In August of 2022, I explained how Amazon became ordinary. Today I want to discuss how they have become bad.
Since I first discussed the companies that lost my affection during the pandemic nearly two years ago, Amazon continues to stand out as delivering an ever-worsening set of experiences. I wanted to wait until after the (faux retail holiday) Prime Day(s) ended before sharing a few tales of further (to use Cory Doctorow’s phrase) “Enshittification.”
There are many problematic issues, but I group them into these 4 broad categories: The Shopping Experience, Overnight (LOL) Deliveries, Returns/Product Credit, and Unreturnable Items.
1. Shopping Experiences: What once was a simple, clean, useful retail website is now a dumpster fire, overrun with advertising, poor search results, and sketchy third-party sellers. None of these are why I have been using $AMZN since 1998, but all of these are why I use it less and less nowadays.
If there was a silver lining to the lockdowns, it is that most of us have accounts with many other retailers (Target, Walmart, InstaCart, Chewy, etc.) now that we did not have prior to 2020. The amazing advantage Amazon had as a retailer was having everybody’s credit card/address on file, while other retailers did not; that advantage has dramatically attenuated.
That is an unexpected result of a random pandemic, but every retailer was dealt the same hand. What is different is how each played that deal.
2. Deliveries: Free delivery began at $25, then went to $35, then any price for Prime members. But what began as free 2-day delivery some years later improved to free next-day delivery, and then depending upon where you were you lived and what you were buying, same day delivery! How awesome is that?
Now, it is next-week delivery — for me, it is on Tuesday, Oct 17 for Free Prime Delivery; or Free Amazon Delivery on Wednesday, October 18 (“fewer boxes, fewer trips“); or next Friday, October 20 (Free no rush Delivery(?!). Note that today is Thursday, October 12th.
What happened to next-day or even 2-day delivery?
Last weekend was the kicker: On Sunday, I got an “Add another $27 for free next day delivery” blurbage while shopping. Wait, don’t I already pay $169 per year for free next-day delivery? But we were out of Probiotics for Dogs and so I added that to get whatever other doohickey was in my cart for the next day, Monday.
The problem? 3 of the 4 items I ordered arrived Wednesday.
This was not a case of a Nor’easter or winter storm; The upsell was simply misleading advertising from Amazon itself, which as mentioned earlier is festooned with crappy adverts. Was it a bad algo or just a bait & switch to get me to make more purchases?
Dunno, but that won’t happen again…
3. Credits for Returns: That Probiotics for Dogs I mentioned? Nowhere on the page where that is sold does it mention that it is non-returnable. Why do I know that? I bought something a few months ago that was advertised as New on the product page but arrived as obviously Refurbished, not new. I went to return it and Amazon refused. I very calmly explained to the customer service rep that selling used goods as new is not permitted in NYS, and how high do you want to elevate this? I received not a refund to my credit card but an Amazon Credit.1
BTW, this latest change seems to be the default settings (Amazon vs CC credit). With a Master Card or Visa credit, you owe that much less to your card company. With an Amazon credit, the hope is either a free loan to them or free money in the form of Breakage — unused gift cards.
It’s yet another decrease in delight in what was once known as the Amazon experience.
Out of morbid curiosity, I have since been checking every new delivery just to see if it is returnable. More than I expected were not returnable. The problem is that there is no notice given to the consumer that this product cannot be returned on its product page.
This leads us to:
4. Items that You Can’t Return: There are some items purchased on Amazon.com that you can’t return, and for obvious reasons. Among them are digital items, cards, products unsafe for return, etc. But the consumer should be clearly informed of that prior to purchase.
If only every item sold had its own page where such information might be displayed, instead of being nested 3 levels deep into a return policies page.
Where is Jeff Bezos? None of these things would have happened in the good old days of Amazon.
The blush is off the rose.
UPDATE NOV 5 2023
Oh, this was done on purpose? No wonder the site has become such garbage…
How Amazon Became Ordinary (August 1, 2022)
Which Companies Won or Lost Your Affection During Pandemic? (January 12, 2022)
2021’s Surprising Laggard: Amazon (January 5, 2022)
1. Someone with more patience would have contested the charge on the credit card.