MyDV: my small part in its downfall

In Saturday’s Guardian was a story about a company I remembered:

A website which billed itself as “The UK’s best source for digital video equipment” has been shut down by US authorities – but not before thousands of British internet shoppers paid for Christmas presents which have failed to arrive.

The website, mydv.co.uk, appeared to be a British-based operator, and offered a London-based 0207 phone number. But calls were routed through to a call centre abroad. In reality the site was owned and run out of Waltham, Massachusetts by Nepco.

Those with a long memory may recall that back in October I was considering getting an (already out of date) iPod Photo, and passed by a site called mydv.co.uk. I wrote then:

Next stop (via Google) was a company called MyDV.co.uk. I tried ringing the London number: it turned out to be connected to an office in the US. MyDV is a front; Google them and you’ll find a lot of people who’ve paid money but seen little. I decided to avoid.

I thought not much more of it.

Then on the next day, October 19 (2005), I got an email:

I’m writing in response to your mention of My DV on your blog:

MyDV is one of NEPCO’s several successful brands that sell and source electronic products to and from all over the world. The past 2 months have blessed us with tremendous growth. A few orders a day grew to a few dozen orders a day, which grew to a few hundred orders today, and our growth continues. Obviously, when you’re serving thousands of customers, some transactions don’t go smoothly. We tripled the size of our customer service team on October 11th, and it will double again on the 1st of November. Our warehousing and fulfillment operations are worldwide, through an ISO certified European-based fulfillment partner, and our customer service is handled in the US and India. We’re not a front, just a growing international business, who can offer some of the best prices for top-end electronics. I’d like to have the opportunity to speak with you.

Thanks,
Matt Wolf, Financial Director, NEPCO, LP (mwolf@nepcodirect.com (508) 685-2885)

Hmm, I thought, if I’ve screwed this up it could get unpleasant. Legal unpleasant. And legal unpleasant is one of the ones you really want to avoid; I’ve seen (and been in) enough already. Was I sure that mydv was a “front”? Well, it was in the sense that it led through to an American company, that the London number actually routed to a US company, and that there wasn’t anything solid there – Googling Nepco seemed to lead to an oil and gas company from Japan, so either I’d really annoyed a giant that was perplexingly dabbling in online gadgets, or this was a startup that had earnt people’s disdain very quickly.

So I stalled. I replied:

At 14:46 -0700 on 19/10/05, you wrote:

I’m writing in response to your mention of My DV on your blog:

Not just me: this from earlier in October: see
http://clansharrock.blogspot.com/2005/10/ipod-misery.html#comments

BTW you’re free to comment on my blog, if you want to put mydv’s side. I
don’t edit comments, except for spamming (ie irrelevant commercial
postings) or swearing; yours wouldn’t fall into that.

To which he answered…

Thanks for getting back to me. I’d love to have the opportunity to speak on the phone. When would be a good time to chat?

I was rather suspicious. I didn’t want to get into a phone conversation with this guy. I’d offered him a chance to “speak” on my blog. Conversations where both sides don’t have precise records of what’s said can get messy, and I wondered about legality. If we spoke, he could claim I’d said this or that. I’d rather keep it all on a medium where we’d both have an indisputable record of what had gone down.

So I didn’t call him. But I did do some more digging on Nepco, including a Whois search (that one’s for mydv.co.uk). And then a bit of digging around with Google Maps and Amazon’s Yellow Pages (which I came to via Google, of course). And after some of that, I emailed him:

Hi Matt…

That’s odd, I can’t find Nepcodirect at the address given on your Whois –
618 Main St, Waltham – on the Yellow Pages.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/yp/geo/MA/Waltham/qid=1129763352/103-9027357-4405438?%5Fencoding=UTF8&node=3999141&range=&keywords=&rank=distancerank&size=10&page=4

Only offers me taxis and a sports pub.

And at 681, which is the address you give on another site, there’s
something called Mediation Source and the Global Foresight Association.
Nepco isn’t there even though your domain was set up last year. Getting
properly confused now.

I wasn’t confused, though. I was increasingly suspicious, and thankful that I hadn’t tried to buy anything from this bunch.

He replied, though. (My comments on what he wrote interspersed, but never sent.)

NEPCO, LP is an ecommerce company located at the address below (681 Main
Street) in Waltham, MA. We were founded in March of 2004, and we have major
corporate partnerships with companies such as DHL, Bank of America, Kuehne &
Nagel, etc. Our main corporate domain is nepcodirect.com, but “direct” is
not part of our company’s name. Check out yp.yahoo.com, and look up NEPCO in
Waltham, MA. I’m not sure why, but they have the wrong phone # listed
(that’s one of our fax lines). Also, we’re registered with D&B, if you have
access to their data.

DHL, BoA, Kuehne and Nagel (“one of the world’s leading logistics providers”), were you listening?

To address the posts you’ve seen online, let me give you some background.
When we launched mydv.co.uk a few months ago, a few orders a day turned into
a few dozen orders a day, which turned into a few hundred orders a day, and
our list of satisfied customers continues to grow. Really, it has been a
tremendously successful period for us.

So tremendously successful that they’d earnt the hate of loads of would-be buyers. Oh, success, you evil mistress.

With phenomenal growth comes the need to make some adjustments. First, our
phones got so overloaded with callers, that we had to install a more robust
phone system.

Hold on, though, because surely this is an internet company? Why would people need to call them up? Unless it was about non-fulfilment of orders?

This helped, but we were still receiving far more emails,
phone calls, and web chats than we could possibly handle. On October 11th,
we tripled our customer service staff, and on November 1st, it will double
again. Second, we sold so many units of certain products that we ran out of
stock. We’ve increased the size of our inventory on some of the hot sellers
ten-fold, in order to make sure that goods are arriving on time. Most
customers never experienced problems getting through to us, or a delayed
shipment of their order, but for those who did, we bend over backwards to
make it right. Presently, our call center is fielding over 95% of incoming
calls, so if you’re in touch with anybody who has had a tough time, I
encourage them to call back. Our customer service is SO MUCH BETTER now. Our
CS team was just overloaded to the point where it was impossible to even
communicate with most of our customers. As I mentioned, that situation has
really improved. It upsets nobody more than me when a customer isn’t
satisfied with the service they receive, so have them please be in touch
with us, and we’ll do our best to make them happy that they chose My DV.

Then he makes a last despairing attempt to butter me up, in the hope that flattery will make me rescind my account of my experience with his company. It was this which really got my antennae (and bullshit meter) waving like a flag in a Category 5.

I am just realizing that I don’t think I complimented you on your blog. It
is easy to follow, yet deals with in-depth issues. I’m not blessed with the
same talent for writing that you are, and I’d love to transfer our dialogue
to a verbal one. Also, we’re looking to move into the product review sector.
Not ecommerce, but simply providing information and informed
opinions/reviews on electronics and other product categories. I’d like to
talk further to A) relieve any concern you still might have about my company
and answer any other questions you have, and B) to pick your brain on the
web content business. I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

He wants to pick my brain on the web content business? Suuure. This is so obviously a blog full of enlightenment to all the struggling e-commerce operators out there. Why, it’s in the name – “Learn How To Run Your E-Commerce Site Better”. Oh, wait, no, it isn’t.

What actually tripped my antennae about this guy and this company though was the fact that a single mention on a not-that-much-Googlejuice blog had led to the “financial director” emailing me directly. Some PR people who want to get in touch with me haven’t worked out how to find my phone number from this blog. (Obviously, they don’t stay in PR long.. I’d guess…) If he had the time to drop emails explaining at huge length about his company, rather than saying “hey, read it on our site, I’ve got work to do”, then he couldn’t truly be that busy, or the company that big. I didn’t reply to his email. He didn’t try contacting me again. Still, if a guy called Matt Wolf pops up again in some internet business, do yourself a favour and check out other peoples’ experiences of the company he’s in. I’m not saying he’s bad, or mad, or dangerous to know. Just that he got in the wrong place once, and didn’t make much of a fist of it.

The lessons? Be wary, keep it on email, be sceptical, and dig – for Google is your friend.

6 Comments

  1. Hi Charles.

    Thanks for your blog, very insightful and relieving to see that I am not the only person who has become nastily bitten from getting involved with mydv.co.uk. Without boring you with the details, I am one of the HUNDREDS (not an exageration) of dis-satisfied Customers who were in all purposes ripped off. I attempted to buy an iPod from this so called UK-based website back in October and ended up being charged more money than the advertised rate, to allow for currency conversion (surely unnecessary if I am buying in the UK, in sterling??) and then I never received the product that I was promised on four separate emails. After several unsuccessful attempts at contacting the Customer “Dis”Service department and finally threatening them with legal action I received a refund (of 86% of the value of the original order) – TWICE!
    There is an interesting website – http://www.mydv-ripoff.co.uk that details a bit more info – thought you might find it interesting.

  2. Well, i made an order with mydv.co.uk for a sony psp in november, i never recieved my product and complained for weeks after… eventually i recieved the psp and it was a japanese product with a faulty screen and missing pixels… oh plus it was supposed to cost 169 and over 180 pounds were taken from my card…

    anyway i sent the product back to them at their request ( they arranged a DHL pickup ) and they said i would get a full refund… that was in december… its now march and I have had no refund and i cannot get in contact with them, also the website is not available…..

    Thats 180 down the swanny, i tried my bank but they say they cant do anything about it… am i screwed???

  3. Also got cauhgt by MYDV regards non existent PSP,however after weeks of trying to get money back to no avail…I called my bank on the off chance…they said they could do nothing as I paid via VISA/DEBIT and not Credit Card.BUT…they then contacted visa who refunded money in full as goods had never been despatched…received.This happened wheb=n MYDV websites still active…Don’t know if it’still applies but worth a try…good luck.

  4. i got ripped off for 500 pounds through mydv.co.uk on 4th december i ordered a canon dc10 camcorder and did not receive the goods i phoned them on many occasions with no success in january i reported it to the police before that i informed visa barclaycard and told them in fact two weeks after i had ordered the goods and said i felt i had been ripped off they told me they could not do anything about it and that i had lost this money as i paid by credit card is there nothing i can do to get thid money back

  5. To all who have been violated (sorry I mean ripped off)by MYDV please visit Matrixwatch where there are many success stories of customers who have received refunds from their Credit/Debit Card Providers.

    They also played a small part in bringing this situation to everyones attention.
    Excellent Blog by the way.

  6. I knew about this company before. But i have nothing to do with this.I knew about NEPCO and MYDV through my friend who was working for the CS wing of Mydv. I really knew about what this company is all about.But i was in no position to post something in the web to make people aware.But i regret for it now after reading the real things from u all.I knew about the whole scenario and the master plan. Say for example, if 50 Customers r placing their orders, Mydv would rip the money from the card.As soon as the money goes into Mydv’s account it increases the intrest amount for the company from the bank.They hold the money in the account for a while.Then they ship out gadgets for 10 customers.and that too improper ones,like the japanese PSP.to be really honest the customer who had this problem (C.Smallman), spoke to Robert from the customer service dept.Robert is none other than my buddy.Anyways…, all i wanna say is we all shouldn’t blindfoldedly deal with companies that we don’t know.Thanx for people like Charles for making people aware of this.
    God Bless.
    Nathan

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