This week I needed to get some musical kit in a hurry - nothing particularly interesting - just a long-overdue replacement for a carrying case. Had a look around, and eventually bought something on Amazon. I could have looked further, but our experience with Amazon is so overwhelmingly positive in recent years, and they always look after any (rare) mishaps professionally and quickly, so their name has become a bit of a safeguard.
£58, with free delivery. Fine. Easy. In fact the item was supplied by one of Amazon's Marketplace sellers, a big music shop in Yorkshire which also deals with real customers in a real bricks-&-mortar shop. All good. The chances of a staff member in an actual music shop knowing what they are doing must be at least as good as what might be expected in the dungeons of a Corporate Fulfilment Centre.
|My parcel was much, much bigger than this...|
I got online to Amazon, recorded my wish to return the item, which was accepted straight away, and I printed off labels and documents they emailed me to send the parcel back. I also rang up the music shop (they were still open at nearly 6pm - business must be either very good or very poor - take your pick).
Gentleman at the music shop said that these things happen, but didn't seem to care unduly. If I send the item back, they will refund the cost. He certainly wasn't at all apologetic - I got a faint hint that Amazon customers are a bit of a pain in the capodastro.
Now, here's the rub. Normally, in a situation like this, where the music shop knows that you are in a bit of a hurry, the guy might well say, "very sorry, we screwed up - we'll rush the correct item to you, and our courier will collect the wrong one when he calls with it".
Not in the Marketplace. The guy cannot do anything like that, because Amazon have to call all the shots on the refund - this is probably how it should be - I'm sure all you auditors will agree. SO THE SELLER IS HAMSTRUNG BECAUSE HE IS WORKING FOR AMAZON ON THIS SALE.
OK - over to Amazon themselves. I had a pleasant on-screen "chat" exchange with one of Amazon's customer reps, and he said that I have to mail the thing back to the seller, at my own cost, and the seller will refund purchase price plus my postage when they receive it. But, I said, I thought you would send me a label which would get me free return mailing.
Ah, well. This is what would happen if the item had been supplied direct from Amazon's warehouse, but it's different for a Marketplace sale. The seller, you see, has to process the refund and accept the item back into stock. I can understand that, but it does mean that AMAZON ARE ALSO HAMSTRUNG BECAUSE THEY ARE USING A MARKETPLACE SELLER.
To be fair to them, Amazon awarded the princely sum of £5 as a goodwill payment for my inconvenience. They also explained that the procedure is now thus: I repackage the parcel, attach the labels Amazon have sent me, take it to a courier [I used Royal Mail Parcelforce this morning, registered - that's £13.40] and pay the postage to get it back to the seller. When the lads in Yorkshire get their case back, they will check it's OK and will refund my £58 - any betting that they'll remember the return postage without being chased? Once I have seen on my credit card statement that everything is in order I may start again, re-ordering the same item from the same supplier, through Amazon. Just as though it never happened.
Just a minute - you mean they can't take the initiative to send me the correct item without further action from me? No - the transaction ends when they have their goods back, I have my money back, and Amazon's audit trail rings the Angelus. Then I may feel free to start all over again.
Mustn't make a fuss - things usually do go very well. My hopes for a quick, convenient purchase of an instrument case have vanished without trace, however, and I have the additional hassle of checking I get all my money back. Then I have to decide whether I am sufficiently impressed with this episode to risk going round the process one more time.
No. In fact I had already ordered the same item online (outside Amazon, from a shop in Derby - for only £48), within an hour of the conversation. If the original seller in Yorkshire had given even a token pretence of contrition I'd have considered ordering from them again - they will have to pick up the tab for my return shipping, after all. But he didn't. Fair enough. If he doesn't give a stuff, then neither do I, and whether the world is a warmer and more caring place as a result is well beyond me.
Move on - nothing to see here.