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How did Amazon become so terrible.

I remember when Amazon lead the way in regard to there interface and customer service.

So what on earch has happened to them now?

I recently order some books from them. 

The books were delivered to the wrong address and the only way to communicate with them is via email.

When the emails are stonewalled, you are powerless.  There is not other contact method.

I've moved address a few times over the last few years (curse of the industry) so I now have a few old addresses in the list.  I did try to release them one but the account managment screens were to baffling.

On the address selection screen I looked at the list of addresses and choose my current one.

A week after my 'dispatched' confirmation message no books.

I check my account and I see that the delivery address is an old one, with only my invoice address being correct.

Mildly annoyed I decide to call them.

Except there's no telephone number.  After spending 15 minute chasing around their help screens I finally use there feedback form.

A day later I receive an email stating that it is too late to change the address, since the books have been dispatched.

They tell me that I will get a refund if the books are returned, and suggest I reorder!
I reply stating that this is unacceptable, and ask for a telephone.
A day later I receive an email stating that the reply has been sent to my registered email address.

Another day later no reply has arrived to that address, which I now only use to divert to my main mailbox.

As an experienced user I am finding there interface baffling.

It would seem that when I selected an address, I only selected the invoice address. 

The default setting of my old address remained for the delivery address.
Am I unreasonable in thinking that a detail as fundamental as the delivery address should never by assumed this way.  It should always be necessary for the user to explicitly choose?
I've been ordering from Amazon for years now.  If I find the user interface and customer service to baffling, what chance does an uninitiated person have?

One thing is for certain, Amazon will never have my custom again.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Amazon's customer service number:

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Thanks for the link, <whoever posted it>. For those who didn't follow that link, it takes you to a Slate article which then links you to a PC World article which includes the number:


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Long story made short:  About two years ago, I failed to receive a book that Amazon claimed to have sent me (and UPS claimed to have delivered to my front door).  I called Amazon's toll-free number, and they promptly sent me another copy.

Both the original copy and the replacement copy arrived on the same day.  After some investigation, I determined that this glitch clearly UPS's fault.

I sent one copy back to Amazon.

Overall, I've always been happy with Amazon's customer service.

J. D. Trollinger
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Is that post really from the Ged Byrne we know and love? It doesn't have his normal panache and flair...

Chris Winters
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Amazon interface sucks.

I think they are trying to cram too much info on the screens. Sell Sell Sell.

Was better in the old days. <sigh>

Still, can't beat them for the range of books that they stock.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Recently I ordered an audio CD from Amazon, when it arrived it wouldn't play properly.  I emailed them and had a replacement in 24h, with instructions to throw away the original or give it to a local library.

Now if you're looking for a company that used to have good service but has gone severely downhill, you need look no further than Dell...

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Sadly yes.

Sorry to disappoint.  I was fuming mad and looking for an outlet.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ged: at least you know your normal good writing is not in vain :-)

Chris Winters
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Ged, are you talking about or

I've found the level of customer service provided by to be disappointing compared to .com.

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, November 26, 2003


Fortunately there there is a good british alternative for technical books: .

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Personally, I hate all the new links and crap they have added between the top, where you see the book you are considering, and the reviews, which is the main point of interest in deciding on buying or passing.

And, since they now show results from a text search of all the pages of all their books, there is even more crap to wade through.

If they don't have an option to turn off these displays (I haven't poked around), they really should add one... 

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I've moved address a few times over the last few years (curse of the industry) so I now have a few old addresses in the list.  I did try to release them one but the account managment screens were to baffling.


1. Browse to
2. Click "Your Account".
3. Click "Manage your address book" under "Account Settings". 
4. Click "Delete Address" under each address you'd like to delete. 

Wow, that sure was baffling!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Well, if it makes a difference, I made the same mistake that Ged did.  (Had a book delivered to an old address.)  I'm a reasonably computer-literate individual -- just a VB and C# coder, nothing significant.

I agree, Amazon's customer service sucks.  Why do I keep buying from them? ... Oh, free shipping and no sales tax.  <g>

Robert Jacobson
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I'm now discovering that their customer service team have non continuity.

I am replying with the order number quoted in the subject and the full history included in the text.

Yet with every email it is treated as my first communication.  A different person answers each time mainly with standard template text.

It amazes me that companies can expect to get away with this type of service!

Ged Byrne
Thursday, November 27, 2003

From original post:

"On the address selection screen I looked at the list of addresses and choose my current one."

Why do you have a 'list' of addresses here? Shouldn't there just be one i.e. where you live!

... oh wait a minute they're there just to confuse Amazon, I get it.

You asked for it ...
Thursday, November 27, 2003

--"Why do you have a 'list' of addresses here? Shouldn't there just be one i.e. where you live!"---

What about those of us who live in two places? From  second home owners in the Hamptons to Sri Lankan maids in Saudi, with a lot of students in the middle.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, November 27, 2003

I'm sort of a book-a-holic, so I've ordered quite a few books over the past few years from Amazon.

I'm impressed with their customer service, especially in this incident:

I ordered a gift for a friend from his "Wish List" for his birthday.  He had recently moved and forgot to update his address.  I didn't know this until after the order.  I emailed customer support and explained that he never got his package and they sent another order out, without question.

As it turns out the original package was marked "Return to Sender" and made it's way back to Amazon. 

Amazon Fan
Thursday, November 27, 2003

>Yet with every email it is treated as my first communication.  A different person answers each time mainly with standard template text.<

That's the problem with relying on a Web/e-mail based customer service system.  AFAIK, the performance of Amazon's customer service representatives is measured by how many incidents they can handle per hour -- quantity instead of quality.  This encourages them to send out canned responses without considering whether the messages actually address the customers' problems.  In contrast, if you actually speak with someone, you can stay on the phone until the problem is actually resolved. 

Unfortunately, Amazon's approach seems to be the trend with many companies these days.

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, November 27, 2003

Amazon fan,

That was my past experience.  It was what I was expecting.

In the UK, at least, it all seems to have changed.

Ged Byrne
Thursday, November 27, 2003

Good customer service is too expensive.  Companies have figured out that it doens't make financial sense to treat customers properly.

See, for example, this article reprinted from _Business Week_ magazine:

We don't care -- we don't have to.
Thursday, November 27, 2003

*Many* thousands  in book purchase from Amazon over the last 6 years. Not one problem. There are things I don't like (purchasing a book does not remove it from your wish list) and most of the reviews are hype.

Not giving easy accessto the phone # sucks. They will screw up daily and they have to make it simple to communicate the problem to them.

fool for python
Friday, November 28, 2003

The business article was an interesting read.

Its nothing new though.  British industry's arrogance lead to a similar approach not so long ago.

British industry isn't what it used to be.

One of the biggest problems is the feedback loop.  If you are ignoring customer service, then you are also ignoring customer feedback.

If everybody is grumbling about your service, but you don't have to listen because they have no where else to go then somebody will undoubtably learn by your mistakes and provide a decent alternative. 

While you are not listening to your customers, your service gets progresively worse.  Before long stealing your customers is like taking candy from a baby.

Ged Byrne
Friday, November 28, 2003

They neglect to realize that word of mouth still exists.  Pissing off a large number of bottom-tier customers may result in future top-tier customers being deterred from doing business with you.  And the bottom-tier customers won't come to you if and when they start making top-tier money.

Not to mention that some of them already have top-tier money, but most of it is spent elsewhere at the moment.  They won't be turning the rest of their money over to your business if you give them bad service.

In addition, it often doesn't take any more time or money to be pleasant and attentive while dealing with a customer.

It all goes back to the short-term thinking which has become typical of corporations today.  Why care about small customers who could become big ones in a few years, if they won't improve the next quarter's profits.

T. Norman
Saturday, November 29, 2003

I suppose this all supports that failings of the Amazon model.

Amazon are now desperately trying to reach profitability.  Because they lack any corporate culture everything that made the company special is just lost.

Once Amazon had good lock in, because there was no real competition.  If you wanted to order a specialist book you had to go through your local bookstore and wait weeks.  Now thats gone.

For my technical books I'll go to .  They courier out everything next day for free.  I can even track the progress of my order on line.  Not just Dispatched status, but also what Depot it is currently at.  Wonderful.

For every other book I go to and have the item delivered to my local branch free of charge.  Great.

If Amazon fails, the doomsayers will declare that e-commerce just can't work.  At least I'll know that it's just the Amazon model that fails.

Gives more hope for all those Ben and Jerry style companies being grown by people not unlike myself.  Maybe I'll be able to start one in the not so distant future.  So I can take a positive thought from all this.

Here's to the downfall of Amazon.  Chink.

Ged Byrne
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I've always had stellar experience with Amazon.  I think it makes business sense for them to offer good service.  They're able to price things slightly more than other online vendors and get away with it.

Case in point.  I've been comparing prices for a $600 camcorder.  Amazon's cheaper than my local store (especially since I won't pay sales tax).  I found a no-name etailer that would be $38 cheaper.  But I think I'll buy from Amazon.  If there are any problems with the sale, my experience is that Amazon will take care of me without any hassle.

satisfied customer
Monday, December 1, 2003

Amazon has the worst customer service of any major web-based outlet I've seen.  I can't believe any outfit this bad ever lasting this long.

John Anderson
Thursday, March 4, 2004

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