In which The Author and his friends get ripped off
As I told you in Up the Amazon…
, I had to spend an inordinate amount of time and money last year in order to get my own money out of everyone’s favourite online retailer. Since then, Barbara and I have started selling our inventory through Amazon again, but I’ve been very wary about listing more than one item at a time, and I’ve made sure that the money goes into my account on time. In the meantime, Jeff Bezos and his merry pranksters have come up with a new way of ripping off their customers.
It’s called ‘1-Click Ordering’, and here’s how it works: You find the item you’re looking for online (for example, The Adjacent, the latest novel by Christopher Priest) and decide to order it. After all, at £8.31 it’s reasonably priced – over a third off the cover price, in fact. A trip to Waterstone’s in Cardiff would cost £7.40, and even then (as I found out a fortnight ago) there’s no guarantee the book would be in stock. It also qualifies for ‘Free Super Saver delivery’ in the UK. So, you decide to buy it then and there.
You’ve dealt with Amazon before, so you know that your payment details are already in their system. It takes only one click to launch the order on its way through Amazon’s labyrinthine tributaries and onwards to the open sea (in other words, the Royal Mail.) Confident that the book’s voyage to your home (or, in my case, the pub) is underway, you sit back and relax.
The following day you check your emails and find that the 1-Click Ordering journey isn’t plain sailing. Even though you opted for ‘Free Super Saver delivery’, the default option within Amazon’s system is First Class Post, at an extra £2.75. The email tells you that after placing the order, you had thirty minutes to add to or amend it, including altering the delivery method. Needless to say, that deadline has long since passed.
Now, the only option left is to cancel the order, and re-order it, remembering to amend the order afterwards. So, you select the Cancel option, and almost immediately receive an email saying that the order’s made too much progress downstream to be aborted. The email goes on to explain that you have the right to refuse the delivery, and it will be returned to Amazon for a full refund. Then you can re-order again. At this point (as you generally do when you’re dealing with these systems), you say ‘Fuck it!’ and resign yourself to paying the postage.
I’ve spoken to two other friends who have fallen foul of this ordering service in the last few days. One of them went overdrawn as a result, and had to pay bank charges on top of the extra unexpected postage. It seems to be a rather underhand way of extorting extra money from their customers without any prior warning. Amazon’s no-help page does tell you that First Class postage is the system’s default option, but how many people look at the FAQs before ordering?
I haven’t even bothered contacting their Customer Disservice Department this time. I wasted enough of my life a year or so again, and I really don’t feel like doing it again. So, be warned, gentle reader: 1-Click Ordering is all very well, as long as you’re prepared to make several more clicks so that you get the ‘Free Super Saver delivery’ you selected in the first place. Please tell your family and friends to be on their guard when they’re dealing with this bunch of tax-dodging, employee-exploiting scam artists. As Timothy Leary used to say, Just Say ‘Know.’