I’ve been a customer of Amazon for 21 years and until recently my experience has been completely positive. Over that period of time, the odd thing has gone wrong but my experience has been that Amazon would fix it.
But a couple of recent incidents have really eroded that trust. Clearly, this cautionary tale is a ‘First World Problem’ for a reasonably affluent person in a reasonably affluent country but it could happen to any of us and I want to get it out there so that Amazon.co.uk know and understand just how crappy their customer service can be, and how ludicrous their claim to be building ‘Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company’ actually is.
On 30 March 2019 I placed orders with amazon.co.uk for a Nikon zoom lens for my DSLR camera; a GoPro; a memory card; and various other bits and pieces which actually totalled about £1400 (I’d recently received a slightly unexpected royalty payment, I very rarely have that kind of spare cash to blow on non-essential stuff). Most of these were due to be delivered on Sunday 31 March so, in consequence, I waited at home for the delivery (as it happens, my wife and daughter were in the house too).
Around about 12.30pm I checked the delivery tracking on the amazon.co.uk ‘My Orders’ page and saw that the items had supposedly been delivered some 20 minutes earlier. This surprised me: I hadn’t heard the doorbell ring (and neither had my wife’s dog, which is normally a failsafe indicator as it barks its head off when anyone comes to the door). I went downstairs to check and found no packages on the doorstep, nothing in the usual ‘safe place’ and – having spoken to the two near neighbours who happened to be in – nothing had been left with them either.
This has happened before. The house where I live is in a ‘cul-de-sac’ but, unless you look closely at online mapping systems like Google and Apple maps, it doesn’t appear to be – the maps seem to show a through-route that doesn’t actually exist – and it can be difficult for delivery drivers to find. On a couple of previous occasions, consignments have supposedly been delivered to me which have actually gone elsewhere.
The first of these was sometime last year: I can’t even remember what it was now but having gone through their rather difficult customer complaints system I eventually ended up speaking to a nice Amazon customer services lady with an American accent who had access to the geo-tracking data for the delivery and immediately saw that it had been delivered somewhere close to but not actually inthe street that I live in. She sorted out the problem in short order.
Less satisfactorily, last Christmas a big-ish order of presents for my family, along with some other bits and pieces, went astray. Having complained, I spent more than an hour on the phone with someone from the complaints department at amazon.co.uk logistics trying to sort this out but, apart from getting one of the items cancelled and refunded, we didn’t make much headway.
What eventually happened was that the delivery data turned up on the ‘My Orders’ tracking page and I could see where my stuff had actually gone. This was an address about 200 meters from where I live ‘as the crow flies’ but really about a half mile walk away as there’s no direct route. I went round there the next day (the Sunday before Christmas Day) and spoke to the elderly gentleman whose door had been buzzed by the amazon.co.uk driver. He confirmed that my packages were in the building but in the possession of the block superintendent who was on his day off. Hoorah!
The next day – Christmas Eve – I returned and collected the parcels, thus avoiding the embarrassment of having no pressies to give the kids on Christmas Day. The superintendent confirmed that the driver had essentially just dumped my parcels in the hallway and legged it, presumably in the hope that everything would sort itself out.
So I’m pretty sure that something like this is what happened with the latest non-delivery. Amazon.co.uk don’t agree.
On the afternoon of 31 March, I had an ‘online chat’ with amazon.co.uk customer services. This ended up with me being told that they would investigate the delivery and get back to me within two days.
I also received this rather sinister email:
That phrase: ‘reviewed your account’. I don’t think I’m being over-sensitive here: this is an accusation of fraud. The truth is that I had sorted out a misdelivery problem for myself, having realised that amazon.co.uk weren’t going to help me.
I got back in touch with them on the morning of 2 April and received an email response saying that the geo-tagged data indicated that the delivery had been made correctly. Hmmm. Really?
What this tells me is that amazon.co.uk are either lying about checking the geo-data or they’ve misinterpreted it. I live in a fairly densely populated part of central London and close isn’t good enough, as I’ve explained above.
So, I emailed to tell them I wasn’t trying to defraud them (I know: all fraudsters say this) and to ask to see the geo-tagged data. The response was negative. They didn’t comment on my propensity for fraud but no, they would not allow me to see the geo-data.
To take the complaint further, they required me to go to the police and report that my stuff had been stolen. I phoned amazon.co.uk customer services at this point and had an inconsequential conversation with a rep and his supervisor at an offshore call centre, but it took long enough that I had to break off to go to a client meeting and all I got from this process was a repeat of the previous email which essentially told me to get stuffed unless I was prepared to escalate the complaint to the police.
Now, by this stage I was starting to get worried. I can’t afford to write-off £1400 to an amazon.co.uk delivery driver’s error. So I duly headed to my local police station to make a report and get a crime number, as instructed by amazon.co.uk customer services. I had some qualms about this because I’m 99.9% sure that no crime has been committed here, it’s just that the stuff I ordered has been delivered to the wrong place, and I didn’t want to waste police time. Nevertheless, after waiting an hour or so at the police station I made a report to a polite young constable, who gave me a crime report card with his details and the crime number written on it.
When I got home, I scanned the card and emailed it to amazon.co.uk customer services. Their response was that this was not good enough. Although I had supplied them with all the details they had asked for, and a scan of the original document, they now wanted it all in the form of a report on headed writing paper, in which the police detailed the action they had taken to investigate the crime.
This was becoming surreal. We’ve been burgled a couple of times over the 25 years we’ve lived in our current house and even for a ‘real’ crime, you don’t get any more than a brief note of the crime number and details of the officer who took the report; so I told (the still offshore) customer services rep in an email and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, I received an email from yet another customer services rep offering me a refund for the lens. Hoorah! Progress, or so it seemed.
A short while after this, I received another email with the text of an ‘affidavit’ (which didn’t require witnessing so I don’t imagine has any legal value) to sign, stating that I hadn’t received the items I’d ordered. So I duly signed it, scanned it and sent it back. All done and dusted, or so I imagined.
But I was wrong. Next morning, a new email arrived thanking me for the affidavit but then simply repeating that they were not going to do anything until I had sent them a police report, which I’d already done the day before.
This seems to be where we stand now: whenever I contact amazon.co.uk a different customer services rep sends me a version of the email essentially telling me to piss off because they don’t believe me. The refund I was offered hasn’t materialised and I’m £1400 down, which I’m not happy about. Oddly, the order numbers they are now quoting in their emails are wrong.
The ludicrous thing is that amazon.co.uk almost certainly know where my order went due to the geo-tagging data, which they won’t share with me. If they actually have confidence in their data, there should be no reason not to share it, as they presumably think it demonstrates that I received and signed for the delivery. They won’t be breaching anyone’s privacy if that is, in fact, the case.
The problems that amazon.co.uk demonstrate here are manifold and illustrate why they will never be ‘the Earth’s most customer centric company’.
Firstly, a company which has the economic clout of Amazon really doesn’t need to be hiding its customer services department offshore with employees who are not native English speakers. That is a sign of absolute corporate cowardice. I have huge respect and admiration for the young men and women in these offshore call (and email) centres for having to deal with us entitled and bolshie complainers, but they are at a colossal disadvantage. It just isn’t fair on them, or on their customers.
You also have to wonder why amazon.co.uk delivery drivers behave like this. Since I’ve been tweeting about this issue I’ve heard all kinds of similar stories from people about hours and days spent trying to track down deliveries which have, for example, been thrown over their neighbours’ garden fence by the delivery person. The common presumption is that amazon.co.uk delivery staff are under such pressure to reach targets that they don’t have time to rectify errors without incurring some kind of penalty. It does seem possible.
I suppose my next move will need to be some sort of legal action which is an entirely unwanted and expensive distraction but I wanted to get the full story of this out as a cautionary tale.
Well, interestingly there has been some movement. After publishing this blog I received yet another variant of the same ‘get stuffed’ email that amazon.co.uk customer services have repeatedly sent me but I was then able to access a ‘call back’ service and got to speak to a customer service types (at a call centre somewhere in, I suspect, the Indian sub-continent) who were more helpful than hitherto. This ended with Naveen (thanks, Naveen!) telling me that he would request a refund and send me a confirmation email. The email duly arrived but it appears that it only covers the lens and not the other stuff that was supposed to be delivered. I’ve emailed Naveen back about this but I’m yet to hear from him. We’ll see.
Of course, I was told I was getting a refund for the lens on 2 April and nothing came of that, so I’m not hanging up my boots yet.
And interestingly, the reps I spoke to didn’t appear to want to answer my question about whether they actually have geo-data for the original delivery. Which leaves me wondering whether they do actually have any, or whether that was a bluff.
And Another Update
So, I’ve now been told the full amount will be refunded, which is a relief. I’ll update again when I actually have the money!