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Like most people, I've ordered a lot of packages (hundreds?) on Amazon and almost never had a problem. In the rare case of a problem, Amazon would instantly refund me. But almost all those orders are under $1000. Everything changes when you have a problem with an expensive order. Amazon has a price threshold where the support system is different and the normal CS people are powerless.

During lockdown, I ordered a Sony camera and lens that was in the $5k+ range. The package went "missing" with the shipper with obvious fake tracking data, like multiple "customer not home" delivery attempts timestamped at 12am in the morning. The packages never showed up. Amazon kept saying it was the shipper's fault and the shipper said it was Amazon's responsibility. Lots of tweets, etc, got me nowhere.

In the end Amazon finally refunded me, but it was a nightmare. They wouldn't even talk to me until I waited a number of days after the package was late and even then all they would say is that it had to be escalated to management who would review the issue eventually. Even when they finally agreed the package was lost, I had to wait for another management review to actually get the refund issued. They had my money tied up for weeks with no recourse for a package they never even delivered. I can only imagine how bad it would be if the shipper claimed it was delivered.

My recommendation is to skip Amazon for anything expensive or at high risk of shipper theft/fraud. Your customer experience will not be the same as when they lose a $10 package. They will treat you like a criminal no matter what your past history with Amazon is.

Perfectly believable. The thing I really loved about Amazon is that they had their act together. But that has declined drastically over the decades; now whenever I actually have to deal with them it seems like there's a ton of internal chaos.

In June 2018, I ordered a soccer magazine, "Futbol Total", for my soccer-mad nephew. It said it would arrive in 4-16 weeks, which seemed weird. I waited it out, and no magazine. I contacted them and they said they were on it and it would arrive soon. At 5 months in I just canceled the order, only to get an email saying, "Unfortunately, we weren’t able to cancel the items you requested and these items will soon be shipped." I spent a bunch of time in chat and on the phone getting the runaround, complete with new ticket numbers, promises of personally following up, and even a $20 credit. But they were firm on saying, "Please be assured, we will ship this item very soon."

Occasionally I'd try again, insisting that they either cancel the order or actually ship it. Each time I was told it would be shipped. Long after I'd given up, in late October 2020, they finally canceled it, saying, "We regret to inform you that, due to a technical error, we will not be able to fulfill your order." For all of Amazon's vaunted customer focus, my impression was of a lot of unhappy, fearful customer service staff passing the buck so they could avoid bad metrics.

> The thing I really loved about Amazon is that they had their act together. But that has declined drastically over the decades

This seems to be a problem for all big platforms. When they’re small enough to not change the ecosystem, they can do what they do well. Eg amazon ships more conveniently and google returns better results and uber is less scammy. Then they get massive and become a viable,better understood target for fraud/manipulation, and suddenly their offering begins to suck. It’s frustrating as a consumer.

I suspect you're undervaluing the impact of monopoly on those businesses. Google and Amazon are barely competing with anybody - when they were trying to win their position, there was a lot of value in keeping you happy. Now, not so much

It's nothing really to do with them being massive and better understood. Google was heavily attacked (SEO) and massively used, long before their quality started going downhill.

so, at what point is legitimate to involve the Credit Card company? you don’t even need to actually do it, tell cs you will do it unless it gets here in x days.

issue a chargeback and move on.

As others have also said, doing a chargeback risks Amazon closing your account permanently.

So if you're prepared to take that risk and never buy from Amazon again, sure.. go for it..

But given the centralization of vendors this can have bigger downsides than upside.

Intriguing and horrifying.. What happens with a ban?

I assume all my not-downloaded Kindle books become unavailable. Does the Kindle app delete the ones I have locally? (I assume the result would be similar for movies/shows purchased.)

Does it ban my credit card, name, address, or a more abstract "buying profile"?

Amazon does have the ability to remove downloaded items from your Kindles (assuming they sync with Amazon, of course); they've publicly used it before [https://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/18/technology/companies/18am...]. I can't confirm whether that happens when you chargeback, though.

No longer at amazon but I was in the appstore and charge backs were pretty common, you just lost access to the apps/iaps you charged back. Though I don't know what happens if you do it repeatedly or high value items.

And while they definitely deserve the ire for doing that with 1984, even in 2018 when I left preventing 1984 like issues were commonly brought up in design reviews, calling out 1984 by name.

Hope you don’t have any digital media streaming held with Amazon, or AWS, or Alexa, Kindle tablet, etc. So many horror stories get posted on hackernews regularly about what happens when one of these huge centralized companies decides to ban a customer with no recourse, no matter whose fault it is

I'd wager that, as with other digital "purchases" from companies like Apple, Google, Steam, etc, if your account is closed, you lose everything since you didn't actually buy it.

at what point do you call it a bad experience and just walk away?

BB lost a part of an order, just a $3 thermal paste. Luckily the heat sink came with some. I couldn't dispute it with BB, post office blew me off, and since it was only about 10% of the order I couldn't dispute with cc.

I am fairly sure that you actually can dispute partial amounts with your issuer.

Probably, but the whole thing took about 4 months to shake out, and it was only $3.

To be fair, this is almost certainly an issue with whoever was selling the item on Amazon, rather than Amazon.

Which of course is nothing more than a convenient excuse for them to use when the only ones with the power to regulate what sellers end up on their platform is... Amazon.

> To be fair, this is almost certainly an issue with whoever was selling the item on Amazon, rather than Amazon.

This (soccer magazine case) does not seem like a 3rd-party seller issue. Third-party sellers only have a limited amount of time to ship (30 days in 2018) after which the order is automatically cancelled.

Also, the Amazon "we weren’t able to cancel the items" message only occurs with Amazon-fulfilled items.

The long "4-16 weeks" estimate also suggests it was not 3rd-party seller selling via FBA, either, but straight-up sold by Amazon.

There could well have been an issue with the seller; I can't tell. But my issue is more with how Amazon was a) totally unprepared to notice and fix seller issues, and b) absolutely unable to get it together even when brought to their attention repeatedly.

Declined over the decades? Decades?

The company is over twenty years old. What’s the problem?

Because I doubt anybody complaining about decline used a feature available for two decades and saw decline in it.

My first order with Amazon was May 6, 1997. It was worlds better than traditional mail order at the time, and also way better than most bookstores for niche things like technical books. And when I had to deal with customer service, they were really on top of things.

As many have testified here, they just aren't like that anymore.

I don’t like my dependence on Amazon but they have definitely improved my quality of life. I get everything I need other than groceries online. This has saved me a lot of time over the years.

That sounds nice.

How does this relate to you repeatedly doubting what I said?

So, you been ordering books for decades from Amazon. Has your book ordering experience gone down?

* I guess I’m just trying to understand what exactly has declined over two decades? Because I feel like I’ve had the opposite experience.

I refer you to the my original comment: "The thing I really loved about Amazon is that they had their act together. But that has declined drastically over the decades; now whenever I actually have to deal with them it seems like there's a ton of internal chaos."

Dunno about anyone else here, but I've definitely been using Amazon since the late '90s when it was primarily for buying books.

<conspicuously defensive voice> Two is plural!

I actually had almost the same issue ordering a mattress from Amazon. The seller had created a tracking number so the order was showing as "shipped" even though there hadn't been any movement ever, which meant I couldn't cancel the order without escalating about 5 times to different service reps.

I'm afraid of being downvoted, but the algorithm for an Amazon return looks something like:

  Your LTV = Forecasting total revenue
             from your transactions so far
  Revenue  = The sum of your past
  Refund?  = LTV - Revenue - Refund Cost > 0
This is a much simpler, much more logical model. It appears everywhere, like with credit card disputes or when you get service discounts to not leave. Because when you don't get the refund for a $7,000 item, the assumption is you will "die" - quit using the service, stop buying, whatever - and your LTV - revenue is now zero.

What is frustrating to people is: it doesn't matter what happened to the package. You feel like you're this good person pursuing this great justice, but the simple facts are it doesn't matter what actually occurred. This is coming from someone who had two $3,500 computer deliveries stolen, probably because they had RTX 3080 written on them, but like, Amazon didn't care, it just refunded me. I didn't have to provide evidence or explain anything. Because my LTV was really high. Same with getting stuff refunded on my credit card. They simply did not care, and it was thousands of dollars of stuff where, obviously I was in the wrong, you can't just refund like airfare and such, but I asked for it and I got it because LTV.

Is this just? Like how else could it work? They investigate everything, spending more money than the cost of the refund? They would just not provide refunds, as was the case historically in e-commerce! And it's not Amazon, it's everyone. Indeed, the real innovation here isn't the strategy, it's that LTV forecasting has gotten really accurate. Otherwise I feel like these threads devolve into, people who don't know anything complain about stuff they keep using, and nobody critically looks into what's really going on.

There's an emotional desire, ironically, for this slow, legalistic, argumentative, plaintiff versus defense world. You know, when it suits you. The algorithmic approach, as soon as you open that Pandora's box, well of course it optimizes all that crap away - the LTV model of "justice" here is, in my opinion, a lot lot better.

It's just so inscrutable to a lay person, such a baffling reorganization of at least two decades of conditioning, I can see how the reaction is, "Oh my god, who is this blowhard, downvote." All I'm trying to do is share the facts of how remedies really work when you interact with giant, growing, successful companies.

This is 100% correct. Even our small business have rules like this: good customers will get refunds, discounts, etc. Bad ones (pathological ones) - we just try to get rid of them ASAP and no refunds. Because we do not want them to use our service anyway.

At the very beginning we were thinking that good vs bad should also include our support costs - not just LTV. But that is amazingly correlated: high LTV means that user has very low support cost (or at least a very nice people to work with).

It is very simple.

> Bad ones (pathological ones) - we just try to get rid of them ASAP and no refunds.

A customer "not buying much" is not "bad". If you accept his money for cheap stuff, he is your customer. There's a difference between an honest customer who usually doesn't buy much and then buys something expensive and is getting sadly scammed and a customer trying to rob you.

If you accept the customer for cheap stuff but refuse to help him when he gets scammed on an expensive item, you are the bad, pathological, person/business.

> If you accept the customer for cheap stuff but refuse to help him when he gets scammed on an expensive item, you are the bad, pathological, person/business.

For every refund system you will unfortunately get people who attempt to game that system. They'll buy many negligible cost items without issue, then a single high cost item that they'll claim never arrived hoping they've outsmarted the store or algorithm. These bad actors are why honest consumers have a hard time. I don't know what a business can do to actually differentiate the two.

There’s probably a lot of money for the first person who figures out how to solve this problem instead of complaining about evil uncaring business owners.

Costco kinda figured it out, by charging a membership fee they got rid of most low LTV customers from the get-go. Unfortunately, their generous refund policy still got hacked by bad actors which is why they have a lot of restrictions around returning electronics. (People were returning laptops after a year of use just to upgrade). This is why we can’t have nice things.

source: I worked at Costco before they had restrictions on their electronics return policy, when they bragged about accepting returns on anything for any reason… before the cost of doing so became prohibitively high.

LTV refunding like Amazon is doing is a huge leap forward that lets every business kind of act like Costco.

If their refund policy was literally "accepting returns on anything for any reason" how is it "hacking" to return a laptop after a year?

That policy assumed good faith on the part of the consumer. The original thinking was likely 'OK, if they return it after <timeframe> it's because it was a lemon/never worked right/etc' rather than for abusive reasons like 'TV returned right after Superbowl Sunday' (because they had their party and no longer need it) or 'returned laptop after 6 months' (because the school/work project ended and they no longer need it) So the assumption baked into the policy was that buyers wanted to legitimately own the thing they purchased rather than using the refund policy as a way to get a free short/intermediate term lease.

You seem to be saying 'well they did say any reason' and that good faith on the part of the buyer didn't/shouldn't enter into it. Yes they did, and people behaved the way they did. Now the generous refund policy no longer exists. See how that works?

The policy even assumed some amount of semi-bad faith behavior, the thinking was their return policy was also a bit of a charity program for the needy and destitute[1] (a Costco member lost their job and so returns a bunch of items for cash, etc). What they didn’t anticipate was the sheer number of people who began acting in bad faith (and the deflationary nature of electronics making it especially tempting), it was too much to bear.

It’s a shame the policy is gone. There was really no peace of mind quite like it, knowing that if your device failed after years of use, but still due to a defect, you had recourse. And for poor people, it was a godsend of a program especially (and not because it could be abused, but simply Costco providing a service that anything you buy will work as advertised)

[1]source: some internal training I received back in 1998

Yep. The same thing happened with LLBean. They used to offer lifetime returns/warranty replacement on all items, which worked when people acted in good faith. After many decades of this policy, a gray market of used LLBean items emerged, people would buy multi-decade-old used LLBean items, then "return" them as worn out for a new one or even a full refund. It became a whole cottage industry, and they now have a one-year limit on their any-reason return policy.

People suck, especially when they are disconnected from the human side of business.

I love Costco return policy and we bought a lot of stuff there just because "well, if we don't like it we can just return it anytime" (and we did like it and never returned it) over the years, but I've seen some ridiculous returns there. From people treating returns as a zero-cost rentals to buying a tree, failing to water it until it's dead and then returning it. They still have very generous policy and I would hate to see it ruined by people who're just taking an unfair advantage of it and ruining it for everybody.

Well said. And "This is why we can't have nice things" sums up this whole thread pretty neatly.

Yeah, this is a very real problem, and I've experienced both sides of it as a customer and running an ecom biz. It's very difficult to spot some of these people ahead of time.

It makes me sad. Ebay two decades ago was a lot different. I never got burned back then, and did a fair bit of buying and selling snowboard gear, including boards that get up to around $800 each. There's absolutely no way I'd do that today. Just impossible not to get ripped off on it.

Trust seems to be the main issue for large purchases, but individual retailers cannot (and probably should not) know enough about a customer to trust them.

Could the retail organization use a physically distributed escrow service to somehow tie payment to physical goods delivery? That essentially outsources the "brick and mortar" aspect to a third party and removes delivery risk. Amazon and Currency Exchange, for example, can have a much healthier economic relationship than Amazon and me.

Alternatively, this sounds like it could be addressed as a sort of "consumer protection" insurance similar to my homeowners or auto insurance. I file a claim so insurance covers legitimate large losses. Risk is pooled and the underwriter is the organization that is evaluating my trustworthiness, not the individual retailers.

Just ideas off the cuff, maybe there are huge holes here.

A particularly difficult con to detect and account for.

On eBay fraudsters buy large quantities of eg $1 seed packs, to build up artificial account ratings. Then they try to steal expensive things (didn't arrive, wasn't in the box, arrived broken, etc), and eBay shields the accounts heavily because they favor buyers to an extreme. All the thief has to do is be disciplined about it, buy $40-$50 of cheap items for positive feedback, then go after a $300-$500 item. Sellers can't even leave negative feedback on eBay, which further cuts off a mechanism for at least warning other sellers of a running con (sellers sometimes leave the negative language in the neutral/positive feeback segment instead, which rather points out the absurdity of eBay's broken system).

Sure. Amazon should equally value customers who buy $2 gadgets per year as ones who buys $2000 per year. But somehow business owners (restaurants, SaaS, retail, etc.) learn that complains and refunds from cheap customers are much more common and complaints are not polite. I really do not know why and I did not believe in that. But when you run business you learn fast.

Does this apply to things where it obviously went wrong? E.g. if someone bought a 5lb item, and they pointed out you shipped them a 1lb box-- no refunds even then, if they're an undesirable customer?

> Like how else could it work? They investigate everything, spending more money than the cost of the refund?

Is anyone actually arguing for fewer "easy refunds" and more investigation? I though the point was that given the fact that most of their refunds are handled algorithmically, they have plenty of time to handle the rest of the refunds quickly and with care.

If I don't get my order, I want my money back. If the algorith decides I can get that with no investigation required, sure, I'll take it. But if the algorithm thinks they shouldn't take the "shortcut", I still deserve my money back and a human should be dispatched to deal with it ASAP.

Algorithmically adjudicating in favor of the customer is fine - it's their money they're risking. But algorithmically adjudicating against the customer should never be allowed without a human looking things over.

This assumes that by investigating you will determine the truth. Often times, even if they spent a ton of time investigating, they aren’t going to be able to determine who was at fault.

Idk, if the tracking doesn't say "picked up by recipient", a refund should be given no questions asked. It's then up to the seller and shipping company to figure out who screwed up amongst themselves.

You can purchase package insurance if you’re willing to go that far.

How do I purchase package insurance on something Amazon ships to me?

In theory, Amazon's T&C's attempt to pass on the risk of loss to me after delivery of the item to a carrier. In practice, this is far less clear, because of merchant agreements / cardholder agreements and overall FTC regulation of goods sold directly to consumers.

But it may be moot, anyways: if Amazon decides to screw me, they have a bunch of digital assets that they hold hostage and will remove my access to if I initiate a legal dispute or chargeback, even if I'm in the right.

Is there anything preventing you from having separate amazon account for digital assets and physical orders? That seems like almost a requirement give what I've heard about them in many comments throughout this thread.

Amazon routinely disables 'related accounts' when suspending an account. In practice, they know who you are on each, because of payment verification, etc. So I'm not sure how surefire of a solution this is.

oof, that's some distopic shit right there! How haven't they gotten sued over that?? (rhetorical question, the answer is obviously money)

I can't get package insurance as the recipient - only the sender can do that. And I wouldn't want to - the sender is the one picking the packaging, delivery provider and all of that, so it is their responsibility to get insurance. If they don't, it is their responsibility to cover for a lost package out-of-pocket.

And I'm not just using the term "responsibility" im a moral sense here - consumer protection laws in many places agree with this. The seller is an "informed market actor, taking on the risks of the transaction". The consumer is not an "equal market actor" and is therefore afforded protections from the risk.

So you are saying all deliveries need to require signatures?

No, signatures are a stupid relic of the past that needs to die out as soon as possible. But anything delivered in-person should be authorised with a one-time code that you get with your order confirmation and everything else (if small enough value) should be placed in a secure area (like a mailbox).

At the end of the day your remedy is to sue someone. Everything else is a courtesy shortcut.

I don't know about you, but where I'm from, consumer protection laws exist specifically so consumers don't have to sue in these cases. Providing a fair refund process is their legal duty, not a courtesy.

Why is Amazon allowed to conflate inventory (Fulfilled by Amazon) without any legal issues? It almost seems they’re above the law. Why would they be legally required to follow customer protection laws?

To me about how these infractions can be enforced without suing though?

The point is that it shouldn’t be the aggrieved consumer filing the lawsuit, it should be the powerful regulator with potential fines tied to a percentage of company revenue.

I wasn’t trying to suggest otherwise at all. I literally just don’t understand how consumer protection laws are supposed to work, and was wondering if the parent knew of some way to enforce what’s right without having to take them to court.

I don't see regulation being the issue here.

The law will oblige either of the two sides to carry the burden of proof. Either Amazon has to proof the package was delivered, or the customer has to proof it wasn't. If the other sides does not accept the proof received, it has to sue.

You can't prove a negative. There's effectively no way for a customer to prove a package wasn't delivered.

Update: I should be clear, the shipper can prove it. The customer themselves can't without the shipper's acquiescence.

Nobody can really prove it. But each side can have some supporting evidence.

The shipper might be able to prove that the transport company picked up a package. Beyond that it's all hearsay if we are talking about fraudulent sellers.

The transport company might have evidence of a tracking number and thus most probably an actual package making it through the system. Shipments do get lost or stolen though. No way to prove anything really.

The customer can't prove it either. There are enough cases of packages with a tracking number having arrived at my and other people's doorsteps without the tracking ever showing that it happened. Why wouldn't the opposite be true? Driver just needs to scan package arrival not actually deliver. Of course there can be repercussions and I'd gather it's easier for a package to be stolen off other parts of the delivery chain. Anyway in this case both the shipper and customer have 'proof' / no proof to various degrees and in reality something 'fell off the truck'.

It's all about being convincing enough to whoever will be adjudicating this but 100% proof is impossible. The closest the customer could get I think would be 24h Video surveillance of their front entrance. No motion detection, just 24h continuous tape.

If they make you sue when the case is clear-cut, good regulatory regimes charge punitive damages to discourage the customer-hostile behavior.

You report them to the relevant regulatory body.

Most states' Attorneys General offices have Consumer Protection branches, as well.

Because my LTV was really high.

Yep, I think this is exactly how things work. My household buys pretty much anything it can from Amazon unless it's more expensive than we can get elsewhere because our Amazon credit cards automatically give a 5% discount (cash back). Since we pay our balance every month this is basically like having 5% more income proportional to the amount spent on Amazon**

We never have a problem dealing with customer service. A simple chat solves pretty much everything immediately, and when it's Amazon's fault they'll apply a courtesy credit towards our account. (Actually that hasn't happened a lot lately-- maybe something they don't do as much any more, or maybe they've calculated that we're solid enough customers that we're not quiting Amazon just because Amazon didn't give us free money)

*The first time we used Amazon Fresh was a complete epiphany for us. I was sick so couldn't go food shopping. Instead I gave Fresh a shot, and found out that on average their prices were 10% to 15% lower than I paid at the supermarket, and* we still got the same 5% cash back from using our Amazon credit card. Even after a good tip for the driver, we were still saving money. In terms of selection, they probably lack about 10% of the things we normally buy or they're much more expensive (meats especially) so I still do the occasional trip to the local grocery store to stock up.

If you're looking for an alternative, Target's store card also gives you 5% off and it is applied instantly at the time of purchase (you don't have to "redeem" the refund later or anything).

We actually do use them for some things, especially some low cost items Amazon doesn't sell directly and resellers mark up significantly because that's the only way they can make money on a $3 bottle of shampoo or whatever it is. Also for dry goods, Target often has things Amazon doesn't have. The only downside is they don't have free shipping unless you hit $35, so we try yo save up items until we have enough to hit that mark.

I think you’re right that is the core of the model. Good customers always get treated better than Joe Rando.

But Amazon has more information and uses that too. They know loss rates by zip code or by block by carrier.

Usually items I order for them that are higher shrink risk don’t go through their Amazon distribution network and come UPS or USPS. Anecdotally, I’ve noticed those returns are easier — they probably dump cost on the 3rd party shipper.

The model isn’t aware of that stuff. They feed groups into the model, it might be grouped by zip code. But there isn’t a variable for zip code in the model. The model just forecasts LTV and nothing else, from transaction histories.

Do you know this because you work on the model?

That sounds like an unanswerable question.

Should be a yes or no answer? Either you worked on the algorithm or you didn't.

I asked the question because they spoke with the assurance of an insider... so I wondered if they worked on it.

While what you’re saying about how it works sounds extremely plausible, I am rather dubious about the idea that this is how it ought to work (and the inference that this is simple, therefore it’s how it ought to work).

Taken to the extreme (and I don’t see anything in the argument that prevents it being taken to the extreme) and combined with acceptance of utility functions (_i.e._ that the value of anything is comparable to anything else, including human lives) this seems to also reduce any and all rule enforcement to wergild or something radical in that vein. Which—I’m not sure how it worked historically, but it also seems to be the current state of patent law (it doesn’t matter if the patent has merit, the side with the better and more expensive lawyers will starve out the other), and the results look utterly miserable.

Vague generalities aside, the complaints (and hypothetical downvotes) seems to indicate that, however simple and transparent a rule this is from the inside, people don’t want to pay for what is not their fault (cf experiments where people rejected a $1/$99 split in favour of a $0/$0 one to punish the other guy). I’m reminded of people queueing up in droves to the first McDonald’s in Moscow nor for the food or the prices, but for the customer service, because that was literally the first time in their lives they could get that anywhere.

Unless it’s marketed as a luxury good, people will actually pay for decent customer service that, among other things, satisfies their sense of fairness. That a model which does not reflect this can be simple is not a virtue of that model, it’s shoddy model-building. Not providing that service might still be the better economic decision (with caveats), if few enough people end up bitter over it (and complain on HN, etc.), but that’s a much more involved claim than “but it’s so simple!”. It also has very little to do with its moral merit, and if the better economic decision is too far from the moral one, it may well be time to go tune the incentives again and not to give up on your set of morals.

I’m not convinced customer protection regulations are the answer here, but the results of no customer protection regulations also seem completely idiotic from the outside. The third option of piling upon the company online also seems revolting for entirely different reasons.

Interesting. I've bought most of my tech stuff from the same company for 20 years now. Their system actually lets me see all completed orders, and it tallied to about 50k AUD last time I checked (as an individual).

They're not always the cheapest, but the overall experience is great - and I just love that I can see all my orders for such a long time span.

Now, I've always had good customer support experiences with the company, and your model helps explain why I suppose; loyalty has a value of its own.

So what you are saying is instead of getting emotional, we should get even by reverse engineering the LTV algorithm and “lose” packages as often is still profitable for Amazon so we can buy things at near cost from them?

"LTV model of 'justice' here is, in my opinion, a lot lot better"

Sure, it is, when you're rich. If you're some poor bastard who's scrimped up a whole lot of money to buy an expensive item, and Amazon figures you won't spend much money in the future, you get ripped off.

There's a couple of externalities you've left out, too, because your LTV doesn't predict them:

* Reputational costs

* Risk of adverse legal outcomes, where you decline to provide deserved refunds after failing to deliver merchandise.

If a rich person went onto Amazon and bought something 50 times more expensive than anything else they’d ever purchased and claimed it didn’t arrive, Amazon would drop them like a hot potato.

You’re talking like there’s no legal recourse (or even financial, like a chargeback). There simple aren’t enough resources to track down the source of every sob story, the hard truth is this “inhuman” efficiency is a huge boon for the vast majority of us.

A bare minimum level of diligence is required before denying a claim. Else you -should- run into bad faith, punitive damages, action from regulators, etc. It's not some super magical extensive investigation to realize that you shipped a box that weighs much less than the item and that there's likely a big problem.

There may be very valid reason to shortcut claims and to grant dubious claims of high value customers. But you really shouldn't just ship an empty box and say "sorry, you're not getting your money back unless you sue us". (And worse, break the customer's existing digital content if they do, because you can hold it hostage).

I mean, I get that it's financially appealing to externalize the costs of in-warehouse and in-transit shrinkage to random low-value customers, but brah-- that's just not right.

It worked as it should have been - situation got resolved and on top of that Amazon got reputational damage.

Via media intervention? Eh. That concerns me and makes me worry that 99% of the time this happens it silently goes away from a customer who is not able to get media attention.

IMO this should be a flag for regulators to start taking a look, too, to understand how systemic this is.

Out of all things such as app store monopoly abuses and taxes, right to repair abuses in both devices and cars, search/ads monopoly power abuses, consumer protection is already reasonably and well regulated and not the first thing that needs additional regulation.

There's already decent regulation, yes. It may be time for the regulators to actually look at Amazon using those extant regulations, if they are declining returns in clear-cut cases like this.

I have a vague sense this overlooks inelastic demand and living wage somehow but I can't put it into words.

I believe all of this, but isn't there some aspect where persistence has a different outcome than passivity? In your example where essentially you're saying the profit Amazon made off a customer is less than the refund cost and fallout of indifference. There are escalation paths that cost the company money, like stealing support time via repeatedly escalating, and eventually filing a dispute with the credit card issuer. These, too, cost Amazon money.

You're right, I just wanted to emphasize the innovative part of this system is forecasting LTV accurately. Specifically by forecasting LTV as a function of your personal and population wide transaction history alone, without any other secular considerations. Whereas it's pretty straightforward to enumerate your costs.

Not sure I follow, if this happens to some customer (who are in the right) they shouldn't get a refund? And this is considered just because it saves investigation spending?

If Amazon chooses to refund without question to save disputes money, that's their choice. But it's not the customer's problem. If you pay for something and you don't receive it, you must get refunded.

At some point Amazon shipped me 5 CPUs in five boxes in a larger branded box instead of just one. I sent four back and didn't even get a "sorry for your trouble".

I wonder if that factors in somehow.

I also wonder - since the box containing five CPUs looked like a "single product" box - how often that must have happened.

I think overall Amazon is making a mistake. When I interviewed with them a few years ago, they were well aware of the risk of short-term best choices being bad in the long term (can't elaborate due to NDAs).

For instance, in the short term it's better to take the loss instead of investigate. But that then makes your platform an easy pick for fraudsters, so you end up with way more fraud and way more costs overall. If you were a bit more thorough and spotted scammers better, you would have a higher cost _per incident_ but lower cost overall in the long term.

This is particularly true if you are such a big player that you are the market in practice (so general equilibrium effects cannot be ignored anymore). And reminds me a bit of what eBay did in the past (sided with buyers almost every time without investigating, and made selling much more difficult).

Of course this is the case. Business give better customers better treatment.

Where people haven’t seemed to have learned their lesson with this is with airlines and to a lesser extent hotels. People will just buy the cheapest ticket, which is completely fine if that’s what you want or need to do, but they then complain that the airlines don’t bend over backwards when things go awry.

Example: you have to check in to international flights 60 minutes or more before the flight leaves (from the US). This is a reasonably strict rule. I once arrived 45 minutes prior and they checked me in anyway. I give that airline a lot of business and they know it.

So I order a lot of packages from Amazon and have had zero problems with returns and cancellations but almost all my purchases are low end.

For, say, new electronics, I’ll just go straight to B&H or Adorama. Or even Best Buy.

In this context, people are basically saying it’s okay steal $7000 from a customer they don’t like, and upvoting each other for the sentiment. The only reason it’s not criminal is because it’s a powerful party doing it to a weak party. Imagine if a homeless man took $7k of amazons money - the police would be involved instantly and there would be jail time

It's a lot better for those with the highest LTV's (ie, the richest), that's for sure!

Thanks for this, very informative. So LTV is forecasted "lifetime value". So, if I'm 30, they'll estimate ~50 years of revenue going forward from me and use this as LTV?

> So, if I'm 30, they'll estimate ~50 years of revenue going forward from me and use this as LTV?

No. If you're 30, they might (or might not) group you with other 30 year olds, if that's important, and run this model against you all as a group. But you don't punch in "he has 50 years left to live" in the model. The model doesn't know any of that, it just knows your transaction history, and it works better when the population of histories are more similar than dissimilar. Though it's also very effective when run against a large population too.

Don’t forget there is also this: https://www.theretailequation.com/

Basically, these models can pretty much predict whether you are pathological or good one. I know that models also include things like if you are a pet owner, number of pets, siblings, number of disputes in cc, etc.

No, people believe the model is effective. There is no scientific method, it's what middle managers are comfortable with and could easily be garbage.

You have a point, but if the company has a stated refund policy and its actual policy differs from that, then it can not in any way be regarded as just, IHMO.

(I have never bought anything expensive from Amazon, and so I have no idea what its stated policy is.)

I don’t think that’s the case. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on amazon over the years and had a similar bad experience than the author. I doubt they treat customers differently depending on how much they spend on the site.

While they may not do so exactly in the manner described by the GP, it's naive to think Amazon doesn't give differential treatment to select customers for reasons directly related to income from those customers.

Behaving otherwise would just be shooting yourself in the foot for weird ideas of fairness.

Thanks for explaining how refunds work on Amazon. Ive been using them a lot lately

> at least two decades of conditioning

I'd say three centuries, but who's counting ...

(or whenever printing got cheap enough to use for advertising)

For expensive stuff I almost never go with Amazon now: too many counterfeit / fly by night sellers.

For "prosumer" items a store that serves professionals is likely to watch their suppliers very carefully and have customer-friendly policies when things hit a snag. For cameras and optics (and flash sticks) B&H is my go-to place. My 2c.

> B&H is my go-to place

I will also throw in a vote for B&H.

A customer service rep from NYC once called to personally answer some questions I had about a sub-$100 product. This happens often.

This week I ordered a display with free shipping that was scheduled to arrive 5 days later. I received it in 24 hours - 4 days earlier than expected.

Their return policy is also hassle-free.

For music or audio products, I buy from Sweetwater.

Same good points as B&H, but you have an assigned "sales engineer" which some people find annoying, but I really like - whenever I have a problem or question, I get the same person on the phone every time.

I don't order from Amazon if I'm not comfortable outright losing my money, getting it late, or receiving a counterfeit.

The one issue with B&H is that if something isn't in stock, their estimates are nowhere near accurate. Currently been waiting 2 months for an item that was being stocked in "7-10" days. But if it's in stock they're a good option.

Same. After getting clearly-open-box (used? counterfeit? returned?) Makita batteries on Amazon I only buy tools from Home Depot, only buy camera equipment from B&H, etc. No more pricey tools or electronics from Amazon, or food for that matter (years ago, bought box of protein bars, came expired!)

I bought an $800 winch from Amazon, shipped and sold by Amazon, in “new” condition. When it arrived, not only was it clearly used, but it had been damaged by improper use and would have been extremely dangerous if I tried to use it. If I hadn’t known what to look for, I probably would have used it and been at risk of serious injury. Amazon is clearly marking returns as “new” if their clueless returns staff thinks they can pass it off.

Yeah, me too. I imagine it's a process that is difficult to scale without error.

I like buying Amazon Warehouse deals when the item makes sense to me. With larger items I think their quality control is higher, and the saving tend be bigger. The box may arrive super beat-up, but item is just fine.

My motivation is probably less about overall savings, but more about me feeling like I'm doing Amazon a favor. Weird, isn't it? I'm conditioned.

As a tangent: I've also purchased used that ended up being a return of a similar looking, but much less expensive item. So I just re-return it. In this case I assume it was fraud on the original return. With my patterns I doubt Amazon thinks -I- returned them the wrong item. Without customer context their job figuring stuff like that out would be much more difficult.

I wouldn't buy anything I need to trust on Amazon.

That's not just Amazon though. I bought a band saw from Lowes that once I opened the box had clearly been used and dropped, so much that the base was bent.

Generally speaking my personal experiences with Amazon have been good. However, I’ve similarly shifted most of my online purchases elsewhere because (1) I don’t trust the reviews anymore and (2) I don’t trust Amazon’s suppliers.

Ironically, my purchases on Amazon these days are almost exclusively books and ebooks.

Same, but for books I've switched to my local bookstore. Mainly because I would like to continue having a local bookstore. Now that I don't have Prime anymore, cost and speed are about the same.

I've been meaning to check out alternative ebook vendors too. Anybody have something they like on Android?

I like Kobo out of the big players. Google feels like they could give up anytime. I've also had issues getting downloadable ePubs from them.

If you like SciFi/Fantasy, Baen sells ebooks direct with no DRM on their website in multiple formats and have for like 20 years. Some other publishers do this too like Image comics. Most don't though so you need to go through one of the bigger stores unfortunately.

The rule in our house is to not order anything that goes in or on our bodies from Amazon.

Yes, B&H is always the place to go for things like that. I just bought 15k worth of camera equipment for my dad and with the new store card it's an instant refund on taxes. The 30 day return policy is the cherry on top.

I just generally avoid Amazon Marketplace (third-party sellers) because returns are always a hassle in some way (shipping not covered, out-of-country return center to mail to, no shipping label, need to contact through email, force you to give reason why you want to return even though that is illegal, ...).

Doesn’t matter with commingling of inventory, you’ll get counterfeit items. I don’t buy certain items off Amazon like SD cards due to issues with counterfeit items. Also food products has issues, you’ll get items a month or two away from expiration.

If you watch all the videos on how to make money on Amazon. It involves buying liquidation items from places like TJ Maxx or other retailers selling second quality items. These items are commingled into regular inventory. The consumer ends up buying a second quality item for the “new” price.

Except that with inventory commingling, you might think you're ordering from amazon (non-marketplace) and get a third-party seller's crap instead.

I too have had a similar experience, but it was for a series of bad deliveries by the same Amazon Logistics delivery driver. Almost every delivery was fucked up in some way or another: delivered late but marked as delivered, delivered on time but not marked as delivered until it was stolen, delivered to inaccessible locations, delivered to other residents drop boxes, etc.

I called amazon every time it happened. I told them the various things that their driver did, explicitly asking them to replace that specific driver. And after a while it was like they flagged my account as fraudulent (customer service began issuing canned responses with no follow up).

Eventually, after a few egregious cases, my property management company sued Amazon. Overnight, packages started being delivered correctly, and I haven't had to call CS since...but I now refuse to buy anything of value from Amazon anymore due to a combination of fraudulent marketplace items and the lingering fear that if something goes wrong I won't be able to get any compensation for it because my account has been flagged.

Funnily enough, Ali Express is now the more reputable company in my eyes.

I’ve found my credit card company, American Express to be great for getting refunds in cases like this and always use my credit card for larger purchases.

Like others have said - be careful with this option - there are a LOT Of examples in the Google Fi forums about people doing a chargeback with Google because of charges they felt were fair or fraudulent via Google Fi, and next thing they know their Google Account (Photos, Docs, Email, etc.) is disabled.

I would watch the same thing with Amazon (Music, Alexa, Photos, AWS, etc.)

All the more reason to not use these companies for anything that’s even moderately important.

Exactly. If you are at the point where your only recourse is chargeback, then you are at a bridge-burning moment. The company has treated you so badly that you’re willing to light the relationship on fire. Why on earth would you want to continue being a customer of that company? I’ve done a few chargebacks in my life and they were all against scum-of-the-earth companies I would never do business with again.

One thing I've always wondered: since credit cards generally have relatively pro-consumer policies, why didn't they just take the next logical step and write "retaliation for chargebacks isn't allowed" into their merchant agreements?

Because the companies might just stop accepting them or actually start fighting. Also the current state is good for both merchants and credit cards. Issues are quietly solved and problems go away, permanently.

That's one of the reasons I degoogled my life. I want to be able to tell Google to go screw itself in such events

Backup everything elsewhere regularly https://zapier.com/apps/dropbox/integrations/google-drive

You’d want to use frequent Google Takeout for backups of all of your data.

This is why I do not use gmail or any other online services from any vendor which might restrict me from doing things I do. My online dependency is limited to Netflix and Amazon. Amazon is easily replaceable. As for Netflix - there are other services and as an alternatives I'll just read more books. I might miss Google Gearch and Youtube but from my experiments those can be used in anonymous mode. For people who earn money on Youtube it is of course very different.

A couple of years ago I migrated away from Gmail for just this reason. Before I did that, my life could have become very difficult if Google decided to deem me as a persona non grata, and I'd have little to no recourse.

That’s a good point. I hadn’t really considered that.

A problem with this is that it’s a nuclear option. Companies you use it against may decline to trade with you again. That may be a problem or not.

This is one problem I face with centralization. If all stores handle purchases on their own, it's fine if your local camera shop refuses you as a customer because you also probably don't want to deal with them again, but if you are forced to use your CC company to dispute against steam, amazon, google, you are risking being banned from their service. You are risking access to your photos, documents, and emails. To using online features for other products you already own.

I agree, but we are far from centralized. Very far.


If you think we're centralized and you're "downvoting to disagree" at least have some decency to explain how we're centralized. There is nothing that Amazon sells that I can't buy an alternative product at a dozen other retailers for comparable prices, for example.

I think that it varies.

Due to network effects, there often aren't good alternatives for social media like Facebook or collaborative cloud tools like Google docs.

For games, it's not unusual for indy games to only release on Steam. Even when there is a physical release, that option is becoming increasingly difficult (e.g. many computers no longer have a built in disc drive, many stores no longer carry PC games, etc.).

This is less common than the previous two examples, but it may be difficult to find niche products outside of Etsy. For example, I haven't been able to find another place to purchase this specialized martial arts equipment: https://www.etsy.com/listing/175827423/

Sure, kind of.

So Steam and Etsy themselves trend toward some amount of centralization, but in the case of Stream for example you have Playstation, Microsoft's platform, Stadia (soon to be cancelled I'm sure), Switch, Epic game store, iOS, and others. They aren't all exactly 1-1 comparable but I think that's ok. Frankly, you can get games from a lot of sources. You might say you can't get an indy title from one of these sources that you can on Steam, but you can't buy Halo on Playstation either - that doesn't make things centralized. It's a very competitive market.

In the case of Etsy I think you're a little more right, but there's no reason that has to continue to be that way.

People clearly differ.

Steam and Etsy are actually two companies that, if I were unable to use them starting tomorrow, that would basically have zero impact on my life.

Whereas, although I do order from a variety of online retailers, going cold turkey on Amazon would be a fairly significant inconvenience for me--although some seem not to use them much.

Right but you wouldn't be able to make the claim that the market is centralized based on these factors.

Centralization is a float not a Boolean. I use Amazon a lot, am generally happy, but am slightly concerned with the amount of centralization that Amazon retail represents.

Centralized in what way?

You'd just create a new account for Amazon.

But what about your gmail? You'll lose all access to your email

"Monopolization Defined"

The antitrust laws prohibit conduct by a single firm that unreasonably restrains competition by creating or maintaining monopoly power. Most Section 2 claims involve the conduct of a firm with a leading market position, although Section 2 of the Sherman Act also bans attempts to monopolize and conspiracies to monopolize. As a first step, courts ask if the firm has "monopoly power" in any market. This requires in-depth study of the products sold by the leading firm, and any alternative products consumers may turn to if the firm attempted to raise prices. Then courts ask if that leading position was gained or maintained through improper conduct—that is, something other than merely having a better product, superior management or historic accident. Here courts evaluate the anticompetitive effects of the conduct and its procompetitive justifications.

"Market Power"

Courts do not require a literal monopoly before applying rules for single firm conduct; that term is used as shorthand for a firm with significant and durable market power — that is, the long term ability to raise price or exclude competitors. That is how that term is used here: a "monopolist" is a firm with significant and durable market power.


What you may think has little relation to governing regulatory law.

I didn't claim that Amazon was or wasn't a monopoly so I'm not following the point you're trying to make here. Centralization is not the same thing as monopoly.

"Centralisation" in the context used is synonymous with monopolisation.

Not in the context of my comment which you replied to.

You merely parroted the term introduced earlier.

Downvoting on HN sucks, doesn't it? It's a feature designed without empathy, even though it directly affects human emotion. Which is extra bizarre considering it's on a forum that prides itself on respectful human behavior.

I don't care too much about the karma itself, it's more so I want to know why something I said is worthy of this little down arrow thing. Am I completely incorrect? If so why? What specifically is wrong. I want to learn and have discussions about these things. Sucks to see people downvoting you too - they're just proving your point.

Best thing to do is buy straight from manufacturer if possible require insurance on the shipment—that way the post has to deliver it or they are paying you!

At least where I live it's the shippers (i.e. the manufacturers in your example) problem if the package doesn't arrive, not mine.

If they want to purchase insurance on their package, that's their choice. On the flip side if they want to "self insure" by not doing so, and assuming that on average they would pay more for insurance than insurance would pay them, that's also their choice.

Either way I'm certainly not going to purchase insurance myself, paying extra money to mitigate their risk.

In fact, it seems pretty insane to me that they ship items worth thousands of dollars, but skip the few dollars on insured shipment. It not only protects against missing/"missing" packages, but also against transport damage (at least in Germany).

Someone makes money on insurance. So, for a large company, self-insuring basically lets them save on what would otherwise be someone else's profit.

And a place like Amazon that sends out lots of orders will get a good idea of where the risks are high and where they are low. They know that of the hundreds of packages they have shipped us none have gone missing, it would be a waste of money to insure things they are sending us.

They even screwed up and shipped a cancelled order, I was on the other side of the world when I saw the e-mail and by the time they were satisfied I really was me their attempt to intercept the package failed. $500 worth of stuff sat on our front porch for 10 days and was still there when we got back. (We live in a low-crime area and our front porch makes it basically impossible to see a package from the street unless it's large. A porch pirate would have to come to within 10' of the door to see most things, they'll go elsewhere where they don't have to be so obvious.)

I don't know how this works in general but I assume that there are some heuristics as to whether shippers require delivery signatures or not. Because of where I live and how isolated my house is the only real dangers are misdelivery and damage.

One of the early-on Prime benefits for me was fairly deterministic delivery. At a time when I ordered lot of physical books, CDs, and DVDs, the minimum amount for free shipping wasn't a big deal. But random order arrivals when I was traveling much of the time were.

Amazon is simply not prepared to deal with this. Because of their "shady seller" and "comingled inventory" problem, they can't tell easily if a buyer or seller is trying to scam them.

Electronics I buy from either Best Buy or B&H Photo.

For non-electronic "Name Brand" items where counterfeit is likely, I'll go to Target.com, etc.

Amazon is great for stuff that is neither valuable, critical, subject to counterfeit, or perishable. But if health or a large amount of money is at stake, avoid it like the plague. It's not worth the risk.

Didn't you dispute it at PayPal/your CC company/your bank?

Or were you afraid of getting banned from Amazon?

In the end, it probably took 3-4 weeks to get my money back for a $5k 1-day delivery package that wasn't ever delivered. I would have gone the bank route next, but since Amazon did eventually give me my money back, it wasn't needed.

I'm sure the shipper was who lost/stole the package. But my point is that you can't take your great support experience with Amazon buying $50 sheets and expect that you get the same experience when they lose something expensive. For expensive or specialist items, you can often get the item faster and cheaper going to a different retailer despite how all your experience buying cheap stuff on Amazon tells you otherwise.

As I've moved more of my shopping away from Amazon I've noticed that lots and lots of online retailers are now competitive on the logistics side. Fast shipping is now table stakes.

I'll go one further and say that some are actually quicker than Amazon. I've recently bought two different items from bestbuy.com that I would have normally bought from Amazon when prime shipping actually took two days.

In both cases bestbuy's free shipping could get the items to my house 1 day quicker than amazon so I went with them.

Amazon is also I think still trying to push prime on people. It used to be that stuff arrived basically overnight for me when I bought early enough the day before. When they started prime we suddenly started waiting for our regular free shipping packages. And you can't tell me it's because of volumes and they had to introduce prime. This literally started overnight when prime was introduced, not slowly getting worse until you could pay for priority.

They basically just have the order sit around, sometimes with the tracking number already created and in the system but it takes 3 or 4 days before the shipment actually leaves their facilities. They basically have an incentive not to be fast now unlike when they started out and the fast an free shipping was one of their great selling points over other online retailers.

Best Buy, in some cases, fulfills using Geek Squad folks delivering locally. Was very cool to order two SSDs in the morning and have them show up a few hours later.

Unfortunately many have also opened the doors to so-called third party marketplace sellers. It's making the experience of looking for items online worse. Some label this poorly, some offer no easy way to filter to only items sold by the actual company.

I assume it must be location-dependent.

The only problem I've had over the past year or two was with a headset that didn't work properly. I returned it via a UPS will pick up the box and slap on a shipping label option. They never did. But there was eventually a tracking number in the system anyway. UPS basically shrugged and said that the computer says it was picked up. But the refund went through anyway. I assume Amazon decided that UPS had picked it up and lost it.

I'm guessing it's more price-dependent. I'm sure Amazon would refund a headset and not really care if they got it back or not. But try getting a refund on a $5,000 studio microphone and you will probably have an entirely different experience.

Somewhere around $1,000-ish seems to be the magic threshold where their rules change and you get lost in the management void.

I'm actually surprised people buy expensive audio/video/photo equipment on Amazon, since usually their prices aren't good on those, and their packaging is very bad. That's okay for random consumer garbage, but I wouldn't order anything high-end from them.

I bet the reason people do it is because they had good experiences buying dozens of sub-$100 items in Amazon and don't want to risk trying out a new online store. Amazon support is great for cheap stuff, so most people assume it's the same for expensive ones.

Also, people new to a hobby won't know that B&H, or Thomann, or Sweetwater, etc, also have great customer support like Amazon.

Sweetwater is nothing like Amazon’s customer support.

You can’t call Amazon and ask them what equipment you need to accomplish a task. Among many other differences…

I never said or implied the opposite. "Great like Amazon" is not the same as "exactly like Amazon".

Sorry. I realize that. I just think the comparison gives the wrong impression because of how much more you can get in service from Sweetwater, that most people would never realize were possibilities if Amazon is what they are used to.

Was only trying to improve the info you offered a bit more.

Fair enough! I completely agree with you!

I presume the “their” and “them” in this comment refer to third party sellers, which could be anyone. I would rather order from the brand directly, or Home Depot or Best Buy or any other established business that does not try to pawn me off as a customer to someone else.

Especially for audio/video/photo stuff there's a bunch of dealers just for that, which tend to be quite good (in terms of prices, packaging, customer services), and also specialized distributors ("sells small numbers to professionals"), that's why I'm surprised people go for Amazon.

Some examples:

Random camera: Amazon: 2000 €, any photo dealer: 1800 €

Random high-end lens: Amazon: 2500 €, photo dealer: 2000 €

Random microphone: Amazon: 275 €, A/V distributor: 220 €

Studio microphone: Amazon: <not authorized to sell>, A/V distributor: 600 €

And that's before considering that Amazon is probably going to ship more slowly (even on prime) than most other "pro" dealers, and that Amazon is probably going to throw a box in a more or less empty parcel, while someone at a proper dealer will actually bother to package the stuff correctly.

For my last camera purchase of about $3500, Amazon had it on sale for a couple hundred bucks less, and I was going to buy from them because it was a big enough difference to overcome my loyalty to B&H.

I decided to think on it for a day, and sure enough by the next day B&H had the same price. Pretty sure it was a manufacturer discount but in general I think they try to match prices.

Different here in Canada. For example particular lens I am looking for is $1,900 on Amazon and $2,200 from other retailers.

I haven't really found Amazon to be consistently more expensive or slower, but yes I normally order that kind of thing from B&H (or Adorama).

anytime I order anything, but amazon the package takes 3 to 5 days at minimum. Amazon is 1 day most of the time.

That's entirely possible as well. Which is one reason that, although I have used Amazon for fairly expensive electronics, they're not my default. (I also expect some people live places where thefts from porches, etc. are more common than in my case where I'm at the end of a long driveway.)

They lost my 15$ package and even though they promised refund and a gift card, they never came through. Now I don't use amazon anymore than I really have to.

I don't understand that. The 'than I really have to' bit, is Amazon now so entrenched that you can't get around them anymore?

If I were to decide that I wasn't going to use Amazon starting tomorrow, I'd be spending a whole lot more time checking a bunch of online stores, paying for shipping, driving around, etc. So, yes, they are for a lot of things. While I certainly ordered from them pre-pandemic, the pandemic has brought home to me how many things I can just order rather than put on a shopping list and drive around to stores to find and purchase.

I've found Walmart.com to be about as good as Amazon for my online shopping (in the US). I particularly find Walmart to be a lot better for some dry goods like cereal and Clif bars. They can mix delivery from their warehouses and from local stores.

This is not me shilling Walmart. I've been pleasantly surprised by it in the last year, and find it to be a real competitor to shopping at Amazon.

If you don't care too much about the price, the time difference is low: you spend some time looking at an online retailer (maybe typing in your address), but you save the time you would waste searching Amazon for the correct listing amongst all the knockoffs, sent-from-Hong-Kong etc.

If you care a lot about the price, you already need to consider other shops, since Amazon isn't necessarily the cheapest anyway.

I have ordered one thing from Amazon in the past five years, where the manufacturer only sold to consumers through Amazon.

It is sad to read that people want a monopoly for a minor convenience.

Same with steam (that takes a big money cut and their buggy launcher is awful)

People don't "want a monopoly." But they do want to order things in a way that is by no means a "minor convenience." Just going back to when Amazon was getting started, finding a book that wasn't in stock at your local store was a massive hassle and could take months. Today, not spending an hour running errands is not really a minor convenience. Again, I'm good with there being more competition--and, in fact, I order things from multiple places--but Amazon is often the easiest choice.

> finding a book that wasn't in stock at your local store was a massive hassle and could take months.

Or you could just ask your local store to order it for you and you would have it in a week. It's not like this was an unusual situation.

There was a time when that was definitely not the norm. You looked a book up in a big Books in Print volume and an order could take quite a long time to come in. Yes, the situation improved over time with certain big city bookstores and then Barnes and Noble prior to Amazon. But I can certainly remember a time when getting things generally that weren't in local stock took considerable effort and time.

I would be fine ordering from a local store and waiting but not if they are going to charge me full price as if they had to keep stock on the shelves.

Back in the day (round these parts anyway) books were always full price [1].

Nowadays, I'm not going to pay full price to wait for a week either, but there are alternatives to Amazon.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Book_Agreement

Sometimes they have something that I want but other stores that offer it are even shadier and then I use amazon because I know that even though they have crappy customer service, at least they have it. Ordered something twice this year from amazon.

It's a lot easier than not using Google anymore. But the one thing that's hard for me to buy without Amazon is best seller ebooks. There just aren't that many alternative ebook sellers apart from indy books.

I don't know if all shipping companies do this but my experience with Amazon in the UK is that they track and keep records of the whereabouts of their delivery vans.

Once I had an order "delivered" without trace and Amazon asked my to check with neighbours first as, according to their records, the van has stopped at my house. On another occasion I knew that the van never came despite order again listed as "delivered" and they refunded instantly.

(not expensive items, though)

Based on some personal experience with "lost" packages, and discussions with delivery drivers, this is also the case in the US. This makes it even more egregious when the carriers quibble because surely they know the package was stolen in transit.

A tiny corollary/anecdote: Every time the person who used to live here forgets and ships a book to my address, I call Amazon, they say “oh sorry”, and they instruct me to recycle/dispose of it and won’t accept a return of the still-unopened envelope. I’m not sure how this ties into LTV on the refunds side, but it feels like a sort of hidden incentive that’s not well known.

Strange I would assume that $5k to them is still nearly nothing. I've never ordered anything over $1k from Amazon and never had an issue with refunds due to issues but I guess they have a cutoff somewhere. I'll keep that in mind if I ever need to order something expensive like that.

I haven't had any issues with orders still in progress, but Amazon has replaced/allowed me to return a $1200 tv that was 6 months old after it randomly stopped working/broke after moving apartments. They sent someone out and picked it up--which I seriously doubt BestBuy or NewEgg would have been willing to do.

I had a similar issue to what you describe ordering a vintage item on Etsy and the tracking info provided was fake and delivered to a different address. That was a huge hassle to prove and get refunded for.

It took me months to get a fraudulent refurb phone refunded. I've also had several purchases where I didn't want to fight just slide. So I stopped using Amazon.

This is basically the reason that I've continued to purchase electronics in-store despite generally being (slightly) cheaper to buy on Amazon: when I buy it from Best Buy/REI/etc., I can pick the box with the factory seal, and if necessary even open it up in store (after paying for it) to confirm that said item is in the box.

How about bhphotovideo?

I’ve been buying from B&H for many years, and had a wrong item shipped to me once. They made an exchange without any big hassle. The only issue I have now is they’ve switched away from UPS as default shipping—-UPS ground NY to Boston is basically next day, FedEx Ground service is two days. I liked going to the store in NY when I lived there.

I have bought various electronics and camera accessories from B&H with no issues (related to B&H).

However, I buy all my new camera bodies and lenses direct from the manufacturer. I have found the price to be identical (or nearly so) to B&H, shipping to often be free and from time to time, without a local tax. If Nikon, Sigma, etc are selling as 'new' what are returns/refurbs then there is no hope in the system at all.

edit: grammar

We've had good experiences with them. They even have Educational pricing and PO acceptance. They are our number two behind cdwg.

I buy expensive electronics from B&H Photo Video, when possible.

In the 1980's, B&H was the queen of the "grey market". Now, I trust them to deliver authentic goods with legitimate warranties, and I'm profoundly suspicious of unnecessary transactions with Amazon.

That is why you buy things with a credit card. I would have disputed the charged right away. Did you try this?

Why not charge it back with your bank?

I apply the same policy myself after a similar incident. I ordered a bunch of hard drives, when delivering them to my porter, the (dedicated) amazon delivery guy got an error on his tracking machine and took the parcel back. But then it was marked as delivered, and amazon refused to bulge, despite me receiving multiple emails the days after that delivery attempt, notifying me that the parcel would be delivered the next day (which I interpret as someone scanning the parcel they claimed has been delivered at their warehouse). A few weeks later they finally agreed to reimburse me.

Between this experience and my lack of trust in their supply chain, I now never buy anything expensive on amazon.

I dislike buying from Amazon and I don't doubt you had a frustrating experience here.

That said, how would you have expected this to go? I assume everybody is in agreement that this wasn't going to be sorted out the next day. I think you might be overestimating how smoothly this would go when dealing with another company, although obviously there would be exceptions to that.

Honestly, I would expect it to be sorted quickly and by one person. If I’m paying thousands of dollars for a high end product, especially with a company I’ve (presumably) spent tens of thousands of dollars with, I expect to be taken care of when something goes wrong.

> My recommendation is to skip Amazon for anything expensive or at high risk of shipper theft/fraud.

Based on this, as you say, "rare" experience? That seems unwise when aiming for the best average outcome.

Also what would be a better alternative (provided you still want to shop and pay online)? I suspect that, while the rate of problematic experience might be slightly lower with smaller dealers, the average lost value for the customer is not (since there is no Amazon middleman that has any financial interest in keeping the customer around for future shopping, and hence their money is probably just lost when something goes wrong that the dealer is unable or unwilling to resolve)

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