Friday, December 14, 2007

Daily Soap Box - Pre-Orders and Gifts

The idea of pre-ordering an item prior to it's official release is not uncommon in these days of online purchasing. I've heard about problems with it in the past, but nothing too terrible. Typically it would be some company who was small and just being dumb. Unfortunately for me my first experience with a bad pre-order situation was with one of the largest online retailers out there---Amazon.

I won't say what I tried to pre-order because I may still be able to buy it at a local store and it is intended to be a Christmas gift. That said, it was a highly anticipated product that many people have had pre-ordered for nearly two months in some cases. The release date was pretty firm and many had planned this item as a Christmas gift.

So lo and behold...the release date comes and goes, I had just expected it to be delivered by the UPS man and not worry about watching the tracking number, and yet it never arrived. Then yesterday morning I get the following email:
We're writing about your recent order for the following item:
{snipped Product Name}

Unfortunately, we've learned that we will not be receiving the
quantity we expected from our supplier. As a result, we have cancelled
this item from your order. You will NOT be charged for this item, as
we only charge you for items at the time we ship them to you.

We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience caused by this
cancellation. An unexpected manufacturer delay has meant that
availability of this title has been severely limited for all

However, we hope to be able to offer this game again during the first
two months of the new year.

No warning, no "Would you like to wait until stock has been replenished?"

The email blames the manufacturer but other local big-box stores say they'll have it next week. Personally I think they over sold and now are unable to full-fill their pre-order obligations.

It would have been much better to just own up to the mistake and try to make amends. Instead they alienate all of us.

I'll likely still order from Amazon again but I won't consider pre-ordering anything from them ever again. Clearly their sense of customer service under those circumstances is to pass the blame rather than try to keep their customers satisfied.

It's not all Amazons' fault here either. The manufacturer may have under forecasted demand. And the annual, "Let's release everything right before Christmas," marketing blitz always creates heavy demand. It also risks back-firing when the product is delayed, as in this case.

It's "On-Demand" economics for the retailers and manufacturers. No one wants to have over stock any more. It's too expensive. That requires very tight control of goods. Loose that control and it's a cascade of failure. This failure could hurt a lot of retailers, not just Amazon.

Bottom-line, I won't be buying any anticipated good like this right before a gift giving situation again. Better to buy something established and in stock.

No comments: