Getting the most from Online Shopping

This is a story of unrequited postage.

But first a little bit of background, for those unfamiliar with the UK postal system. Post codes here are rather complex, and go down to street level. Unlike in South Africa, where a single code can cover an entire town, the combination of street number (or house name) and post code is unique. So, when I buy something online, and provide my post code and house number, I can have complete confidence that the delivery man should know where I live. It shouldn’t matter that the street I live on is probably one of the more complex in the country, and looks like this (at least according to Google Maps, which in this case bears little or no relation to reality):

Rumbush Lane, according to Google Maps

I put that in there so you have a little bit (but just an inkling, mind you) of sympathy with the courier companies. But bear in mind that Royal Mail can find me without any problems. And if that inefficient dinosaur can do it, anyone can. So, back to the storyline.

I decided to replace our old analogue TV with a digital one to take advantage of the free channels, HD, Internet TV and all that. And with the post-Christmas sales on the go, it seemed like the ideal time. On to Amazon.co.uk, and the transaction was done on the 3rd of Jan. Estimated delivery day: 5th Jan. I figured that in the post-Christmas rush, that would be optimistic, but it would get here by the weekend.

Except that I didn’t figure on the absolutely ineffable incompetence of City Link, Amazon’s chosen delivery company.

The first time they tried to deliver it, apparently there was something missing from the address information. Fair enough – maybe Amazon didn’t pass it on correctly (although, all they needed to pass on was the number & the post code, which they certainly had correctly). So I phoned up and made sure they had everything, and arranged a delivery on Saturday the 8th, when I would be at home all day. Time slowly passed, and no doorbell rang. Well, mine didn’t – but someone else’s did, because City Link claimed that they’d tried to deliver, and I wasn’t there. They’d also claimed that they put a card through the door to arrange an alternative time. Which was the first clue, because it didn’t come through my door.

But the real clue was when I phoned to complain, and the lady ‘proved’ that they had the right house by pulling up the photograph of my front door that the driver took. “It’s a white door”. Er, no, dearie – my door is red.

Take two – they tried again on Monday.

Take three – they tried again on Tuesday.

Wednesday I was in London on business, and couldn’t be bothered to phone them up and rearrange things.

So on Thursday, I got hold of them, and opened up the conversation with a sarcasm-laden “I wish to register a complaint!” to which the response was a deadpan, expressionless “Ok. What’s your reference number?” I gave up on the theatrics (but did my best to come across as somewhat peeved), and arranged that instead of my home, they should deliver it to the office. Which is a large building in the middle of almost nowhere, the only property in it’s post code, and I figured that even a completely directionless idiot could find it. I intimated that it should be delivered the following day, and the deadpanner seemed to respond in kind.

Except that it didn’t arrive. So I phoned again, speaking to a rather dim-witted James, and arranged for Monday, somewhat more explicitly this time.

On Monday, I phoned again, spoke to the bright and bubbly Louise, and arranged for Tuesday. This time I tried a charm offensive, which bore lots of dividends on the phone, but absolutely none for my doorbell.

On Tuesday, I phoned again, spoke to James again, and he promised to find out what was going on, and phone back. Thanks James, for not calling back, and saving me the trouble of speaking to you again.

So late on Tuesday, I phoned again, and got hold of Joe. Who went the extra mile, and repeatedly phoned the depot, only to find out that there didn’t appear to be any TV-shaped box in there. None at all. Not a one.

So – either one of the many drivers who got lost in Dickens Heath nicked it. Or someone in the depot nicked it. Or one of the houses they delivered it to said “Ah yes, thanks! I’m Nick!” and nicked it.

Either way, I cancelled at that point, and got a refund. Which Amazon were very good about, only stopping to ask politely that if it ever did get delivered, would I be so kind as to return it. I then went down to Comet, and purchased the same model for £9 more, and brought it home within 30 minutes. So there’s the start of the demise of online shopping in my eyes – when it takes almost three weeks to not buy something, then I have better things to do with my time than save it.

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