/ Shopping

Do you know the feeling of being disappointed by an online order?

Package delivery

We’ve all been there. You’ve been desperately searching online for something that ticks all the right boxes – it looks the part in the picture and it’s the right size… so you commit to buying it, but it’s all downhill from there.

The chances are that you did your research and hunted around for it, reading the reviews, and so you’ve been excitedly anticipating its arrival on your allotted delivery day.

But on the day in question, you patiently wait all morning for it to arrive, then a good chunk of the afternoon, until you call the customer service team to see what’s happened. Turns out it hasn’t even left the warehouse and you have to wait several more days for it to arrive.

You’re already feeling disappointed, but then the real sting comes. When it finally does arrive, it looks NOTHING like it did in the picture and it’s much smaller than you’d imagined.

Purchase error

That feeling can be much worse if you’ve been busy telling everyone about this amazing purchase you’ve been waiting on.

Spare a thought then if you would for the City of Cardiff Council.

On 10 November, the Welsh capital’s annual Christmas lights switch-on went ahead without a tree, much to the chagrin of its residents.

Whether it was supposed to arrive in time for the event is debatable (a tree was in place the year before), but a spokesperson from the council assured locals that when it did arrive, they’d be stunned by the spectacle – a 40m-high artificial tree that would dominate the skyline.

For scale, the tree would’ve been 2m taller than Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue and twice the height of the Angel of the North.

So, imagine the horror then when said tree finally did turn up for it to be a decidedly underwhelming 12m high. In old money, that’s 40ft, so it’s by no means small, but the fact remains that it’s still a third of its promised height.

Apparently, a translation issue was to blame for the error. But with the council having leased it for three years, at a cost of £10,000 per year, it’s a purchase mistake that could be haunting them for at least another two Christmases.

According to press statements, a spokesperson from Cardiff City Council said:

‘The City Council’s Christmas tree which was installed outside the castle on Friday night will cost £30,000 over a three year lease agreement. This is a saving to the tax payer of £5,000 a year on previous tree installations. The person who told us the tree was 40m high has since revealed he believes he is 18ft tall. We apologise to everyone who was expecting a bigger tree and are cutting the person responsible down to size!’

So, it would seem that Cardiff’s Christmas tree is here to stay, at least for this Christmas anyway. But, as many of you here on Which? Conversation will know, the council probably could’ve requested a refund for goods that turned up not as described under Distance Selling Regulations.

Disappointing deliveries

Have you been left disappointed by a delivery? What did you do?


You have highlighted the real drawback of on line shopping and the usefulness of seeing and touching an item before buying it. Over all, the advantages of buying on line from an armchair outweighs the disadvantages traipsing round shops to find it, but.. it is an easy excuse for sellers to send damaged goods, goods with parts missing and goods where the outer box has been damaged and would have been left on the shop shelf if it was on sale. All these things have happened to me and I would estimate a rough ten percent of items ordered on line have disappointed in this way. Fortunately, no items have disappointed because they didn’t match the picture or description. This is more because I usually know what I am buying, rather than because the picture flatters the product. It can be difficult to find exactly what is wanted from the description available and several times I have cancelled a purchase at the last minute because I can’t find the answer to a particular question and neither the picture of the script have been helpful. This happened with the size of food containers and whether they were suitable for microwave cooking. I also discovered that purchases would be up to a month in delivery, but only just before committing to buying them. Physical shopping is still what I do mostly, but it is often tempting to get things on line simply because the purchase can be made in five minutes without having to decide where to go out to get it. My sister buys bulk light bulbs from abroad and I generally tend to recycle two or three each week when doing the rubbish. I have yet to convince her that this is not a good idea. I seldom buy clothes on line and never shoes. Being able to return on line items to a local newsagent has been a great help when things go wrong and, so far, I have always had a refund or a replacement for these.


I can’t help thinking we’re in the realm of Spinal Tap with their 18 inches Stonehenge instead of 18 feet.

I wonder what “translation” issue can have been to blame for the error. The same as caused NASA to lose $125 million because “a Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while the agency’s team used the more conventional metric system for a key spacecraft operation”? A 30 grand bungle doesn’t make your eyes water quite as much (although proportionally it might, depending on budgets).

I ordered a hot water bottle and teddy bear cover once, thinking that it looked less drab and more fun that the others, but I never thought of the size, that it might be for kids! (Hey, it never said anything about that in the website!) When it arrived it looked great! But it was very small… Stuff it, I adore it anyway.

(PS: I love the minuscule parcels on the keyboard.)


I thought it was a giant’s keyboard, Sophie. Just shows how appearances can deceive.

Michael P says:
4 December 2016

Could Cardiff council not argue that the price got lost in translation, not 30,000 pounds but 30,000 pence? That would teach the ignorant and / or greedy vendor!


Very good, John. Appearances can indeed deceive. My colleague was only telling me the other day about her friend who’d bought a lovely pair of shoes online. When they arrived, they were actually dolls’ shoes! 😂


My main issue with online shopping is that Royal Mail are useless, they forever lose items, and as I’m a carer I’m in 25/8 . I ordered a train set on 17th Nov ( a nice little santas express for the xmas dinner table, not to be eaten ofc), it was posted 18th Nov and it still hasn’t arrived, so I emailed the CEO of Royal Fail and within 2 days they admitted it was untraceable. Even their online tracking is a bit of a joke. I do feel sorry for companies that use Royal Fail and end up out of pocket as a result.


It eventually turned up 15 days after it was posted. Royal Mail 48 I guess now means 48 days.


My problem with online shopping is guessing when the goods will arrive. I used to have neighbours who would happily take in deliveries but having moved, all my neighbours are out most days and I no longer live near a Royal Mail depot. Recently a company really messed me about and I ended up staying in during the day for a full week.

As a recent example, I placed an order with Richer Sounds on Thursday and on Friday was informed that the goods would arrive on Monday. On that basis, I decided to go out on Saturday but at 8.47 on Saturday I received an email to say that the delivery would be that day, between 13:55 and 14:55. That meant I had to change my plans at short notice. It’s unprofessional to say that goods will be delivered on a date and then decide to deliver them a couple of days earlier.