Universal Music is probably the biggest music company in the world. They have a among the world’s most famous artists in their roster, and they have for the past two decades swallowed up most of the competition. You would think a record company like this would be good at their raison d’etre: Namely selling records. Sadly, they are not.
I’m a huge fan of Mike Oldfield, and a few years back Universal announced that they would over the next years be releasing remastered versions of Oldfield’s back catalogue. In addition to great releases with 5.1 surround mixes, new stereo mixes, alternative versions and rare tracks, they would also release the albums on vinyl. And that’s not all: They would also release numbered limited edition packages that would include LPs, CDs, DVDs, books and other goodies. They would also be numbered and autographed by Mike Oldfield.
So when the Tubular Bells package was announced I ordered it from Universal Music’s own web store. I got confirmation that I would be among the 500 who would receive the limited edition package. Great? Not so much. After several cock ups, Universal ended up having to send out a whole bunch of “limited edition” packages that were not numbered. They also managed to inflict damage to a lot of the vinyl records shipped, and had to do returns.
The following year it was time for Hergest Ridge and my favourite album of all time, Ommadawn to have a release like this. And Universal did it again. First of all several of us got the albums several months after the promised delivery date. People also got the wrong vinyls and the several of the CDs had bad sound quality. Many Oldfield fans reported that they didn’t even receive their orders. But at least this time they didn’t screw up the numbering of the limited editions.
When it came time for Incantations to be released I thought “to hell with Universal” and I ordered the vinyls from and CD/DVD editions from cdon.com, despite the fact that Universal claimed these were sold exclusively from their online store. And lo and behold, the records arrived, unharmed and in a very short time. So when Platinum and QE2 was released on coloured vinyl and CD/DVD I ordered those from cdon.com as well.
After Mike Oldfield’s triumphant performance at the opening of the Olympics in London, a very limited edition 12″ with blue and pink vinyl was released. I gave Universal another chance and ordered it from their store, and everything arrived just fine. Hurrah! So when it was announced that Crises would be released in a five disc box and on green transparent vinyl and Five Miles Out would be released on yellow transparent vinyl and in a CD/DVD-box I once again ordered them from Universal’s shop. Huge mistake.
First I received the LPs without any hitch. I then started to wonder where the DVD-box and FMO CD was. So I emailed them and asked. Here’s the answer:
“After speaking to our delivery company, DPD, I have been advised that your shipment which included the ‘Mike Oldfield / Crises CD & DVD Box Set 2013’ and the ‘Mike Oldfield / Five Miles Out Deluxe Edition CD 2013’ has been sent minus its invoice and as a result, was returned to us.
Hogne, please allow me to take this opportunity to apologise profusely for the inconvenience this will cause.
Moving forward, I am happy to confirm that at the time of writing, the ‘Mike Oldfield / Five Miles Out Deluxe Edition CD 2013’ is available and you now have the option to proceed with a free replacement or a complete refund of this item. In addition, I have been assured by our warehouse that this issue will not be repeated.
The ‘Mike Oldfield / Crises CD & DVD Box Set 2013’ is now out of stock and the parcel that was sent to you has since been damaged in transit and is now unsellable and so a refund of £60.98 will be credited back to you as a matter of urgency within the next 1-2 working days.”
I sent them an all over not too polite reply telling them to refund FMO as well, and that they shouldn’t bother with any replacement as I from now on would take my business elsewhere. And to add insult to injury I managed to find the CD & DVD box sets, once again, on cdon.com. Despite the fact that the very same record company who released them said that this was not possible…
But the story doesn’t end there. Oh, no. You see, you have to pay taxes when ordering from abroad.
Long story shot: Three weeks later and was still fighting with Universal, and DHL. Universal did reimburse the money for Five Miles Out and Crises boxes, but then a letter from DHL arrived asking me to pay toll and sales taxes for both the LPs AND the items I never received. Here’s a copy of an email I sent Universal after being the middle man between DHL and them for over two weeks:
“I’ve now been emailing between Universal Music’s support and DHL for over 2 weeks. I’ve calculated that I’ve spent in total an entire work day on communications with both parties. And I’ve had it.
Not only does Universal Music mess up my order and then tell me that they can’t deliver my whole order because it’s out of stock (a bit strange since I’ve since ordered this item elsewhere). Then I’m billed by DHL for taxes and VAT for items I’ve never received from you.
DHL is not at fault here. They have to trust the freight papers that you send and have just simply done their job. They are not at liberty to open all packages to check that the sender has indeed packed what’s stated in the freight documents As I said above, I’m now sick and tired of this case, and Universal Music (check out my history with you and you will find it’s a history of mistakes in the years I’ve been shopping with you)
I therefore demand that YOU pay me the amount I have to pay DHL. The time you’ve spent communicating with me must surely has cost you more than this amount already.
This is your mistake, not mine and certainly not DHL’s. But I’m the one sitting without the items I originally ordered, and being stuck with the bill. All the while being told by Universal that I should just refuse to pay DHL. This is appallingly bad customer service.
Please step up and fix this by Monday afternoon! DHL sent the a copy of the freight document, where you can clearly see that it’s stated that the original package included the items I never received. I’ve included them here in this email.”
The next day a customer representative from Universal Music called me and said they would fix it, and that they would get back to me. That was six months ago.
I think the phrase I will use when talking to Universal Music the next time rhymes with “clucking bass poles.”