We initially sent the article for review in January 2022. After six months of hearing nothing, we asked for an update and they said they hadn't found any reviewers and requested a list. We provided an extensive list of reviewers. In November 2022, January 2023, and February 2023 we requested specific information about the status of our manuscript and a timeline for when we can expect the response; in November and January we were told generally by the JEO Assistant that the article was still with reviewers, with the response in January including that the JEO Assistant had contacted the editor to expedite the process. In February the JEO Assistant indicated that the email we sent had been forwarded to the editor for comment, with the Office Staff intending to inform us when the editor responded. After another month with no comment, we contacted the editor-in-chief about the article, asking for a decision to be made. We received no response, although activity in the portal indicated that someone accessed the article (updating its 'last action taking' tracker) but without changing its status as under review. In early May we requested that the article be withdrawn from the journal and to inform us when this was done, and received no response. We repeated the request again today, with the JEO Assistant quickly acting to withdraw the paper. So in total nearly a year and a half was spent waiting on the first response to a potentially multi-round process.
Throughout this entire process, the Office Staff always responded to us promptly and professionally, but themselves received no responses from the editor. As such, and as recent discussions we've had with others in the field indicated that this is a repeated issue with the journal, we cannot in good faith support this journal. Indeed, it feels as if the choice of the journal to report median time to first response is, whether purposefully or accidentally, hiding that they have a repeated issue of unacceptably long review times and withdrawal periods, especially as time to first decision does not necessarily include papers that were withdrawn due to the review process taking an unprofessionally long time.