October 18, 2021

It’s Hard To Beat Amazon

As regular readers will know, I’ve been trying to rely less on Amazon and branch out into other retail spaces. I have written about the reasons previously, so there is no sense in rehashing those. What I want to impart is how difficult it is to get out of the Amazon ecosystem. Simply put, Amazon is just better than other retailers. There are reasons they are as successful as they are, and other companies have trouble matching their level of service.

As an example, I have been looking for Borax recently, so I can whip up my own ant killer concoction.1 I have searched the big box home improvement stores and none of the close locations have the product. So, I find myself back to Amazon. I had to order a track for the folding doors in my laundry closet. Again, none of the home improvement stores had the size I needed. Back to Amazon.

I thought the easiest way to break from Amazon would be through the ebook market. After all, ebooks are easy to deliver, and you don’t get any benefits from Amazon’s massive supply chain with those products. I found out that Rakuten Kobo has some benefits over the Kindle. It has built-in Overdrive and Pocket integration. The Kindle doesn’t have those kinds of features. For Amazon, the main objective of selling the Kindle, is to sell you ebooks. They’re not really as concerned about you getting other types of content that sit outside of their core business on the device. So, I ordered the new Kobo Libre 2, which ships 10/19.

After trying out Pocket for a while, I realized that it will very soon become inferior to the other read-it-later services in the pipeline. I already prefer Instapaper because it has much better options for exporting highlights. With Matter doing a soft launch and Readwise’s solution just around the corner, I’m not sure I want to get locked into Pocket. I realized that, for now, I can get by with my Kindle. So I initiated a cancellation of my order with Rakuten. I had to chat with a customer service representative to do it. He let me know that he would have to escalate to a different team to cancel the order. He couldn’t give me a time frame for the refund, but assured me he would email when it was done. After waiting out the day, I decided to call. I was given the same response by the customer service agent on the phone. I let him know that it was unusual to be charged on PayPal before an order was even fulfilled and that it’s also unusual to have to work with multiple teams to get a cancelation on an order. He was unmoved, but very enthusiastically let me know that they would get the refund done ASAP and email me.

The process of getting a refund from Rakuten reminded me of why Amazon dominates so many markets. Can you imagine having to work with multiple teams to cancel an Amazon order of something they didn’t have in stock yet? I’ve never had issues with Amazon refunds. The process is simple. Until other companies get that laser focus on customer experience and the technical and logistical infrastructure to back it up, it’s going to continue to be difficult to compete with the internet giant.2

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash.

  1. I’m so tired of buying those Terro traps over and over again and having to throw away all of that plastic once they are empty (which doesn’t take long around here).↩︎

  2. I will still probably get a Kobo at some point, but this has emphasized to me the unevenness of the competition.↩︎


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