How Mailorders UK LTD sold me the wrong laptop

During the first week of August 2003 I traveled to Brighton, England. While the purpose of this travel is uninteresting, the result was that I decided to move there after my contract with eFaber ended by the end of October. With this in mind, I browsed Amazon.co.uk for laptops. I didn't want to carry a bulky desktop computer if I could afford a laptop. Besides, it was time for me to upgrade.

Soon I found a nice deal from a UK private seller willing to send the laptop internationally. Here is the original url, and here is a copy I made during September 2003 with Mozilla 1.4. The seller was Mr E. Howard Jones <jonesitsell@msn.com>, and he was offering a SONY Vaio Z1SP Centrino 1.5GHz 512 RAM 60Gb HD for just 300 pounds (about 450€ Euros by that time), while at the same time offering a much more powerful machine in another auction. If you check the price of this laptop from Sony's website you will find that 300 pounds price is 15% of the original price. So I talked about this with my parents and they said "go for it".

The next day I returned to that Amazon page, but the auction was cancelled. Unwilling to give up the chance of buying a nice laptop, I contacted Mr Howard Jones personally, because you can obtain from Amazon the seller's email (here's a copy of the information page from Amazon). What follows now is the email conversation which lead to the buy of the announced laptop, which during flight transformed itself into another much crappier machine which is unuseful to do any of the work I have to do with a computer. You can get here the original Unix mailbox file (164 Kb) with the conversation, or continue reading the excerpts from it I've put here for convenient reading.


  1. Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2003 19:16:45 +0200
    From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Subject: Wanted to bid for one of your laptops

    Hi.

    Yesterday I saw your two laptops being auctioned on Amazon (the Sony Vaio and another faster one). I will be moving to another country in a few months so after discussing the buy with my father I wanted to bid 305 pounds for the Sony Vaio but you cancelled the bid. Any particular reason? Will you be auctioning again? I was interested in it because I needed a cheap laptop and this one seemed to fulfill my needs.

    In fact, there's another one being auctioned that is ok, and even cheaper (just 50 pounds now), but unluckily the owner won't deliver internationally, and I live in Spain.

  2. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2003 17:49:58 +0000

    amazon cancelled the sale due to us not wanting to accept amazon payments. we can do you a p4 laptop for 350 inc postage to spain we accept bank transfer or chq. or fastpay.

  3. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Wed, 13 Aug 2003 20:13:52 +0200

    In any case I would like to see the detailed specs of the machine. What is fastpay? Would you accept money through paypal? Are you an individual or a shop?

  4. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 07:33:27 +0000

    ENCLOSE SPECI. WE ARE A MAILORDER COMPANY CHECKOUT FASTPAY AT www.natwestfastpay.com

    we dont use paypal.

    Attached files:

  5. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 23:26:23 +0200

    Sorry, that computer doesn't interest me, too few RAM memory and too much weight. Can you sell me the Sony Vaio Z1SP Centrino 1.5 Ghz with 512 RAM and weight of 2.15 kb?

  6. From: "jonesitsell"
    Date: Thu, 14 Aug 2003 16:33:42 -0700

    yes price is 350 inc postage

  7. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2003 01:41:09 +0200

    Fine, then give me the account of the bank I have to make a transference. I took a look at fastpay but it's only for UK residents.

  8. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003 18:22:13 +0000

    NATWEST BANK
    BURNLEY BRANCH
    ACCOUNT NUMBER 17949653
    SORT CODE 01-01-35
    ACC NAME MR.E.JONES
    ON RECIPT OF MONEY WILL SEND LAPTOP OUT. PLEASE FORWARD YOUR ADDRESS.

  9. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003 20:54:05 +0200

    Will send money on monday or tuesday. My address:

    Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Avenida Gabriel Aresti 12, 1D
    48004 Bilbao
    Vizcaya, Spain

    By the way, do you have an online catalog or web page with other items you sell by mail?

  10. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2003 22:09:13 +0200

    Ok, today I made the transfer. Attached is the payment.

  11. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2003 09:14:20 +0000

    not at present
    we also need a contact number.

  12. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Sun, 17 Aug 2003 11:34:59 +0200

    That's a pity, I've told about you to other people and they seem interested in taking a look at the products you can offer.

    If you mean a telephone number: +34 94 411 31 44.

  13. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 16:03:35 +0000

    just to let you know goods will be shipped out tuesday. due to bank holiday.

  14. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 21:56:01 +0200

    Ok. How long should it take for the shipment to arrive? One week?

    By the way, I've been looking at online money services and the one at http://www.moneybrokers.com/ seems to be very easy to use, fast and cheap. You might want to check that, it's seems cheaper than the transference I made. My bank charged 8 pounds for the transference, while this service charges less than half a pound for the same action. And it's based in UK.

  15. From: "HOWARD JONES" <jonesitsell@msn.com>
    Date: Sat, 23 Aug 2003 08:58:27 +0000

    yes about 1 wk

  16. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Date: Tue, 9 Sep 2003 13:41:01 +0200

    There's still no notice about the shipment. Could you please send me a scanned copy of the shipment bill? With this I can go to the post office and verify what has happened.

  17. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    Subject: I'm starting legal action against you
    Date: Thu, 18 Sep 2003 23:17:25 +0200

    Hi.

    Given that you don't answer email, and it's been a month since the time you sent the laptop, I have to presume that you are cheating me. I'm starting legal action against you. Right now I'm moving to another city, so the address I originally sent you won't work. But in november I'll be moving to england. There I'll contact the local authorities in order to find you and meet you personally.

  18. From: Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz
    To: HOWARD JONES <jonesitsell@msn.com>, itsellltd@btopenworld.com
    Subject: The laptop arrived, but it wasn't the one I asked for
    Date: Sat, 20 Sep 2003 10:24:40 +0200

    So today the laptop arrived. Believing that I was wrong about you I opened the box and found a Compaq Armada 1592 DT instead of the Sony Vaio Z1SP Centrino 1.5 Gz with 512 RAM that we had agreed. The compaq armada is worse than my oldest desktop computer, it's unusable for the work I was going to do.

    I still feel I you have cheated me. My father suggests that now the usual thing for me would to resend you the laptop, you would send another wrong one, and so on an on unendlessly. Since the compaq armada was not even mentioned on any of the emails we exchanged, I belive he is right, and you just wanted to get rid of it. This means that I will continue to seek legal action against you.

    If I have misinterpreted your actions, contact me.


Given that Mr Howard Jones was not answering ANY mail, I was expecting this to be a fraud. So the day I got the notification of the laptop's arrival, I took my digital camera to make some photos which could serve as proof, here they are. These are all thumbnails leading to bigger versions of the photos, which again lead to the original high quality version taken by the camera. There are also scans of the documentation send by Mr Howard Jones. Note how the bill deliberately says "1 pentium laptop", trying to be highly unspecific about the sent goods. However, the Sony Vaio is not a Pentium machine, it's a Pentium II machine. Note too that nowhere was mentioned a Compaq Armada during the conversation, which is the laptop I got. Fraud or mistake?


Conclusion

I'm stupid. What a clear scam. You can smell it just when you look at the prices. But the proof is there, you have faith, you want to believe somebody is going to be a fool for selling such a piece of hardware so cheaply, when in the end the only fool is going to be the buyer. There are many days where I tell myself how stupid I am. Apparently I don't do that enough.

Well, the positive thing is that when you loose money in such a scam, you remember it for much longer than if somebody just told you about a friend of a friend... Take care!