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Abandoning Amazon because of their tax position? Waterstones not ready to take up the slack

In recent weeks there has been a lot of chatter in the UK press about global firms such as Starbucks and Amazon avoiding local taxes in the countries the operate in through accounting devices increase local costs and route profits through lower tax locations. Not illegal, but is it ethical?

I have been a regular and satisfied customer of Amazon in France and UK for some time. I am also, when in UK, habitually drawn to Waterstones excellent book stores which have received a generous portion of my custom over the years.

In the light of the discussion about tax and supporting local businesses, when I needed to buy a book for my daughter’s birthday, I decided to try Sadly, it has been a frustrating and, ultimately, fruitless endeavour. The web site was not quite as easy to navigate as Amazon but I found the book and, with a competitive price and an indicated delivery date of 4 to 7 days, ordered it on 22 December. An acknowledgement indicated estimated delivery date of 29 December so some days ahead of the birthday.

Delivery date came and went, birthday arrived and still no book and no email indicating status or despatch. After waiting a fortnight from ordering, yesterday I phoned the customer service desk. Relatively straiight-forward set of menus and a UK landline number for customers phoning from abroad (rather than the costly 0845 numb ers that drive me mad) meant I got through easily. After confirming the order number (twice) I was told the book had not been desptached yet.


And there was no indication when the publisher would be supplying it. So it is “out of stock”? I asked. Yes. Why could this not be indicated on ordering? Response: that was why they said 4-7 days delivery originally. They then said they would investigate with the publisher and would send me an email updating me on the expected delivery date.

Going into email today, two emails from Waterstones waited for me. One automated, the other from Customer Services. Both said the book is now out of print and cannot be supplied. Aggghhhh!

Given it is intended as a present and is related to my daughter’s up-coming visit to Korea this left me up the creek unless…

Amazon’s UK site showed they still had two copies left. I immediately ordered it. Estimated despatch date Saturday 12 January with free delivery within the week. However, within three HOURS of ordering I received an email from Amazon confirming despatch, estimated delivery date: next Tuesday, 15 January.

Result: birthday missed, no sale for Watersones, one hacked-off customer and the book ordered late from Amazon… but at least it seems to be coming.

Oh! Final point: When on the call to Waterstones, I was offered the opportunity to feedback on the Customer Service. Pressing the button to do this I was informed all I had to do was hang on at the end of the call. Yeah, sure! I hung on and hung on and… nothing. (The suspicious side of me suspects a light illuminates so that they know this will happen and, if the customer is less than impressed, the call gets dropped. This is the main reason I decided to blog about this experience.)

1 Comment so far

  1. Mike Keyton January 23rd, 2013 5:49 pm

    Amazon beats them on toilets too. Ref my blogpost two weeks ago. The memory still hurts : )

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