To save confusion this is not a review for Sports Direct (http://sportsdirect.com) or Direct Sports in the USA (http://directsports.com) but my personal experience of the UK based Direct Sports (http://www.directsportseshop.co.uk)
Direct Sports is an online sports store specialising in racket sports. Their website is either http://www.directsportseshop.co.uk or http://www.directsports-eshop.com. After selling one of my current rackets I thought I would try something new out for 2010. After much research I was on the hunt for a Babolat Pure Drive Roddick GT Plus. The best price was at both http://www.prodirecttennis.com and http://www.directsportseshop.co.uk. I finally chose Direct Sports because they took Paypal (which I had some credit on already) and they also offer a stringing service for just the price of the string (even though the string is overpriced). On ordering they also threw in a free gift of your choice (A choice from rackets, balls and bags) and so I chose a Babolat Club Line 3 Racket Bag as part of my purchase. To top everything off, next day delivery was free of charge because I had purchased a racket (normally 2-4 days is free of charge). All looked great, I put my order through at 3pm on 29th December 2009 which was the cut off time for next day delivery and so I was looking forward to having my shiny new racket on the 30th December 2009.
I was very excited on the 30th December 2009 and so I logged on to my order history and the status had not changed from ‘Payment Taken’. I waited until 3.34pm but it hadn’t arrived yet so I called customer service on 01740 646961 and queried why this was and the lady explained to me that I had missed the 3pm deadline (even though I ordered at 3pm) and so I wouldn’t get my order until the 31st December 2009. I was gutted but I didn’t feel too bad, after all I only had to wait an extra day, right? Absolutely wrong! I got a call at 5.07pm the same day (30th December 2009) from the same lady telling me that I had to wait an extra day because there was no stringer available to string my racket until the 31st December 2009. I was incredibly annoyed and the lady just told me it was out her control and that it was my fault for wanting the stringing service and also blamed the time of year. She then went on to tell me that she could send me out the racket that day (30th December 2009) without the new string and then immediately told me to hold and then came back on the phone to tell me that the courier had already left for the day and so I definitely wouldn’t get the racket until the day after. I finally got a chance to speak and I thought that I would point out that the 1st January 2010 was a bank holiday and so she told me that I would get it on the 2nd January 2010. I asked her to confirm that they were going to send the my new racket on the 2nd January 2010 even though it was a Saturday and then she quickly replied that I wouldn’t get the racket until Monday 4th January 2010. I was really trying to get my head around the fact that the person I was talking to had no idea what day of the week it was or that the 1st of January of each year was a bank holiday.
My wife was annoyed too when she heard what happened when she got back that night and suggested that I talk to them to ask them to deliver on Saturday 2nd January 2010 as it was their fault in the first place. With this in mind I phoned up Direct Sports again on the 31st December 2009 at 10.20am asking them to deliver on the Saturday instead and I was bluntly just told that they didn’t deliver on Saturdays because it cost them too much and nothing further would be done. This really annoyed me as I had worked at ebuyer.com before and the operating director (Armando Sanchez) would always try his best to accommodate the customer if it was a fault of ebuyer.com themselves, even if it meant getting his own staff to deliver items directly to the customer. What ever happened to this moral stance on things? How can an online only company like Direct Sports be so blaze and have such an arrogant stance on customer service? I resigned myself to wait until 2010 to get my shiny new racket.
Happy new year plus a few days into 2010! It was the 4th January 2010 and I thought I would check in on the status of my order and once again it had not changed from ‘Payment Taken’. I phoned up Direct Sports at 9.59am on the 4th January 2010 to query this and she told me that she was checking on my order. She then told me her database was down and that she would call me back. She called me back about 20 minutes later at 10.21am and told me that it had been dispatched on the 31st December 2009 as planned and after asking about 3 times got a consignment number. After asking if I would definitely get the order on the 4th January 2010 I was told not to expect the order as she had no success with trying to track the item. I tried the tracking number on Parcelforce’s website and it showed up with an error. I tried all through the day but kept getting this error ‘We are currently unable to confirm that status of your parcel. Please check the number and try again. Please note that items sent over 4 months ago cannot be tracked online. If you are tracking a parcel sent from outside of the UK, we may not have received it yet. Please try again or use the help button below.’ I thought I’d email them at email@example.com as the phone didn’t seem to offer any joy. I got this reply 3 hours later ‘Hi Kwai, We are sorry to hear that you are yet to receive your parcel. I can assure you that this parcel has been sent with Parcel Force and under normal courier days your order would have been received. Clearly the Christmas/ New Year services have held up your order. We genuinely regret any inconvenience and issues this situation has caused you.’ they also included another tracking number that didn’t work. I replied back to them by email telling them that the tracking number did not work.
More time passed and the 5th January 2010 came around. I was so annoyed at this point that I still hadn’t received my parcel so I called up at 11.43am as once again my order status showed ‘Payment Taken’ and I had received no email reply with the correct tracking number, actually no email reply at all. By this stage I had waited a whole week after the date it should have arrived by. I wanted compensation of some sort and I also wanted the correct tracking number. I spoke to Rebecca at customer service and was finally given a tracking number that worked. However I noticed that they had not given the parcel to Parcelforce until the evening of the 4th January 2010! I was livid and demanded compensation for their outright and constant lies to me. How much of what they told me was actually true in the first place? Rebecca then told me that they had definitely given the parcel to Parcelforce on the 31st January 2010 and that Parcelforce must have attached a new label as a result of their own delay. I asked her to get compensation from Parcelforce if this was the case. Rebecca then told me that that would not be possible, Rebecca told me there was nothing she could do. Once I told her that I was writing this all up in this blog Rebecca offered to refund me the delivery. I pointed out that the delivery was free and Rebecca told me once again that there was no compensation available. Rebecca reminded me that she had got me the correct tracking number and that I would be getting the parcel very soon, what more could I want? She also reminded me that I was getting free delivery and that I should be satisfied with that. She continued to tell me that she could not offer compensation, discount, refund or a voucher of any kind.
I was really annoyed with her attitude and lack of action and told Rebecca sincerely that I should be compensated to some degree. Rebecca then finally offered a reduction on a future purchase which I have in writing although she declined to give an exact figure or percentage, only that I would have to phone for my future reduced purchase. I told her that a 50p reduction off a new racket would hardly justify any form of compensation but Rebecca tried to reassure me that it would obviously be more. The email reads:
‘Hi Mr Kwai,
As requested, here is confirmation that we will offer you the best possible price of your next order.
Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused.
After all the uncertainty with Direct Sports, I don’t think I’ll be taking Rebecca up on her offer!
Finally! The Parcelforce guy comes knocking on my door at 4.49pm and I gladly take the order off his hands. The box is totally intact with the Direct Sports label sealing top and bottom:
The box only looks big enough to hold a racket and oh wait what’s that on the main label? It’s the date of despatch! It’s not placed over an old label and as the caution tapes are in place it’s not a new box. The stamp is for 24 hour delivery but the date of despatch is not the 31st December 2009 but 4th January 2010! Direct Sports and Rebecca have totally been telling me fibs. How can anyone trust a company that just keeps on lying?
OK, forget about how poor the customer service – well service full stop – so far from Direct Sports. Let’s see the goods! The racket is in the racket case which is in a long polythene bag. The racket case looks fine. The free gift Babolat bag is packed in tight next to the racket and is also in a polythene bag. There’s no other padding of any sort so it’s lucky that the flimsy box was not compromised in any way. Taking the racket out of the cover we see from the outset that Direct Sports have decided to paint the strings as if I had not had a restring.
That would be absolutely fine if the paint was actually even, not flaking off easily and didn’t have random tennis ball like fluff all over it, but alas it has all of those properties!
The saying ‘You missed a bit’ should also be ‘You painted too much!’ There’s excess paint on the frame of my racket. Luckily the paint is so crap that I can easily rub it off with my thumb with no effort.
Sometimes when people tell you that you get what you pay for, they are absolutely right! I paid nothing for the restring service except an inflated price for the string itself and got a racket strung by an 8 year old! The tension is supposed to be at 60lbs but the cross strings move along the mains as if it’s strung at 45lbs. Any decent stringer will string the mains and crosses separately but my 8 year old Direct Sports stringer hasn’t bothered and stuck it in the frame as one piece! To top it all off, Direct Sport’s 8 year old stringer couldn’t be bothered to trim off the string ends after doing a Double Half Hitch Knot! I’m not sure why they didn’t opt for a Pro Knot and it’s sure going to be annoying to see flashes of excess yellow string waving at me.
Well it looks like the restring (which was one of many excuses given to me by Direct Sports) is coming straight out wasting me £15.99 plus getting the job done properly plus more string! So what is there to learn from all of this? Well from the outset it’s easy to say that you shouldn’t trust any online companies you’ve never heard of, but I’ve had great success so far (in general) with small retailers. I will always champion shopping online however difficult it may be, but I may be less adventurous in future with companies that haven’t been reviewed very much. It’ll now cost me more time and money to get the racket restrung along with what I paid Direct Sports but is still cheaper than if I had just got the racket and restring from my local PWP store. I’m confident that if I had gone with another online retailer that I would have received better and faster service though.