't pay be back all of the money you took.
If you're not disputing any of these facts, then you are stealing from me.
If you ARE disputing any of these facts, then you are not doing it very competently.
I've got to you, because none of your staff before you has addressed this competently.

Neither, so far, have you.

Please tell me which, if any, of the facts you dispute.

If none, then please give me back my money.


From: Chris
Sent: 22 February 2002 21:16
To: datherton@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


I hope you can find time to resolve this soon.


I suppose another of these complaining rules is to throw out the normal rules of social behaviour. I don't mean by that, that you should be offensive, but you should not be uncomfortable being insistent with people who would clearly rather you went away and stayed there.

The thing that keeps me going is the notion that these people will win the day if I give up.

Of course, in 99% of cases, we DO give up, and they DO win the day. That's what we've got to change.

From: Chris
Sent: 27 February 2002 14:23
To: datherton@dabs.com
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


I'm not going to drop this until Dabs deals with my complaint reasonably.
You have kept my money. You have refused to discuss it reasonably with me.

We agree that the RAM will not work in standard PCs.

The reason is that your website advised me that this RAM was "industry standard" - suitable for any desktop.

The fact that it turned out not to be is your fault - not mine.

It is unreasonable for you to keep any of my money in this circumstance.

If anyone at Dabs disputes these facts, no-one has yet seen fit to do so with me.

Please deal with this properly.


When you're in to pointless repetition and being ignored, it's time to give up.


It's time for a different tack. I used Dabs' site to find that they're based in Bolton. I used the web to find Trading Standards in Bolton, and I sent them email.

Bolton trading standards do not want their dialogue with me to be included at this website, as they feel it may compromise their impartiality, so I will include my emails to them, but simply report the progress they made.

From: Chris
Sent: 27 February 2002 14:45
To: Bolton Trading Standards
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


Please find below a dialogue betwen me and various staff at Dabs.com.

I have worked my way up to the MD, who is no more helpful than any of his

I bought some "industry standard" RAM for my PC from them. I chose it because it was described as such at their site.

It didn't work, and I subsequently discovered from the manufacturers ("Crucial") that the memory is "registered" and will not work in almost ANY desktop PC. I bought the correct RAM from Crucial with no further problems.

Dabs refunded my money, but withheld a "service charge", which I think is
unreasonable in these circumstances.

They will not budge nor discuss it reasonably. I have been ignored for long stretches of time.

I am therefore referring this to you.

Please let me know if you are the right person to deal with, and if you are - please let me know if and how you can help me.

Thanks & Regards,

27 February 2002 17:11

Bolton Trading Standards spoke to Dabs and told me that Dabs had agreed to refund my money.

From: Chris
Sent: 27 February 2002 19:35
To: Phoenix, Glen
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Thanks for getting back to me so soon, and with a result!
The amount sounds about right. I was standinging up for the
principle - not the money.

I would prefer that they explained their earlier stance, or accepted that they were wrong.

I suppose that's just not ever going to happen.

Have you had other complaints about them?


From: Bolton Trading Standards
Sent: 28 February 2002 07:04
To: Chris

Trading Standards explained their conversation with Dabs.

They told Dabs that the goods sold to me were not fit for the purpose and therefore rejected under the Sale of Goods Act.

I should probably have used this terminology a long time ago.

From: Chris
Sent: 28 February 2002 10:00
To: Phoenix, Glen
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


Many thanks,

All of March and All of April passed.
No refund. So...

From: Chris
Sent: 08 May 2002 10:11
To: Bolton Trading Standards Office
Cc: David Atherton MD Dabs PLC
Subject: FW: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

Following your notice to me that Dabs had agreed to refund my money, I can confirm that this has not yet been actioned.

I have had my card re-issued since ordering from Dabs, so it may be that they couldn't make the refund in that way, but they have my name & address and a cheque would do fine.

Please do what you can to encourage Dabs to follow through on their
committment to refund me.

Thanks & Regards,

From: Bolton Trading Standards
Sent: 08 May 2002 16:42
To: Chris
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778

BTS spoke to Dabs again, and received assurances that the cheque would now be issued.

From: Chris
Sent: 10 May 2002 15:35
To: Phoenix, Glen
Subject: RE: dabs.com PLC Order No 2350778


I received the cheque today.
Many thanks for your persistently prompt & efficient help.

Best Wishes,


Finally a result!

It took EIGHT MONTHS and far more effort than the money could ever justify, but that £3.46 cheque was very sweet. What's more, the bitter taste of losing to these people would have lingered a very long time.

I have notified David Atherton and Paul Shencoe of the presence of this web page.

I will publish any responses they may have here. I can't see how the facts can be wrong as they're enshrined in indelible text, but perhaps there are missing facts or surprising interpretations to be had.

As I look back on the whole thing, I can organise some thoughts into general advice. When complaining, here are my rules of thumb:

  1. Be direct and assertive, but never abusive
  2. Be driven by the facts and encourage others to be the same
  3. They will try to avoid being driven by those same facts when the conclusion doesn't suit them, by:
    1. Baffling you with bullshit
    2. Presenting their arbitrary decisions as being cast in concrete
    3. Not responding on key issues
    4. Keeping you waiting for responses, to dilute your drive
    5. Ignoring you entirely
  1. - so be alert to these tactics and don't be a victim of them

  2. Don't feel pressured by the social norms which might have you leave a place where you're clearly not wanted nor liked - stay in there, and stick to your agenda

  3. For each contact, go as far as you can with facts & logic. Then escalate

If you have any other useful tactics - please send them along.

All of this leaves me with a tinge of bewildered sadness. What really went wrong here?

What leads Paul and others to tow the company line as though they were married to it - even when it's wrong? How would they tell this same story to their wives and children? Differently - no doubt! What causes a company line to get drawn along immoral guidelines in the first place? I'm sure David thinks he's a nice chap, and that Paul's mum loves him. They're not evil people. Are they?

So why treat me so badly?

I think that the answer to that question is a centrally important one in understanding society and how to improve it.

Ultimately, our society is the people within it. So self-development; personal growth towards ethically sound models - should be a central goal for all of us.

People in general don't introspect on their behaviour - and especially not when it reveals things about them which they would rather not see or acknowledge. That goes not only for "customer support executives" and MDs, but also MPs, doctors, train drivers and high court judges. All of us.

In the long-term, education and personal growth may remove the need to assert your rights against people who choose not to grant them to you out of decency.

In the meantime, keep that baseball bat handy.

This article has attracted a lot of feedback from customers who are fed up with Dabs. Find examples below. We're also hosting debate on this article here - please feel free to participate.

Chris, I couldn't agree with you more. I returned to Britain last year after being out of the country for about 3 years and was shocked at the decline in levels of service across the industry spectrum. Needless to say I have suffered similar fates from mobile phone operator "3" (terrible service), "BT; (just as bad), "Transcable& (just don't do business with them) and British Gas; (quick to take money off you but slow to return it when they errr).

I can honestly report that service levels in other 3rd and 4th world countries rank higher than in Britain. I see the reason being the 'pure lack' of modern day respect for one another. It shows in the MD of Dabs attitude toward you. I don't know if we will ever get that part of life back into the way of life in this country but we can only live in hope.

All I can do from this moment forth is boycott and pass on experiences such as yours to others in the hopes that the offending companies loose business. In your case you can chalk one up for the little guy because I have ceased trading with Dabs after reading your report. Well done man and good luck spreading the word! - PBU

A superbly lucid and well documented explanation of how to go about this. I found this site as a consequence of being in a very similar situation with Dabs.com, and am left much encouraged. Bolton TSA in particular is a very nice lead. Thanks for taking the effort. Damn right about the 99%... I'm driven by the same outrage that they win simply because they expect us to give up. Cheers. Imad
I read with interest of your experiences with dabs.com. I had a similar unpleasant experience (although not as long winded) in 2004, which was only resolved by the intervention of local trading standards.

I would never order anything from them ever again following this experience, but I am now receiving unsolicited emails from them, despite the fact that my account settings are set to receive no marketing email. They state on the website that I cannot delete my account for six years.

Needless to say, my emails to them to stop this practice have been ignored - not a surprise. No phone contact is possible, so I have now written to their "data protection officer" with very little hope of success. I am also going to get trading standards invloved again.

Despite the number of complaints you read about them on the internet, they have the following on their website:

"dabs.com has won many high profile awards for both online retailing and general business performance including the recent 2005 "What Laptop!" award for "Best Online Retailer"

I wonder what criteria "What Laptop" used to decide?


Was just going to order an item, but read this first. Brings back memories of similar episodes but they have the wherewithall to string customers along and win by fob off and bloody mindedness. I had a similar experience with a relation who was caught up by the Household Bank (HSBC). Disgusting and identical modus operandii, they must all go to the same thinktank.!!
Agreed wholeheartedly. Dabs.com customer support when things go wrong is appauling.
I tried to buy a printer from Dabs last week. It hasn't come. After a great deal of effort I found a human being with a phone at a Parcel Force depot who actually remembered a parcel with no address label from Dabs. He had sent it back to Bolton. It might have been my printer. I have sent Dabs a dozen e-mails but all I get is automated reponses. They have got my money. I have not got the goods. Grrrr. Biff.
I can't vent my anger any more for dealing with dabs.com. Just try and return a product to them and its a nightmare that takes far too much of my time and attempting to use their 'help' page. Alls I want is someone to speak to... is that too much!!!

I admire you for your persistance in dealing with this issue. I purchased a hard drive from Dabs which refused to work in the computer which I was repairing for a friend. I then tried it in 2 other computers with the same result. I returned the drive back to Dabs (paying the postage myself) and received a replacement after about 5 weeks! On installation the'new' hard drive worked but had WinXP already partially installed. I then attempted to contact Dabs about receiving a used hard drive but I might as well have been banging my head off the wall trying to contact them as they have a 'no telephone' policy. How any company can continue in business with an appalling track record in how they treat their customers beat me. I have to admit that I gave up after a bout of stupid email ping pong which just raised my blood pressure as I just wanted to fix my friends computer asap. I know that I should not have given up so easily but living in Ireland makes it very difficult to carry on the battle. I work with quite a number of people who use the internet to purchase computer and camera goods and my method of retaliation is to make sure that this company receives as much bad press from me as I can manage. They certainly will never receive any further business from me. Regards Tom

I'm in the midst of a similar dispute with Dabs.com myself. Like you, it's as much about principle as the tiny amount of cash involved. Like you, they are currently dodging the issue and trying to wear me out by ignoring me! I'll let you know the outcome - if there ever is one. At least it's useful to know in advance that the MD's going to be no help.
2005 - Dabs still has no customer service. You cannot call or email them directly. We need the government to act to force web based companies to provide proper customer service !
im just srating to get the same result doto a bad product I purchased, no reply from emails. Jack.
I have bought an item from Dabs too and am not impressed with them. It seems that if you have a straight forward order and things go OK then you have satisfaction. However you can see if you have problems, they are set up to frustrate you till you cant be bothered and give up.
This is a lifeline for all consumers out there who dont/wont/cant settle for heavy handed company tactics which eventually only serve to bleedmoney from customers. After DABS screwed up the delivery of my Christmas present I too found communicating with them a disaster, I have now boycotted DABS and will never ever use them again. Well done for all your efforts, I am gonna refer other to this website. Graeme.
I'm going through the same thing right now dabs are simply unbelieveably bad - automated contact that prevents proper reporting of issues, no phone numbers or names, emails ignored, recorded delivery mail ignored - shouldn't trading standards investigate this outfit and close them down if they don't improve. Roll on a TV 'Watch Dog' type investigation.
DABS are horrendous I bought something a home cinema missing a remote control and a debted dvd unit. they wont accept it back.
2 occasions where they firstly didnt send out goods and then kept asking for the same information again and again and again! The other occasion when they sent a faulty item which despite them promising to come and collect it on 3 seperate occasions they failed to do yet they kept the money. Then finally after tracking done personal email addresses from sites like yours they finally sent emails which at no point apologises for a terrible customer service level.
Hi Pal, i have had similar problem with dabs & what you did makes me feel great. I was going to forget about Dabs' poor service, but you've incouraged me to "hit-em" where it hurts. Thanks pal & a great article.
Excelent article, it's given me some good ideas on how to deal with Dabs and the problems I'm having with them.
Hello there,
I too have ordered an item from enquiries@dabs.com.Ijust hoped for the best as they said that they do not receive E Mails. The item(Travelsound speakers took about two weeks to arrive .I was annoyed that there was a small handling fee which they did not disclose in the initial order.This annoyed me.

This is unfortunately typical of our so called 'Service Economy'. The fact is that service generally has deteriorated in this country and the phrases 'Goods not fit for purpose intended' and 'Sale of goods act' tend to do the trick. I have used this on a number of occasions and it usually works. The other meathod is to do what you have done and publish the facts in this most effective of ways. I was just about to purchase from Dab's direct however the Directors response in particular has made me angry. The staff response I can understand as they are pre-programmed with no more than 10 standard sentences, beyond that they lack the intellect or the balls to do the right thing!

The MD however should have taken a veiw on this matter. Instead he chose to bury his head up his own rectum. Honestly this does not say much for the callibre of Modern MD's. If it were me I would have dipped my hand in my pocket, taken a taxy and refunded the money myself rather than wast many hours of human time and effort over such a rediculous situation. Now they have effectively admitted they wer wrong(by paying the refund) I would send a bill for your administration charges for dealing with the matter. I did with my Bank and they paid!!!

Well done!

Chris, GOOD FOR YOU. I have just recently ourchased some memory from dabs but accidentally entered in the wrong serial number on the order form. As such, upon receipt, I assumed, having not opened the package and contacted them the same day, that I would be able to send it back. Additionnally, I placed a further order for the correct memory in order to get my PC up an running. Dabs have refused point blank to accept back the first memory! Why, you might ask? Because I unwittingly clicked on the 'business' button in the ordering form. However, I paid for the goods out of my personal bank account and the PC is for my personal use! They are refusing point blank to acknowledge this much in the style of 'computer says NO' chant! What I don't get is WHY they behave in this way, can't be too good for their longterm strategy and there are other companies out there in competition with them! In my view, as a consumer, I have the right to benefit from all the UK laws protec!
ting Jo Bloggs from being ripped off and I WILL pursue this. I have entered a report into Watchdog on the BBC website, I will also get in touch with Bolton TS and now that I see DA's email address from this page I will contact him aswell. If you or anyone else is so inclined, it may be helpful to register your complaints about this seriously short term minided company on the watchdog page at the BBC. If you have any tips for me, please do get in touch. Thanks for the spurring on...

SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Needless to say I wont be using DABS
I've just ordered a Monitor from Dabs, before I came to this web site. Having done so, I'm now very apprehensive. The goods are scheduled to arrive sometime this week (ordered on Monday 08-05-06). I'll keep you posted.
Fantastic reading. This is the kind of standing-up that we need in attempting to sort out Britain's shocking service industry!

Hi there, this rings true - I have just had a similar experience and when I phoned trading standards they admitted that Dabs has been attracting very large numbers of complaints. Evidently they justify this on the basis that the % is small relative to their business. The complains are continuing, the poor service is continuing (and is institutionalised) so Trading Standards weren't able to give me much hope.

In case others need to complain, the centralised Trading Standards number is now 0845-4040506 ("Consumer Direct").

Well done for chasing Dabs to the end ...

Just think what they'll be like now that they are a part of BT ...

Nice reading chris

I have recently had a bad experience with Dabs also. There service is appalling there is no way to contact them other than by e.mail which is a disgrace They dont respond to mails half the time
My advice is Dont order and stay away from Dabs!!

Hi mate can you please help me out with Trading standards email address i have been trying for 2 months to get a refund from DABS and hey your methods were great.
Thank you Chris. I have just Googled to find the Dabs website. I saw your "Apaulling service" site (just under the Dabs one). I wanted to buy a new P.C monitor and hard drive. I don't think I'll bother now. I'll go to Tesco up the road. Thank you for your help.
Thank you Chris - you have saved me from any temptation to do business with this company. My only comment (the result of past experience of this sort of thing) is that I would have added "c.c. Trading Standards" at a much earlier stage in the correspondence: I have found that this usually works a treat! I congratulate you on your patience.
I have bought from Dabs in the past without problem. However, recently I bought a 'warranty repaired' Fusion PVR from them that proved to be dead-on-arrival. They have refunded the cost of the PVR ... but not the postage ... because I also purchased a SCART cable to be able to connect the PVR to a television (duh!). So, I have a redundant 2.49 cable that cost me 8.49! The Dabs 'chat' system is sooo tedious, and you may as well be talking to a parrot! Just sent mail to Bolton t/s ... we'll see what happens. (I will also take the time to contact other organisations to warn people about the way that Dabs operate.) Needless to say I am no longer a Dabs customer! Phil., Charfield.

I was planning to buy a PC Base Unit from DABS but following your problems I will buy elsewhere. Thanks for the tip off.

Jim Newcastle

I have bought from dabs before - the last two problems will mean I won't buy again:

1 - shipper delivers without warning (you dont get a delivery date!), redeliver the next day (9 to 6) if you are not there then it sits at their depot (about 20 miles away) for 2 (yes 2!) days before being returned. Are we there for their convenience? Imagine if you didn't drive or were housebound (seems like on-line shopping is ideal - well ...) I had to take an emergency day off (imagine how that went down with the boss)

2 - No delivery, now 7 days, dabs dont respond to e-mails or chat (for the last 4 days), Home Delivery Networks cant respond unless they have tried to deliver it (yes really!) - I have no idea where my stuff is and cant get hold of anyone.

Al (Guildford)


Very intersting site. Glad you had some success in the end.
I have had to resend A DOA laptop back to DABS. I can see a challenge coming - hope not.
Where did you get the emai contacts from?


Very intersting reading. Dealt with DABS some years ago with no problems. Am in the market for electronic gear at the moment, must admit I was thinking of DABS, but not any more. Glad I read this site.

Dave T. Yorkshire

hi , i was just thinking of buying somthing from DABS but i dont think i will now bother. I run a business and take orders and give advice over the phone. We always strive to give best advice and service and always admit to our mistakes and deal with people as we would like to dealt with. I find this is all people including me ever want. As we are all human
I was googling a search for Dabs because a friend told me they could supply a DVD video recorder. Fortunately I saw your link cited and read it through first. If this is how Dabs treat their customers they don't deserve our business and they won't get it! I'm off elsewhere and I hope other people do the same.
I wish I had seen your webpage before buying a TV from DABS. When I purchased it I informed them it was for my fathers 80th birthday. I ordered it three weeks in advance and it was stolen from the delivery agent. DABS have so far refused to refund the money nearly £400 and have had no contact with me. I have phoned them many times and have been told the 'manager ' will get back to me......still waiting I am putting this in the hands of my credit card company to fight. DON'T BUY FROM DABS !they don't give a dabs about there customers.
Thank you for your warning re: Dabs. I was considering doing business with them. To me it is the lack of respect to customers and their failure to value their customers that earns them the site you posted.

Keep up fighting for service standards. I am American and only discovered the total lack of customer orientation when I moved here. The UK is the only place I've been where no one is in the queue and they still make you wait. The UK must wake up or be relegated in a global market.

Please feel free to share this feedback with Dabs. You have cost them one customer for a high-end laptop and they should know. There are many sellers to choose from so why do business with a bad one?

Best wishes...

Peter in Romford

Have just had bad experience with dabs concerning delivery of a present for a 70th birthday. If you pay for next day delivery according to them next day means from when order is processed which in this case was two days after I placed it. I mean what sort of crap is this. They only tell you this if you can get though to them. You can only contact them through a chat pop up which I tried and thought I was getting somewhere only to be caught out at the last moment its a long story.

It would appear the only way to stop these crooks is to spread the word and use someone else. So if you are thinking of using them DONT. Plenty of other companies to choose from. Trouble is you think that everyone else has problems not you, but when it happens your f***ed. Please just dont bother.

Will never buy from them after reading this. Shocking. Scarily, everyone seems to have very similar experiences!

Personally, I struggled with Dabs on a couple of occasions (over delivery and refunds). It's annoying that communication has to be by web form and generally each message takes 24hrs to receive a response.

Strange customer service model :D


I have dealt with DABS since they were in Knaphill Surrey with a service counter. They then moved to Bracknell Berks and still had a service facility. I have never had any difficulties with them. I now want to buy more equipment from them but cant get hold of them by telephone to ask questions. I will therefore be going to another supplier.

Ian M.

I tried to comment on the article but it wouldn't let me - kept telling me to refresh as the page was old but even when I refreshed, it wouldn't let me send a comment. I got to the page on a google search for dabs complaints, looking for precedents. This is the comment I was trying to post -

This is so helpful and hopeful! I am in the middle of a dispute with dabs.com Just 3 weeks in and I have already asked them to deal with it in the next 72 hours or I will file court papers and sue. I hadn't thought of trading standards, so I may do that first. My situation is a little more complex because it is opened software, but it is their hardware that was faulty and had to be replaced, now rendering the software useless because according to MS it can only be installed on the original motherboard. Which is faulty. And at dabs. So, I just sent the last email an hour ago and awaiting response. You have stopped me giving in! Over £112 out of pocket! Thanks for this.


This person takes Dabs to task but it is obvious who the problem is with. Not Dabs. Anyone who knows anything about computers would not have purchased 'registered' memory, it has to state unregistered. If he had gone to Crucial in the first place, a quick search would be done to correctly identify the memory required. Dabs have done nothing wrong here. They DID NOT advise him to do anything, he just chose the wrong memory. Before anyone goes rooting around in a PC, be sure you KNOW what you are doing. A.Whitfield, a happy Dabs customers of many years.


How tiresome you are. For the record I have a combined honours degree in computer science and electronic control & instrumentation (Aston University, 1980). Read the damned article, and you'll realise that you have missed the point. The point is:

1. The memory was incorrectly labelled.

2. In dealing with me, Dabs ignored me, insulted me, secretly withheld some of my money, agreed to refund the rest with trading standards, then didn't.

Even if I concede point 1 to you, WHICH I DO NOT, point 2 is a hanging offence anyway.

You have more stamina than a reasonable person should have! I ordered goods from Dabs and paid extra for next day delivery, which didn't happen. But the website did not stop me from picking the option despite the time of day.
David Atherton Bull Shit

Personally as of March 16th 2011 have had problems with dabs.com for the past month.

Basically for a non recieved order. I've been in email contact with them for over a month and simply put the customer service is dreadful, they take anything from 3-7 days to respond to emails, if at all.

I've had no end of emails ignored by their joke of a support staff and to top it off, I was told I was being refunded on 12/03/2011 and nothing is in my bank account as of 16/03/2011.

Not sure what to say, never encountered a company so dreadful before.


I have used Dabs.com for a few years and up until now they were OK.

That's when I had to send back two pieces of equipment. One failed after a days use (hard disk) and one item was mis-advertised for something it didn't do!

Anyway, i posted the items back (have proof) and they received these back early last March. I'm still waiting for a refund on both items and now I have one idiot authorising another RMA for something I sent back last month!

Usual promises of a refund but nothing has materialised. The credit card company refunded us but only as a gesture of goodwill.. I will keep on at Dabs though for as long as it takes :)

They are incompetent, don't have a clue what they are doing and I am quite eager to visit their offices personally for a refund, a bunch of flowers and a box of chocolates for their incompetance (only down the road from me).

Dabs is a terrible company Ishould have done more research before ordering anything from them.

I am still waiting 14 days after my order for delivery. I have sent emails and received no response from them. Very fast to email you when they want the cash though.

This company should be banned as they are a bunch of cowboys I am extremely angry!!!

Like the article on Dabs, I've been using them for years and fortunatly stuff always worked. Until now that is.

An SSD I bought died after two weeks. Because it was beyond the 5 day DOA limit dabs refused to let me return the stock pointing me to Sandisk themselves. Sandisk tell me to take it back to the retailer for the fastest service. Its been a month now and still neither are giving ground.

I won't be using Dabs again. They seem more helpful in removing me from their mailing list than keeping me as a customer?

I wouldn't use dabs based on this.
Thanks for letting us know just how crap they are mate
Well done


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