Amazon Book Shipping Policy

By Larry Teren

For most Baby Boomers, Amazon used to mean a river that goes through a few countries in South America. And it is also mentioned in one of the oldest jokes I remember from the Three Stooges where they meet Amazon women who are over six feet tall and say upon seeing them, “take me to your ladder, I’ll see your leader later.”  

Nowadays, of course, most of us think of Amazon as the giant ecommerce site from which you can buy and sell just about anything. I prefer Amazon over Ebay, the other gigantic ecommerce traffic grabber. Ebay’s pricing for similar items such as books tends to be higher than can be found on Amazon. Ebay is also noted for items being sold at auction at which potential buyers fight it out to get the desired item by a specific point in time. Buyers interested in one-price shopping without playing games will not find Ebay the best method to shop on the Internet.

The above makes it sound like Amazon is the better method for finding good deals on a large variety of products with the least amount of hassle. Maybe, I guess- to some extent. My experience with purchasing on Amazon is limited strictly to books.

I tend to purchase out-of-print biographical books in mostly used condition. Price is more important than looks. It is not uncommon to find a book that is being sold at the incredibly low price of .01 (yes- one cent). The only fly in the ointment is the postage and shipping method. The current minimum price for shipping per book is $3.99.

If you purchase directly from Amazon, according to their FAQ (frequently asked questions), you should receive the merchandise between 3 to 5 business days. This is reasonable because it is the norm. The negative side of this is that Amazon tends to price their books higher than the resellers on their site who compete with them. Amazon throws out a carrot with the stick by offering to give free shipping if you purchase at least $25 worth of books. I can buy three times the number of books from resellers than from Amazon directly when comparison shopping. Only out of desperation would I consider paying Amazon’s price.

However, there is no pure joy in purchasing from an Amazon reseller. Even though Amazon’s posted shipping policy states that normal shipments are received in 3 to 5 days, for resellers they are given a window of 4 to 14 days. That’s right- 14 days! This is ridiculous. Resellers receive notice of the order placed on Amazon within 24 hours. What they don’t tell you is that many of the book resellers do not themselves stock the books they offer but are tied into a community of subcontractors who have the books on their shelves. In some cases, they will have the subcontractor put their wrapping on the book and drop-ship for them. This can mean that the book is not coming from the location you think it is but somewhere more remote.

I’ve often ordered three or four books in one session, each from different resellers. It does not make a difference how far the reseller is located from Chicago, the endpoint of the delivery. In some cases, I will get a couple of books within three business days and then the rest a day or two later. That’s fine and expected. They all come via the US Postal Service and are placed into my mail box. Only on one occasion that I can recall was the book left in the mail room in my condo building because it was oversized. That’s fine- no problem with that.

Where I get indignant (yes, that’s the word) is when after a week there is no sign of the book. I tend to not meekly sit by but get in the face of customer service for the book reseller. The first time this happened was when I ordered a book from a reseller in Mishawaka, Indiana. I can drive there from Chicago in the morning, pick up the book and return later that day. The book allegedly took eight days for delivery as the reseller provided no shipping tracking information.

This past week a similar situation occurred but with a twist. The previous week I ordered three books from three resellers. One clearly stated that it was being shipped via DHL. I knew from business experience that this meant the package was being picked up via DHL but then being transferred to a US Postal facility for final delivery to me. This is done by businesses who want pickup service but find that UPS or Fedex is relatively expensive because of their out-of-the-way location. DHL becomes an alternative cheaper source. A client of mine who was in the medical uniforms ecommerce business did this as well when looking for a way to cut down on shipping expense.

The book that I noted in advance was being sent DHL arrived relatively quickly. Another book in the group of three did not show up even three days after the first two did . I wrote to the customer service rep who forwarded to me the shipment tracking information. I finally received the book nine days after it was first shipped. I discovered that this too went via DHL from Washington state. Had I observed the small print shipping info, I would have canceled the order This is the route and time it took:

9/22/2012 04:49 AM CT ARRIVAL AT LOCAL POST OFFICE
9/20/2012 06:46 AM CT Des Plaines, IL TENDERED TO USPS
9/18/2012 10:00 PM ET Hebron, KY DEPARTURE ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/18/2012 08:42 PM ET Hebron, KY ARRIVAL DESTINATION DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/17/2012 01:25 AM PT Carson, CA DEPARTURE ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/16/2012 09:09 AM PT Carson, CA ARRIVAL DESTINATION DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/14/2012 03:16 AM PT Auburn, WA DEPARTURE ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/13/2012 05:59 PM PT Auburn, WA PROCESSED
9/13/2012 03:20 PM PT Auburn, WA ARRIVAL ORIGIN DHL GLOBAL MAIL FACILITY
9/13/2012 02:30 PM PT Auburn, WA PICKED UP BY SHIPPING PARTNER

 

It is a waste of time to add an extra DHL facility in the path. Going this route of DHL to USPS adds to the delivery time and does not serve to make the recipient happy. Amazon obviously knows this. As indicated above, they post one thing in their shipping FAQ for their own deliveries and another for their resellers which is bad customer service. Shame on Amazon.

The principal owners of Amazon have been in the news lately for espousing liberal causes and wanting to help society as they see it should be. How about shifting some of the same attention to how the shopping experience should be on their site- the one that gives them the opportunity to throw their money around to the causes they care so much about?

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