Expat Essentials

Battling BOL.com: The company that hopes unhappy consumers will just give up and go away

I’m such an idiot. When we needed a new washing machine, we hit the MediaMarkt and didn’t really see what we wanted at a price we were willing to pay. (You know, those Ferrari-red Samsung washer/dryer combos for 300 euros instead of 1,800 euros.) That’s how we ended up on BOL.com buying an Everglades washing machine (I never heard of it either) for 449.01 euros about eight months ago.

Guess what.

It was a piece of junk.

But our mistake was looking online for reviews of Everglades, not BOL.com.

Here’s what happened and didn’t happen.

The flood

The washer we bought last October started malfunctioning in mid-May. After running a load clothes, I’d come in and find the floor of the laundry room covered in water. I thought we were just overloading the machine, even though it’s an extra heavy machine built for large loads up to nine kilos. When I cut the amount of clothes going in, water still poured out.

Finally, I watched the washer go through its cycles and saw it … water pouring out the bottom of the door.

At first this didn’t happen every time. When we asked Everglades directly to fix it, it took them nine days to respond. They set an appointment for three weeks later, but my wife Cheryl called and spoke to the repairman, who agreed to come the following morning.

And of course, when Everglades finally sent a third-party repairman on 6 June to fix it, everything was fine. He yanked and yanked on the door to see if water would gush out. Nothing. He declared there was nothing wrong with the machine and promised to order a new door gasket “just in case” and come back .

We never saw or heard from him again.

Literally, the day after his visit, water started pouring out the door every time we ran a load of clothes. We finally gave up and stopped trying to use the washing machine. (Thank goodness for the big commercial machines next to the PLUS in our town of Leende.)

The fun begins

When Cheryl contact Everglades again, the CSR said, “Not our deal … talk to BOL.com.” So, we went to where we bought the defective machine.

Cheryl and I have made multiple calls and received at various times assurances that BOL.com would take back the machine and refund our money, repair the machine and pay for water damage. The first customer service representative Cheryl spoke to assured her there is a one-year warranty on the machine from BOL.com and a five-year Everglades warranty. Which is the reason we bought it in the first place.

Exactly nothing has happened.

On her first call to BOM.com, Cheryl got Amman, who told her she was entitled to the refund. Then, he sent her a nice note (above) and a cake, which arrived the next day. What Amman said on that call was, he would send our issue to the “Special Care Team,” who would be in touch within 48 hours.

Seventy-two hours later, nothing had happened and Cheryl was back on the phone and getting nowhere.

So, I’ve been on the phone to the service number – 030 310 4999 – every day.

The young woman I got 25 June says, “My colleague recorded that you just called yesterday.” Yes, and I’m going to call every day until this is resolved.

I don’t think it will be resolved without legal action.

Here’s why.

If you go to Trustpilot, you’ll see strings and strings of posts about BOL.com doing to other customers what they’re doing to us.

Appointments missed. Calls ignored. Damaged items never replaced.

“Called customer service more often than my own mother, no one can do anything, was moved up to head office, contacted within 2 working days, still nothing heard, 10 days later,” writes Than.

The email from Chantal at BOL.com calls him “Dan” and says he’ll be contacted.

We see Chantal return a few emails later when she apologizes to Ardinda for her refrigerator not getting delivered. “On June 13th we started the refund for the refrigerator. You will now have the money back in your account,” Changal writes.

That should happen to us.

To be fair, there are 5-star ratings, though some like this one feel like they’re written by PR hacks:

Had delivery problems with external company via bol.com. After reporting the problem, they did everything they could to solve the problem. With results. Everything resolved and therefore full praise for the customer service. I like to order from Bol.com

It got to the point that I asked if BOL.com could just come get the washer so we’d have room to install another machine. I’d just work out the legal details later, and go to the corporate headquarters in Utrecht if need be.


Consumer rights?

All this comes down to consumer rights. Dutch law states that when you purchase something, that’s a contract, and in a contract, you are entitled to a product that – heavy sarcasm– actually works. If said product stops working within six months of the purchase, the law regards it as faulty at the time of purchase. This means a free repair or replacement unless the seller can prove you did not use the product properly. With a basic washing machine, this is a pretty tough prove.

Ah, but BOL.com has an out. We didn’t return the machine within 30 days, so we’re not entitled to a refund, only a repair, according to one representative with whom Cheryl spoke. Not the law, but a good tactic to dissuade you from getting what you’re legally owed. We didn’t return the machine within 30 days because it didn’t breakdown for six months, halfway through its BOL.com warranty period.

As you might expect, actual enforcement of consumer rights in the Netherlands is bureaucratic. Lots of paperwork and phone calls, and of course it’s almost July, so everyone is on vacation until September.

Fortunately, as owners of an expat communications company, we can warn our fellow expats – and there are millions of us in the Netherlands – in the meantime about what can happen with BOL.com.

I totally realized BOL.com has tens of thousands of customers in the Netherlands and Belgium and our story may be the exception, not the rule. But seriously … could one of the 3,000 employees just return our call or actually do what they said they would do? The answer is, “no,” because they aren’t empowered to make decisions, just stall.

Apparently, only one person – BOL.com CEO Margaret Versteden – can make any decision. We haven’t made it to Margaret yet, but I’m thinking we will.

A footnote: We reached out to BOL.com media relations Joris Scheepens but – you guessed it – received no response.

Share your BOL.com experience – good or bad – with us at: [email protected]

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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