Here’s what Amazon sell as “new” these days

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Remember how I was so thrilled about that new Blue Yeti microphone in my previous post, and how this thing sold out so quickly? Well it arrived… and I’m less than pleased with the service I’ve received from online giant Amazon.

What they’ve sent me as the correct item, but it was not a new item. It showed heavy signs of usage. Let me show you some pictures below, anon about that hilarious chat I had with their customer services agent.

Grab a coffee and read a funny story of how Amazon may have lost their edge in Customer Satisfaction.

The Visuals

Sometimes pictures say more than 1000 words – and what I saw when I opened the box was quite a surprise to me. See for yourself:

Both box and microphone show heavy signs of usage. First there’s that decorator’s “masking tape” that held the box together with an amateurish attempt, possibly applied by the customer who returned this thing. Then there’s that huge Prime sticker on top of it, probably to cover it up, likely applied by someone in the Amazon packing department.

The cable is loosely thrown in the box, and the scratches on the side and bottom of the Blue Yeti speak for itself: someone ordered this thing, used it for a gig or recording session, and sent it back to Amazon. NO love or care has been taking to handle this product, by literally nobody except for me. How sad is that!

Hey, it happens. Perhaps it wasn’t working well. I don’t have an issue with it right now, but can I be sure this thing isn’t going to develop a fault next week? I don’t want to take that risk. Besides, it’s not what I’ve ordered. I don’t even have a problem with someone returning a product to Amazon, quite the opposite.

What I do have a problem with is that Amazon sells a product like that as new. That’s the issue. How can this have slipped through the cracks? I’ve often wondered what happens to returned products, only to find that they’re usually auctioned off on “mystery crates” for a fraction of their value. This costs Amazon a fortune in lost inventory, while some entrepreneurs have taken to making very popular videos about this procedure. We live in a very strange world!

Anyway, I’ve taken my evidentiary photos and thought it’s best to get in touch with a Customer Services Representative.

The Chat

Returning an item is usually as easy as clicking a button. There was a time when you had to print a return label and affix it to the package, but these days that’s not necessary anymore: you get a QR code that can be scanned, either at the UPS Drop Off Point or at Wholefoods. All you need to bring is the item in some sort of packaging. It even makes the packing slip with that once important Return Authorisation Number irrelevant.

Why am I not surprised incidents like these are happening?

This being a special case and all, I thought I’d best tell Amazon about what happened, so they have a chance to make sure it doesn’t happen to someone else. I initiate a chat and am connected with my man Michael and tell him about my woes. I thought it would be nice touch to ZIP all the images and upload them to Dropbox or Google Drive, so they can have a look at them. The chat doesn’t have an image upload option, but I can send the link I had carefully prepared.

“Sadly”, says Michael, “we can’t open external links – but please forward the images to the following address schlonz@whatever.com [changed from its original]”. Nice, I thought, now here’s a guy who’s really on the ball! Amazon really care about my experience, and they want to make absolutely sure this doesn’t happen again. I enquire as to what I should put in the Email Subject, as I’d like to make sure it is associated with this very important case. “You can add anything you like in the subject line” says Michael.

This… makes me ever so slightly suspicious. Nevertheless, I duly do as I’m told, while simultaneously explaining that I’d be happy with a partial refund, given that the microphone actually seems to work. For 50% off, I’m happy to take the risk.

“Yeah you see”, explains Michael, “we can only really offer a replacement, or a full refund in this case”. That’s rather sad isn’t it? So here’s your chance to flog this half dead horse to a punter like me, but you’d rather make a loss and incinerate this product, or give it away for less than $1 as part of a “mystery crate”. Sure. Whatever. I guess if the company is run by a multi-billionaire, you stop caring about what made the business so successful. Now it’s all about wasting money, because we’re beyond the point where budget actually matters. Fine by me.

I’d love to have a replacement, but the issue is that neither of the 14 colour choices is available on Amazon anymore. Unless Michael has information I don’t have? “Oh no, they’re all in stock – pick any colour you like”, says Michael, and sends me a link. I’m feeling very excited for a second, until I go and check that secret link, which all but sends me to the very page I’ve already looked at.

I guess what Michael didn’t quite see during the 0.1 seconds he’s checked the listing is that all these products are USED, and NONE of them are actually sold by Amazon. If I wanted the eBay experience, I’ll go to eBay. Besides, a USED product is the one I DIDN’T want to buy. I take a moment to double-check every option before I tell him the disappointing news, feeling somehow that I’ve just done his job for him. This chat experience is beginning to become equally disappointing as the used-as-new product that began this whole story.

Michael makes one more suggestion that I applaud him for: “You could spend a little more and buy this item in a bundle with a few extras” he suggests and sends me the link. That’s good thinking there, Batman! But I don’t need a mic stand, pop filter and foam cap right now, nor do I need a trial license of a software I’ll never use, not for 60% more than what I was prepared to spend on this microphone. But thanks for offering. We settle for a full refund and Michael begins proceedings for that mysterious QR code.

Meanwhile, I receive an email from Amazon. I assumed it was the QR code, so I checked it immediately. Turns out it’s NOT the QR code. It’s a message explaining that my earlier email with the attached pictures was sent and received my Amazon, but this email address is not monitored, and nobody would ever see what I’ve just sent, and could I please refrain from sending random stuff that nobody will ever read.

Feeling very strongly that this is perhaps more of a lost cause than I had assumed earlier, I respectfully decline Michael’s most genuine offer of doing anything else for me today, and I accept his heartfelt and humble apology. Disappointed, amused and genuinely concerned about Amazon’s once very strong customer service satisfaction, I decide to source the microphone elsewhere.

The Aftermath

I guess it happens to the best companies after 20 years: they go down the pan for reasons that are greed driven and rather sad. As Steve Jobs said, the moment marketing people start running the company, it’s game over. It happened to Apple – twice, and it’s beginning to happen to Amazon too.

Had this been the first time something went wrong, I wouldn’t have bothered taking an hour to write all this down. I would have moved on and forgot all about it. But this incident is one in a series of bad experiences I’ve made with Amazon. I’ve been using them since 2004, and rely on them for most of my online shopping. I’ve been a happy camper for most of that time, and they’re beginning to disappoint me more and more.

The amount of time it costs me to explain what went wrong with a delivery, usually to be pounced off with a $5 credit or a replacement kind of makes it right – but the point is it shouldn’t happen on every other delivery. Things should work well 90% of the time, at least that’s how things used to work.

But I guess those days are over. And that’s a shame. Perhaps it’s time to find another regular supplier. It makes me wonder if it was all part of Jeff’s long term plan: start slow, gain their trust, build a monopoly, then start screwing people over big time – at which point I’ll be a billionaire many times over and to hell with those whiny bastards we call customers.

Fun Fact

Before he had a name for Amazon, Bezos considered calling it Relentless. The domain relentless.com still points to Amazon’s home page. Funny how that relentless spirit still holds true today.

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