On March 20, I placed an order on Amazon.co.uk.
For a physical book. (I know: for my own consumption, I’ve only bought ebooks for the last six months or so. But this is a richly illustrated book, and it’s meant as a gift, so I want it in its full physicality, its cellulosic, tree-killing, chemically enhanced glossy incarnation. Plus, it’s not sold in ebook form.)
In the space of 40 days, I have received 10 order updates from amazon.co.uk.
The first (April 6) told me:
“We regret to inform you that your order will take longer to fulfill than originally estimated.”
On April 14, I received a new estimated delivery date: April 29. On April 15, I was told “We are pleased to report that the following item will dispatch sooner than expected”, i.e. April 21-22.
On April 18, a new delay (estimated delivery date: April 23-30), together with an appropriately contrite apology statement:
“One of Amazon’s aims is to provide a convenient and efficient service; in this case, we have fallen short. Please accept our sincere apologies.”
On April 20, a new estimated delivery date (April 27 – May 4), with the same statement. Again, on April 22 (estimated delivery date: April 28-May 5), April 24 (estimated delivery date: April 30 – May 6), April 27 (estimated delivery date: May 4-9), and April 29 (estimated delivery date: May 5-10): all with Amazon’s sincere apologies.
Then, the apologies stopped. On May 1, “We are awaiting a revised estimate from our supplier, and will email you as soon as we receive this information.” On the same day, two minutes later, another email with a new estimated delivery date: May 6.
I wonder if I’m heading into another loop of apologies, revisions, notifications and estimates. I have tons of respect for Amazon’s operational abilities and I like knowing what’s going on with my order, but this is starting to feel like a case where making the catalog item available for ordering was perhaps premature.
And in terms of communicating with the customer… more than, say, one update per week feels like too much information. It’s a book, after all: not a kidney, or a new set of corneas. Just get it to me when it’s ready, OK?
Update, May 22: Since writing this post, I received 13 more email updates from Amazon along the same lines. The 14th was different: “We regret to inform you that we have been unable to obtain the following item… We apologise for the length of time it has taken us to reach this conclusion. Until recently, we had still hoped to obtain this item for you.” After 24 emails, it’s almost a relief.