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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Here is the first new entry under the “Silly Practices” umbrella.

The other day I bought a television from Amazon.com. I buy everything from them and am a big fan. The TV was about 40% off the retail price and was $200 less than anywhere else. I thought was I was getting a good deal (and I was). Amazon.com has a price guarantee on the televisions they sell. If the customer finds the same TV being sold for less elsewhere or on Amazon.com within 15 days, they will credit the difference. I could also, for any reason, return a TV within 30 days and they pay for shipping both ways.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving (4 days after I bought the TV), I saw that Amazon.com has dropped their price by $150. Cool. I wrote customer service asking for my account to be credited. Instead of them agreeing to do so, They told me that Black Friday and similar discounts did not count and they would not credit my account.

My television had not yet arrived at my condo (but it was shipped to a 3rd party who would ultimately deliver it to me). So I decided I would buy a new one at the low price and see if I could cancel the first order. I was unable to do this through the Internet, so I called.  They were extremely responsive.  I asked if they could either cancel the first order or, better yet, cancel the second order and credit my account for the difference.

Again, they would not give me a credit. Even though the first TV had shipped to the local courier who was gong to deliver it to my house, they decided to intercept it and have it sent back without my ever taking delivery. They shipped the second order later that day.

From a customer point of view, other than having to call them, they end result was what I wanted.  I got the TV delivered on the same day as I wanted for the $150 less.

But the silly thing here is that Amazon.com paid for a 50 inch TV to be shipped to a courier, and then returned. And then they had to pay for my new TV to be shipped. Had they simply credited my account, they would have saved quite a bite of money and energy dealing with the return.

Knowing Amazon.com, there might be a good reason for doing this. But from my perspective, it just seems silly.

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