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thoughts and observations

Amazon Luck Had Left Me

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When I moved to the UK, three years ago, I was really amazed to see how simple it is to buy things online. Keep in mind that in the place where I lived before, people did not have a lot of trust in the post, so in the beginning the British system truly amazed me. Three years later I am reconsidering this statement.

On the unrelated note, I had a discussion once with my German colleague and he was vastly complaining about the British post. When I asked to explain the matter, he said that since he moved into the UK, eight years ago, the post managed to lose three parcels. In Germany that would never happened, he concluded.

Well, it indicates that different people have different expectations form the system, and if you would ever dare to complain to a Russian guy about the three parcels, he would laugh into your face.

Coming back to the subject, very quickly I was hooked on Amazon, as it kind of works.

Amazon

Amazon has a great experience in online selling so they managed to come to the point that new customers wish to stay with them. Actually it is a great job, and I wonder how many psychologists, web designers, etc. it took to come to the current state.

Obviously, the killing feature is the globalisation. They create a meta-online shop which redirects requests to the actual sellers. The laziness is the driving force of progress so people adopted and appreciated the system very quickly . Being in their current position they can give very competitive prices, thanks to google shopping service it is easy to check. They unify the way you communicate, pay, receive, etc. and make it easy. As apple slogan says – “it just works”.

Now, most of the layered system do not work equally well in both directions, and Amazon is not exception here. Amazon woks perfectly well until you don’t have to return items. It has a simple explanation – people prefer to receive money rather than pay money. Fair enough.

Again, as a matter of fact, most of the time a person is happy with the stuff he is receiving. So as a seller you might want to consider that. You might want to include this into your budget planning. Especially cheeky sellers can make returns arbitrary hard in order to discourage people from doing so.

Amazon returns

If you order stuff from Amazon itself, the returns are done very decently. It does not ask any stupid questions and immediately gives you a pre-paid sticker which you put on your item and post it back. Well done Amazon, highly appreciated. When it comes to the marketplace – then the hell breaks loose.

It is crucially important to realise that in essence there are two different processes involved – if you buy from Amazon itself, or if you go to the marketplace. The marketplace is a term they use to indicate that they just act as a front-end for sellers and all the real stuff is going to be done by sellers, not by the Amazon itself.

Here comes the confusion. Amazon tries to have the same look and feel no matter what you do, so in a way, the fact that you are potentially engaging with a third party, by making purchases at marketplace, is carefully hidden from you. Dear Amazon, why don’t you unify return procedures for all your customers on the marketplace, ah? That would really fix the user experience, and we will be able to conclude that the layered approach works equally well both ways? Are you going to lose part of your sellers? Or would it create more work for you? I doubt it.

Case Study

In the middle of December I bought a backpack from Amaon marketplace, as I needed a replacement for my old one. After some googling I have chosen this one with a nice red cross. Then I left the country for Christmas holidays and came back on 12-th of January. The backpack was waiting for me, and the red cross was shining exactly as it did at the picture. I decided to give it a try, and it wasn’t bad at all. Later I discovered that the thing is leaking in the rain. Well, the laptop bag which is leaking in the rain is less than usable for me. Keep in mind, that I live in Scotland, and I think I don’t need to say too much about the rain here.

Now I’ve checked if I still can return it, and the web page happily said that:

    ... the return window will close on 31 Jan 2013. Please note that this is
    currently extended for the holidays and not all sellers offer an extended
    return window ...

Well done Amazon, I thought, so I pressed the “Return” button and carefully explained the situation to the seller. Few hours later I received the following response:

    Thank you for your email.

    Unfortunately. we are unable to accept the return of this item as
    it is not described to be water proof.
    If you require further assistance, please let us know.

    To respond to this email, please kindly reply leaving the subject
    title intact.

    Yours sincerely,

    Jas
    Kikatek Customer Support Team

You must be bloody joking, Jas, I thought. I really don’t know who are you, Jas, I am not even sure about your sex, but isn’t it just ridiculous? The manual of a new car does not specify that it is not leaking, however application of common sense might help. Also, the fact that implication from false leads to both true and false is amusing, but do you really want to use it as an argument?

Explaining my thoughts and trying to be polite, I replied to the email, but then they just didn’t respond to it. This habit, very common in the UK, just pisses me off! This bloody face-saving crap, it is everywhere. There are plenty ways of terminating conversation politely, but not responding is not one of them!

Fine, they just want to wait until the “return window” would be closed and use it as an argument later, I thought. So I wrote to the Amazon asking for advice, and they suggested to write a claim. I did so, which caused immediate response from the seller, saying that the return is authorised.

Right, now the annoying part of the story is that you have to pay yourself the postage of the item which, by the way costs about 10 pounds. And I am not really sure if they ever going to refund that.

Now, after later investigation, I have learned that this “extension” has a tiny comment which you cannot really see when you look at your order:

     Please note that this doesn't apply to items sold and fulfilled by
     Sellers on Amazon Marketplace. For information about returns to
     Sellers please see our Arranging Marketplace Returns and Refunds
     help page

Further more, the Kikatek has some policies on the returned items regarding the way they are going to refund it.

To be continued…

Conclusions

A simple thing is turning into a nightmare. You just waste time on stupid emails and claims and what have you. Of course, you can say – hell with that, I’ll buy a rain cover or solve it differently.

My point is that by not unifying return policies for all the users, Amazon is spoiling the user experience. I do understand that in general a return should be complicated to discourage buyers from returning everything, but why don’t you make it equally complicated?

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