Thursday, January 14, 2021

Amazon Lies

Amazon will do and say anything to make a sale - and keep a sale!

Our old hot tub finally died - it was 20 years old, which is beyond the service design life of most appliances.  The vinyl liner had wrinkles and cracked and was starting to leak.  The pump seized up while we were away this summer - the main bearing was a puffy mess of pack corrosion.  I could buy a new pump and heat exchanger for about $250 and a new vinyl liner for about $1200 - plus the various parts and tools to install it.  It would have been $1500 to $1750 overall, to try to "fix" something that was two decades old - when a new hot tub can be had for $2500 to $3500.  So we cut up the softub and put it in the trash. I salvaged the controller and sold it online for a few bucks.

I digress, but while this "right to repair" movement is interesting, the Weibull curve cannot be denied.  Sure, I could throw nearly two grand at the old hot tub, but what is to say the controller doesn't go bad next?  Or some other part?  The cover was starting to get crispy as well.  Not to mention the hassle of installing the new pump, and in particular, the new liner - make one mistake cutting around a jet, and you've ruined the liner - one reason few people re-skin these.  Few places are left that do the service.  Repairing end-of-life appliances is often short-sighted.  Sure, you may be able to squeak out a few more years out of a car or a refrigerator, but at what cost?  The law of diminishing returns kicks in.

So great, the Swedes have enacted a "right to repair" law.  Is anyone out there going to "repair" their iPhone4 or Galaxy S4?  They are obsolete and won't even run most new apps.  My old laptops soldier on, but I will likely replace them only because they are obsolete and "not worth fixing" anymore. I can't even edit video on these.  It is a good idea, particularly for things like cars, where automakers are trying to lock out home mechanics with proprietary software. On the other hand, a used car that can't be repaired at a reasonable cost will plummet in value - as most older 7-series BMWs and S-class Mercedes already do. The market could then make a choice (and is, by valuing older luxury cars so little) and thus force manufacturers to unlock these devices.  Perhaps. We'll see.  I digress.

We looked online for another "plug and play" 110V hot tub.  But a funny thing - most of America is trapped at home and everyone is doing home improvements.  Windows and doors are sold out and back-ordered for months. The cost of lumber has skyrocketed 80% or more. It is a shitty time to do home improvements - every carpenter is booked up until summer at least.

We looked at Wayfair and they had a nice selection of hard-sided "plug and play" 100V tubs.  But most were listed as "sold out" and others with a delivery time of 30 weeks or more!  Thirty Weeks!  That's more than half a year!   We would be up in Maine by then, and not available to take delivery of a tub.  Oh, and there is Wayfair's weird pricing schemes - where prices change hourly!

I kept looking online and even contacted one manufacturer in Florida directly. They said the same thing - 30 weeks, take it or leave it. I offered to drive down there and pick it up.  No dice - shipping was "free" and no discounts for taking it off the loading dock.

We were about to give up, when we saw a tub on Amazon that looked pretty good, but a little more expensive than we first wanted to spend.  But the key was, they said they could deliver it in 4-6 weeks.  So on December 26th we ordered it.  They gave us a delivery date of March 10th - which is more than 4-6 weeks, but OK, I guess that is like 12 weeks, but still better than 30 weeks, I guess.  When I log onto the Amazon site, under "tracking information" it gives me this:

Shipped with XPO


Saturday, December 26
7:33 PM
Delivery appointment scheduled
Jacksonville, FL US
7:16 PM
Delivery appointment scheduled
Jacksonville, FL US
6:51 PM
Delivery appointment scheduled
Sunday, December 27
Package has shipped

On another "tracking page" on Amazon, it says this:
Arriving March 10 between 6 AM - 6 PM

Someone must be present to receive this delivery

Ordered December 26

Shipped December 26
OK, that's weird.  Is it shipped or not?   I don't give it much thought and then I get this e-mail:

Shipment Delay


We're encountering a delay in shipping your order and we're unable to meet your chosen delivery date. We'll make every effort to get the delayed item to you as soon as possible. We apologize for the inconvenience.


Order #XXXXXXXXXXXX on Saturday, December 26, 2020

New scheduled delivery date:
The carrier will call you to set up a time.

View or cancel order

Huh?  Is it late or early?  Who is this carrier? How do I call them?  When are they going to call me?

I go on the "XPO" website and enter the tracking number and not surprisingly, it says "not found".

I go back to Amazon and realize that the item is now $150 cheaper on their site (!!).  So I figure, "If they aren't going to ship this on time, I'll cancel the order!"  So I click on "CANCEL ORDER" and get this message:

Hello robertplattbell,

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to cancel the items you requested and these items will soon be shipped. We apologize for the inconvenience.

What?  So I try to contact someone - anyone - at Amazon.  Amazon doesn't make it easy.  To contact customer service, you have to go through five layers of menus to find the "chat" mode.  I chat with them and they say they will call me.  They do.

Of course, the call center is in India.  So I get a lady with a thick accent. As best as I can understand from her, the "package" is "being prepared to ship" and  will arrive February 10th.  That would be good, but all I am getting is March 10th on their site.  She says to wait for an e-mail saying it was shipped and then cancel the order.   They cannot cancel it before it ships but can afterwards?  That makes no sense.

She also tried to tell me that there are "delays in shipping" that are preventing the hot tub from arriving by March 10th.  I told her I could walk to Pennsylvania (where it is made) by then - and back!   "Shipping delay" is a lame excuse.  I suspect the call center people just make shit up to try to placate customers.  I know, act shocked.

She goes on about how these are shipped to the warehouse in batches and they cannot change the order now.  Her story changed by the minute.  I suspect they are shipping directly from the manufacturer - this is not a "warehouse" item.  My credit card has not been charged just yet, so I am hoping I can, if nothing else, cancel the credit card to prevent them from charging me.  Maybe.  At worst, I guess I have to contest the charge.

I get a second call, and this time the information is different.  Now they are saying there is no delivery date on file, but again, they cannot cancel the order because it is "being prepared for shipment" whatever that means.  What I suspect it means is that they are ordering this from the manufacturer and the manufacturer is backed up 30 weeks like every other hot tub maker in the USA.  But Amazon doesn't want to lose a sale!  If they can string me along for 30 weeks or so, they make a nice little profit.  So they won't let me cancel.

The lady says she will look into it and then call me back on Monday.  We'll see if she does, but I highly doubt it.

I have become more and more skeptical of Amazon in recent months.  After all, they do LIE to me every time I shop there.  "Do you want fast, free delivery?" they say, when they mean, "Do you want us to ding your credit card for $12.95 every month until the end of time?"   When I click on "Standard free delivery" they change this to $7.95 delivery at checkout, which I then have to change back to "Standard free delivery".   If you order using one-click, the added shipping is thrown in and the only way to fix this is to cancel the order and re-order, this time, going to your "Cart" and checking out.

But it gets worse. When you search on things, it shows "advertised" products on top, and then the better deals are often buried far below.  So you have to scroll through pages of crap to find what you are looking for at a price that is reasonable.   And then there are always those $150 jars of mayonnaise you have to watch out for - click on the wrong thing, and it will drain your bank account!

Mark wanted some Yogi tea and many of the varieties are sold out at the local stores.  The regular variety Yogi teas is sold out on eBay, Walmart, and Amazon!  What is going on with the shortages? Huh?  I find the other teas on Amazon and Walmart - Amazon is a penny cheaper.  I order from Walmart.  Why?  Because I trust Walmart more at this point.  No tricky deals at checkout, no $150 jars of mayonnaise, no bullshit "Shipping Status" or "Package Tracking" messages which appear to be made up by a computer to assuage nervous customers.

We'll see what happens.  I don't mind if there is a small delay, but the communications I get from Amazon are frustrating, in part, I think, because they are basically lies.  This product has not "shipped" nor is it being "prepared for shipping" or anything like that.  It has yet to be made and the manufacturer is just backlogged for more than a half-year.  Amazon is just stringing me along here, hoping I'll give up and not cancel the order and be willing to wait 30 months or more.  It is deceptive and a lie.

And I suspect they will deliver it, eventually, in July, when I will be in Maine, eating lobster, and no one will be here to accept the truck freight shipment.   So, they'll take it back to the warehouse, where it will get damaged, yada, yada, yada, yada.  What a fucking hassle.

Ordering $25 and $50 items on Amazon is low-risk.  But big-ticket items?   I made a mistake by trusting Amazon here.  And that is the funniest part!   You see, back in the day - maybe  as little as 2-3 years ago - it was Amazon that had the bulletproof ordering and delivery.  I would pay more to buy things on Amazon as eBay was kind of sketchy at times, and even Walmart was a little new to the game.   Amazon was the gold standard of e-commerce  (They did ship me a toilet once, that I never ordered.  That was weird.  Just the base though, but not the tank).

Today, I think maybe less so.  The deceptive practices just in ordering a box of tea (again, the Prime "free shipping" deception and the not-too-subtle changing Standard Free Shipping to paid shipping - with the same delivery date!) make shopping on Amazon tedious. Now that they have tweaked their algorithms to make it harder than ever to find real bargains....well, I guess they are counting on "Prime" members not looking at prices. They have a dominant market share, now is when you raise prices and gut the content - it is the oldest game in the book.

Oh, well, I guess I got that off my chest.  But quite frankly, I may just cancel my Amazon account.  I mean, I find myself ordering less and less from there.  I bought some vitamins and lotions the other day - Walgreens and Walmart had Amazon beat hands-down.   It really pays to look beyond Bezos' sandbox, when you are shopping.

But of course, guess what comes up as the first hit on any Google search?   I wonder how much he pays for that! 

Sometimes it is best to just not buy anything.