For years, I was what one could call an Amazon.com
I've ordered everything from sushi sets to new vacuum cleaners through Amazon.com. I've seen pasta makers delivered for relatives' birthdays and more baby gifts than I can count shipped to friends through Amazon's agreement with Toys "R" Us
And of course, I've ordered books and CDs. Tons of books and CDs. In fact, in recent years, I've been more likely to buy music and reading material from Amazon than engage in the hit-or-miss shopping of brick-and-mortar stores, unless I'm searching for something fairly mundane and ubiquitous.
In music, recently I've been doing a lot of downloading through Apple's
Unfortunately, I've also recently experienced an awful lot of problems with Amazon's order execution and shipping speed. It almost seemed like as soon as Amazon launched its new high-speed service, called Amazon Prime, regular orders became slow as molasses -- or maybe I'm just being paranoid. One of my orders in the spring took about a month to arrive. (A fellow Fool played a similar waiting game with the TV he'd ordered through Amazon, which appeared to be lost in transit for quite some time.)
In June, though, I soldiered on and ordered a few CDs that were advertised on the site. Each listing said that the CD "usually ships in 1 or 2 business days." Soon, I received an email informing me that there would be a delay, taking about two months and change (the same amount of time schoolkids have for summer vacation, I hasten to note). As annoying as that was, after two months had passed, I received yet another email from Amazon informing me that one of the CDs wasn't going to be available at all. A quick check of Amazon's website for the same CD still states that it usually ships in about 1 or 2 days, which seems like somebody dropped the ball somewhere.
I have since ordered the same CD from an independent music-seller on the Web that specializes in hard-to-find albums. Not only was the package shipped almost right away, but it happened to brought to my desk as I wrap up editing this here Take -- less than a week in transit, folks.
I know this is anecdotal evidence culled from my own experience, but I have heard similar stories from friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, and all this has gotten the wheels in my head turning --wondering whether there are quite a few customers feeling a little burned by Amazon recently. It also made me wonder if increased reliance on third parties to provide some inventory is dragging Amazon's legendary customer service down. I can't even begin to imagine what Amazon was doing in the two months it took to inform me that it wasn't going to be able to sell me that CD. Although I lost no money, I lost what I consider a fairly inconceivable amount of time obtaining this item -- Amazon's method was to make an empty promise, it seems.
Amazon spent years convincing people that e-commerce could be safe and fast -- fast enough to give the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortars stores a run for their money. If Amazon gives the impression that some customers' purchases come inexcusably slowly -- or not at all -- it could face some serious decay in its reputation for being a timely and reliable improvement on the experience found in many brick-and-mortar stores. Is Amazon getting too big for its own good, losing touch with what its customers expect? Only time will tell, but it's an issue investors should hope the e-commerce behemoth is careful to address.
For really fast cyberservice on Amazon, click on the following Foolishness:
- Although this take is about CDs, soon Amazon may be allowing for digital downloads.
- Bare-bones quarterly numbers,or Rick Munarriz's coverage of the last quarter.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.