Unhappy Valentine's Day

By John Viega
February 16, 2009

On Valentine's Day, I found myself 500 miles away from my two daughters (10 and 7). I'd already decided to get them a gift certificate from Amazon, with an e-greeting. Amazon has so much stuff, both kids could easily get what they wanted, and I've been used to a great shopping experience myself, as I've been a loyal customer since their early days.

Amazon had some really cute videos, where you can add a picture. I watched the cute video and browsed for about an hour, then at 9:45, uploaded a family picture, and paid for the e-card.

A minute of churning, and I got to see the video my kids would see. All that was left was to wait for the email delivery. I gave my own email address, because Amazon wouldn't let me send one gift certificate to two people (that makes sense, since there's just one redemption code).

And then I waited.

And waited.

An hour later, I hadn't even gotten a confirmation email. I was still logged in and could see the web-based confirmation, and noticed it said in the small print that, "cards may take up to 12 hours to deliver." I then logged in to check the status to see if there was an estimated time, and it said definitively that cards are delivered 12 hours after purchase.

WTF. Thanks for telling me that after I spent the money. Or, if they did tell me, it was in the small print. You'd think Amazon wouldn't be pimping me a valentine's day card that wasn't going to be delivered until 9:45 at night (yes, it was 12 hours on the nose... way past my kids' bed time).

I can't figure out why there is an insane 12 hour delay. Or why I never even got a confirmation email (I could only confirm that everything was in order by going to the web site). They'd clearly made my "custom" video on the spot. They'd taken the money. All that was left to do was generate a coupon code (which they definitely can automate) and send out a link.

It's sad when technology companies doing on-line delivery don't actually deliver immediately. There's no point to it, it just pisses off customers. For example, last week a good friend of mine was complaining about a similar problem with a software vendor, and it made me not want to buy their software (I'd been thinking about it, but I'm going to go look at competitors).

In Amazon's case, I am suddenly a lot less loyal, just because they forced me to give my kids their gift the day after. At the very least, I don't think I'm ever going to use them for gift certificates again (even though I know I can send them out the day before).

Now that I've had this experience, I've heard other complaints about their gift certificates. For example, one corporate customer who bought codes to give to customers, where Amazon told them they'd work all around the world. But they didn't all work, and Amazon wasn't willing to even refund the unused codes.

To Amazon and everyone else delivering goods online, if you are somehow unable to master computers enough to let me download my bits when I pay for them (shame on you), then at least give me warning BEFORE I give you my money, or you will make me think twice before ever giving you my money again.

Time to look into Barnes + Noble online.

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Follow me on Twitter: @viega


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