James Crisp

Software dev, tech, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit

Experience of an International Amazon Virgin

Recently I ordered 12 books from Amazon. It was my first time.

The process started really well – quite easy and pleasant to find the books I was after. Not to mention that amazing range and the great option of getting cheaper second hand books. Adding to the shopping cart was also a breeze.

I was pretty impressed, good prices, nice process. But then the honeymoon was over. Time to check out – stream of consciousness. First, I need to enter address details. Fine, as expected. Then I get a message (from memory) “There is a slight problem with your order. Some of the books you have chosen cannot be shipped to your address. Change your delivery address or change the quantity to 0 on these books.”. Not happy! One third of my books (second hand ones) cannot be sent. That means I need to cancel the check out process, remove 4 books from my cart and then try and find the same books from other more expensive suppliers which can be shipped international. So I try again, adding the same book from multiple suppliers to my cart, in the hope of finding one which can deliver to Australia. Then it’s back to the checkout process again.. Problem – I missed one book and have to cancel the process and go back to basket process again. Great, all books are OK, finally time to complete the order. So I get to review my order, and it says at the top something like “With an Amazon credit card, this order would be $324 rather than $368”. No other total including postage is provided. So is my order $368? Maybe? Further screens finally confirm that this is the case. Nowhere is it possible to see how much postage is per book – you have to work it out yourself doing best guesses and following the Amazon formula. Maybe it would have been better to get a new book rather than a second hand book, as second hand books have twice the postage charge.. ah well, too late now, I’m not going to go through the whole process yet another time! So finally I can check out and my credit card is charged. However, since my credit card is hit by a multitude of different vendors that use Amazon as a front, within seconds of each other, some transactions are rejected as my credit card does not allow too many transactions in too short a time (some sort of security feature?). Finally, after getting a few emails from Amazon saying the card could not be charged, and then telling Amazon to retry, my order is at last paid for and on the way.

Okay, so what could be done to make this better?

  1. Allow buyers to filter their results so they only see books that can be delivered to their addresses.
  2. Do not use patronising messages like “there is a slight problem”.
  3. Do not suggest that people change their delivery address to another country.. that is clearly not going to happen!
  4. Show the cost of postage all throughout the process. Book buyers know they are going to have to pay postage and want to optimise their orders taking it into account.
  5. Do not show the order total including postage for the first time as a confusing advertisement (“With an Amazon credit card, this order would be $324 rather than $368”). Instead, provide a simple breakdown in a table, including postage on each book.
  6. Hit the credit card once per order, and divvy up the money at Amazon internally, rather than allowing each book vendor to do it and having credit card rejections as a result.

UPDATE: My books arrived about two weeks after I ordered them. Delivery was smooth and on time. Unfortunately, one of the CDs that came with a book was broken. Amazon has kindly agreed to replace it and the book.



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  1. James B

    Woah, you got a Knuth! That’s exciting 🙂

  2. crispmorning

    never tried credit card before.i read books online, sometimes directly print them onto paper, then indulge in reading them after work.
    good luck!

  3. Heya James,

    Does that mean you have a cheap second hand book? 🙂


  4. Totally 🙂 I read that the Knuth had not been significantly revised for a long time, so it didn’t seem worth getting a new one.

  5. Noshi Asif

    I’m in the middle of the same nonsense right now! The only thing that makes me NOT lose hope is that I managed it once last month with a DVD order.
    But now everything’s haywire. One day the same book CAN be sent and the next day…….NOT. The problem is the whole process is de-humanized. Even sending an email via the help section sends you in circles. It’s the same with banks. NO personalised service online or via email…….I had to phone in my updated address from abroad on a bad line, hoping they got it down right ….simply because there is no email route for that. Made me feel VERY insecure.
    Back to Amazon…..If they want to cut down on customers they should SAY SO!!!
    [btw why is a secondhand book’s postage more???]

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