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Annoying Christmas Eve!

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This is a letter I just sent to Consumerist, about how I wasted 45 minutes on the phone with Amazon today. I really hope they publish it. Gah! Other than this incident, I WILL HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY πŸ™‚

I’m writing to tell you about the utter fiasco that Amazon.com has become this holiday season.

On December 12 I ordered a ****** (Item blacked out to not reveal a gift πŸ™‚ ) from Amazon through target.com. It was supposed to arrive well before Christmas. On Dec. 20 I got an email saying my order would be delayed until January 2. I called and got a representative who clearly couldn’t handle customer concerns. He practically hung up on me a few times. I asked why the delivery was delayed, and he stuttered about four different things to me, constantly offering to cancel my order and that I should go buy it in a store and send it myself. Not the best advice for amazon, no? I told him I would like to keep the order, but could he comp me second day shipping because my present wouldn’t arrive until the 26th or 27th, not in time for the Christmas gift I intended. He went away and came back and said that, while he was updating the order, the estimated delivery time had changed to December 24th. I was suspicious, considering his evasive answers, but I received an email immediately updating the order time, so I said thank you and hung up, thinking my gift was fixed.

Sunday the 23rd, I had not received a shipping notice for the item, so I called customer service. I explained my concern that the arrival date was the 24th, and yet it hadn’t been updated as shipped yet. She put me on hold for 10-15 minutes. She came back and said that she spoke with the shipping department “personally” and they assured her that it would ship out tomorrow (Mon) and arrive tomorrow (Mon) the due date. As you can understand, I was skeptical. I asked her how an item was supposed to ship and arrive the same day, and she assured me that it was “by air” and they she had spoken to the shipping department and they guaranteed it. Ok…I guess desperate Christmas needs drove me to accept this answer, akin to her telling me that “magic dust” would just make it appear on my brother’s porch.
Today, (24th) I had yet to have a shipping notice. I called, AGAIN explaining my problem, and asked what was going on with my order? I was put on hold again, and the gentleman came back and said that the item would not arrive the 24th, but that it would ship today, and arrive the 26th or 27th. I was appropriately more suspicious, asking why I should believe him if I’d been lied to again and again by his co-workers?! I asked to speak with a supervisor, who, after ANOTHER explanation, told me that it would arrive the 26th or 27th. I asked him could he please check and see if the order was indeed ready to ship today?
Another hold. He comes back, and says that after entering the information in his computer, that the order shipment date was automatically updated to MID-FEBRUARY!!!!! Holy hell. I start to get pretty mad at this point, but I make a point of going to the actual amazon page for the item, and pointing out that STILL the item says it can arrive by the 27th with one day shipping! He goes away again, then asks me to cancel and then REORDER the item to get that shipping date, and supposedly comp me the one day shipping on the item! Like a fool, I agree to this plan, but expect no item to arrive. Ever. I started to die inside and wanted to get off the phone. Why Amazon, why?

The second incident happened immediately after I placed an order, THIS time subcontracting with cooking.com. On Dec 13th, immediately after I placed the order (like 2 minutes) I realized that the item was not guaranteed to arrive before Christmas, it was a window of 21-27. So I call cooking.com, because I guess amazon isn’t responsible for all its orders, to request that I get faster shipping on my item. Oh, boy. The helpful stepford wife from cooking.com says she can’t do that, because THEY don’t actually ship the item, a subcontractor or whatever was responsible for it. Seriously, she couldn’t get the item I bought from them faster, even though I was willing to pay more out of pocket. In this instance, I asked her to cancel the order, because I knew I could get it locally and didn’t need to ship it. AGAIN she tells me, she’ll TRY, but can’t assure me of a cancellation, because she has to email them, and they might ship it before they read the email, even though the estimated shipping date was not until the 17th or 18th! Seriously, these people don’t check their email, FOR ONLINE ORDERS?!? So, the woman supposedly sends the email canceling my order, and says she’ll contact me with regards to the order, to tell me if it “got through” or not.
Late Monday, the 17th, I call them, because I’ve not heard about my item cancellation and gotten no notice one way or another about shipping or canceling. I had bought the same item at a store and already had it wrapped under the tree over the weekend. Another lovely sounding lady answers, I explain the situation, and she reassures me that she’ll “check into” it and definitely get back to me about it, one way or another. She gets my number and email and everything. Surprise surprise, another day goes by, no answer! THEN I GET A SHIPPING NOTICE FOR THE ITEM! OMG.

At this point, I figure I’ll wait until the thing gets here, and return the one I bought, etc. Thing is, I shipped it to a PO Box, which it let me, but when I went to the post office today to check, there was a notice, saying that UPS cannot ship to a PO Box and I need to drive to a place 45 minutes from where I was to pick up the package, on Christmas Eve. No thank you.

I would advise anyone that if they’re ordering anything but books from Amazon, beware. The layers of subcontacters and “distributors” makes for a headache and a ruined my Christmas. I will be sending a jpeg of the **** to my brother. I guess if he never gets it, he’ll at least have a nice screensaver.

Felicia Day

  • Cassie Dawn

    Yeah I always sweat when I order things around this time of the year. I ordered some dvds around the beginning of December from another site and was given a shipping estimate of the 12th-18th… quite a range. Then one of the items I ordered was backordered… and worse, it was the more important one. My brother’s birthday is at the beginning of January so I usually go ahead and order his Christmas and birthday present at the same time. Well I noticed he had Season 2 of Highlander but none of the other seasons, so I ordered seasons 1 and 3, figuring I’d give him season 1 for christmas and 3 for his birthday. Season 1 was the one that got backordered. It had a delivery estimate of Dec 20-26. I was sweating bullets but luckily for me it arrived saturday morning. But I wasn’t given a tracking number or anything which kind of pissed me off. I’m wondering if it was because I went with the free shipping (since I had figured I ordered it soon enough to save a few dollars on the shipping.) Ah well, I’m happy, I got my stuff on time. I sure was nervous though. πŸ™‚

    Again, merry Christmas!

  • James

    This is the problem with contractors and high levels of Bureaucracy these days. It’s never anybody’s responsibility, it’s never anybody’s fault, and the people that you actually get to speak to never have any authority to do anything about your concerns.

  • James M

    Felicia, you’re not alone. I ordered stuff directly from Amazon (not any of their third-party affiliates) in accordance with their shipping schedule (Order by Dec 17 to get it by Dec 24 with Free Super Saver Shipping). When the items still hadn’t shipped a few days later I called. Spent 40 minutes on the phone. As you already know, the customer service is worthless. The guy told me to cancel my order, place it again, and pay (they wouldn’t comp me) for faster shipping to get the items before xmas. So I reluctantly did that. 1 of 3 items arrived in time. The tracking # for the other package with the other 2 items says it’ll arrive tomorrow. That said, I usually love Amazon and the shipping has always been great (even during holidays of old) so I’m just gonna chalk it up to “it happens.” And next year I’ll be sure to do my shopping in November. πŸ™‚

  • Jason

    Let the item sit at UPS long enough and eventually they’ll return it. Then call the people at complain that it was never delivered πŸ˜›

  • Ben

    I’d be careful with the Amazon bashing, I hear they have their own special operations wetworks division. And they aren’t afraid to use it!

    (When I die, I’d rather picture a heroic death ala buffy season 5 finale, not at the hands of Amazon.com. I mean how lame would that be?)

    On a related note, I know someone that was sued by a Chinese restaurant for libel. She sent a letter detailing her bad experience at the restaurant to all her friends and it got back to the owner. So the restaurant sued and won!

  • The sad thing is I love Amazon and I order hundreds of dollars of stuff from them a year. I think it’s the problem of having layer upon layer of “associated” retailers, like Target and Cooking.com. The stuff directly from Amazon has always been great, but when they don’t have control of the supply chain, things get whacked.

    I don’t see how Amazon could sue me for relaying a true story of my experience with them. How could that go through?
    I know, I was supposed to be taking a computer vacation this week πŸ™ I have no will power.

  • Omer

    Yeah dude, I was about to say.

    PUT DOWN THE KEYBOARD

    Seriously, relax and go watch a holiday classic like A Christmas Story or Die Hard.

  • Ben

    I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to be sued Felicia. I just thought it was an interesting and related foible. I assume writing about your experience was cathartic.

    I hope you have a wonderful new years eve!

  • That totally stinks. I almost had a similar situation. I ordered something over a month before it needed to be here for Christmas and I only received it on the 24th. Lesson learned.

    This year I’ll be buying Christmas presents for everyone as the year goes by so that I don’t have to worry about last minute purchases.

  • Well, update, my brother’s present actually shipped today! After canceling the order and reordering the exact same thing like Fred the supervisor told me to on the 24th, I got a shipping notification. So, thanks Fred with the French accent, you definitely came through for me, and your company πŸ™‚ And yes, writing that letter was cathartic, I need to do more of that, LOL.

  • stm

    Glad it worked out in the end…
    But it would have been nice to avoid all the hassle…

    I think I hear your computer vacation calling. Catch you after the New Years.

  • kelly

    It seems everyone i know had the same problem…infact i live in the uk and still had the same problem with amazon πŸ™

  • And that’s why I do my Christmas shopping in November. πŸ™‚

  • Carl

    Hi Felicia,

    Sorry for your troubles. πŸ™

    Some advice to protect yourself with online transactions.

    Take all of this advice with a grain of salt. I’ve been living in NZ for awhile and things may have changed: check with the appropriate agencies to make sure the info is still valid.

    Firstly: always pay with a regular credit card, not something like a Visa Debit card that takes the money directly out of your bank account. This gives you the ability to dispute a charge.

    It is essential that you give the vendor a reasonable opportunity to resolve the situation, that has a direct bearing on your CC issuer’s dispute process.

    If the vendor refuses to honor its contractual obligation* to meet the agreed on delivery date, then you may be able to do the following:

    Usually, you can refuse to take delivery on an item and UPS/Fedex/DHL will just return it to the vendor (check with the carrier for its policy).

    If the vendor does not refund the purchase price to your CC, then immediately file a dispute with your CC issuer on the charge. Make sure the dispute has been filed and accepted by your CC issuer, before you pay off that portion of the balance. That is why debit cards aren’t any good when it comes to disputing payments: the money has already been xfered to the vendor.

    You might end up having to pay the shipping charges, but not always.

    *This process can also be used for faulty/DOA/substituted goods that clearly violate the vendors contractual obligation to you.

    Happy New Year!(?)

  • Courtney

    I have a love-hate relationship with Amazon… but then they have a deal (like $23.99 for The Wire: Season 1 currently) which i must get.

    As opposed to Buy.com, which I hate with a passion.

  • Omer

    “I guess if he never gets it, he’ll at least have a nice screensaver.”

    Man, if you ever have kids you’ll be awesome at handing out guilt trips.

  • Felicia, I can feel your pain.

    I ordered from Amazon – the HD DVD set of “Planet Earth”. Luckily it came on time but when I opened the shipping bag/envelope, which looked intact, the DVD box was ripped in the top corner to a point that there was a big crack in the plastic case holding the discs, which made me open it to make sure the discs were not damaged. Obvioulsy the rip must have happened before they put the box in the envelope but Amazon employees yet decided to do it, hanging on a holy hope that the discs are O.K.

    When I started using Amazon, few years ago, everything was O.K. Things must have changed.

  • soma

    similarly, i just got one of my packages..

    it actually delivered on Christmas Eve and i wasnt
    home to sign for the damd thing..

    whatev

  • I’ve had delivery troubles before, but luckily it’s never affected christmas gifts. Funnily enough, my sister ordered a 38″ LCD TV on Boxing Day (it’s a bank holiday here) and was told the delivery date would be this Monday. As I was getting reading to leave the ancestral home on Friday, it was delivered. Apparently the courier didn’t know which Monday it was due, and brought it straight round in case it was a late Christmas gift. If you ask me, that’s above and beyond the call of duty from the courier.
    It’s a drool-inducing TV, too πŸ˜€

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