Amazon.com: Use 3 Years of Experience to Navigate the Jungle
Written: Jul 18, 2003 (Updated Dec 20, 2004)
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I have been a loyal customer of Amazon.com for over three years and have ordered from them at least 20 times, so I feel ready to write my review. I have had mixed experiences on the site - some great and some pretty bad.
SHOPPING THE SITE
The Amazon site is massive and the selection can't really be beat anywhere. It has just about any music or book you could want. Plus, it has toys, electronics, kitchen goods, outdoor stuff, apparel from well-known brands and really almost anything you can think of.
One great thing about shopping on Amazon is that it offers customer reviews of goods. A high percentage of products offered have at least one review and Amazon prints reviews that are not complimentary of their products along with rating stars to summarize the reviewers' viewpoints. A new feature they added more recently is a recommendation to a new product. Customers can now direct you to a product they recommend instead of the product you are viewing. These features are great and I have found very helpful feedback on the site that has improved my selections.
If you sign up for a membership (free, about 3 minutes of time and no credit card required) the site itself also makes recommendations of things it thinks you would like to buy based on pages you have viewed and things you have purchased. If you like this feature, you can rate items they recommend to improve your suggestions. I find this feature occasionally helpful but not always. When I bought my daughter a Magic Tree House book - there are about 50 in the series - I found my recommendations were clogged with 49 recommendations for each other book in the series. On the other hand, I have found helpful suggestions for items I wasn't aware of and ended up purchasing.
Another helpful shopping feature is lists provided by users of the site. These lists are generally items the writer thinks you should buy and are loosely grouped by topic such as: books my 3 year old ballerina loves. Some lists are helpful and others are junk but they do make the shopping experience more interesting and occasionally helpful.
This is another great way to shop. In order to make a wish list, you have to sign up for a free Amazon membership. You can create a wish list for any occasion. I keep a wish list going with things my kids have been asking for. That way, when a birthday comes up or the holidays arrive, I have a convenient list to provide when relatives ask what the kids want. The only problem with the list is that when people select items to purchase for us from Amazon, they are not deducted from the list. That could lead to duplicate purchases and returns so it is a feature to watch out for.
THE PROBLEM WITH USING THE SITE TO BUY GIFTS
I bought a gift for a friend last year. At that time, Amazon did not provide gift receipts. Unfortunately, my friend saw the receipt listing what I paid for each item which is not exactly the classiest way to give a gift.
SHOPPING / CHECKOUT /CHECKING THE STATUS OF YOUR ORDER
The shopping cart is easy to manage. When you see an item you want, you can click a box to add it to your cart. When you are done shopping, you can click on a little picture of a shopping cart to see what you have selected. If there are not enough items for super saver shipping, you will get a notice of how much more you need to add. If there is something in your cart that you decide you want to buy later, you can defer the purchase and it will sit at the bottom of your cart - possibly forever. I have things in there from a year ago. Checkout is easy. If you want the site to remember your credit card, you need to pick a password. If you choose to have your credit card stored and you make another purchase, you can use one click checkout and make purchases without entering your address, billing address and credit card again.
After you shop, you get an email confirming your purchase. You get another email when your item ships. If the item is delayed, you get an email notifying you about the delay and giving you the opportunity to cancel the order. You can track orders through UPS. There is also a portion of the site called "Where's my Stuff?" where you can find the status of your order. When an order has not shipped, you can add or delete items to your order.
SHIPPING AND SUPER-SAVER SHIPPING
Amazon offers free shipping for book and music orders over $25. Occasionally, they offer free shipping on other items as well. I have had very mixed experiences with the Super Saver shipping. Most people realize that Super Saver shipping means Amazon will ship the package the slowest way possible - usually ground ship - and that means the package could show up two weeks after it leaves the Amazon warehouse. The other thing to realize is that items with free shipping also leave the warehouse on a delayed basis. Two or more weeks might elapse before your package even leaves the warehouse. On one occasion, I waited over two months for a package to be shipped. However, the average is closer to a week. More often, I would rather pay a small additional fee to get my products sooner.
General shipping costs on the site are pretty reasonable. They offer just about any possible method, for an additional charge, of ways to get your package.
I have ordered toys, videos, books, software, apparel, cookware and other things from Amazon. For over 20 orders, everything has been well-packed, padded and secured. I have never had a problem with a package coming apart or an item being damaged.
With about 20 orders, I have only had one problem. I placed an order and it was shipped in three packages. When I totalled the receipts, I realized I had been overcharged. There was no easy way to find a person to talk to so I had to send an email. I got an immediate return email indicating the problem was corrected and when I checked my credit card bill I was happy to find it was actually corrected.
STEALS AND DEALS
There are occasionally some deals to be found. If you sign up for email notifications on the site, you will usually get deals directly from Amazon. They had one last winter where you bought $50 worth of apparel and they sent you an Amazon credit of $30. They currently have one where they will give you $30 if you get their credit card.
STORING GIFT CERTIFICATES
If you have a gift certificate, you can input it into the site and it will be stored and applied to your next order. This is handy if you do shopping surveys or other Internet tasks that pay in Amazon gift certificates.
I keep going back to Amazon. It is a great place to browse for books or music because the selection is so broad and the site and other customers provide great suggestions for things I haven't purchased before. I have had a couple of problems, one with an invoice, another with a long delay on shipping, however most orders have
gone without a hitch. I definitely recommend Amazon.com.
DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP ON THE INTERNET? HERE ARE SOME MORE REVIEWS OF WEB STORES:
Clothing and Accessories: Talbots; The Gap; CWD Kids; Hanna Andersson; J. Jill; Tote Le Monde ; Blu Pyxie ; Miniboden; One Hanes Place; Nordstrom; Gymboree; Simple Shoes; Sierra Blue; Ebags.
Clothing and Home Goods: Lands End; Bluefly; Soft Surroundings; Garnet Hill; Sundance; L.L. Bean.
Home and Garden: Smith & Noble; Restoration Hardware; Gardeners Supply Company; Unicahome; Homeclick; FaucetDirect; Gardens Alive; West Elm; Crate & Barrel; MyKnobs; CB2.
Books and Magazines: ValueMags; Magazine Values; Dover Publications.
Office Supplies, Furniture and Services: Staples; Officemax; Topdeq; Efax.
Electronics: HP Shopping; Buy.com; ABT Electronics.
Travel: Amtrak; Hotwire; Orbitz; Hotels.com.
Discount: Overstock.com; Target.
Photo Developing: Shutterfly; Snapfish.
Baby Stuff: Babystyle; Babys Here Birth Announcements; Baby Universe; SoZo; Baby Center; Baby Age.
Miscellaneous: 1-800 contacts; Movie Tickets.com; Drugstore.com.
Rebate Sites: Upromise; Ebates.
Before you start shopping, check out my tips on how to save money by shopping on the internet . I have also included some coupon codes and plan to add more as I find them.
What product did you purchase or try to purchase? books, software, toys, music