Never thought I’d be thinking of canceling my Amazon.com account.
But this year every move they make pushes me farther away.
- Collecting sales tax for the state of Massachusetts, even though Amazon does not have warehouse or distribution offices here.
- Can’t trust their product review pages anymore.
- My evaluation of their seller ratings is that Amazon is pumping up the ratings by suppressing negative ratings.
- Prime membership is less of a good deal and soon will become a very bad deal.
As of November 2013, Amazon started collecting sales tax on all direct purchases from them. Only their marketplace sellers for certain states continue to not charge sales tax. Which was great timing for Amazon, just before Christmas. The first Christmas in seventeen years that I bought nothing from Amazon during the Christmas season. Which is ironic since back in 1997 the first purchases I made from Amazon were for Christmas. My wife’s Hawaii family got all their gifts from us via Amazon. That was the first year we got them their Christmas gifts on time, thanks to Amazon which shipped direct and even wrapped them with holiday paper and included a card. Magic! But I’ve always tired to do my mail order business with businesses in states that don’t have sales tax. I prefer to reward those states with my business. It’s not always the extra amount I have to pay, it’s the principle. (I posted on this before.)
One of the great features of buying items online from Amazon was the product review pages, written by other people who had purchased from Amazon. Those reviews cut through the Feldercarb of product hipe and provide information about the product (most importantly from buyers who have had the product for a while.) Today there are a raft of new problems with the product review pages, mostly with the reviews related to TV shows or movies and to a lesser extent, books. First let me state that in my opinion all aspects of buying online from Amazon should be grist to be ground up and commented on by Amazon members. The product or performance, the shipper, the packaging, the return policy or even interesting information about the manufacturer. For instance, after rebuilding and furnishing the house after a fire, I vowed to never again buy anything made in China. After spending thousands and thousands of dollars for name-brand crap that didn’t last, I have a serious interest in avoiding anything tainted by connection to China. So in the comments feature of product reviews I ask if anyone can enlighten me as to the country of origin. But if I buy a product and that product proves to of Chinese origin even when the product description seems to promise it isn’t, then I write a critical review with a lowered rating. Example: A floorlamp whose (manufacturers) description boasted of the brand new manufacturing plant in SC, chock-full of happy America workers. The lamp, when it arrived, was stamped “Made in China” and broken. For that review I got a snippy email from Amazon that country of origin shouldn’t be the basis for a product rating, especially since I sent it back for a full refund. Also, my comment was voted down as “unhelpful”. Something I have usually noticed when asking about or declaring Chinese origin.
Now, voting a review down as “unhelpful” has been around for a while, but now Amazon ties that into the members standing as a reviewer. I’ve never cared much about my relative reviewer rating, in fact I never look it up. But I can see that it is effecting the honesty of the review process with members either tailoring their reviews to go with the flow or to keep their Reviewer Rating up. In the case of DVD’s of movies or TV shows (the worst) , the ratings are totally skewed by rabid fans, especially if the show is a progressive darling (i.e. The Wire). (by the way, the fans of that show hate me)
Now, vendor feedback (with one to five star ratings). If you are giving the Marketplace vendor a five or four star rating, well and good, your feedback is accepted. But if you are awarding only one or two stars, then you literally cannot leave that review until you go through the process of contacting the vendor through Amazon and receiving a reply. Until then your feedback will not be accepted. How many negative feedback rating have been blocked by the simple expedient of not replying to the customers complaint? Now, this has been a lousy month to be ordering from Amazon’s Marketplace vendors. This week I’ve had two items that should not be exposed to moisture delivered that were not packaged for the weather in the northeast, a box of dishwashing powder and an illustrated book. Cardboard is not adequate protection but that’s how the Post Office and FedEx left the packages, in the rain and sitting on the snow. Only the pure chance, in both cases, of my arriving home just after the delivery saved the items. The vendor with the detergent I emailed (through Amazon) and he simply blamed FedEx. Since I rescued the book in time and wasn’t going for a return I didn’t see any reason to contact the vendor, but I could not enter a rating without doing so. For this reason I feel that the vendor ratings on Amazon are falsely elevated.
By the way, the one shipper that always delivers to the (covered) porch, UPS. On Tuesday they walked up the snow and ice covered driveway to deliver “Game of Thrones_DVD set”. Which is (of course) mostly immune to the weather.
Prime Membership is a extra level of service and features available annually for a extra charge ($79). Prime shipping is only free if the item is shipped from Amazon, not the Amazon marketplace vendors. Since I haven’t been buying from Amazon Direct more than one item every two or three months since Amazon changed it’s policy on sales tax so the free two day shipping is now worthless to me and the free eBook each month benefit has already proven useless to me since I’ve found almost nothing of interest in their selection of available titles. Then the free streaming video remains as the sole valuable benefit of Prime Membership. But there, the last six months has seen very little new programming added and what was of interest has now been watched. Now word is that Amazon is going to announce a price increase of 25% to 50% for Prime Membership. And that’s a lousy deal.
P.S. It’s become more difficult to talk to Amazon now. The contact page only wants to steer you to shipping, or returns, or the damn shopping cart. Amazon, it seems, is no longer interested in what their customers have to say.