As systems become more complex, flaws tend to appear. A few weeks ago, the lining began to peel in our microwave oven, exposing a worrisome expanse of metal. It was old and we clearly needed a new one, so we ordered one from Amazon, a usually straightforward action. We promptly received an acknowledgement, saying it would arrive in two weeks, which seemed a surprisingly long time. In a week or so we received a message from “Tempus & Co. – Amazon Marketplace”, telling us that our oven had been packed and shipped, and it arrived soon after, and we walked out of our door one morning to find a large box with our new oven. But strangely, although it was brand new and made by a different manufacturer than our old one, the lining was also peeling off of it.
The shipping/billing receipt in the plastic envelope on the side of the box showed that it came from Home Depot, with no mention of either Amazon or Tempus & Co., so we called the local Home Depot store customer service people to find out what to do. They were not sure but told us to bring it into the store and they would refund our money. But we had paid Amazon, and there was no shipping order for them to get back to either Amazon, or Tempus & Co., nor any of the usual Amazon return literature. So they started phoning, and could not find any way to connect the faulty oven we had brought them, with the Amazon payment. Finally, after an hour or more (seemed like three) of phoning (difficult if you have ever have tried to phone Amazon) and the participation of the store manager, they made some kind of connection, found the original shipping number and figured out how to refund our money. Apparently the oven had been purchased from another Home Depot store (not specified on the paper work), they guessed by Tempus & Co.,who when I checked on the internet, looked like a toy store, so none of us were sure what “Amazon Marketplace” meant. I think we all ended up confused, and my wife and I had no fun at all cooling our heels in the Home Depot store and not knowing how and whether we were going to get a refund on a damaged piece of merchandise.
We had returned items to Amazon before, and had no trouble. But I got the distinct feeling from this interaction and some of the comments made by the Home Depot store people that Amazon's operation has become so large and complicated that it is perhaps picking up more problems associated with size and complexity.
As an interesting similar experience, our washing machine failed at about the same time, so we bought a replacement at Best Buy, a store at which we had always had good experiences. The one we bought was discounted, since it was not in the box and had a couple small dents in the side, but otherwise appeared brand new. Best Buy contracts out the delivery of their large appliances, and not only does one have to wait several days for this to happen, but the delivery people have the policy of calling the evening before the delivery and giving a four hour window when they will appear the next day, and someone over 18 years of age must be at the delivery point to receive the merchandise — kind of inconvenient for a younger working couple. But we are retired, so were there to meet the delivery, but the back of the washer had been brutally smashed in. The truckers explained that this happens occasionally in the warehouse, and that if they were us, they would not accept the washer. Not a hard decision for us to make.
So back we went to the store and bought a new one, went through the ritual again, and are happy with our new washer. But we spent a great amount of time waiting for the delivery day, the truck to appear (twice) and driving to the store and back (tough to buy and exchange washing machines over the phone or from the information on the internet). The people in the Big Buy store apologized for delivering the smashed-up one, and not only returned our money but gave us a discount on the new one, so we still like them, but it seemed to me that they should have a bit closer control on their warehouse and delivery schedule. Are large chains, now that they are selling over the internet as well as from stores, suffering from operating with too few humans, forgetting that humans and computer systems are fallible, and tending to lose a bit of control over contracted and non-computer aspects of their business such as warehousing and delivery? Not surprising if it is happening. The more parts there are to fail, the more likely there will be failures.