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Help - supplier problem, advice needed!


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I don't know if this is the right place, but I don't have enough posts yet to put up a supplier review (and this *isn't* a review, it's a cry for help!), I really need to know what steps I can take ...

I ordered an Astro-Engineering AC346 parallel-motion binocular mount and tripod from Scopes'n'skies (aka Astronomy and Nature centre) in early December 2009. It was meant to be my Christmas present from several family members. I have a shoulder injury and back problems and this type of mount seems to be the best thing for me to use, as my bins are heavy (Fujinon 10x70s). A few days after confirming the order SnS mailed to say an item was out of stock and I should call to discuss it. After many attempts to phone I mailed them to find out what they needed to "discuss". The reply (from Wendy) arrived quickly, to say that Astro-engineering had promised the mount for the new year.

I had originally asked for delivery to my daughter's place (she lives in south London, I live in Luxembourg, and she was coming to me for Xmas). So I had asked in my reply to their explanations for a quote for carriage to Luxembourg -- but got no answer to that, so after repeated attempts to get through on the phone I mailed again on 6th Jan and repeated the request. I still got no reply, but kept on trying to phone, and finally managed to speak to someone. I was told that they had contacted the manufacturer, the parts were available and they were making a mount up for me. I repeated the request to give me carriage costs to Luxembourg and they promised to get back to me -- and then there was silence.

On Feb 18th I spoke to someone else (Tina), who gave me (finally) the carriage costs, and assured me the mount was in production. I asked for and got e-mail confirmation. They said:

"The AC346 is currently in production and we will send it out as soon as it is available".

I heard nothing further, and for various reasons wasn't able to chase it until April. On 19th April I phoned them again and spoke to someone called Andrew, who promised me an e-mail update, given that I had been waiting 4 months. I heard nothing, however, and so mailed them again, but with no response. Since then I have been away, and been ill, and been busy with my son's wedding, but I mailed them again early this week, and have tried to phone as well, because it's now 6 months!! They haven't answered the mail and no one's picking up the phone (no voice mail either).

I've done a lot of shopping on-line, bought stuff from all over the world, but I've never had an experience like this. At least they haven't charged my credit card, but that's the only good thing about it! I really need the mount, there seems to be no one over here who's selling anything like it, and no one else in the UK who will ship it to Luxembourg.

The worst thing is, I have looked on their web-site, and AE's too: they are both at the same address -- and the items I ordered are still on special offer and "in stock for immediate despatch"!! That seems to me to be misleading publicity, at the very least. A bit of checking shows that these businesses and also Pulsar Optics are owned/run by Stephen Dalby FRAS. Is he on the forum anywhere? Can someone put me in touch with him?

Can anyone advise me what steps to take next?

Hoping for some advice.

Naomi

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As far as I am aware SnS or it's staff are not members of the forum. What you are experiencing with SnS is not uncommon with this company, but they did seem to improve their service over the last few months.

They are almost impossible to contact over the phone. If you have not payed for anything yet then cancel the order and find an alternative supplier.

Edited by insomnia
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Yes, I think you're right, it's really gone on long enough. I wish I'd looked at the supplier reviews before I placed the order. Only thing is, how do I know they've registered a cancellation when they don't answer my mails??

I've discovered Astro-engineering is on Facebook, maybe I'll send them a message and see if that gets things moving.

N

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Cancel the order in writing and send a copy to your credit card company with an explanation and ask the card company to block any payments to the company. The card company should be willing to do that with no problems.

And I am sure no one minds a plea for help on here.

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Thank you! I will do that if I can't get any sense out of Astro-engineering -- the problem is I looked everywhere for a mount like this and at the time they were the only people in the UK prepared to send it ... but I'll have a go with FLO when they're open again.

And thanks to everyone for being so helpful.

N

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Further bit of advice - when you write to companies in this type of situation and you want either goods or a reply speedily use the phrase 'time is of the esssence' which stand you in good stead legally speaking.

So if your ordering some gear and you have negotiated a delivery date then say on the order 'Please find payment of £xxx for goods to be shipped by 1st March - time is of the essence'

or if you want a response "I sghall expect your reply witin 5 days and time is of the essence"

Otherwise you get into arguments about "reasonable time" which although is often taken as 14 working days by a court its pretty well open to interpration whereas by using the phrase that time is of the essence you are stating that that is a contract term - ie if it not delivered by that date then the deals off.

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I would cancel too. Just think of the customer service if something goes wrong with the device..... Try and get the same mount somewhere else or look for advice from one of the more reliable suppliers around.

HTH,

xmal

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Thanks for the advice - and for the legal tip. Although I hope it won't come to that, as I say, they haven't charged the card or anything. But I will definitely cancel in writing and warn the credit card company.

As to finding the mount elsewhere, it's made by SnS's "sister company", practically in the same building! I'll have to go back and look at the other makes on offer, and just hope someone can send something to me :D

Anyway, wish me luck -- I'll post a "sequel" when I see how things turn out.

Naomi

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Astro Engineering used to be part of the Telescope House group, before it became part of the Scopes 'n' Skies group. Their products - whilst a little "industrial" in fit-and-finish - are of good mechanical quality, and are not exclusive to SnS.

So you may be able to get it elsewhere - although if it's not a stock item, the retailer may run into the same difficulty as you! :D

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  • 4 weeks later...

This is by way of an update, with thanks to all the people who responded to my original request.

I cancelled the order by registered post, including the magic words "time is of the essence", thanks for that, Astro_Baby. I received a one-line e-mail in reply. No apologies, nothing, just "confirmation of the cancellation of your order no. xxx" So they obviously couldn't care less about nearly £200 of business down the tubes.

For the credit card, apparently you can't do the equivalent of stopping a cheque and just block a single transaction, so we had to have completely new cards, which was a pain and took nearly 2 weeks -- at least we could keep the PINs.

Thanks to Ringz for the tip about the Virgo Skymount. It's actually made by Virgo Astronomics in the USA, and SCS Astro have just supplied me with one in less than a week :eek: They were very helpful, specifically Kieron McGrath.

Now I have to replace my rickety old tripod and will need some advice there, but I will post a new thread about that.

Thanks again to everyone who answered my original request for help.

Naomi

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For the credit card, apparently you can't do the equivalent of stopping a cheque and just block a single transaction, so we had to have completely new cards
You surely shouldn't have had to change your cards. Certainly my card supplier will recover individual transactions for you, but it is a bit of pain. You have to fill out a form detailing the dispute with the supplier, then the bank will investigate. If they agree with you they will give you your money back. I think not getting the goods after 6 months or whatever probably constitutes good grounds!

NigelM

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Yes, we can do that too, once a payment has been made, if we wanted a refund, but they hadn't actually taken any money from the card (thank goodness) as the thing was back-ordered into eternity! We wanted to prevent them for instance using the card details and drawing a payment and then claiming they'd done it before the cancellation arrived, and the only way, apparently, is to change the card :-( Of course that's not to imply that we thought they were misinforming us or would do anything so dishonest, but you can't be too careful ...

Anyway, it's all over now, thank goodness!

N.

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Have had to do a dispute through PayPal as SNS were not replying to my emails, that got their attention and had a phone call on Fri evening last. All sorted now but will be careful in future about my dealings with them.

Jim

PS, just checked my emails a few seconds after writing the above, SNS have emailed me that all monies from a cancelled order was repaid last Fri, something works :eek: .

Edited by The Sailor
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Yes, PayPal dispute resolution really works, had a problem with a supplier in Canada (not for astro stuff), I placed the order, they charged the card via PayPal and then instead of the shipping info there was silence. After numerous unanswered mails and phone messages I took it to PayPal, and when the supplier didn't reply after 10 days PayPal refunded my card. I've no idea whether PayPal got their money back, but at least I wasn't out of pocket!

N

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I can't believe this company are still trading!!! - I reported them to Trading Standards over a year ago for their behaviour and misrepresentation. We had to fight for a refund through our credit card company for goods they hadn't got but willingly took money for.

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Well their performance seems to be very patchy, to say the least - I looked at the supplier reviews messages (I don't yet have enough posts to contribute to that) and some people had similar experiences to me, while others had their stuff delivered within 48 hours or so and were absolutely delighted!

I certainly wouldn't recommend them to anyone.

Naomi

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Up to the spat I had with them over a refund they were great, deliveries were fast and I would have recommended them to anyone. Once a glitch happens then that seems to start problems with communications, at the moment I am weary of them.

Jim

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What a nightmare Naomi, I shall add this company to my list of companies not to use. I don't know how some of these companies continue trading with such a poor service.

I am glad you got it sorted out with another company.

Carole

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