Falling out of love with Amazon

I’ve spent thousands of pounds with Amazon over the last few years. Not only CDs and books, but they’ve been excellent for odd things my parents need, as they don’t find it easy to traipse around multiple shops looking for stuff these days.

But, my love for Amazon is fading. I subscribed to the Prime service last year, in order to get something urgently – to be honest I was going to cancel it within the free trial period but forgot. Oh well, I thought, having that guaranteed next day delivery is useful, even if £49 a year seemed quite a lot to pay for it.

Then last September, they let me down badly – CDs ordered for a birthday present didn’t turn up – it was never totally established what had happened, but I wasn’t impressed. Then, last week, the same again. Books ordered on Wednesday evening, for Friday delivery, as a gift to be given at a Saturday birthday party.

The books didn’t turn up on Friday. I contacted Amazon Saturday morning – too late, the Home Delivery Network (and maybe the blame rests with them – but they‘re Amazon’s sub-contractor) van for Saturday had already left the depot, so no delivery till Monday, which of course was too late.

So that’s two “time critical” Prime deliveries have failed out of around 10 orders I’ve placed.  Maybe I’ve just been very unlucky, but the stats would suggest that is indicative of a pretty high failure rate for a premium service.  (Statistically, if average failure is only, say, one in a thousand, I’d be very unlucky to hit two out of ten). Ironically, I’ve never had problems on standard deliveries; if anything they arrive sooner than expected.

I was also surprised recently on ordering a printer cartridge to check a couple of days later and see that delivery was estimated at 2 -3 weeks from Amazon itself, for a very standard SKU. I cancelled that and ordered from Cartridge King with a 2 day delivery.

Add to this the recent publicity Amazon have had over their taxes. They’ve achieved revenues of £3.3 billion in the UK without paying a penny in Corporation tax. They also use legitimate routes to avoid VAT such as shipping CDs from the Channel Isles.

So, all in all, I’m not in love any more. Not returning their phone calls, deleted their pictures from my Facebook wall,  still get the odd lump in the throat when the radio plays “our” tune...

And whatever you think about the tax issue, I would recommend you don’t buy the Prime service thinking “this will be great for those last minute birthday presents”.  It isn’t.  It is a waste of £49.

Finally, we mentioned Amazon’s move into B2B supply recently, which is very much US focused at the moment. If and when they bring it to the UK, they better get the next day delivery sorted out or they’re going to lose credibility pretty quickly if their service is anything like I’ve experienced.

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Voices (3)

  1. Phoenix:

    I can’t decide if a Channel Island-based business not paying UK corporation tax is OK or not. Amazon is a global business – you can’t expect them to base themselves in the UK and pay corp tax out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Whereas Boots – traditionally a UK business and still with a significant UK high street presence, only paid £60m of tax this year having made a £1.2bn profit. And don’t get me started on Vodafone.

  2. Dr Gordy:

    Looks as though I may be in the minority of taking out a trail of Prime when I want something quickly, then cancelling prior to the end of the free subscription, and then taking out free trail again. To me that represents good value for money and the risk is managed by placing a reminder in my calendar to cancel. I suppose the multiple free subscription strategy route will now be closed down. But then if I want to get a good value service I generally buy the ‘as new’ second hand books!
    Setting all that aside, you have touched on a wider issue – the days of good customer service seem to have long passed. Recently O2 had the stupidity to connect my phone service to the wrong line – of course it wasn’t their fault, just a sub-contractor. They then tried to charge me for the line which was incorrectly installed – thankfully cancelling a direct debit got ahead of them. Nevertheless what abysmal customer service. I thought this was a one-off then regaling a colleague he said the same thing had happened to him.
    Thankfully social media now gives us a voice to share bad customer experience. However, I’m just wondering how long it will be before it is also used to share bad procurement practice and the days of seeking preferred customer status will be really sought after again.

  3. The Guitar Man:

    I’m also a big Amazon user! Your posts prompted me to check and I’ve been ordering ‘stuff’ pretty regularly since 2002 – averaging about 50-60 separate orders per year (more money than sense – and I haven’t got much money!). I too subscribed to the Prime service a few years back, romanced by the free trial period, I too forgot to cancel – great procurement behaviour! That being said the service has been good although you do pay (extra) for it – Prime prices being higher than other Amazon alternatives – but next day delivery and quality certainty can be important. I’ve noticed only recently that the delivery service is not so ‘next day’ dependable as it used to be. As you suspect, HDN ( or Hide, Destroy, deNy as we call them here) are pretty hopeless although sometimes their hopelessness can help – I do work (hard to beleive isn’t it) and therefore I am never in during the day (great spec for an advocate of home delivery!) and HDN invariably just dump things on the doorstep/pavement etc. I’ve always though found Amazon’s customer service really good, no quibble and goods replaced if I’ve complained (mostly about HDN). So I agree their ‘halo is slipping’ and in such a financial climate even the biggest and ‘untouchable’ suppliers need to keep their eye on the ball. As we always say ‘ you are only as good as your sub-contractor’s cock up and as bad as your last failed delivery. PS I think having the name ‘Smith’ can’t help. lol!

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