I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looking forward to an email from Amazon

Bit of a spleen-vent this one. Move on if you've no time for thinking online retailers should feel obliged, if not legally then morally, to honour the slight pricing mistakes they make from time to time. Lots of them do, but Amazon don't. Indeed, they have a policy which basically says you can't trust their pricing at all.

A few weeks ago, 3 or so I think, I did my daily routine of visiting Amazon.co.uk to refresh my basket and see if the price of what I had in it had changed. It had -- the Sony BDP-S350 blu-ray player was at £129! I'd been waiting for it to drop to £150 or so before pulling the trigger; £129 was an unexpected bonus. Not a huge discount, less than 1/3rd off the £179 price they'd had for a few days previous, just a great deal and better than most other sites. I ordered one, told a few friends, and posted it on the whathifi.com forums.

The next morning someone on avforums.com was saying they'd had their order cancelled. Mine was intact until the afternoon, when it too disappeared from the site. I asked them to reinstate it, they replied saying no, they wouldn't, and if I'd been paying attention they actually have a published and explicit policy allowing them to (a) change the price of any item after you order it, and (b) cancel your order later than you can cancel it yourself. A very biased "contract" (which, to their benefit, is not actually a contract until they've dispatched the goods). Thank fuck I'd not bought a load of blu-ray discs in the afternoon!

Amazon did honour the £129 price for some punters, just not everyone, and despite a sickenly patronising email imploring me that the author personally didn't want Amazon to lose my custom -- for having spent so much with them over the years (it's probably not more than £300 in 8 years, pfft!) -- they weren't going to do the same for me. No fucking dice.

Amazon win out of this: they look good to anyone who saw the price but didn't buy. In the absence of a public admission that the price wasn't honoured, they have given the impression of being a retailer that occasionally has really decent offers. They're likely to attract and retain customers because of that. People will use the site more on the look out for similar offers. And similar discounts are available all the time, 20-odd percent discounts on RRP or the price of items elsewhere are not uncommon. So it seems they can just use their policy to price up any popular item with a slightly bigger than normal discount, honour a few purchases, up it again later, nice zero-cost marketing campaign right there.

I think it's out of order -- they can't have taken that many orders that it would make a dent in their profits; it wasn't an obvious mistake price, the discount was less than 33% for crying out loud; and at least one other retailer offered the same price and honoured it themselves. And surely it's just good customer service? No, it appears not: Amazon just say fuck off. So I was really in a huge huff with them, and opted out of all their emails except the ones they send when you actually make a purchase.

That was all about 3 weeks ago. About 4 days after I unsubscribed I got a promo email, so I complained. How do you unsubscribe if the unsubscribe options don't work? In response they phoned me from a withheld number, so I didn't answer, and then they emailed me to say sorry, sorry, sorry, really sorry, my email is now on not a single one of their promotional lists. Sorry again. Sorry.

A few days later, I got a promotional email from them again. Went to my account to confirm I was still unsubscribed, and complained again. They phoned, left a voicemail, but didn't follow it up with the email they promised.

This morning I got another promotional email from Amazon.co.uk. Complained again. I've explicitly asked them not to phone me, and shockingly they've done that -- they've emailed me to say it's being looked at and I'll get a full response on November 13th. I monitor my spam folder with interest.

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