Monday, December 07, 2009

THE FRUSTRATIONS OF SHOPPING

Bernard Malamud reading.

Hey, guys, if anyone would like to take a picture of some Christmas decoration at their house, I'l love to take a break from the readers and post it. A tree, a wreath, you in a Santa hat, cookies, candy, outside lights, anything. Just send it my way.


I would love to find the books I want at local bookstores. (We have no independent ones within twenty miles of here). But I go into my local big chain store and they never have the book I want. So I end up ordering it on Amazon. It's cheaper and easier and if the local brick and mortar store wants our business, they need to try harder. They have to carry more books and less cards, toys, coffee mugs, coffee.

I try to use online stores other than Amazon, too. Three experiences of late. My daughter tried to send my father a present-it never turned up. She tried to send my grandson a present from a toy company, twice it was delivered to the same wrong house in another suburb entirely. Both times, she filled out a form with the correct address. I sent a book to someone ill, from a bookstore other than Amazon, and despite my filling out an address in Maryland, they delivered it to me in Michigan.

Is it me or are you having the same problems and turning to Amazon in frustration. I ordered five items from them in the last week and all are already here. How come they do such a good job? Are there elves or slaves in their basement? I hate having to give them all my business. How do you avoid it? Who else does a good job?

36 comments:

Ian said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott Parker said...

I'm lucky enough to have an independent bookstore within biking distance and I'm merely 20 minutes from Murder by the Book. I stay with Amazon for the very reasons you mention: price and reliability. Plus, is there an "Amazon" that caters to independent bookstores?

Clair Dickson said...

^^ Looks like spam!

I've had good luck ordering things from Borders and picking them up in store. Usually it's quick shipping.

I have some quibbles with Amazon and try not to use them if I can. I've had great success doing my Christmas shopping (amongst other things) for several years now. I've never tried to ship TO someone else other than my own front door, though, which seems to be where you're tales have gone wrong.

Given the way so many stores in general seem to stock such a limited supply-- esp of seasonal items!-- it's so much easier to get things online, IMHO.

Clair Dickson said...

Sorry-- Ian looks like spam. Not Scott.

Naomi Johnson said...

Lucky you. My experience with amazon began like yours but after several problems (they sent a book by USPS, I never got it, but they said too bad, we sent it; they kept one order "in shipping" status for a month, meaning I could neither change it or cancel it - the gifts were late and when I complained about them doing that the only response was too bad, it's their policy; then there was the matter I read about with Kindle and the Orwell books - OY!) I figured I could learn a little patience and get my books elsewhere. Yes, I spend more on a single title and I have to wait longer but at least I don't get treated like something under amazon's fingernail.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Good idea, Clair. I'm going to try that. Although I get annoyed with my local Borders for carrying so few books.

Clair Dickson said...

Patti--
Try not to blame Borders too much. They're trying to appeal to the masses. You (and I) not readers in that sense.

They do it because that's what most people want and it's more cost effective that way. Though, I'm disappointed that when Borders moved in, our local bookstore shut down. They can't compete with the coffee shop/ wifi/ movie/ CD stuff-- they just did books.

Then again, I admit being biased since Borders is a Michigan co. =)

Todd Mason said...

The sad, slow collapse of Borders, which when I was working for them, was still notable in carrying a Much better selection than B&N. It might even be worse these days.

Scott, there is an indie Amazon analog of sorts, leaving aside the larger indies that go online at least as enthusiastically as B&N or Borders (such as Powell's): IndieBound, the heir to the ABA's BookSense: http://www.indiebound.org/

And, of course, there are those other booksellers that have gone all-online, such as Dangerous Visions. And, further Of Course, the secondhanders who work with ABE Books, Alibris, etc.

Amazon has managed to send me two sun-yellowed copies of the most recent Maxim Jakubowski's BEST BRITISH MYSTERIES in succession, and a rather foxed copy of the new Hartwell/Cramer BEST SF mm pb, but at least the replacement there looked better (I chose not to pursue the torn jacket on my Sturgeon Porject SLOW SCULPTURE volume). Not foolproof, to be sure (and my LOST BLOCH volume from an Amazon vender is getting toward the outer edge of their annuonced delivery window). But generally, they have been reasonably good to work with. B&N likewise has tried at least once to palm off the beat-up top of the warehouse stack item as a special order item.

Todd Mason said...

That Borders still maintains westerns and horror sections, as goofily and arbitrarily as they exclude thing from these, is also an improvement of sorts over B&N.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I still remember fondly when Borders was one amazing store in Ann Arbor. KMART buying it was the beginning of the end. Too much expansion in hard times.

Chad said...

I've never had a bit of trouble with Amazon (knock on wood). Everything has always arrived extremely fast and in excellent shape.

Randy Johnson said...

I've not had a lot of problems with Amazon. A couple of things arrived damaged and were swiftly replaced(or refunded in one case).
I've shipped to other addresses without problems.
I have ordered from other companies and had no problems either. Let me knock on wood also.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Is there anyone in stores anymore?

Todd Mason said...

Actually, Borders was expanding too fast for its own good, locked into the stupid competition with B&N (if one opened, the other did down the street) before the K-Mart purchase...but after K-Mart spun Borders/Waldenbooks off, they did manage to put the most inadept sorts in charge of the new B Inc.

I was in no less than two B&Ns and a Borders yesterday...buying my magazines in B&N, and picking up a coupon-driven video purchase at Borders.

Charles Gramlich said...

I don't order much online other than books but I've had pretty good luck. Barnes & Noble and Abe publishers have both delivered material to me with no errors.

George said...

As you know, I use DAEDALUS BOOKS a lot. I had one problem over five years: a bent cover on a Sherlock Holmes collection. They replaced it quickly and cheerfully. AMAZON becomes the default online retailer because they offer almost everything at low prices. I've never had any delivery problems with AMAZON and I order from them weekly.

Jerry House said...

I haven't had any problems ordering anything from Amazon or B&N. My wife, though, ordered a piece of furniture from Target online; the next morning she found virtually the same item in another store for several hundred dollars less. When I called to cancel the online order, it was less than 12 hours after the order was placed; I was told that, although Target was not scheduled to ship the item for over a week, it could not be cancelled because the paperwork had started. Frustrating.

My own major issues have been with magazine subscriptions. I would get only about half of the issues of my subscriptions to EQMM, AHMM, Asimov's and Analog. When I called customer service I was told they no longer had replacement copies in stock. Mystery Scene and Lovecraft's cashed the checks but never sent a copy. Other subscriptions were erratic. I don't do magazine subscriptions anymore.

pattinase (abbott) said...

And I hate it when a magazine sends you two old issues to begin your subscription. And begins immmediately to encourage renewing. Or misses an issue. Very frustrating yet we subscribe to a dozen or more mags. Or refuses to offer the kind of deal you can find online.

Todd Mason said...

The Post Office is often to blame in these cases...mis-delivery, or issues destroyed by sorting equipment (I've rec'd more than a dozen scraps of magazines in bags begging pardon for the destruction in the mail stream over the last few decades). The only two packages aimed my way I know to have been lost in the mails were boxes of fantasy magazines, one from F&SF in 1978, one from book-dealer and smallpress publisher Chris Drumm ca. 1990.

Todd Mason said...

I benefited from the misdelivery of a half-year's worth of PLAYBOY, meant for another TMason in my apartment complex...I thought someone had bought me a gift and failed to let me know (and since PLAYBOY puts the address on the wrapper, rather than directly on the magazine, the address label tended to be discarded immediately).

A package of EQMMs was presumably stolen by neighbors.

Steve Weddle said...

I use these folks

http://www.bookdepository.com/

for FREE SHIPPING and because they stock books I can't get here -- Al Guthrie, Ray Banks, Russel D McLean, and other folks over in the UK. Also started buying US and Canada authors there bc, hey, free shipping.

Richard Robinson said...

Well, let's see.

EXPERIENCE WITH AMAZON - I have been using Amazon since the earliest days, when they only sold books. That was back when they sent a thermos cup to the good customers (I have quite a few of them). I had two independents and two chain stores but still found things on Amazon no one else had. In 20 years I've had just one books in poor condition, cheerfully replaced. As other resources dried up, I turned to them more often. I receive purchases from them quickly or at least within the promised time frame which is usually faster than the 2-3 weeks B&N says it will take to order the same book. Also, no sales tax is a big plus, since it's 10% here. Amazon shipping is almost always less, and often free.

OTHER BOOKSTORES - There is a B&N nearby, and it's a very good place to shop for children's books, especially this time of year. Those are books I want to hold and thumb through before I buy, same with cook books, coffee table books (I buy very few, but sometimes they are gifts to others). The nearest Borders recently announced it is closing. I do like that I can pop in to B&N and pick up a calendar, birthday card, paperback etc. in one quick stop.

ALSO USED - I also buy some books directly from the publisher, usually small press outfits like Small Beer, Night Shade, Red Deer, Subterranean, Planet and so on.

THE POST OFFICE - I don't have any complaints. Packages come as expected, magazines, letters, bills, outgoing envelopes of whatever kind, it's all fine. There is a small annex nearby with short if any lines. My mail carrier and I are on a first name basis (same with the UPS driver on this route). If a package is too large for the box he put's it on the front porch, out of the weather. I take a half-dozen magazines and they arrive as expected, including the weekly issue of Time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Richard-a very thorough disussion.
Steve-thanks for the tip. I have one in mind right now.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Re: post office. I live on a street with three townhouses and nothing else. I almost always get notice of sales after they are over. EW, which arrived on Saturday in other places, comes anytime between Saturday and Wed. I have had to pay for a Netflix movie I never got. (Too easy to slip into someone's magazine. So I am not a great fan of the post office in Michigan.

R. T. said...

Patti, I confess to a love-hate relationship with Amazon (and all shopping adventures). With particular focus on Amazon, I am ashamed to admit that I admire their incredible inventory, (generally lower) prices (although shipping prices are inflated), and fast service; on the other hand, I hate their domination of the market, which contributes to so many small bookstore failures. I confess that also dabbled in book selling through Amazon, which was a complete fiasco; as "honest" brokers between sellers (including me) and buyers, Amazon cares little about the seller, especially when it comes to unsubstantiated quality-of-service complaints from buyers; in other words, the customer is always right (even if the so-called customer is involved in fraudulent business practices like those perpetrated on small sellers by some large mail-order book vendors posing as independent consumer "customers"). I advise everyone to avoid becoming a seller through Amazon. The bottom line is this: I rather wish Amazon would go out of business, but I know that I am a lonely voice on that subject.

Laurie said...

I am now experiencing the first problem I've ever had with Amazon: they promised me a delivery on Friday and here it is Monday and not delivered yet. I'm hoping it's not a trend.

pattinase (abbott) said...

RT-I basically share your view. I'd rather pay more and have the brick and mortar stores survive.

Kent Morgan said...

I haven't had any problems with amazon.com or amazon.ca and am just ready to place another order with amazon.ca. I prefer to support my local independent mystery store for mystery books,
but since a change in ownership, they have cut back on the number of books they bring in. That has forced me to look elsewhere including McNally Robinson, Canada's top independent chain and Chapters-Indigo, which I dislike. But it's difficult to ignore the price differnces with amazon.ca. I checked out a book titled Cult Magazines yesterday at McNally - $39.95 plus tax. It's around $25 at amazon.ca with free shipping. I'm saving about @12 by buying Bill Crider's newest Dan Rhodes mystery about barbershoppers from amazon.ca. It's in stock there and at least three weeks delivery from the other stores and I want it as a Christmas gift for my brother-in-law who sings in a quartet. No wonder some store are in trouble.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Kent-It's a real dilemma and not likely to resolve itself anytime soon. How can Amazon do it?

Todd Mason said...

Amazon has consistenly lost money till recently, buys in enoromous bulk compared even to the killer Bs, and pays rent only on their warehouses, as opposed to all that expensive retail space. They are, quite probably. pulling a Wal-Mart, in that if they do vanguish all their nationwide competition, they might well cease to discount (particularly as we move away from books on paper, and thus lose their advantages thus). And, of course, now Wal-Mart itself is slugging it out with them over bestsellers.

Richard Robinson said...

It might be a good idea to remember that we, the buyers, are as responsible for this as anyone.I search of no tax, lower priced with cheap or free shipping, we went to the internet stores for music, books, etc. When internet sales started hurting the brick/mortar stores, we complained about the local guys prices and service and kept shopping the internet. I used to love going to a local Tower Records to see the CDs, listen to cuts, look in the Penguin catalog. It went down because people bought on the net instead. The big B's drove Crown Books out (that and the internal feud) but they can't do that to Amazon. We traded price and convenience (such as wish lists, holding things in a basket, easy searches) for the physical experience, now we complain.

Todd Mason said...

The ineptitude of management killed Crown much more than the Killer Bs did...the Bs took their cue from Crown, after all, which was blamed before the Bs and Amazon for killing the indy bookstores, with the cheap bestsellers, etc.

Papa Haft/Smurf was the business shark of the family, and Baby Haft/Smurf was given Crown to show he should be allowed to be heir apparent in more than just hairstyle (a la Oral and Richard Roberts). Then came the family rift you refer to. Baby Smurf couldn't hold it together.

Todd Mason said...

Tower, too, squandered a lot of capital, literal and figurative, they could've hung onto, with particularly bad management, in their case, at the store level. But also chainwide. They conquered and the rot set in.

FWIW, in the '80s and '90s I'd worked two Tower Records and a Tower Books in three states, a B&N college store, a Crown, and a Borders. Most of the time, it was the second job. Welcome to the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush economy.

Todd Mason said...

I've also co-run the bookstore, of sorts, at the Brookings Institution. That paid the least. Selling books on-site at the ASPRS paid better, if it was only a small part of the job at that professional organization.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Someday I am going to find a topic beyond your area of knowledge. Maybe.

Todd Mason said...

I'm sure I will cheerfully admit my ignorance...I can admit my ignornance of videogames, soap operas, and professional sports (not utter, but quite vast), to name some things that many folks are passionate about.

wv: urliagst