Amazon.com not only misleads customers about its Amazon Prime shipping program but also lies about it—constantly.
The Amazon Prime program is supposed to provide subscribers with free, guaranteed two-day shipping on eligible items. But when Amazon can't deliver on its claims, it backs away from them faster than a crook jumps bail.
Here are some examples from the Amazon website and from chat transcripts with Amazon representatives that prove it.
Amazon Lie #1
When your Prime item is late, Amazon will say that two-day shipping really means that you'll receive your item two days after Amazon mails it, not two days after you order it. This is a lie.
Before you place your order, Amazon makes it clear that two-day shipping means you will receive your item two days after you order it.
Look at this screenshot of an Amazon order page for an in-stock, Prime-eligible item:
|Screenshot taken on Dec. 10, 2016|
The screenshot shows that Amazon guarantees that the customer will receive the order two days after the order is placed.
As long as the Prime-eligible item is in stock and doesn't have a statement about the item requiring extra time for fulfillment, then both the Amazon product page and the order placement page will guarantee that you will receive your order two days after you place it, not two days after Amazon mails it.
Amazon representatives will not acknowledge this fact.
Here is an excerpt from a real chat transcript with an Amazon rep:
07:24 AM PDT Gregory Adams:
07:25 AM PDT Payal:
That's not what millions of product pages on the Amazon website say.
It also wouldn't make any sense for that to be the policy. If two-day shipping meant what this Amazon rep says it does, then it would have no value. Who would care about two-day delivery if the item might be mailed at any time between now and eternity? Who would pay a subscription to receive two-day shipping on items that had no particular delivery date?
The amount of time that an item spends in the mail is practically irrelevant if the customer might have to wait weeks for Amazon to mail it.
Amazon Lie #2
If you buy a Prime item from a third-party seller that is "fulfilled by Amazon," and the shipment is late, then Amazon will claim that the item is late because these third-party items require "additional processing time." This is a lie.
"Fulfilled by Amazon" means that Amazon physically has the item in its warehouse and ships the item for the third-party seller. If the product page says that the item is in stock, then—from the customer's standpoint—items fulfilled by Amazon are no different from items sold by Amazon. Again, Amazon's own website proves that this is true:
|Screenshot taken on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016|
In the screenshot above, you can see that this item is sold by a third-party seller (vsource) and is fulfilled by Amazon. The item is in stock, and the message below the "Add to Cart" button clearly shows that two-day shipping means that the item will be delivered two days after the order is placed.
But after I placed the order, Amazon sent a confirmation email that said the item would arrive more than a week later. Again, I chatted with a customer service representative, who offered this excuse for the delay:
09:37 AM PDT Antonia:
09:38 AM PDT Gregory Adams:
09:39 AM PDT Antonia:
Again, millions of Amazon product and order pages say otherwise, but Amazon will tell this lie in order to weasel out of its "guarantee" when it fails to deliver.
What does Amazon think "guaranteed" means?
A guarantee is a "a formal assurance or promise, especially that certain conditions shall be fulfilled relating to a product, service, or transaction."
To entice you to place an order or to subscribe to Prime, Amazon guarantees that you'll get your item in two days. But when your item is late, Amazon tries to get out of the guarantee by claiming that, in reality, the "two-day" part refers to how long the item will be in the mail, not to when you will receive it, even though Amazon's website clearly says otherwise all over the place.
Is this not an example of classic bait-and-switch? In effect, Amazon sells you two-day delivery but then takes longer than that to deliver your item, claiming that the "guaranteed" two-day delivery is no longer available or is not applicable for some made-up reason that was not communicated to you when you placed your order.
Don't despair, though, fellow Prime members, because on Oct. 27, 2016, an Amazon representative promised me that Prime shipments will never be late again!
We've learned, though, that Amazon's promises don't mean much, and a month later, one of my Prime orders was late. Apparently, Amazon is as loose with the word "promise" as it is with "guarantee."
I recently chatted with an Amazon rep named "Kirin" when one of my Prime orders was going to be delivered four days late. I told Kirin about the previous rep's promise that "this will never happen again," and the rep replied:
Again, Amazon's customer service rep makes this weird promise that none of my packages will ever again be delayed.
The Amazon rep also said that the carrier will not be used for my future orders, but the carrier in this case is the United States Postal Service.
Is Amazon really going to stop using USPS for all my future orders? I'm not holding my breath.
It's a stupid promise anyway, because the same rep said earlier that the delay was a warehouse problem, not a carrier problem. But Amazon likes to pass the buck in these situations.
It's petty to complain that a Justin Bieber CD took three days to show up instead of two, but the point isn't that Prime items sometimes take too long to arrive—it's that Amazon routinely makes deceptive promises and guarantees and then doesn't honor them or stand behind them. Whether or not you truly need your Prime order within two days, it's obnoxious to be given bogus guarantees by a retailer. And it's hard to believe that it's legal.
If you're patient and have the time, you can chat with Amazon whenever your Prime shipment is late, and sometimes you'll get a discount or something. Amazon representatives usually offer remedies in this order:
- An apology
- An upgrade to one-day shipping, which is useless when the shipping date is unknown
- A one-month extension of your Prime membership
- A $5 or $10 gift card credit
- A $5 or $10 courtesy refund*
The honorable thing for Amazon to do would be to enact a policy in which customers automatically receive a discount or other compensation whenever a Prime item is late. I certainly don't expect perfection from Amazon—sometimes the weather interferes or human error occurs—but a policy like this would make good on Amazon's "guarantees" and prevent customers from feeling like they're being lied to.
*Something weird is going on with Amazon's courtesy refunds, because on the few occasions that I have received one, the confirmation email shows that the credit has been deducted from the account of a third-party seller from an unrelated order that I placed weeks or months earlier. Because of this, if I were an Amazon FBA [Fullfillment-by-Amazon] seller, I would wonder whether the "courtesy refunds" that are deducted from my account are from items I actually sold. As far as I know, FBA sellers have no way of checking this.