Curtailing Amazon purchases

Amazon is… decidedly not a great company, and as time passes, this seems to be more and more true. Every few months, a new call to boycott seems to enter the public discourse, which is almost certainly as warranted as it is impractical. That’s not what this is, however — aside from the fact that a seemingly infinite catalog of affordable1 items is an incredible boon for disabled folks and folks that simply don’t have ready access to a wealth of brick-and-mortar stores, actually boycotting Amazon seems rather impossible given that their big money-maker these days is AWS. But I have been beyond disappointed with Amazon’s customer service lately, and this is compounded by core elements of the shopping experience.

I’ll get the petty personal complaint out of the way first. I have had a lot of problems with Amazon’s customer support over the past couple of years, only increasing as time goes on. The real kicker was trying to get any sort of resolution (or even acknowledgement!) about two shipments that were lost around the same time, ultimately translating into several hundreds of dollars worth of unrecoverable Things. Four interactions with customer support yielded four contradictory responses (paraphrased):

One of the major problems is that, unlike any other customer service that I’ve ever dealt with, Amazon seemingly has no ticketing system. If they do, it isn’t exposed to the user, and the overall experience suggests that they don’t – there is no congruity among communication related to the same issue. This is an issue I had experienced before, but the complete mess that was the above series of interactions really hit the point home. It’s hard enough to even get to support – they increasingly push an anxiety-inducing chat service, and one must simply know the right email address (cis at amazon dot com) to avoid it – but when the system feels like it’s designed such that every interaction should ultimately end in resolution… it fails catastrophically when this is impossible.

The original problem was, to be fair, with USPS. This becomes a larger problem with Amazon, however, when there is seemingly no shipping method with insurance, and no transparency as to how things are to be shipped. If actual shipping options were offered instead of just otherwise-meaningless timeframes, consumers would actually have some control over how much of a risk receiving a given item becomes. Amazon’s sense of logistics works great for them, which ostensibly keeps their prices down3 and/or allows them to offer free shipping, but is ultimately rather hostile to the consumer. Likewise, offering no insured options was fine when Amazon seemed willing to (essentially) self-insure lost packages, but this seems to be a fading reality.

Personally, I have historically relied on Amazon a lot out of sheer convenience. Things have gotten to the point where this is no longer the case – buying from Amazon is now an inconvenient calculation of risks. It is a hassle. Fortunately, some of these calculations are simple – I know that higher-priced items simply are not worth it, and I am simply and automatically shopping elsewhere for anything even remotely costly. I know I can’t be the only one noticing the decline in customer friendliness; it will be interesting to see how this shapes up in the coming years.

  1. Prices aren’t even that great anymore. I often find things cheaper at smaller shops. ↩︎
  2. Aside from telling me the first customer support rep was incorrect, they assured me that they’d be reporting the first rep for saying as much. I… don’t want that? This underpaid person made a mistake in a system that seems broken by design, don’t narc on them, sheesh. ↩︎
  3. See footnote 1… ↩︎