SINCE THE MIDDLE of this month parents have been reporting problems with orders for school books that they placed with the online retailer, Schoolbooks.ie.
Despite repeated assurances that they would have their books before children returned to school there have been numerous cases emerging in recent days of parents who ordered books as far back as July who had to send their children to school this week without some of their books.
Ten days ago on 18 August, managing director of Schoolbooks.ie, John Cunningham, said the backlog would be cleared by Friday, 24 August but since then three further statements have been issued including one yesterday morning which said the backlog had been cleared.
So far Cunningham has declined a request by TheJournal.ie to be interviewed.
So we’ve decided to publish in full and unedited all statements issued by Schoolbooks.ie as well as questions we put to the company on Monday and the answers we got back:
Statement on Saturday, 18 August:
Schoolbooks.ie would like to apologise to any customers currently experiencing a delay in receiving their school books. This delay has been caused by a technical issue at our warehouse, which resulted in a significant backlog of orders, which we are working to clear.
In addition to our regular 50 strong team, we have brought in 30 extra staff and are now working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to clear the backlog. No families will be left without schoolbooks for the start of the school term.
We have processed and delivered 50,000 school book orders to customers to date and we currently have a backlog of 5,000 orders. Half of these will be dispatched by Tuesday and we will have the remaining orders issued to customers by the end of the week. Again, we will ensure that no-one is left without their school book order.
I am aware that our communication with customers over the past numbers of weeks has been far from satisfactory, but our focus has been on clearing the backlog. Over the past 48 hours all affected customers have been emailed to advise them when their order will be dispatched over the coming week.
We will have this backlog cleared by Friday. Again can I apologisie for any unnecessary stress and the inconvenience this issue has caused.
Statement on Thursday, 23 August:
Schoolbooks.ie is pleased to report that significant progress has been made in processing and dispatching customer orders.
We have reduced our backlog from 5,000 orders as reported on Saturday 18/08/12 to 1,300 this morning. These remaining orders will all be despatched between today and tomorrow to our delivery partners, and will arrive in homes on Monday and Tuesday.
We are continuing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to clear the backlog and we continue to have 30 extra staff working alongside our regular 50 strong team.
Again Schoolbooks.ie would like to apologise to any customers who have experienced a delay in receiving their school books. This delay was caused by a technical issue at our warehouse, which resulted in a significant backlog of orders, which we will have cleared and despatched, as promised by tomorrow, Friday, 24th July, ensuring that no child will be returning to school without their books.
For those who have placed their order more recently, our usual delivery times apply.
Answers to questions submitted by TheJournal.ie on Monday, 27 August:
Q. One parent has told us they ordered books on 25 July, was told they would be delivered on 14 August but has still not received them. The tracking tool on the website says his order is “queued for picking” as of 21 August but he has been unable to contact schoolbooks.ie about his order to find out what is happening. Can schoolbooks.ie provide any assurance as to whether or not he will receive his books in the near future?
A. The backlog of 5,000 orders has been cleared and dispatched for delivery. In the event that customers have a query concerning their order our contact details are available on our website http://www.schoolbooks.ie/
Q. Schoolbooks.ie said that orders would be “cleared and despatched” by last Friday “ensuring no child will be returning to school without their books” but there is numerous anecdotal evidence that we have received as well as the case above that children are returning to school without books today. What is schoolbooks.ie doing to address this?
A. The backlog of 5,000 orders has been cleared and all have been dispatched for delivery
Q. Has the “technical issue” being resolved?
A. Yes, the initial software issue which led to the technical issue and resulting backlog has been rectified
Q. How many orders are still to be processed?
A. The backlog of 5,000 orders has been cleared and dispatched for delivery.
Q. What is schoolbooks.ie doing to address parents’ concerns about their children’s books not being delivered?
A. Schoolbook.ie has continued to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to clear the backlog with 30 extra staff working alongside our regular 50 strong team, and has cleared the backlog of 5,000 orders.
Q. Is it schoolbooks.ie policy to take money from customer’s accounts before their order has been processed as was the case in the case I outlined above?
A. Schoolbooks.ie takes payment for all purchases upfront when the order is placed. This is for administrative purposes and is in-line with standard online retail practice.
Q. Can schoolbooks.ie provide any date when all backlogged orders will be processed and children will have their books for going back to school?
A. All backlog orders have been dispatched
Q. What measures has schoolbooks.ie put in place to ensure this does not happen again?
A. The software issue which led to the technical issue and resulting backlog was a once off incident and measures have been taken to ensure this does not happen again. In light of this issue we have also reviewed our customer communications systems and introduced protocols that will ensure more effective and consistent communications with customers in the future.
Q. What is schoolbooks.ie doing to address concerns raised by parents that they have found it difficult to get in touch through phone or email with the company?
A. We are aware that our communication with customers has been far from satisfactory as our focus has been on clearing the backlog. In an effort to address concerns raised by parents we have extended our call centre opening hours while also communicating directly with affected parents via email and text message.
Q. Has schoolbooks.ie any message for customers at this time?
A. Schoolbooks.ie would again like to apologise to any customers who have experienced a delay in receiving their school books. This delay was caused by a technical issue at our warehouse which resulted in a significant backlog of orders. All backlog orders have been completed and dispatched, and we have taken measures to ensure that these technical issues never happen again.
Statement on Tuesday morning, 28 August:
Schoolbooks.ie is pleased to report that we have cleared our backlog of customer orders, which resulted from a technical issue we had in our warehouse some weeks ago.
The remaining 1,400 orders from this backlog were sent to our couriers GLS between last Friday and Saturday for delivery on Monday, 27th August and Tuesday, 28th August.
Anyone with an outstanding order in this backlog can go to our website and follow the link to the GLS online tracking to find out the delivery status of their order.
Again Schoolbooks.ie would like to apologise to any customers who experienced a delay in receiving their school books.
For those who have placed their order more recently, our usual delivery times apply.
Statement on Tuesday afternoon, 28 August:
Schoolbooks.ie can confirm that between Monday 20th August and up until today Tuesday 28th August 5,800 customer orders were delivered, 800 more than the original backlog of 5,000. 720 customers have already received their order today and GLS will deliver orders to a further 1,100 customers up until 20:00 tonight, hence bringing the total numbers of orders delivered to 5,800 as stated earlier.
Based on our experience, we expect approximately 60 of 1,820 orders we attempt to deliver today, not to be completed due to various issues such as customers not being home or incorrect addresses being supplied. Any issues relating to these deliveries will be rectified and delivered tomorrow. Our dates for delivery are based on the most children returning to school on Thursday, 30th August.
Our helpline is open from 08:00 to 18:30 and if anyone has any outstanding issue regarding their order, please contact the helpline urgently and we will work to process their order for delivery tomorrow.
Again Schoolbooks.ie would like to apologise to any customers who have experienced a delay in receiving their school books.
Have you been affected by the problems at Schoolbooks.ie? Let us know your story in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org