By Sam Bowers
This story starts in 2013 when I replaced an old laptop with a shiny new MacBook Air. Had I not done that, and thus discovered the joys of the MAC operating system, what follows would very likely never have happened.
The MacBook served me well until around 2017 when it broke down and I had to replace it. By this time, I was starting to suffer with a health condition that meant I couldn’t work as much as I used to (I was self employed at that time) and as a result I was hemorrhaging customers, so replacing or even repairing the MacBook was out of the question due to a lack of finances.
Instead I managed to get a reasonable laptop from eBay, which meant going back to the Windows operating system. As it was a cheap laptop, it was underpowered and I found that Windows ran very slowly. Fortunately, I was able to install Linux instead (my favourite flavour of Linux is MINT), and that actually ran smoothly, so I was happy. Linux is not quite as polished as Windows or MAC, but does a reasonable job of doing all the tasks I needed to do.
I happily ran Linux until 2022, by which time the laptop’s age was showing. The fan had stopped working, so I bought a replacement fan, which only lasted a couple of months before it too gave up. A second replacement fan also didn’t last very long, so I had to try and use the laptop without one. That meant that the laptop overheated and shut itself down every few minutes (a safety feature built in to all laptops, but super annoying if it happens all the time). Eventually I bought a laptop cooling pad, which meant I could use it for longer periods (up to an hour) before it shut down again.
By this time, working was getting more difficult and customers and jobs were on a downward spiral, meaning that money was getting tighter, so a new laptop (which I desperately needed by then) was out of the question. I couldn’t work without laptop, but I couldn’t afford to buy a new one either, so I tried to keep going with the old, broken down and super frustrating laptop. The increased cost of living wasn’t helping the situation either, and towards the middle of the year, things were starting to look bleak.
Since 2013 I have been renting a house with a very nice landlord (a husband and wife team). They were very good to me, but in July 2022, my landlord passed away. This left my landlady with a problem as she had less money coming in. The solution for her was to increase the rent I was paying on the house. This couldn’t have happened at a worse time for me, already struggling to make my income stretch, I couldn’t afford the increase, and I certainly couldn’t then afford a new laptop to keep my business going.
To dial my stress level up to the maximum, a member of my own family also passed away in July 2022. I had to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for advice on how to solve my financial problems. They were very good and did make a couple of suggestions, which did help me tremendously. At least now, I would be able to pay my rent, and not starve, however a new laptop (although needed for my business) was still a luxurious dream well out of my reach.
It turned out that that family member who had passed away had left me (along with other family members) some money. I felt it was a horrible way of solving my financial problems (I would much rather have had less money and the family member still with us), but that’s how it was. Now I could finally afford to buy the much needed laptop for my business.
I said at the start of this blog that if I had not bought the MacBook in 2013, the following would likely not have happened. The reason for that is because I liked the original MAC so much, I decided to buy a new MacBook this time. It was a little pricey, but I considered it an investment in my business, and I (hopefully) wouldn’t need to replace it for up to 10 years, making the yearly cost reasonable. So, I logged on to Amazon and ordered a shiny new MacBook Pro on the 19th September 2022.
I bought the new laptop on a ‘pay over 5 months’ deal, and the first payment was made on the 20th September. I received the laptop and was initially very happy with it until I discovered a major problem with it. It was throwing popups which stayed on top of all windows, and disrupted my workflow, and crashed some programs entirely. These popups came up every few minutes and the situation became intolerable. I had paid a premium for the laptop, and an experience like that just wasn’t acceptable.
At first I thought maybe I had downloaded something dodgy by mistake when setting the laptop up. After all, the previous MAC I had didn’t do anything like that, and I had used it happily for 4 years without problems. With that in mind, I formatted the hard drive of the new laptop and reinstalled the Operating System from scratch, and only installed the programs I need to work. Hardly had I begun using the newly re-installed laptop, than the same problem re-occured.
This was not acceptable – especially for a premium brand laptop, – so on the 14th October I contacted Amazon to ask them what to do. Maybe they had seen a problem like that before, and had a solution I hadn’t thought of. They said I should return the laptop for a full refund. They emailed me a return label, however I didn’t have a printer to print the label out, so I got back in contact with Amazon to ask about that. Having had dealings with Sky TV (who want their equipment back if you stop subscribing to them) I knew that Sky post the preprinted labels out, so that the customer can use them to return the products. I thought that Amazon should do the same, but they told me they don’t do that. However, they said, I should use a courier of my choice and email the tracking details and proof of posting to Amazon, and they would then refund me for the laptop, and the postage costs of getting it back to them.
OK, I said, if that’s how they work, I will do that, so that is what I did. On the 17th October Royal Mail (the courier of my choice) picked the parcel up from me, and it was delivered to the Amazon warehouse in Dunfermline on the 19th October at 05.12. I had the tracking proof of that. I then looked forward to my refund ‘within 14 days’.
Just one day after receiving the laptop back Amazon cancelled the returns process (up until then the order page had shown ‘return requested’ for that item). On the 21st October, slightly concerned I contacted Amazon (using their chat facility) and asked what was happening. They said that they had not received the laptop back. I pointed out that I had proof that they DID receive it back, but they said I had to wait at least 14 days before they could do anything about it.
Given the attitude of the person I was chatting with, I wasn’t sure they were intending to do anything about it, so I restarted the returns process on my order page (that way at least it shows I was returning the laptop), and contacted them again to say what I had done (and why). They weren’t at all interested and just repeated that I had to wait 14 days before they could ‘investigate’ what happened.
When the 14 days were up, I contacted them again to ask what was happening, but they then said had to wait 30 days before they could do anything. By this time, I suspected they were playing for time – and I was right, as we will see.
Getting increasingly worried about the situation, and given the fact that two payments (of the five) had now successfully gone through and I was paying for a laptop that Amazon had taken back into their possession, I contacted Amazon several times on their chat facility and twice I called their head office on the phone. Each of the chats ended the same way, with Amazon saying ‘we can’t help you’ and then ending the chat on their end. The telephone calls (a couple of days apart) also both ended with Amazon saying I would not be receiving a refund for the money I had already paid them. Both telephone calls were rudely ended by them hanging up on me.
When the 30 days were up, I sent an official complaint (by email) to Amazon head office, again explaining what had happened and asking them to rectify the situation, but I got an email back confirming they would not be refunding me, and (surprise, surprise) as 30 days had passed, there was nothing they could do (they had previously told me I HAD to wait 30 days before they could do anything!)
In early December I complained to my bank, as the payment had been made by debit card. The bank asked me to fill out an online form and submit all my evidence to them. On the 12th December, the bank found in my favour and refunded me the money already paid to Amazon (total of £851.60), but with a warning that if Amazon objects before the 24th February 2023, the refund could be reversed. If, however the refund remains in my account on the 24th February it will be final.
I think Amazon have behaved horribly in this situation. I did exactly what they asked me to do, then they refused to refund me for the laptop AND they took the laptop back as well. I have blocked further payments to them, so it remains to be seen if they will attempt to sue me for the payments not made to them. If they do, I have the evidence to show that they are in the wrong. I am a little concerned that they have legal might which is not available to me, however, I am confident that I am in the right, and I refuse to pay them any more for a laptop they took back. Citizens advice have told me that what they have done is illegal, so if it comes to it I will take further legal advice. In the meantime, I will not be doing any more business with them.