Can They Make Your Life any Easier?

How Amazon constantly garners respect and loyalty … or does it?
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Posted February 12, 2020

For the record: I’m not a fan. Not even remotely. I’m rooting for Walmart. But my Amazon experience today was so effortless, so quick and easy, and so on-my-own-terms, it leaves me baffled why I keep shopping brick-and-mortar. I cringe even as I write this heresy. I do recover nicely at the end of this blog – hold tight and keep reading!

You’re probably wondering what could possibly have been so momentous as to convert the likes of me. Well, it all started with an error I made while ordering a book – I ordered two by mistake. I didn’t catch the error until I opened my package yesterday and saw two copies of the same book in the box. Panic crept in at the sight: I had to return something. I hate online shopping because I hate (dread actually) the hassle and associated expense of the return. Up to this point, I had avoided having to return anything to Amazon, the faceless, formless provider of everything. Much to my delight, it turns out that Amazon has solved virtually all issues related to returning things, save one (I’ll get to that).

I went into the “My Orders” section in my account, and there I found a simple three-point pathway to returns with the click of button in my order history. Starting with how to have my refund processed (including the option of account credit so as to not lose valuable reward points), I discovered in step two that Amazon also offers physical return locations at Whole Foods - no longer a faceless and formless provider! Step three gives me a QSR code to print and present at Whole Foods with the item I’m returning. No box, wrapping, or label required. And I have a month to get there to return it.

The only thing that caused me to frown that day, because Amazon had taught me to expect more, was that the period to return items with this kind of ease expires about 45 days from purchase. While a reasonable enough restriction, I found myself highly disappointed that I missed the window by five days for returning the book my daughter gave me for Christmas – a book that I already had. It’s a great book by the way, and she did a great job finding it for me as the perfect gift, which was precisely why I bought it for myself a few years ago. But anyway, back to the story at hand: We hadn’t pursued the return right away because she had discarded the packaging, and we weren’t aware of the local drop off option. We had no idea the process was so simple.

After my blissfully easy transaction, I called my daughter at school (Louisiana State University – Geaux Tigers!) to have her go into her account and initiate the return of the gifted item, thinking I could drop off both books at the same time. The return option button was not there in her order history. The return window expired on January 30th. I was crestfallen. Here is where some other retailers such as Bloomingdales, IKEA and fellow online retailer Zappos have Amazon beat with a 365-day return policy. (To give credit where credit is due, Kohl’s has a 16-month return policy!)

The next day I received notice from UPS that the orange extra-long shoelaces I had ordered for my limited edition “Year of the Horse” Nike Hi-Dunk sneakers was undeliverable. Not sure why that would be when the other two of the total three shipments made it to my door. Today I received notice of the refund because it was deemed “undeliverable”. Again, crestfallen. And baffled: why could the same retailer manage to deliver some packages but not all? The inconsistency is frustrating.

My internal battle continues to wage on in the love-hate relationship I hold with Amazon, and all things online for that matter. When they’re great, they totally rock. When they disappoint … well, they totally do not rock. I hold them at a higher level of expectation, because they take me there. So when they fail to fulfill my wants, it’s betrayal.

It’s truly a relationship with them as provider, not as a purveyor, not as a brand, but as a supply source. It’s strange that a supplier can garner such a strong relationship with its customer base – or is it? Pardon the analogy, but I suspect drug dealers have similar relationships with their customers, except that the drug being dealt here is convenience.

Coincidentally, I had a conversation with a local artist recently who operates her artistic practice as a zero-waste studio, and she dumpster-dives regularly for objects and materials to repurpose as a part of her art. She even makes her own clothes to rebel against fast fashion and its impact on the environment. But she openly admitted her addiction to Amazon, because of the convenience and value it brings to her life. She fully acknowledged the contradiction between the philosophy behind her artistic practice and her consumption practices, recognizing the environmental issues related to the increased transportation and packaging associated with her choices. We are human, after all.

We all face this conundrum in some manner. I guess my struggle is at what point will convenience kill the planet?

Kathleen Jordan, AIA, CID, LEED AP, is a principal in Gensler’s Charlotte, N.C., office, and a leader of its retail practice with over 24 years of experience across the United States and internationally. Jordan has led a broad range of retail design projects as both an outside consultant and as an in-house designer. She has led projects from merchandising and design development all the way through construction documentation and administration, and many of her projects have earned national and international design awards. Contact her at kathleen_jordan@gensler.com.

 

Can They Make Your Life any Easier? | VMSD

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