Thursday, January 22, 2015

Amazon Marketplace is Really a Hit or Miss

I like Amazon. I love being able to order what I want from the comfort of my home and having it delivered to my house. It is easy and quick. Usually.

I have read many articles that talk of the future demise of Amazon. Most of these I've read from Karl Denninger. Here's an example: "Amazon: A Look At The Sheet" I've read where Amazon works on a paper-thin margin so now that many US states are now charging sales tax, their paper thin profit margin has disappeared. Some writers say that spells disaster for Amazon.

I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon did start losing lots of money and had to raise prices heavily, which will allow competitors to cut deeply into their market share (good! competition lowers prices!), but I think Amazon has a good enough reputation that that won't happen too soon... 

Amazon makes my life easier... Well, sometimes....

Ordering directly from Amazon has always been a good experience for me. I can't remember even once having something delivered that wasn't what I ordered or as advertised....

Amazon Marketplace, on the other hand, can be a real "hit or miss" proposition... It can even be a major pain in the ass if something is wrong and you have to return an item.

In the case of books or music on CD or DVDs, I can not complain about Amazon Marketplace. Sure, sometimes they are slow as hell, and things are pretty beat up, er, I mean, "very used" but, the prices are cheaper and I'm usually willing to wait and don't care about condition as long as the CDs play or DVDs don't skip. 

But when it comes to ordering many other things on Amazon Marketplace, I have to give warning.

Case in point: Kitchen Blenders.

In the last 5 days, I have ordered three blenders from Amazon Marketplace vendors, and then finally, paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. (I need a blender because it's the easiest way to get raw veggies: I make Green Smoothies for breakfast everyday religiously.)

In the case of the two from Amazon Marketplace vendors, I ordered brand new blenders that cost between $100 ~ $200 (You'd think that the more expensive the item is, the better the unit or service - usually true, but in my experience, not at Amazon Marketplace). Both I immediately returned because when I opened the boxes, it was obvious that these units were not "new," they were refurbished or returned items.

I like Oster products. I always buy new ones if I do. Sorry, this doesn't look like a new model from the factory, does it?

In both cases, the packaging was obviously (poorly) redone and in one case, it looked as if a repairman had written "low" with a marker pen on the face of the blender's control panel (the kanji for "hikui" - low) as if there was some sort of problem with the power switch and it was in the repair shop.

Now, call me anal-retentive, but if the packaging is all bent and torn in places and/or the unit has writing on it, then that is not a "new" unit; it is a unit that has been returned defective and repaired (therefore, "refurbished" or "repaired") in the case where the box is all messed up, it might be considered "new" by some people but not me. 

The blade holder at the bottom of the glass wasn't screwed onto the unit correctly (it was crooked) and look at those tears and wrinkles on the cardboard. This looks like it was returned and then repackaged by chimpanzees. How did the bottom blade attachment get on there crooked? It certainly didn't come from the factory that way.

As consumers and customers, we should never tolerate bad service or being sold something that is different than advertised. If service is bad at a restaurant, quietly get up and walk out and never come back; if you order an item and get something different than you ordered, you must complain and return it.

In the mid-1970s, I worked in the camera section at a department store in the USA. That department store often had sales on cameras and accessories. I do remember a particular camera model that came in one day. It was super cheap. It was super cheap because it was a piece of junk; both the other guy who worked there and I thought it was a cheap-assed piece of shit. That camera sold for $8. It was flimsy, they broke constantly, and at least 30~40% of them seemed to ship from manufacturer as defective. 

If we sold one, it was sure as the sun rises in the East, the customer was going to return it. That made lots of work for us because then we had to listen to someone get mad at us and then fill out all sorts of forms and we'd lose a customer (also lose our 3% commissions!) 

Nope. I stopped selling those real fast. Anytime anyone asked me about it, I up sold them the $19.99 Vivitar with glass lenses and case and extras and said, "Look at the cheap $8 model. It is completely plastic, with plastic lenses even... When do these things break? They break at the wedding, or family get-together or barbecue party... You don't want to risk that, for a few dollars more, you can get quality that will last for years." Then I'd let them hold the Vivitar and compare: that was a good little camera that was built well. 

So instead of selling the $8 piece of crap (with $0.24 cent commission) that would probably get returned and cause me to do lots of paperwork (we didn't get commission on returns or paperwork - Duh!) I'd sell people a camera, case, film, a few batteries, etc. for about $29.. And have a happy customer walk out of the store and I got about a $0.90 commission! Easy math.  

That's me about the time I worked at the department store. 
I sold cameras. I sold lots of cameras. I was 17.

But I digress.... 

Even though both the other guy and I told our department manager that this camera was a piece of crap and we didn't want them, she went and ordered a couple hundred of them anyway, because the department store chain was going to run nationwide ads for this piece of trash. She ordered them. The people came in in droves. I tried to up sell everyone, but some wouldn't do it. Lots of people bought those things. Of course, lots of people returned them.

We had one hundred of those pieces of crap returned as broken or defective and then we had to send them to repair. Oh, the minutiae of redundant paperwork!

Guess what happened when those cameras came back from repairs? Come on, guess!

Because my boss realized that she had ordered too many of these dogs and that the returns and repairs come out of the bottom line for the camera department, she tried to insist to us that we sell those cameras as "new." 

I ask you dear reader, would you consider those cameras as "new"? I wouldn't.

I got in trouble because I basically refused to sell those. They were "used" or "repaired" or "refurbished" or something, but there is no way in the world those were "new" cameras.

I won't mention the name of the department store because they are doing poorly. 

.....I will say that I hear that Sears Roebuck and Company was once a fine organization. It doesn't surprise me the fortunes of Sears over these last 25 years have gone so poorly.... Hijinks like that went on all the time. 

Oh, but I digress again...

Tell me dear reader, what do you think of this blender? This is actually, the second model that came last night. Should I consider this a "new" model? I wonder what my friends would think if I ordered this and sent it as a wedding or housewarming present or something? 

You're kidding, right?

Anyway, going to give those two vendors bad scores and complain. Finally, I paid a bit more and ordered directly from Amazon. That unit is supposed to come today. If that one is messed up, I'll got to the local electronics store and pick one up.

Buying a blender shouldn't be such a big hassle... It's not rocket science, is it? (I mean, a blender that is new and works and is sold as advertised?) I'm embarrassed to say that I went through almost the exact same experience with Amazon Marketplace vendors 2 years ago when I bought my previous blender that just died.

Live and learn... Some of us (like me) aren't very fast learners.

Amazon Marketplace is fine for used books, music, DVDs, forget it for clothes or home appliances.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to reinsert the bottom of a blender, that is your choice. If cardboard wrinkles are a problem, its still your choice. The 'hikui' ( 低い) marking: its always going to give your mind doubts. Having worked with technicians who repair under warranty: I have seen them put in better component (tighter tolerances (because their reputation is on the line)) on repairs.
My parents have a wedding present Oster blender. Its still used. Its quality. If I could get a clone, I would. (Its not sentimental longing for the past. The glass is better. The unit is stronger. )
Its a different world. 'Just in time' delivery sometimes means packing like a chimpanzee.
Its fine to order direct. Less hands fiddling with the sealed package can be worth the money.

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