Consumers sound off on Amazon

By Features Consumer Reports

We all know Amazon.com is a shopping juggernaut. But the scope of the company’s reach is positively mind-boggling. Last year on Cyber Monday, for example, Amazon set a sales record of 426 orders placed per second. If you whip out your calculator and do the math, that translates into 25,560 orders per minute, 1,533,600 per hour, and 36,806,400 for the entire day.

Continue Reading Below

This holiday season, the company is poised for even bigger things, with total holiday sales projected to grow from 7 percent to 18 percent, to an all-time high of as much as $30.3 billion, according to a company spokeswoman.

With those lofty numbers, Amazon obviously knows its customers. But like any business, Amazon has strengths and weaknesses. To zero in on what they are as peak shopping season approaches, we posted a question on our Consumer Reports Facebook page, asking shoppers to give us their impression of what the company does well, where improvement is needed, and of what to be wary.

Don't know what to buy for everyone on your gift list? Need help getting through the holidays? Check our Holiday Gift Ideas & Guide page.

Frankly, we were surprised by the spirited response: More than 350 comments in a matter of hours. Though purely anecdotal, the comments were overwhelmingly positive (by a margin of better than 5 to 1), punctuated by superlatives and exclamation points. On the plus side, shoppers lauded Amazon for outstanding and gracious customer support, responding promptly to problems quickly and effectively, easy processing of returns, and sooner-than-promised delivery. Many praised the wide selection and prices, in-depth buyer/user reviews, and the company’s willingness to step in and resolve disputes with independent sellers. Though Amazon raised the price of its Prime membership by $20, to $99 a year, shoppers said the program is a must mainly because of a perk entitling 2-day shipping on most orders without a purchase minimum.

On the downside, some insisted that deliveries for orders placed via free Super Saver shipping are slower than they used to be, that prices are higher in general compared to the past, and that those prices are subject to frequent fluctuation. They also chided the company for lack of communication about products on backorder, not accepting Paypal, failure to include packing slips/invoices with orders, and not doing enough to weed out unscrupulous third-party sellers.

As we head into the holiday season, we thought we’d share some of the more helpful Facebook comments that echoed recurring themes:

Continue Reading Below

What shoppers love
 

Prices: Amazon’s prices are the best. If the price is too high call customer service and they’ll match it or credit your account. Customer satisfaction is what Amazon is all about.—Roger Lis

Returns: I just did a return last week and all I had to do was print off a manifest and put it in the box. UPS picked it up at my front door. Amazon e-mailed me today and said they've processed the return and refunded my money.—Jay Wineinger

Replacements: They promptly replaced two items stolen from my porch! The incidents happened about a month apart. One item was worth about $100 and they didn't delay or require forms or anything.—Jennifer Uurtamo

Security: They called me when they suspected someone had gotten my credit card information and was using it, saving me time and money.—Jane Ring

Fast Response: Anytime I've had an issue, they respond so quickly, and you can have them call you—by clicking “Call Me Now” or “Call Me in 5 Minutes.” No sitting on hold! They also offered me credits to my account for the inconvenience.—Joseph Belfi

Customer Care: I ordered a package that never showed up. The seller said he shipped it. No further investigation. Amazon offered to replace or refund my entire order! I have complete confidence.—Wendy Fitzgerald

Broken Product: Best customer service we've ever experienced. I dropped a Kindle a year after purchasing it, cracked the screen, and they replaced it no questions asked.—Del Geiger

What shoppers loathe
 

Packaging: Some things are over packaged, which is very wasteful.—Eileen Velez

Price Hikes: They sometimes ship weeks after the order is placed and during the time in between the price goes up. They charged me the increased price, and I only found out about it when notified me that the item shipped. By then it was too late to cancel.—Susan Abramowitz

Price Creep: They've slowly upped their prices knowing they’ve reeled in so many prime members who will continue to buy simply to keep getting their money's worth.—Challie Brown

Shopping Ahead: It's dangerous to shop ahead of time. After 30 days, you're in trouble. I received my September birthday gifts in December from a friend. Five DVDs. All sealed. I wanted to return them. By that time the restocking fees were applied, the refund dropped by about 45 percent, excluding shipping. I shipped the stuff back with a letter. I never received any response.—Sharon Devitt

Prime Instant Video: I won't be renewing Prime. The streaming uses too much bandwidth and they don't have options to allow you to adjust it. It doesn't take but a few movies to use up my allotted bandwidth, whereas I can watch Netflix day and night and barely touch my bandwidth.—Linda Bannister

—Tod Marks

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.