Caister company leaves customers waiting for gift hampers after Christmas

PUBLISHED: 10:12 28 December 2012

The Norfolk Hamper Company based in Caister.

Picture: James Bass

The Norfolk Hamper Company based in Caister. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Christmas Day has been and gone, with the turkey eaten and thoughts now turning to the new year.

But some customers of The Norfolk Hamper Company, based in Caister, are still waiting for the presents they ordered for their loved ones more than a month in advance.

Trading Standards were alerted to the firm, run by Neil Alvey, last week after a flurry of calls from concerned customers.

Mr Alvey says he is sorry for the disappointment caused and reviewing orders individually to offer refunds.

And he claims “vile” comments made about him by angry customers on an internet forum - which the Mercury has decided not to name - have made him ill.

But he is beginning to clear the backlog of orders, with customers receiving their orders late.

Helen O’Dare, of Skegness, said her order - which cost around £60 - arrived yesterday (December 27).

“They were all Christmas presents so now I’m thinking what am I going to do,” she said. “They were supposed to be here on the first weekend of December.

“We exchange gifts early as my family live all over the country.”

She had already bought alternative gifts, fearing the hampers would not arrive.

“It’s a shame as they’re really nice,” she added. “It’s definitely put me off using companies like this. For what I paid I got my money’s worth, but they’re just no good to me now.”

Susan Moss, of North Yorkshire, is still waiting for her order.

“I don’t really want the hampers now, I just want my money back,” she said.

And Sarah Skeggs, of Hertfordshire, said her order had now arrived - but it was late and she said she was unhappy with the quality. She is now seeking a refund.

The company was founded in July 2012, and has been unable to cope with the weight of orders - with more than 1,000 placed for Christmas.

Company boss Mr Alvey said: “I’m working through refunds one by one, doing what Trading Standards have told me to do.

“It’s not going to be done in a day, but we are on with it.

“We’re 110pc committed to carry on trading.”

He said he even shut the shop for a week to catch up with existing orders.

Around 40 orders were due to arrive at homes across the country yesterday, and Mr Alvey feels criticism has gone too far - with customers taking to an online forum to vent their anger.

“I’ve had threats and people were putting vile things about me,” he explained.

“I’ve got family - I’ve got a small child - and they don’t want this.

“I feel vulnerable and feel people are looking out for me - it’s made me feel very ill. It all ballooned and escalated through the forum.”

He added he is not sure how long it would take to resolve all outstanding orders, as some people had sought refunds through online payment service Paypal.

And some customers have been issued a refund and received goods, leaving Mr Alvey with further paperwork to ensure either payment is received or goods are returned.

“I feel I’ve done nothing wrong in all of this, but have been a victim,” he said. “Okay, I sent hampers out late but I’m not the only one.

“Thousands of companies have done this, but I’ve been put in a fishbowl due to the forum.

“I was even trying to open emails on Christmas Day - that’s how much it got to me, as I don’t want to let people down.

“It’s not like I ran away with the money.”

He said he is taking legal advice over comments made on the internet forum.

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