Friday Rant: Catbert Works For Amazon – Your Shipment Date Is Set In Elastomer

Have you ever shopped with Amazon and wondered why the item doesn't arrive on the date expected? Then you log-in and the dates (as you recall them) seem to be different from what you originally, you shake your head and think, maybe I remember incorrectly? If that sounds familiar, here's why I think Amazon should be called to the carpet for their misleading shipping practices.

First, an official statement around their freebie shipment option: "Using Super Saver Shipping -- your order will be delivered within 5-8 business days after all of your items are available to ship"

Reality check: Take look at this product, a pair of binoculars. As you can see, if I order with paid shipping, I can have them delivered tomorrow, logically leading us to believe that the item is available in their managed inventory. However, I actually ordered these binoculars on Sep 16. And despite the stated availability, Amazon tells me that they are not expected to ship until Sep 26!

Since I am not privy to all the ins and outs of Amazon's warehousing and what is under their control versus what is actually sitting in some partner's warehouse, it is impossible to analyze this fully. Especially since Amazon dynamically wipes it slate clean, so to speak, as their website doesn't keep a record of statements made when ordering. There's no clear audit ability for the consumer! Not that I'm saying that this is an intentional design choice, but...

If you look online for what people are saying about Amazon, it appears that this "practice" goes back to at least 2010. And it is probably in Amazon's short-term interest, as it undoubtedly steers people toward more premium shipping options. I have noticed this myself several times, as I am both lazy and cheap and keep going back to Amazon for more logistical surprises.

The lack of transparency in the process and the Orwellian "fluidity" in the data points available to monitor makes for a frustrating experience. A similar approach in corporate procurement would be wholly unacceptable. Undoubtedly, Amazon's own procurement team expects very detailed information around delivery commitments.

Most likely someone with a Catbert-like personality in Amazon's marketing department came up with this stratagem to "encourage" customers to sign up for Amazon Prime, which is a paid membership upgrade service to get 2-day delivery. Clever.

Call me a cynic but my suspicion is that Amazon keeps the Super Saver "free" to avoid future class action lawsuits.

Jeff Bezos, if you read this, I just want you to know that even though it is OK to keep Super Saver as a slower delivery form, the rubberband-clad shipping dates are not.

- Thomas Kase

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