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The Perpetual Backorder
If you agree to let an out-of-stock item on your order sit on backorder, be sure to keep an eye on it! The vendor should be able to give you an approximate date when they expect the item to be received into stock and then shipped out to you. Check back with them at around that time to see if the item does in fact show up. If not, get an updated expected date. Better online vendors will let you do this on the Web.
Most items placed on backorder will ship within a month of the time you place your order. Occasionally however a backorder will persist for a very long period of time, and if you don't keep track of it you risk having it be forgotten. If you are not in a hurry, and if the company has not charged your credit card for the item, then there's nothing wrong with continuing to wait. I have successfully received (non-PC-related) items in the past that I had to wait six months for.
However, at some point you may understandably lose patience with a backorder that stretches on endlessly. If the due date for the item keeps getting pushed out, the vendor may in fact just be guessing as to when it will be received. In this case, you may want to start shopping around elsewhere to see if another vendor can get the item to you in a more reasonable period of time. If so, cancel the original order--and make sure you aren't charged for it.
"Perpetual backorder phenomenon" is especially dangerous when practiced by companies that pre-charge credit cards for items that are backordered. If a vendor does this, it in effect has an incentive to keep you waiting as long as possible. Every day that passes between the date that they charge your card and the date that they have to pay their distributor for the item, is a day they get an interest free loan of your money. This is one reason why I avoid such vendors.