Thursday, April 7, 2016

Amazon Prime Shipping: When 2 Days Become 3!

Amazon Prime membership offers its members a few great perks with the membership. You get Amazon Prime video, where you can watch movies and videos (including originals), unlimited photo storage, and of course, 2-day free shipping on eligible products. But lately, I have noticed some odd things happening with the 2-day free shipping and want to elaborate on my findings...

General Mood
I am usually very content with Amazon and its support. It offers so many things that I cannot imagine a world without it. The only major concern I have now is its support.

For minor issues--depending on how you see it--the Amazon support is normally quite helpful. If you have a broken or defective product, they will help you remedy that problem quickly. If a product does not arrive, the can make sure you get another as quickly as possible.

But when it comes to specific issues, that is when Amazon support seems to have little to no clue as to what they are doing, until you are lucky enough (or spend enough time) to get a satisfactory answer. Part of this is because the support either does not understand the situation, or does not think "outside the box", or simple does not have an answer (which they will not admit to easily).

Overall, this is not a regular problem that will arise. Yet, as I will explain, there can be times when just trying to get a straight answer becomes a long, grueling quest that will go in vain unless an answer is given.

Starting Point
So, some time late last year, I started noticing this "phenomena", where items sent using the 2-day free shipping for Prime were being sent 3 days after the day of purchase. I was not completely sure of this since I had not been monitoring the actual days it took to be ordered and sent.

The only way I could justify this was that the day of order was not counted, the next day was when the item was actually shipped, so the next 2 days were the shipping time. But this did not sit well with me as I did not recall this being the procedure for 2-day free shipping before. I also considered that maybe I had ordered items after 12pm, so that day would not be considered towards the total...

Since I had no proof of this, I had no reason to contact Amazon and ask as to why this was happening.

Then It Happened
I had ordered a couple of external hard drives and waited for them. Of course, they decided OnTrac was the best courier to use for my items, which some of you may already know how bad they can be.

OnTrac did not deliver the items on time, and I was frustrated since they had recently screwed me over on some other items. I called Amazon support and told them the situation. They called OnTrac and assured me that it would arrive the next day.

This did not happen. I called Amazon support again and told them the situation, which they responding by telling my they could offer a refund for the items. The two items I had bought were both used and were not available again at the same prices, so I was furious that I was not getting what I paid for, then would be forced to pay more for the same two items!

My reasoning was sound, so I told the Amazon support representative why I could not do that and that I needed them to remedy the situation properly. Eventually, I was escalated to a supervisor.

This conversation took a while to get through, but the supervisor finally conceded that they could offer me a small amount of credit to help with paying for the items. Essentially, they thought I wanted to buy two new items. (Remember when I commented on how they do not think out of the box?) After some creative thinking on my part, I was able to get two more external hard drives at a slightly cheaper cost than what I had originally paid.

The supervisor stayed on the phone with me throughout the purchase process. One of the external hard drives was new, and another used. Both had Prime shipping available. When I added them both to my cart, Amazon checkout stated that the used item would come in 3 days instead of 2!

I mentioned this to the supervisor and she offered to give me "one-day" shipping for free on the used item (to make it arrive in 2 days...). Obviously, I accepted, but I asked why it was considered to be Prime shipping when it was clearly not going to arrive in 2 days like the new item? She tried to give me some song-and-dance about how they were in different places and that it was likely that one was operating at a different time than the other. To which I responded that it was (something like) 1am, and that neither should be operating regardless of where it was in the US.

It did not make sense. There are certain products on Amazon that have Prime and explicitly state that they will take 3 days to be delivered, but this was not one of those products. Why would it have Prime shipping if it clearly was not?

I did not push the matter any further since I just wanted my external hard drives at the time. But this did not stop me from continuing to wonder why was Amazon lying to me? Not the Amazon customer support, I have grown accustomed to them lying to me, but why would their systems reflect this? Systems do not lie, people do.

The Quest Continues
A few times since, I did try to resolve this issue with Amazon online chat support. Most of the time I was using the chat support to resolve other issues or ask other questions, so I really only tried once or twice to figure out why Prime shipping had been 3 days instead of 2, when the same item was showing the 2 days.

Had they both been for 3 days, then I would have left the matter alone and probably not thought about it too much more. But because this was not the case, I was determined to get a real answer that made sense and was not some obligatory answer they love to throw at you when they have no idea what the real answer is.

Again, I turned to Amazon chat support, since I knew it would take a while and I wanted to be able to multitask while chatting. I first got a person who really could not understand the issue. It was late night, so I had someone from India who had some problems replying in proper English (or at least English that would be passable). After going back-and-forth with him for what was at least 20-30 minutes, I told them they could not comprehend what I was trying to ask and that I needed a superior to talk to.

A few minutes later I was transferred to someone who--after some prodding--stated they were the supervisor of the last person. Their English was vastly better, so I had hope that I could finally get an answer.

They asked what the issue was, and because I did not want to go through everything again, I had them reread the chat I had just had with their subordinate. Thankfully, he did so, and we began our conversation. The first thing we determined was that 2-day shipping is two days after the order.

The rest of the chat took around 2 hours or more. The main points the supervisor tried to pass off as answers were as follows:
  • The availability of a product is (rarely) not correct on the Amazon product pages.
  • The availability of a product can affect the time it takes for an item to be delivered.
  • A product delivered passed 2 days should still be delivered earlier than free shipping.
  • A product delivered through Prime was still free shipping.
  • An item's transit time is not part of its shipping time.
  • Demand of a product can affect availability and shipping times.
Let me break down these points in terms of our discussion. The availability of items for Amazon will usually be stated on the main product page if there is little stock, the item is not yet available but will be soon, or that it is simply not available.

The product I was getting was widely available from many websites and is not a rare item. It also was in stock. Thus, there should be no reason for it to be a rare situation. The supervisor tried to blame the "system" for these types of issues, which does not give me much of any information because I am (absolutely) sure Amazon has several systems; and does its best to ensure that everything runs correctly as big as it is.

I also want to mention that the supervisor pushed this point like he was selling it. I got it the first time, and it really did not apply to my situation...

As for the third point and fifth points, the real selling point of Prime is the 2-day free shipping, not the extras it comes with, as I rarely use them (although The Main in the High Castle is definitely worth watching). Transit time is never advertised as a problem, or otherwise, for Prime memberships.

I gave an example to this supervisor that if I bought a product with Prime shipping and the transit time took 7 days, and then 2 more days to get delivered to me, was that still Prime shipping? Of course, he avoided this question altogether, which would not be the last time he would do so in our chat.

As a side note, transit time is considered a part of the shipping time in any business that I know of. The transit time is when a product is on the move to its recipient, thus it is part of shipping. So why was this guy so keen on pretending this was a different subject than shipping? We did not get into that, but I did find it odd...

But along the lines of transit, he was implying that because the used item would take so long coming from wherever it was, this was a transit time issue. This had me raise two questions, at separate times, with him. The first was why would the transit time matter when the two external hard drives came in the same box? Again, he steered clear of that question... Unless Amazon overnighted the used external hard drive to meet the other, and then ship them together (which would cost more than just sending them individually from their respective locations), the transit of the used item should be exactly the same amount of time as the new item being they are from the same location.

The second question I asked was if the used item was coming from somewhere other than the Amazon Warehouse that it was meant to? He had suggested--prior to my inquiry--that they had to wait for sellers to supply them items at times, but that would mean they had not received the used item yet and already had it listed. I doubt very much this is a practice Amazon employs. For a third time, he ignored the question and kept rattling on.

In regards to the shipping still being free, I had to retort (after he had given this response at least three times) that it was not free. I paid for the Prime membership, so it was not entirely free. While I do use Amazon a lot, others may rarely use Amazon or buy largely from 3rd-party sellers, not offsetting the costs of shipping for the products they do buy with Prime.

The last point was that demand could affect shipping times. I told him that this was a used item, and the only item at that price. I was the only one demanding it! Finally, he admitted that this was an error on their part.

Throughout this conversation I repeatedly asked if a similar situation were to arise, could I call Amazon and get the shipping expedited so that whatever product I was buying would arrive in 2-days, as my Prime membership is meant to allow me. As expected, he tried to dodge that question every chance he got, until he had stated that they had erred. So I asked once more.

He told me yes, if it was a similar situation, I could do so.

I have not (yet) come across the same situation. And I suspect I would need to buy a new and used item for this to occur again. Or, I would need to see how fast a new and used item would come from Amazon before deciding to purchase one or the other.

It was and continues to be like pulling teeth with Amazon support on questions like these. It took me several tries to get an answer to what was seemingly a simple question. Amazon does mess up, and they should not pretend to be doing you a favor to correct it, or try to give you unrelated or false information in order to get rid of you.

So, if you ever notice that something is going to take 3 days or more, instead of 2, call Amazon and have them correct it. This is their problem. If they cannot deliver on their promises, then they should not advertise it as such. 


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