Friday, 20 November 2015

Reason for Amazon's success - everyone else is rubbish

At the funeral of an old friend of mine, a great guy called Charlie Feathers, someone told a story about him from the 1980s. Charlie had recently done work for several rich and famous people, the latest being Adam Ant, and his friend asked him how he got these jobs.

"Because everyone else is rubbish," Charlie replied.

This is the secret of Amazon's success, too, particularly when compared with Big Publishing, who are spectacularly rubbish at what they do, and only got away with it for so many years because they had a monopsony. So many businesses don't really care about the customer, tick boxes instead of doing a good job, fail to apply their intelligence to what they do, and generally don't bother.

Consider my experience in the past week:

  • I ordered sample tiles from Walls and Floors. Instead of the two square blue tiles ordered, two rectangular tiles in cream and green arrived.
  •  DX claimed via email to have  redelivered the (I hope) corrected order yesterday, when I was in my workshop all day. I asked my neighbours in the building. Zilch. I chased DX. Apparently they didn't deliver yesterday after all, and I will now have to wait till Monday.
  • My gas supplier wants to check my home gas meter for obscure safety reasons. They will only give 'appointments' of a five hour window. They seriously expect me, as a self-employed person, to waste half a day sitting around unpaid at home because they cannot be bothered to organize a tighter schedule. Ocado manages to give an hour's window for grocery deliveries, and rings if running late or early. Why won't Lowri Beck Services? 
Meanwhile Amazon has started same day deliveries in London. I can't be alone in finding myself purchasing more from Amazon and less from everybody else. The makeup remover that the chemist down the road no longer stocks? Amazon has it. The palm sander pads for which my local Leyland charges £6.98 for 5 sheets? Amazon offers 20 for £9.99, with free delivery, or 6 generic for £1.99. Waitrose has stopped selling bean sprouts - but Amazon sells beans for sprouting. I could go on.

Any business feeling threatened by Amazon might usefully consider upping its game. Or shutting up shop.


  1. I echo all you say and could tell similar tales.

    My children send me their Christmas wish lists each year and I pick off items from there. This year, by coincidence, they have both sent me Amazon wish lists and I'm sending an Amazon wish list to them.

    It works, and it works well.

  2. That's a good idea, Anna :o)

  3. Walmart gets yelled at a lot in the US. But in my not very small town, if I have to work late and get in at 10pm, they are the only folks who will be open to get some food for the table. They also used to be the people who would carry a lot of useful but obscure occasional items. I don't think that is so true anymore.

  4. Walmart, unlike many US businesses, hasn't crossed the Atlantic, though I'm always coming across mentions of it online. I have read that Amazon is a threat to big box companies. I hope yours keeps going.

  5. I always feel guilty buying from amazon because I believe they don't treat their staff well. But they make it so easy! And they sell almost everything!

    I do also buy from Book Depository - they include P&P in all their prices. I hate the new amazon "free P&P but only if you spend £10". So for small book orders, they're not now the best. But for everything else they pretty much are.

    I don't know how I managed before amazon and ebay.

  6. I think a lot of those stories about Amazon are put about by their rivals, who treat their staff no better and possibly rather worse.

    I used to use Book Depository. Of course, they are now owned by Amazon...

  7. I've finally come over to the Amazon camp, pulling my two books from all the other (non-producing) retailers. We'll see how it goes.

    1. I hope it goes well. Hugh Howey did it, because he reckoned more people could access his books. I know I get more from KU/KOLL reads than I would from other platforms.

      Do you still use your Nook?

  8. It's the Hugh Howeys of the world that keep folks like me hopeful, but certainly not overly so. I'm doing a giveaway with The Baer Boys right now, we'll see how that goes. I use my Nook seldom as I prefer Books. However, I have powered it up the past few evenings to read The Wind in the Willows. Can't find my print copy.

    1. I have to admit to preferring print books, as does the offspring. My sister, an avid reader, is a total Kindle devotee. Nice to have both :o)