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The Amazon that Stole Christmas

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For those who celebrate Christmas, this is a special time of year. It's been a slightly disappointing Christmas for me. I ordered a few of my wife's gifts from Amazon.com. Despite having the order in by December 12th, Amazon had a mix-up and didn't send the gifts on time. One of the items that I ordered takes 3-4 weeks to ship, so Amazon decided it would wait until that was ready. The morning of December 22, I started to get nervous about them not showing up in time. When I logged in, I found out that they were scheduled for shipping on January 14th. I realized that it was still early enough in the day to order with one-day shipping to get the items in stock. I happily called up customer service and explained my situation. They realized their error and upgraded my order to the one-day shipping.

Fast-forward to yesterday after it didn't come in the mail. I called Amazon and they assured me that UPS will make a shipment on Christmas with the items. I doubted this and it seems like I had good reason to. Everyone has opened their gifts hours ago and there's been no shipment of gifts. I got lucky that the majority of my gifts were bought elsewhere. My wife is very excited to see Jersey Boys. If I hadn't mentioned the whole Amazon debacle, she probably wouldn't have noticed.

I learned a few valuable lessons in all this:

  • If you have a gift that is time sensitive, it's best to make sure that it ships with plenty of time. If I had looked at the shipping page early enough, this could be avoided.
  • Diversification isn't limited to your investments. By buying gifts from a variety of merchants, my wife didn't lose all her gifts.
  • Amazon customer support can be very understanding. They realized that the damage is done and apologized a few times, but gave me a $10 credit on a future purchase.
  • Everyone knows that Christmas isn't about the gifts. It has been a fabulous Christmas with great music and everyone's favorite foods. People are happy to be around those that they love. That said, I don't think I'll take off my new Tom Brady shirt until next Sunday.

Posted on December 25, 2007.

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13 Responses to “The Amazon that Stole Christmas”

  1. Derek says:

    Hey, I just wanted to say that I love your website and I check it almost everyday for updates. You have some great content in here and it has helped to inspire me to start my own finance blog. Check it out if you have time. Thanks and Happy Holidays.


  2. JvW says:

    You can’t wear a NEW Tom Brady shirt NOW! You didn’t have it for the 1st 15 wins, what if it makes all the difference??

    (This paranoia is clearly from also being a Red Sox fan… the Patriots aren’t as easily affected.)

  3. Mrs. Micah says:

    Glad to hear that the Amazon didn’t really steal Christmas. Good point about diversifying…that or order really really early and keep close tabs on it.

  4. Ed says:

    My son ordered a poster from allposters.com and they guaranteed delivery by 24th. Nothing yet.

  5. Foobarista says:

    We had two different orders, with three presents, show up on Christmas Eve afternoon. Since we do our present opening on Christmas Eve night in our family, things got rather dicey, and I already had printed up “Christmas IOU” cards…

    Fortunately, it worked out in the end…

  6. Writers Coin says:

    Ouch. I got a little nervous too since I ordered from Amazon, but I guess I got lucky and it all got here on time. That’s why I tried to get all my shopping done around thankgiving. As for the Wii, have you tried getting the “rain checks”? I went on Sunday and they still had two left, so count me among the lucky!

  7. Tom says:

    It’s nice they gave you a $10 credit for the trouble.

  8. billspaced says:

    I had (have, since I still don’t have my order) a similar experience. I ordered on the last day for free shipping by 12/24, only to get a confirmation email stating that I’d get my order around 12/31. So I called Amazon. They have this nifty call-back feature (you enter your phone number and when you’d like them to call you back — “Immediately”) that I used with some success.

    As stated in your post, Amazon customer service representatives are understanding and they seem to care. So they changed my shipping option to “2nd day air, guaranteed” (whatever that means).

    DHL, of course, screwed up the shipping. According to DHL’s tracking system, my camera has been enjoying lovely weather in Ohio since 12/19. I called Amazon who then called DHL; DHL “doesn’t know where the package is.”

    Amazon created another order, put next day shipping on it, and I’m told I’ll receive my order on 12/28 (um, guys, that’s two days)…

    So, to add to your conclusions: Not only diversify your vendors but also your shippers. Or, better yet, avoid DHL at all costs. The few times I’ve had to use them (no other choice), they’ve messed up or lost the order.

    Thanks for the post.

  9. Tim says:

    I was a little dismayed at the title of this article, because as I read the posting, the more I see that it wasn’t Amazon’s fault. A little constructive criticism here, because there are a couple of lessons learned you should have included. First, you ordered 12DEC for an item that takes 3-4 weeks. The 3-4 weeks is an estimate and Amazon does note this; moreover, if you took the latter end of the estimate, you would still be past xmas date for delivery (4×7=28+12=9 January shipping date, nowhere near 24/25 DEC). Even if you took the 3week shipping date (3×7=21+12=3rd January, which is still after 24/25 DEC. This is also the estimated shipping date, and you still had to figure in the shipping time, which varies depending on your shipping method. I’m not sure how this was amazon’s fault when the new shipping posted date was 14th for scheduled ship date. So the lesson learned is that these are estimate shipping dates. Second, if you had bought different things and wanted them shipped when available rather than group, then when you checkout Amazon asks you to “Choose your shipping option.” You can “Group my items into as few shipments as possible,” or “I want my items faster. Ship them as they become available”. The latter can incur additional shipping charges. Amazon defaults your selection to group in as few shipments as possible. I’ve made this mistake a couple of times and had to wait for the last item to become available before Amazon shipped. So lesson learned is to ensure you are selecting the correct shipment method.

    last, if you chose super saver option for free shipping, remember that Amazon notes that it can take 3-5 business days to process a super saver shipping option item, as well as an additional 5-9 business days for shipping time. Again, these are estimate times.

    It sounds like you erred, not Amazon. In which case, Amazon was nice to send off the order quickly and issue a $10 credit. Of course I could be wrong and you did indeed not overlook the shipping option. Amazon has really good customer service, and in most instances don’t even require an explanation, they just remedy the issue.

  10. Lazy Man says:


    One of the items was estimated at 3-4 weeks. The other items in the order were all usual shipping items. When Amazon advertises all over it’s site that an order placed before December 19th for Christmas delivery – it’s easy to imagine that being a week early should be plenty of time.

    All the items were eligible for free super saver shipping (and again, well within the time Dec. 19th or so that Amazon suggests) and were over $25 minimum. In such a case Amazon should realize that there is no additional shipping charges and should default to shipping the items out faster.

    I did say note “it’s best to make sure that it ships with plenty of time”, which is something that I erred in not doing. However, I have received over 50 orders from Amazon over the years and never once experienced a delay. I’ve heard that third party retailers take some time, but I’ve never seen Amazon say it has something in stock, eligible for free shipping, but that it will take them 2-3 weeks to get it from out of their warehouse.

    As I said, I learned lessons. However, it is my opinion that Amazon should learn a lesson or two as well.

  11. Tim says:

    Lazy Man, not to beat the horse to death. I understand about amazon advertising receiving before xmas, etc, etc, and normally they are very good about processing and shipping faster than their estimate times. it sucks amazon’s default option is to group items when you use the super saver shipping method (Amazon notes that it does so to reduce shipping costs, and amazon lists choosing grouping when supersaver, because you might have to pay extra if wanting items separately if your separated delivery doesn’t amount to more than $25 to qualify for free super saver shipping); however, the first page in checkout after selecting your shipping address and as your first choice, Amazon gives you the option to choose between grouping or receiving items separately. It is actually highlighted in bold on every page that talks about supersaver shipping the 3-5 business days for processing and 5-9 business days shipping time for supersaver items. it seems that when you checked out you didn’t see the option to group items in as few shipments as possible or ship items separately option. i’ve made the mistake a couple of times in my haste and when using the 1-click orders method (this is why i don’t use the feature anymore), and I’ve ordered considerably more through Amazon than you.

    really, amazon is very forgiving and will often take the blame even though it wasn’t their error, which is why i like them so much. I’m glad things will work out in the end for you. I just wanted to highlight the grouping versus wanting items faster choice in checkout, which can create the problem that you had.

  12. Matt Wolfe says:

    I had a very similar problem. I ordered 4 gifts on Amazon about 2 weeks before Christmas. On the 24th, when they hadn’t arrived yet, I called. There was some sort of screw up and I didn’t receive them until the 27th. I had to print pictures of what I got for everyone and wrap those. I didn’t get a credit though. :(

  13. db says:

    I hate to rub it in, but…

    about a week before Christmas (12/16 in fact), I ordered several books from amazon.com, including two from third party buyers. I received them all by 12/22! I was sort of surprised — one of the third party buyers even upgraded the shipping just to be nice.

    My secret? None of them were for gifting purposes! :)

    I guess the trick is not needing them there by a certain date.

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