Thursday, January 02, 2014

Amazon's Worn Me Down Again

Yup, they've done it again. All the replacement books from Amazon came, and two, a whole two out of six, have arrived in what I would deem "as new" condition. The Henrietta Lacks book, and Augustus, have been shelved with satisfaction. As for the rest of them....

The Jacques Futrelle book is actually a rectangle shaped-book and not a parallelogram, so that's good, but the upper corner of the cover and some of the pages are bent. The Memory Key has a dust jacket with ruffled edges top and bottom. Virtually ALL of the books have "damage" like that. These are books that, if I lived near a bookstore and was going to buy a copy there, I would leave on the shelf.

Why then, do I keep them from Amazon, especially when I took the time to box up and return the Custer book (yet again)? Because they wear me down. I am convinced at this point that to buy multiple books from Amazon that are in the same condition you could get from a store (something a customer service rep from Amazon told me was their goal--but this was a few years ago) it would take five or six return/shipment cycles.

When this last batch arrived, there was no padding or packing material whatsoever, unless you count the inflatable sections of plastic that were laid across the top of the books--completely UNINFLATED. In that state it is a 2 mil. thick swatch of NOTHING.

I have to say, though, that the biggest source of the problem appears to be the handling of the books. In other words, Amazon's packers damage the books prior to their ever being put into an unpadded box or worse, a padded envelope. Amazon's biggest mistake appears to be that they treat collectible items like books, non-commodity items (at least for some) whose condition upon arrival is critical to the customer's satisfaction, like so much dog food in a box. They just don't give a damn.

This is why I get books with black fingerprint smudges across the pages, coffee cup rings on the covers, covers of large books torn away from the spines, dust jacket damage that couldn't have been caused in the box, etc. Again, they don't give a damn.

It's a hiring problem or a training problem or a managing problem but the bottom line is that they care not a fig for what they are doing. They're more than happy to send out replacement after replacement until the customer simply accepts the degraded quality. They demonstrate this repeatedly, and the time they told me that if I kept ordering replacements for The Letters of Saul Bellow they'd likely continue to arrive with the covers half torn off, I just took the refund and went to Barnes & Noble (online--again, I live in the sticks, people).

So instead of buying books from Amazon that are in good, "as new" shape, you are forced to define what you feel is "good enough" shape and re-train yourself to mediocrity. Those of us who build collections or libraries are more or less screwed, not least because B&N and Books-A-Million haven't done any better when I tried them.

A guy I used to know from UPS told me they threw packages around like I wouldn't believe. Youtube videos abound with package loaders misbehaving. This past week a FedEx employee was fired after a home security video showed the guy stopping twenty feet in front of the house and just frisbeeing the package onto the porch. The point is, the companies are so big it makes more economic sense for them to reimburse for lost or damaged packages than to pay attention to each and every one--except that they are rarely taken to task. The shipper has to file the claim, not the recipient, and when you're as big as Amazon, you just send a replacement. And the merry-go-round continues.

Remember WordPerfect? The number one word processor, scoffed at Windows, finally came out with a version but it worked like crap? Yeah, they're virtually gone now. How about Novell, whose NetWare operating system held over seventy percent (seventy percent!) of the market before losing everything to another Microsoft product, this one with networking built into the desktop operating system. How about Netscape, the first really popular web browser? Hey, I paid $29.95 for it back in the day. They were slaughtered when a cheaper (free) alternative appeared. MySpace? Eaten by Facebook. Many examples abound.

The takeaway here is that these guys thought they were too big to fail, had to much market and mind-share to be able to lose it so quickly. And they were wrong.

Amazon's wrong, too, but we won't know that yet until someone else comes along and offers the same products with a similar buying experience but with less damaged goods, and proceeds to eat Amazon's lunch. I will be the first in line to transfer my business.

Unfortunately, until that day, I appear to be stuck with Amazon. Lower prices, crappy product, easy returns. That's not a good motto, but accurate insofar as books go.


Post a Comment

<< Home