Been meaning to post this for a while, following an "event" in April this year and the Police Privatisation thread prompted me to post this little tale.
I'd been looking for a good, reasonably priced laptop and eventually settled on an HP Envy. Getting the spec I wanted meant importing it from the US as HP in the UK don't do custom laptops and I found one on ebay that was the right price, right spec and went ahead an bought it, paid for it and then waited. A few days later I got an email with the tracking number for USPS, so eagerly started watching the tracking site in anticipation. I followed its progress across the US to New York, then across the Atlantic to the UK, off the plane and into Customs, out of Customs and into Customs Clearance, where it sat, and sat, and sat.
After 3 or four days, I contacted Royal Mail and asked what was happening. They said they'd look into it. A couple more days later I called again and again they said they'd look into it - standard response, "parcels dont go missing, we have no issues here, we'll take a look". Its now almost 3 weeks after the original purchase and I'm getting frustrated. The next morning, a Friday, I got a call from Parcel Force claiming that it was actually missing from their system, and although they'd look for it, best thing I could do was lodge an insurance claim, which they would push through quickly. I was devastated. I'd get my money back one way or the other, as I'd paid by Credit Card, but that wasn't the point. An hour or so later, after I'd had a cuppa and a cig and calmed down again, I thought I'd have a look on ebay and see if I could find another one to buy, with the same or similar spec.
And what did I find - a "Brand New, In Box" HP Envy laptop with the exact same spec, in the UK, with the listing starting the day after mine arrived in the UK and less than half the price I'd paid for mine originally...
I immediately called the police, asking for my local station, got through and explained the situation re my laptop going missing and it being listed on Ebay.
I explained that it was a very rare, unique specification that was not available in the UK, that it was originally listed on the day after it landed in the UK.
I was told to report it to Ebay as the police couldn't/wouldn't do anything.
I called Ebay and was told to report the item via the Ebay site, so tried to do that but thats not possible as only "law enforcement" can report a stolen item. So after contacting Ebay and the Police I was left with no progress and very frustrated.
So I called the police again and was put through to the station closest to the town where the item was listed, where I was again told by a civilian operator that nothing could or would be done. I asked if someone could at least go and look at it, but was told that that wouldn't happen as it would be "putting my officers in danger"
. I cant describe how let down I felt at this point: everything pointed to the seller as a criminal, yet all I got was "you'll have to sort it out yourself". I gave all of my details, the sellers details (as lifted from Ebay), the Parcelforce reference number and the Ebay item number. I was told that even if it was my laptop, I had had no crime committed against me as I would be claiming on the Parcelforce insurance so I wouldn't have suffered a loss, so until the insurance company contacted the police, the police really weren't going to do anything. I was told that nothing would be done/could be done until I had concrete proof that the laptop was mine and I would, as an absolute minimum, have to provide a serial number before anyone would be interested. This despite the fact that a lot of the Ebay sellers listings for the last 4 or 5 years or so have been BNIB, US spec electronic goods.
I emailed RM Customer Services (I had a named contact by now), telling them I'd found the laptop that they hadn't lost and asking if the seller was one of their employees...
I also emailed all of the details to the seller in the USA, who looked at the Ebay listing and came to the same conculsion that I had: it was my laptop.He got the serial number for me and I called the Police again, but was not able to get through as it was late on the Friday night.
I made a decision - we'd have to buy the laptop, so I contacted the seller that evening, said I was interested in the laptop and asked if we could collect it on Saturday : worst case was I get a laptop for less than half price, best case we catch a thief. The seller agreed to the sale, confirmed his name and address and we left it at that for the night.
The following morning I called the local police again and told them that I had the serial number, that we had agreed to buy my laptop back and that I wanted someone in close attendance when we went to get it. I was told (by the same operator that I'd spoken to on the Friday) that that was not going to happen, but if it was my laptop I could make an appointment to see someone on Sunday and make a statement then. To say I was I ficking livid would an understatement.
So, after phaffing around trying to get the necessary cash together (banks closed, cashpoint withdrawal limits etc, me and SWMBO got to the shop and the seller brought out the box, got the laptop out, turned the box round and there was the delivery label with my name and address on it
We both literally shat ourselves. We were in a town we didn't know well, in what could best be described as the shady part of that town, no-where to run to, CCTV watching us and a thief right in front of us, no Police support at all and I've got to hand over my hard-earned to a criminal.
We checked the contents, realise there was a part missing so the seller shot off home to get it, leaving us in the shop for another twenty mins. We eventually completed the transaction, left the sellers shop, furtively got his car reg number and as soon as we got into our own car and were moving we immediately called the police. Jeez we were shaking! As luck would have it we got back onto the same operator as before, who again said that all we could do was make an appointment for the next day, he was emphatic about this - (SMWBO was on the phone) - he said "I told your partner yesterday that we won't do anything, there's no point coming in today, you'll have to make an appointment for tomorrow, thats the earliest we can see you".
We got home that afternoon, and made doubly sure: we checked the spec, the serial numbers, everything matched. This was my original laptop. Except that now it wasn't new - it had been turned in after the US seller had shipped it, but before it left the US, and again once it landed in the UK. It even had the UK sellers home and shop internet connection details on it.
When we finally got to see a real policemen on the Sunday, he was horrified about the advice we had been given: he would have loved to have been there when the laptop was purchased as it would have given him a much better opportunity to get good information out of the seller. We spent over 2 hours providing a statement, including all the paperwork trail: emails to from the original seller in the US, text and emails to / from the UK seller, emails to/from parcel Force, transcripts of calls to the Police, and finally the packaging with my name and address on. He promised to take immediate action (once he got back off 1 day leave) and suggested we put in a complaint about the operators advice.
On the Monday morning I got a reply to my email to RM, claiming that I was mistaken and that they wouldn't discuss who they employed.
On the Wednesday morning I wrote a complaint to the Police. Wednesday afternoon, I got a call from the copper, stating that he'd been in touch with Royal Mail and this was just the evidence they (RM) had been looking for to plug a gap at the customs clearance depot, where they were losing a lot of parcels, and they couldn't figure out who or how.
Then I got a call from the RM investigator, who was very appreciative and suggested I get back to RM Customer Services and ask for my money back. I emailed them with an update (from my "new" laptop no less) and got a response the next morning - "we don't know what you're talking about, you'll have to make a claim on the sellers insurance". Followed just half an hour later by "oops, just spoken to the RM investigator, we'll send you a cheque". (Which duly arrived a few days later).
I got a call from the Police Complaints Dept, which was that they were very sorry that we'd been put through all of the above and that the Operator had been dumb and should've used some initiative, rather than "computer says no". Turns out the operator was ex-plod, so he should've known better.
Final outcome, although I cant go into specific details as the investigation and criminal proceedings are still ongoing, has been 7 arrests for handling stolen goods and the possibility of a conspiracy charge and RM have plugged their gap: one of their employees has also been arrested and charged.
But I still haven't had the joy of opening a BNIB laptop that has never been turned on so I could put my name as the one and only user