What I Expect from Online Retailers


Last week, I wrote about the joys of being on the bleeding edge with the new MacBook Pro. The disk issue is giving me fits. The problem is that in anticipation of putting a 160Mb disk in the machine (before I realized that fast 160Gb SATA drives are impossible to find), the machine was ordered with a 100Gb drive in the interest of being economical.

I can't work in 100Gb--at least I'd rather not. My laptop is my only machine and I want everything on it. So, at the moment, that requires a 120Gb drive at the minimum. No problem, I think--I'll just order a 120Gb drive. 120Gb, 5200RPM SATA drives are available (Seagate Momentus 5400.2), although almost everyone who's selling them has them back ordered. The process, however, has opened my eyes to why I love Amazon and while I will always order from them if they have what I want.

About 10 days ago, I ordered a drive from NowDirect and paid for next-day air shipment. A few days later, I hadn't received it, or an email that said it had shipped. They had no online way for me to check my order, so I called them up. The drive was in stock, but they needed to verify credit card before they could ship. Of course they hadn't bothered to tell me that--I guess they just wait for people to call in. And, yes, I even checked my spam box to make sure it hadn't gotten accidentally thrown out.

So, I give them the info they need, verify that the order will ship that day and hang up. A few days later, no email, no disk. I call again. Now the disk isn't in stock and it will be another 10 days before it ships. Argh!

I go back online and find another (maybe the only other) place that claims to have them in stock: PCNation. I place the order. At least they have an online account system. Two days later, however, it still reporting that my order is "to be shipped." I called them this morning and was promised that it will ship today.

The fact is that Amazon has set the bar very high and most online retailers struggle to reach it. What does Amazon do that others often don't? Here's a partial list:

  • Confirmation emails are clear and contain links to tracking pages where you can get more information about your order.
  • Orders almost always ship the day the order is placed and when they're not, Amazon notifies you promptly.
  • Orders that are delayed beyond the promised date also result in notifications.

These are just a few things that I've come to expect from online retailers. The interesting thing is that they're not really very hard to do either.