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Archive for November, 2015

Divorcing the Amazon

When a customer orders a package worth almost $100, many companies offer free shipping.  The package arrives within two-five days and everybody is happy.  There was a time when I ordered from Amazon, received free shipping, and the packages wended their merry way toward my doorstep.  I could track them online and watch their gradual progress.  That all changed with Amazon Prime.

Not so long ago, I ordered about $100 worth of films and books for my son’s birthday.  I used the (over $35) free shipping  as in the past the packages normally arrived at the front end of the expected arrival dates.  This year, the dates were from November 17-21.  On November 19th, when I check the shipping progress, I get the message — your packages will ship soon.   This is not ground speed, this is a company deliberately with-holding shipping as a ploy to instigate  a customer to join Amazon Prime and actually get the packages shipped when you shop. Ultimately, the packages were shipped on the 20th to arrive on the 21st.  In other words, Amazon did not use “low-end” budget shipping but the expensive “one day” shipping service.  They just ensured that the package would arrive at the end of the 10 day period.  This is not customer service. This is an attempt at customer manipulation.

Amazon Prime has always struck me as being a sort of “membership club.”  These clubs are becoming more popular business models these days — one pays fees for what used to be expected as customer service.  The definition of this kind of fee is largely “money for nothing.”  For some years now, the fee model has been the basis of investment bank lending.   If a company wants to borrow 10 million dollars, the bank arranges the transaction and charges a 2 million dollar fee, simply for putting “the deal” together.  Then the money is lent with the usual interest and principal payments.  Why do companies accept these deals?  The majority of the expanding companies are publicly held, so the executives who make the decisions do not stand to lose their own personal money by making the deal.  Once the fee-based deal is standard issue, privately held companies have no alternative if they require a loan but to accept.

Some years back, the banks lending this money also started offering business advise to the companies which they serviced.  Thus items that were given as customer service, i.e. sour cream for a baked potato, became what bankers (and their subsidiary corporations) began to call “value-added extras.”  The irony of the value-added extra is made apparent with the ATM service fee.  The banks claim to give the customer “value” by letting them withdraw money (or make other transactions) from the ATM — however, the banks themselves save money on all ATM transactions.  If every transaction made at an ATM was made at the bank, the bank would pay more per transaction because it used dedicated personnel.  But the “perception” is that the bank is offering the customer something “new,” something “convenient.” Therefore they charge for the machine transactions and kept the lobby transactions free (charging for what had been standard service would create an uproar).

It is against this erosion of customer service that my complaint falls.  Amazon, which had previously been a “go-to” site for value on a majority of book and music items, now wants to play the “pay for service” game.  I am not a mega-shopper.  I don’t have cable t.v. because I don’t watch $1,000 worth of t.v. each year.  For me, a pay-for service has to have a budgetary value.  I shop at Amazon three or four times a year.  Sometimes more, but that’s the average — Christmas, my son’s birthday, an occasional bout of book or music buying, and done.  I won’t use $89 dollars worth of two-day shipping in any given year.  I don’t watch enough t.v. to want their Prime series and I have an extensive album/cd/mp3 collection — I don’t need their music library for $89.  For some, this might be value — for my family, it is not.  But I’m loathe to be treated like this —  especially since I’ve been buying from Amazon since they were in the red.  I’m thinking of checking Buy.com next time before consider searching Amazon.  I’ve always liked big women but I think we’ve come to the end of our run.

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