Breaking up with Amazon…

I’ve always wanted to like Amazon. A million years ago they were a place where you could find all sorts of reading material that your small local bookshop didn’t carry or that they didn’t have much interest in getting for you. Time passes. Things evolve. Amazon is now all things to all people – literally where you can go to but everything including the kitchen sink, listen to streaming radio, or find a bit of in-house produced “prestige television.”

The more Amazon has grown, the larger their catalog of merchandise has become, the worse the overall experience of dealing with them is. Over the last 12 months I’ve received more damaged items and made more returns to them than I have in my entire time as an Amazon customer up to this point. It’s a pity, because Amazon is just so damned convenient. 

I won’t go so far as to say I’m parting company with Amazon – but I can go out of my way to make them a vendor of last resort. Even if that means a bit more inconvenience and expense for me, I’m just petty enough to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve cancelled my subscriptions and know that means spending extra time to find books coming from Powell’s, Barnes & Noble, or searched out from individual used book shops. It means either shlepping out to the local Petco for dog and cat food or finding more consistent online sellers. It means getting use to paying for 2-day shipping in some cases. 

Sure Amazon’s customer service is always quick with a refund or offering up a replacement, but being johnny on the spot with those things shouldn’t be the norm. If they’re not interested in delivering a product not beat to shit or spewed open inside the carton during shipment, they’re not interested in hanging on to at least this one customer. Sure, losing a couple thousand dollars a year in revenue isn’t going to break Amazon, but it’s the one voice I know capitalism understands when echoed by enough mouths… and all because the world’s greatest retailer can’t be bothered by a bit of proper product packaging.

Two out of three…

I have a standing order with Amazon to deliver dog food, cat food, and litter on a monthly basis. It hasn’t been an altogether satisfying relationship thus far. Two out of the last three orders have been what I’ll just call “defective.” Today’s order included a bag of cat food in fine shape, a box of cat litter in fine condition, and a bag of dog food with a blown out corner that emptied half the bag’s contents out into the shipping box.

Look, the dogs loved the fact that I schlepped this 50 pound box through the middle of the house trailing kibble behind me, but it wasn’t the kind of experience I’d have paid for if given the opportunity. I’m a simple guy who just wants things to arrive undamaged. I don’t feel like that’s really an unreasonable position on my part as the consumer.

I dutifully fired up Amazon’s customer service chat and to their credit they immediately offered to ship out another bag of food or give me a refund. The Amazon business model is a real wonder of the modern – as it seems it’s cheaper for them to replace every fourth or fifth thing I buy than it is to spend a few extra cents on proper packaging for their products.

Amazon isn’t the only game in town, but they are generally the most convenient for setting up recurring orders so I’ll keep using them. They’ll keep sending out items in piss poor packaging. I’ll keep sending for replacements. And the whole machine will keep on working. Somehow, though, it feels like there could be a better way.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

By popular demand, I’m pleased to post the 15th installment of What Annoys Jeff this Week. I promise, unless I’m cut down by another bout of the sickness, that I’ll do my best to keep up with it as a regular feature.

1. Primary Elections. The field of potential candidates starts out vast, but by the time a state with a real population gets around to voting the field has already shrunk to just a handful. By the time the great State of Maryland gets around to holding its primaries on April 3rd, it’s a pretty good bet that the field will have already narrowed down to one. Letting the party unite behind a single candidate early is great… for the candidate and for the party. It’s pretty crummy for the voters, though. If we can all agree that our national general election day is always going to be the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, surely we can come up with a similarly convoluted methodology for holding primary elections all on the same day. So, you know, my vote here in Maryland is worth as much as the ones cast in New Hampshire or South Carolina. I’ll hold my breath waiting on that good idea to take hold.

2. Sub-freezing Weather. Sure, I know everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it. This is a blog after all, so it’s only real mission in life is to serve as a voice box for all the bitching and complaining I can come up with… Which is why I’m going to announce my official opposition to temperatures anywhere below 32 degrees. The only purpose of being that cold is to enable snow production and if there’s not going to be snow (and the accompanying day off from work), then it has no business being below freezing. There. I said it.

3. Ground Coffee. I’d be willing to say that my daily intake of coffee is probably higher than the average person, but that’s a topic for a different discussion. All I really want is just to be able to buy a pound of ground coffee. I don’t want a 12 ounce package, or God forbid, the 10.5 ounce size that I almost picked up. One pound of coffee gets me exactly through one week. It’s the perfect proportion of requirement to availability. 10.5 ounces, on the other hand, gets me to about Wednesday… for the same price I was paying for a full pound back in the “good old days”… You know, four or five years ago. I’m sure someone ran a focus group and said people would rather get a smaller size for the same cost than get the same size for a greater cost, but what that didn’t take into account was the people in that focus group were apparently morons. Seriously. Just give me a pound of coffee and if you have to charge me $12 instead of $8, I’ll live with that. I’m perfectly comfortable with the idea that decreased supply means increased price and with the notion that inflation drives up the price of everything over time. Trying to pull a slick one with packaging, though, just makes you look like a bunch of tools.