An Unfortunate Experience With BT Shop

A few weeks ago I ordered a refurbished YouView box on offer at BT Shop at about half the usual price. A week later I had still not received a dispatch notification, so I chased for an update and was assured that they would work on getting it dispatched.

What Went Wrong?

Another week down the line I checked the order status and noticed it had been cancelled!  Somewhat put out at the cancellation and that I’d had no email to notify me or explain the circumstances, I contacted BT Shop and was informed that  this was “due to stock availability” (presumably this meant “lack of stock availability”).

Just as much of concern was that BT Shop had started sending me marketing emails even though I had not given them consent to do so.  The first “spam” email offered me a discounted new YouView box but at more than £20 above the price I had agreed to pay for the refurbished one.  Whilst I am not in any way suggesting that BT Shop lured me in with a cheap offer and then tried to sell me a more expensive unit, the coincidence of these 2 events gave an unfortunate impression.

So, I escalated these issues to BT’s CEO, who arranged for a BT Shop customer services manager to help me.

Cancellation of the Order

From my conversation with the BT Shop manager, I understand that refurbished items like this are stored in an enormous warehouse.  It seems that the item I chose had been been mis-scanned or misplaced and there was little chance of locating it.

So, there was very little they could do under these circumstances except offer me a new unit at a decent discount as a goodwill gesture.  As I felt this was a reasonable compromise and a good deal, despite the considerably higher price than I would have paid on the original order, I was happy to accept this offer and am also very happy with the product I received.

Marketing

At no point did I agree to any marketing.  In order to do so, I would have had to actively checked a box to opt in to it.  It therefore seems that BT Shop opted me in without my consent.  This is, at best, bad practice and I would not expect any reputable company to behave this way.

If I bought a YouView box from a high street retailer, I would not expect the sales assistant to follow me home and stuff some flyers through my letterbox.  In the same way, when I provided an email address to BT Shop so they could contact me regarding my order, I did not expect it to be misused for marketing purposes.  It is very disappointing that BT Shop behaved this way, although since my complaint they have corrected this and removed me from their marketing database.

Their manager claimed there was a box I could have unchecked to avoid marketing.  I have been unable to verify that claim, despite subsequently making a test purchase up to the point where payment details were required.  Even if there is one on a later screen, it is bad practice for any company to opt customers in to marketing “hoping they won’t notice”, so they can (unethically in my view) abuse the email address for marketing purposes.

The volume of marketing emails – 5 within a week – was also surprisingly excessive and would be likely to put off even those customers who welcome marketing.  Drowning customers in emails is likely to lead to them either ignoring those emails altogether or unsubscribing from a mailing list, possibly even ceasing to be customers.

Communications

Although 2 people I dealt with suggested that an email advising me of the order cancellation should have been sent, none was received.  A later dispatch notice that was promised did not arrive either.  It is surprising that 15 years into the 21st century a company that is in the business of telecommunications does not seem to have a robustly designed database with email communications linked back to order numbers and customer IDs, so that they can easily access and check all communications relating to the order/customer.

Fraud Risk

BT Shop is also a company that forces customers to store a card as a payment method rather than letting them provide card details on a per-transaction basis.  This bad practice in regard to protecting customers from fraud.  They are far from alone in this: others such as Amazon and Rakuten also do this.

Summary

Whilst the initial experience with BT Shop was unfortunate, I have to say that they did go out of their way in trying to put things right, so I would be cautiously happy to shop with them again.

There is scope to improve the punctuality, quality and reliability of their customer communications. They also need to give serious thought to allowing customers to opt in to marketing rather than assuming their consent.