"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Friday, 15 April 2011

Hopefully I can now fly with the sun...

I promised you the story behind my solar oven.

Well, here it is... and a warning - the First Edition of "Gone with the Wind", contained over 1 000 pages - this is also a l-o-n-g story.

On 4th January 2008 I contacted a solar oven distributor (SOD) based in Johannesburg, with a view to purchasing a solar oven.  After a number of e-mails had flown through the airwaves, on 26th February 2008 I paid a 50% deposit.  I was told that the new stock was due to arrive at the end of April 2008.  On the 11th April 2008 I e-mailed the SOD to find out the progress on the shipment of ovens, and how much longer they expected it was going to take.  I was given various excuses, and was told that he expected them to be on the boat within the next couple of weeks.  They would then take 6 - 8 weeks further (the boat trip from Europe where the factory is based).  The owner of SOD did apologize, saying they would get here, or I could have my money back.  However, he was the only supplier of solar ovens in this country at that time, so I had no other option than to let my order stand.

On the 13th of June I again contacted the SOD.  On the 17th June I was then informed that "the company who supplied their ovens in Portugal was closing, and they would not be sending the SOD their order".  I was again offered my money back, and this time I accepted.  This, after 6 months!  I was also informed that the SOD would be taking this item off their web page, as "it was not their way to offer such bad service".

Due to the fact that there were no other solar ovens distributors in this country at that time, in November 2009 I again sent an enquiry to the SOD about a solar oven - using this picture to demonstrate what I wanted, when I placed my order.
Solar cooker with all the bells and whistles
I was advised that they were getting more solar ovens in stock and that they were expected just before Christmas (2009).  Even though the price had escalated by 50% in just over a year, I again placed an order with the SOD.  However, this time I referred to what had happened the previous year, and said that this time I would prefer not to pay a deposit at this stage.  Could he just let me know when they arrive, and I will pay the full price prior to his shipping the unit off to me. 

On the 4th February (after a couple of enquiring e-mails) I was advised that the ovens would only arrive in early March 2009.  On the 31st March 2010 the SOD contacted me and told me that the ovens would be here in a couple of weeks, and that I had to pay a deposit in order to secure my unit.  This I did on the 6th April.  I further asked the SOD to keep in touch with me.  He didn't.

On the 12th May I was informed that the ovens had arrived and that I needed to pay the balance of 50% plus the transport cost.  This was paid within 5 hours of receiving his e-mail.  I was told that the oven would be on its' way to me by the end of the week.  That didn't happen.  Nor did it happen by the end of the following week.

On the 24th May, through sheer frustration I contacted the manufacturer, Nuno, in Portugal, and sent him a copy of all the correspondence I had had with the SOD.  Nuno then obviously contacted the SOD, and I received a very nasty e-mail from the SOD, accusing me of "vociferous nastiness" and I was further requested to "never contact him again".

With the very grateful asistance of Nuno I finally received my solar oven on the 31st March 2010 - almost 2½ years since my first enquiry.

And what I received was this:

Where is the extension mirror on the lid?  Where is the side mirror?  And where is the sundial?  This was not the model I had ordered and paid for.

And - to make matters even worse, the unit arrived broken.  The SOD sent the boxed oven via the South African Post Office, instead of sending it by courier.  The SAPO is not a suitable method of transporting fragile items, and, also, the packaging then was more suited for courier transport than that of the SAPO.

The damaged packaging indicated that someone had tried to pick up the box, found it too heavy, and had dropped it on the one corner.  Or it had fallen off a truck...

Thus the outer lid was broken...

The outer base (oven area) was broken...

and the double glazed, heat retaining glass lid and the hinge was damaged...

I asked RMan to contact the SOD to report the damage (after all  had been requested to "never contact him again").  The SOD was not interested and told me we had to claim from the Post Office.  The Post Office told me they were not responsible for damages, that they would only recompense for missing items.  The SOD was not interested - AT ALL.

After a few weeks of obsolutely no joy re: obtaining assistance from the SOD, I again contacted Nuno in Portugal.

Far too many e-mails then flew through the air, until the 15th October 2010 when Nuno advised me that I would (very) soon hear some good news from the SOD.  I had been dealing with another person, Jean, at the SOD's company since receiving the "do not contact me" e-mail, and Jean advised me on the 19th October that the replacement parts should be in the country "before the end of the year".


They arrived at the end of December.  I was told on the 28th January that going through customs had taken a month, and that they would be sent off as soon as they were unpacked.  Again - many e-mails later - and after being advised of the amount, and paying R160.00 courier fees, I finally received the replacement parts on Thursday, 7th April 2011.

This is what my oven should have looked like, and, thankfully, now looks like:

Hopefully, now I will be able to achieve temperatures higher than 150oC (300oF), and that I can finally use my solar oven without fear!  :-)  (I was constantly afraid that the damaged double glazed lid would explode / crack further given the heat it was exposed to.)

What a journey - and I honestly doubt it would have had as happy an ending without the very kind, and generous assistance of Nuno.  After all, it was certainly not his fault that the package was incorrectly sent through the post.

Thank you once again Nuno - thank you, thank you, thank you.  You have a brilliant product and it has been a pleasure doing business with you - just a pity that the SOD, is not up to scratch.  To anyone considering purchasing a solar oven in South Africa at any time in the future - you have my story above.  Please contact me and I will tell you who to avoid!

P.S.  Apparently, I am not the only one to receive a damaged solar oven from the SOD.  I have been reliabably informed that other people have also complained - but I doubt their story is going to have a satisfactory ending...


  1. Wow, what a saga. Glad you finally got the oven of your choice.

  2. Jane - marathon read - apologies. But I feel it is only fair (to South African consumers) to give the complete story. Forewarned is forearmed!

  3. Dani, that is terrible! You have a lot more patience than me. I have had bad luck with a few companies on different stuff, but nothing near that bad.

  4. David - I am NOT a patient person, so the past 2 years odd has been very trying. But I was determined not to give the story until it had been resolved. However, I DO need to warn other South Africans about the SOD - in both senses of the word LOL

  5. Wow, what a hassle. Perhaps you should start your own solar oven company, you could trump the competition simply by having halfway decent customer service. Glad you were eventually able to receive all that you paid for and are now able to enjoy that wonderful oven.:)

  6. Whew, what a story. I can only imagine how frustrated you were. I'm definitely going to experiment with solar cooking this summer, and have explored links you gave previously. Hopefully my story won't be a repeat of yours.

  7. Mr H - Have thought about that, and have given another option to the manufacturer. One thing I do know about is customer service and how important that is! I'm certainly looking forward to using it once the sun returns to my garden - do so wish I was on the farm where the sun shines all the time LOL

    Leigh - the manufacturer is a honey and a gentleman. At least I'm happy that you don't have the SOD supplying you. Look forward to reading about your adventure with the sun...

  8. wow - what a story. Thanks for sharing it, I it is important to let others in your area know what happened. Have fun using it now that it is complete. I look forward to reading about your solar oven adventures. Emily

  9. Emily - good and bad service - sharing the experience can only result in better service :-)


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