Time crisis: Workers and customers share woes

TalkBack: This week's unfolding drama at Granville Technology Group saw employees and punters turn to the Web to swap information and express their concerns

Employees at computer retailer Time have been venting their fury about the state of the company this week, after parent company Granville Technology Group closed 78 retail stores and entered administration.

The drama has also left customers fearing that they may not receive computers which they have recently bought or sent in for repair.

The first sign of trouble at Granville came last week when insiders revealed that staff were being paid late amid problems with the company's bank. On Monday some staff were being sent home, and by Tuesday all 78 retail stores, operating under the Computer Shop brand, had been closed.

On Wednesday, the administrators were called in.

Those most affected by the crisis, Granville's own staff, point the finger of blame at top management in a series of impassioned TalkBacks to ZDNet UK.

"The way this company is run is a bloody shambles and you can't realise the extent unless you work for them," said one employee with several years experience, who chose to remain anonymous.

"Alarm bells have been ringing for a while, rumours of takeovers going wrong and then blaming the bank when we got paid late two months in a row," said a second employee. "It's all very worrying."

IT consultant Simon Callow hit out at the tactics used by Time's management.

"Although I am sorry for Time's employees who seem to be getting the same treatment Time usually reserve for their customers. I for one will not be sorry to see the back of Time computers," he wrote.

"If the company had spent as much time and energy improving their products as they spent thinking up new dirty tricks to tie customers to a rotten deal then perhaps they would not be in the hands of the receivers now. Hopefully we will not see their like again."

One reader, who claims to have stopped working at Time last week, said that the situation at the firm has worsened in recent months. "Over the last few months I had daily complaints about late delivery or poor service from customers, and all I could tell them was that stock was due in any day soon."

Many workers claimed they had been kept in the dark about the scale of the problems. The arrival of the administrators, reportedly alongside the police, left little doubt about the scale of the situation — and sparked a flood of furious comments.

"Its nice to see that all employees have been told that they are now out of a job. Just a shame that I have had to sit surfing the net all morning to find out though. This is an absolute sham and a disgrace... and if we don't get paid there's gonna be all hell to pay," warned one Computer Shop 'ex-employee'.

Several Time employees expressed concern for customers affected by the crisis.

"All stores are closed, all staff are at home wondering if they still have jobs, nobody been told about what's happening, company looking like it's the end. There has been problems for a while and this is the show from it... will we all get paid [and] will the customers get their computers?" posted one salesman.

Granville sells an estimated 500,000 PCs per year, so there are likely to be many individuals and small firms affected by Granville's predicament.

"Yesterday I emailed Tiny [part of the Granville group] that I intended to take legal action to recover the £620 they have had since May 3rd for a laptop I ordered in April," wrote one customer, a doctor.

"Delivery was supposed to be 7-14 working days. I cancelled the order 4 weeks later when I was unable to get replies to emails or letters and got fed up of listening to the musak on their customer services line. On one occasion I hung on for 35 minutes. To add insult to injury this is an income-generating 0870 number. Unfortunately I smelt the rat too late!," he added.

Customers who have sent kit back for repair could also lose out.

My son's laptop has just gone in for repair. Am I ever likely to see it again?" asked one IT worker.

G Hockey, a 'retired coal miner', says he too suffered at the hands of Time.

"I paid £900 for a Tiny computer tower from Time Computers a year ago. It did not work from day one but I could not get Time to fix it so I got a solicitor to get in touch with them, Time totally ignored all letters sent, so I had to pay the solicitors bill for nothing," wrote Hockey.

"This has always been a bad company to get involved with, so if I have lost my £900 then I have myself to blame for dealing with them," Hockey added.