Email list hosting service & mailing list manager

Vendor Problems Lesley Tweddle 15 Jan 1998 08:11 UTC

This may sound like a gripe, but I really need advice.  We are in
Egypt, so can't pick up a phone and dial a toll-free number.

We have an Unsatisfactory Vendor (UV).  Last June we asked them to
cancel about 600 titles which we were transferring to another vendor,
but we had to leave some titles with UV for certain reasons - we think
we left them with a small but viable list, not all the cheapies or all
the hard cases.  It was in our interests to do so.

On July 23 1997 UV prepared us a credit for nearly $10,500.  We assumed
this was a pleasingly prompt action to reimburse any subscriptions we'd
paid for volumes that were now cancelled, in cases where UV had not
irrevocably committed the money for those volumes.

We had to assume, because UV did not send us confirmation of the last
volume they had committed money to.  Five months after our list of
cancellations was sent, they did send us a list of titles they had
cancelled, BUT in the field which should have informed us what was
the last volume paid for, we found very out-of-date data.  Therefore
as a confirmation that our cancel instructions had been accurately
carried out from the volume or period we'd stipulated, this list was

I emailed to point this out, and received the reply
        "when our system converted last year, incorrect data
        populated the 'last part received' field... I realise
        that this does not help you in determining what volume
        your new vendor should continue with... I will be willing
        to research... it will take a while..."

Obviously, we had already given our new vendor instructions about
the takeover volume, but we wanted to keep and eye on UV's performance
in order to alert them about, and claim credit for, and titles which
they had ordered or paid for beyond the reasonable 'benefit of the
doubt' period.  From five titles UV has researched for us, titles
whose cancellation we requested in June, we discovered that UV were
still ordering and paying the publisher for further volumes as late
as October and December 1997, so the outlook for overlaps is pretty
grim, and the research into each individual title which will take
"a while" may permit ever so many more subscriptions to be prolonged
and paid.

Now, today, UV emails us as follows:
        "it was discovered that credit [July 23 1997, value approx
        $10,500] was generated in error.  In July 97 we processed
        cancellations on your standing orders and our system
        responded by crediting all items with certain statuses.
        ...we must now reverse all transactions made against this
        credit... "

OK.  The invoices for our remaining subscriptions with UV have
been coming in, none of them worth anything approaching $10,500, and
we've been emailing UV to say "please offset invoice X against credit
Y", and marking our records for each title - amount paid, invoice number,
invoice date - offset against credit.  We shall now be re-invoiced for
all these titles, and have to go through our records again writing in
the new invoice numbers and dates.

But worse than that is: can we trust their system?  How do we know that
these credits were "generated in error"?  Their system can't even
confirm that they stopped our subscriptions at the volume requested.
The faults in their system actually permit them to prolong our
susbcriptions without our being aware of it.  We are, it seems, at
the mercy of the faults in their system, and they can simply, it
seems, tell us that their system has this or that wrong with it -
always a this or a that which is to _their_ advantage, I can't help
noticing, and we... just have to take their word for it?

Do we?

If anyone has persisted through this long exposition, and has any
energy left, could you advise?  Since I have mentioned no names,
I hope you'll feel free to reply to the list.

Thanks for your patience.

Lesley Tweddle
Serials Unit, American University in Cairo Library