on amazon.

This photo was taken last month, during a sunny Saturday spent hiking in the fields. Around 100 cows and sheep, accompanied by their shepherd, paused to nibble on the leaves from nearby shrubs, the jingle-jangle of their cowbells creating a melodic dissonance.

Jingle Bells.

The sun still shines, often and intensely. At night, the city lights up like a circus, post-work crowds dashing about in pursuit of holiday gifts or a Yuletide feeling.

What do you think about Amazon? Do you have strong feelings for or against it? I did some of my Christmas shopping on there. While waiting for the package to arrive, I began seeing some front-page articles advocating shopping elsewhere. This year, I completed orders for three items on Amazon: a lovely book on creativity, some shoelaces, and aforementioned gift. Had the shopkeeper given me a precise restock date for the latter, I would have bought it in the physical, nearby store where I had first seen it. I also placed three orders on Amazon in 2017, and two in 2016.

From this scant record, I think I am not a prime Amazon user, and that subscription to Prime would be lost on me. Although a writer of one of the articles started off with two or three Amazon orders a year, he noted that he had made 119 orders so far in 2018, his third year as a Prime user.

Here are some of the benefits of Amazon that I see. Amazon is a good one-stop aggregator of products, backed by a strong search engine. More often than not, you will find what you’re looking for on there, with the range of styles and prices presented to you in a no-frills, one-page format. For those who like Netflix and movies on demand, Amazon is now a strong player in that sphere, too. With Prime, shipping is cheaper, or free. As an aside, last year, when I introduced free global shipping to our own operations, it was in keeping with the New Way Amazon has introduced to e-commerce. It is now reasonable to hold the expectation of free shipping. Amazon is reliable. Items also seldom remain listed if they are out of stock. Returns processing follows a reliable and straightforward process. For new products, a date-specific pre-order option is usually available. A responder to one of the articles noted how much easier it made her life, as a person with a disability.

For those on the sidelines, especially those in e-commerce, it is good to note some of these characteristics, and to note which ones are worthy of emulation.

If something about the ethos of a company, etc, bothers you, research it to learn more about how that ethos affects you as a consumer or patron. If you can’t live with it, find alternatives. Or go without that good or service, entirely. It has been nice to read articles on why people are thinking of ending their Prime subscription. So if you have a platform, I think it’s a good idea to use it to express your views, and in the process, educate others (like me) on the pros and cons of continued patronage.

Update: I felt it necessary to include this update on Amazon Prime members’ recent reservations about the service, namely, that Prime 2-day shipping is now too often 5-7 day shipping. Also, that even with Prime membership, not all items are eligible for 2-day shipping, leading Prime members to comb through product listings to find the ones that are Prime-eligible. Here is a Fast Company article (19 Dec. 2018) that details these reservations, along with links to other users with the same issues, on Reddit and Quora.

On the Amazon logistics side, the challenge lies in the reality that human beings are still the ones doing much of the order fulfilment in Amazon warehouses, driving the delivery trucks, etc. One Redditor noted that the slowdown was more noticeable once AMZL, which I think is Amazon’s fulfilment arm to rival USPS, DHL, etc, was launched. And the quandary of people wanting their items delivered fast, sigh, particularly when they pay $119 a year for shipping.

One thing the article highlighted is the importance of stating when the 2-day count begins for shipping. Does it include processing times, or is processing time an 8-day add-on? Customers like to know this, and it is within their rights to. I hadn’t thought I would find logistics interesting, but it is such a vital part of customer satisfaction that I find myself giving it more and more of a thought as my company, Minku, advances.