Monday 10 December 2007

What's Wrong With Amazon

I've been an Amazon customer for over 10 years. I bought my first books from Amazon sometime in early 1997 and I have always been a fan. You find what you want, check it out, pay and it comes in the post in a cool amazon goodie box shortly thereafter. Sweet.

They seem to have lost the plot somewhat of late though. Despite having a fairly large operation in Ireland they still don't have an Ireland friendly web site. I suppose that since Ireland is a pretty small market they can be forgiven for not having an site but they could at least try to deliver an english language site that displayed prices in Euro but that's not on the cards at the moment. Now I don't really care about whether we have Amazon Prime, or the Amazing Kindle(TM)! available to us out here on the western spiral arm of the EuroZone but the real problem I have is that I would just like to be able to buy the stuff that's advertised. I'd put up with the (frankly stupid) inconvenience of not being able to see prices in my own currency and (equally stupid) practice of forcing me to virtually go to an arbitrary other country to shop if I could actually get the stuff that I wanted to order (and I'm allowed put in a basket) delivered to my home.

The beef is that Amazon will not send the vast majority of electrical, electronic and photographic type goods to Ireland. The line between what they will and wont send is a bit arbitrary but by and large they will let you add a camera, a TV or an mp3 player to your shopping basket but will not actually ship it. When you get to the check out you will be presented with this:

*** We're sorry. This item can't be shipped to your selected destination. You may either change the shipping address or delete the item from your order by changing its quantity to 0 and clicking the update button below. (See geographical restrictions.) ***

WTF? What's with this - haven't you dudes heard of "shipping" ? Eh? Is there some law about sending stuff from the UK to Ireland that we haven't been told about? Did we just get cut off from the EU? None of the above but you could be forgiven for having these mad thoughts if all you did was read the totally unhelpful link Amazon provide to their Geographical Restrictions Page where they don't give you any idea why they won't send us stuff they just tell you what you have already been told - you're not getting any. Maybe it's because we're Irish? After all we used to be pariahs in the UK so why not again? TFSU! That can't be true can it?

That would make for a great story but unfortunately the truth appears to be a lot more mundane although it is still completely puerile and stupid. Apparently the reason is that Ireland implemented the EU mandated WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) producer recycling fund surcharges in mid 2006 and Amazon don't want to deal with it. The part that I love about this is that Amazon don't bother to explain what the reason is even they have been doing this for a year and a half and still haven't tried to fix it. What's worse is that even though the same rules apply in Germany and France you can't order electrical\electronic items in or and have them delivered to Ireland either. Oh and remember they have a very large operation here in Ireland (in Cork) so there can be no argument about this being too hard for a US\UK company to deal with.

The stupidity of this becomes even more outstanding when you try to buy the same thing from Amazon and one of its marketplace partners and find just the right combination.


Eddie has run into the same problem where he was allowed to pre-order one game - Resident Evil - Umbrella Chronicles - but was presented with something like the above for Metroid Prime. After raising the insanity of the inconsistency with their support "team" he got an endless run around, inaccurate excuses about why it might be and eventually complete silence. Now games shouldn't be subject to any restrictions as a result of a dispute over the WEE PRF because it doesn't apply to them but I strongly suspect that the root cause here is also the Amazon WEEE dispute and the lack of an explanation from Amazon certainly makes that seem more likely.

Basically this is just a large company acting really stupidly and getting away with it. I'm well ticked off right now and I'm boycotting them until they sort themselves out - it wont make any difference to them but I've had enough of large companies treating me like crap and I'm not giving them any more of my money.

Companies like Komplett, Dabs, MemoryC, Expansys and Pixmania will get my business because they aren't behaving stupidly and don't make me feel like a second class citizen when I go shopping. And as a bonus they will all give me an online shop that gives me prices in Euro and an English language interface. Clearly it's not impossible to treat Irish customers like real people when you want to.

* Edited to remove some personal details that I really shouldn't have been posting online. Silly me.


iaj said...

I have had a similar problem recently and after some investigation have found out that infact Amazon are trying to prvent a double WEEE charge being applied to their goods. (which of course we will end up paying), if this is true then i say well done for Amazon standing up for our rights not to be double charged. See for a brief explanation. A commercial organisation is not going to follishly annoy and piss off a small but valuable section of its customers without some pretty valid reason. That my opinion anyway

Joe Mansfield said...

It's a valid point iaj and I think Amazon certainly had a good point to make at the time that link was written (2006) but it's now two years later and there is no sign of this changing while everyone else in this game (e.g. Komplett, Dabs, Pixmania ...) have all managed to figure out a way to implement these charges in an acceptable way.
Also while I don't really want to double pay the WEEE charges if I don't have to, I'd often be happy to if it meant I could avail of a deal via Amazon that would still save me money. As it is I can buy almost nothing that interests me from Amazon because of this and there is still no sign of it changing. What makes it worse is that despite knowing that they will not let me purchase these things Amazon insist on sending me e-mail alerts notifying me of great deals in electronics & photographic equipment that they then refuse to let me buy.
From my point of view the fact that they have not found a workable solution to the situation after more than two years indicates that they don't care enough about it to solve it.

Alex said...

Try to use this gadget to check if Amazon item could be shipped to your country.

biteleco said...

Why don't you guys use this:

Simply click and see sellers that send the item to your country. Nice add-on!