Saturday, March 24, 2007

Have I fallen out of love with Amazon?

Given that the online booksellers are seen to "blame" for the fall in High Street book sales, its strange how nobody really talks about the problems they are having. I have to say I've been happy with Amazon as long as I've been using it - and I've stuck with books and CDs rather than buying other things from there - yet, there have been signs over the last year or so that we're not as compatible as we used to be. Some time ago they changed their database and search - I think to be in line with their American site - but something went a bit wrong, and you'd search for, say New Order, and get a list of Bruce Springsteen albums; or, looking down a long list what you wanted was there, but if you typed it in by name it was. Then, there's Supersaver delivery. Over a certain amount, if you go for this option, you can get free delivery. Great. Although it takes longer to arrive, that's not a problem - I've just used it for back catalogue - but of course Amazon has to pay for this somehow, and that's by using a wider range of couriers. So, despite the fact that my address has not changed, and I've had literally hundreds of Amazon parcels make it to my door, the Home Delivery Network, which they were using, returned my order to base with a note that "incorrect address." This is the equivalent of a paper boy going round the corner and dumping his papers, rather than delivering them. And I know what's happened - some address software gets confused because although I live in a flat, the block itself has got a number, not that I know it or its part of my address, but it means that when they ask for your postcode and number their software doesn't register. But, although they got back to my query really quickly, being an automated system, there's not a lot I can do other than reorder the items. Yet, guess what? two of the items have gone up in price since then - one considerably. I noticed this before Xmas, when everything in my "save for later" box went up one week, then after Xmas, went down again. I could reorder but it does seem hard work. Whereas Parcelforce would always leave it at my door or allow easy collection, these new "cheaper" services have so far left me in the lurch, arranging a Saturday morning delivery, or collecting it from the delivery person's house! Its not that it's bad, its just not that convenient. No such thing as a free (lunch) delivery I'm afraid. I'm sanguine about it. I used to love Waterstones before it started treating me like all its other lovers, and though Amazon was a distant relationship I thought we'd never fall out. Never mind, I'm already flirting with download services for music; having occasional triestes with Fopp when I want to get physical; and can't see much wrong with buying direct from publishers for books that I really can't get elsewhere. I'll pay Amazon the proper postage from now on, since like any separation, I like to keep things civilised between us; after all, they used to give me something I couldn't easily get elsewhere. (And, don't tell, but I've been whispering in the ear of for some while yet, something about that American accent, that makes you fall for the transatlantic cousin...)

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