Warning on Amazon and online retail this Christmas

Posted by Rob Enderle

I use Amazon religiously for gift giving. In fact, this year I bought gifts for everyone but my wife on Amazon, a practice which has historically worked out well. They show up wrapped and I can do all of my shopping, wrapping, and sending on one day. Yes, it’s rather brilliant.

I do this for gifts during the year as well: a quick trip to Amazon, a credit card bill and I’m good.  

While for personal items, I use eBay nearly as often (mostly for car stuff). However, they don’t seem to get the whole Christmas gift giving thing and I’ve never found them particularly useful there. This year Amazon has been a bit of a mess though, and I’ve had two pretty big screw ups.  I figure others may be having these problems and at Christmas, when dates and content are critical, this could become a painful problem. 

Amazon Issues  

The recurring issue is paying more for overnight delivery and having the item show up days and sometimes even weeks later. It has been kind of an annoying occasional occurrence and generally just with stuff I’ve ordered myself, ahtough this year some of the items simply don't seem to be mailed as quickly, while arrival dates appear to be fluid. 

For example, I ordered a number of NEST Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors as gifts and then received a note that they were in stock. The ship date provided was just before Christmas. Subsequently, I received a revised ship date, yet it keep on moving out. Part of this is clearly weather related, although the shipment notifications seems to be lagging the alerts. In other words, it seems like Amazon really has no idea when they are able to ship this stuff and the fluidity of the dates is creating concern I haven’t had to deal with in previous years. Again, it could be weather, but I’ve seen this pattern throughout the year. 

Bigger though, is a recurring issue where the wrong stuff is being shipped. Earlier this year I thought I’d sent my brother a really cool robotic security light only to have him call and give me measured thanks because the robotic part wasn’t what I’d said it would be. The third party vendor had evidently shipped him a static security light, a far cheaper product, which did not work as anticipated. This would be like thinking you’d sent somebody a Roomba robotic vacuum and having them get a broom instead. The problem with this is, as the gift giver, you may not be told the person didn’t get what you sent because often you don’t tell them specifically. Or they may think you were mistaken or infirm. I said I sent a security light, he got a security light, and it was only by near accident I found he’d been short changed.   This was immediately fixed but I realized, with a gift, finding out about this kind of mistake would be problematic.  

Most recently he received a camera and some other stuff, supposedly from me, but I didn’t order any of it nor did he. We have yet to figure out what is going on but here, as I didn’t send it and I don’t seem to have it in my account. Now this incident actually created two problems. First I had to explain to my brother I wasn’t all that generous. Plus, there is now someone else who likely was supposed to get a camera and won’t  but may just think they got stood up for Christmas and a gift giver who won’t get a thank-you note and be pissed for no reason.  

I did call  Amazon and the woman on the phone was very nice but also had no idea how to resolve the problem from my end. Still, the bigger issue for me is I’d have never known and not wondered how many of the gifts I thought I’d given over the years actually arrived either correct or at all. A lot of folks aren’t that great at thank-you notes (I suck at that myself).   

Wrapping Up: Double Check

If you are going to use an on-line service that is wrapping and sending gifts, you might want to confirm the packages arrive on schedule. Also, you may want to double check if the packages are what you ordered. The extra package thing may just be one of those weird flukes and I don’t think anyone would be pissed if they got something extra, the only problem is if they were thinking really nice things while Amazon calls and asks for the gift back. You go from the relative of the hour to the cheap bastard that never calls really quickly. My personal feeling? Amazon probably won’t call to get the camera back, but we’ll just have to see.   

I used to do security audits and would run into employees and vendors from time to time who figured out how to game systems and steal items. This seems to happen a lot of eBay and while eBay is good at addressing the problem. Once reported, it starts feeling like they are playing whack a mole because the one vendor I was watching do this would get kicked off and then apparently come back with another name doing the exact same thing. For any company there is the potential for fraud and theft, even a firm as well controlled as Amazon, and in those cases you are the final check.  So make sure what you sent was received and report any issues with eBay, Amazon or any other on-line vendor you use. How they handle the event will tell you if you can trust them, help eliminate the problem for you and others, and assure that everyone’s Christmas is a bit more stress and problem free.   

Happy Holidays!