On Sunday evening, I ordered a hard disk from dabs.com. The price was good, and I’ve bought from them before, so it seemed like an easy decision. It turned out to be a terrible online shopping experience, and a cautionary tale of how not to run an online shop.

I had to update my billing details, which was a bit of a pain—a dozen pages of clicking typing and waiting—but it seemed to work out. I placed the order, and looked forward to receiving my purchase.

Late on Monday morning, I decided to see how the order was progressing. Had they packed it? Had they despatched it?

No such luck. Apparently, my account was ‘on hold’, because they hadn’t managed to charge my card. Did they tell me this? What do you think? A courtesy email would have been nice—and would have cost them nothing—but they didn’t bother to inform me. I had to find it out myself.

I updated my billing details once again, making sure that they were correct, and resubmitted the order. This time, the status page informed me that my order was awaiting address validation. A link offered the clarification that this should take two hours at most.

Close to four hours later, I received an email from dabs.com Address Check:

Dear Mr Battley

Thank you for your order placed on 14/09/08

You have received this email because we were unable to confirm the details of your address.

Please note that if you do not action this email within 5 working days we will not be able to process this order and will cancel it on your behalf

Please email the following details to [email protected]

1) The address to which your credit/debit card is registered exactly as shown on your statement.

2) Your landline telephone number and a daytime contact telephone number.

3) Full confirmation of the delivery address including recipients name, company name if applicable and relationship with this address.

Er, what? I replied:

Why should I waste my time entering exactly the same details I’ve already entered on the website?

Congratulations on a lost sale. I’m going to buy from someone who’ll actually take my money.

And I did. My purchase from ebuyer.com was far less onerous, and I consider the extra couple of quid a fair trade to avoid dabs.com’s muppetry. I shan’t be wasting my time on them in the future: they’ve won a pyrrhic victory over fraud if they drive away even legitimate existing customers.

Update: I received an email from ebuyer.com at 19:04 UTC to say that they’ve despatched my order. That’s less time than it took dabs.com to prevaricate over my address.