Monday, December 24, 2007

Why Internet shopping is about to land flat on it's arse

As I sit in my office on the day before Christmas reflecting on the reality of what a 'delivery estimate' of the 24th Dec actually means I feel a little sad inside. Not because this package was going to 'make' Christmas - it's an inconvenience easily solved - but because internet shopping was supposed to be the opposite of the way it's become. It was supposed to be the convenient way to shop - no crowds, low prices, delivered wherever you wanted. But it hasn't quite worked out that way.

First off, last week I bought a very nice gift that I thought would be perfect for my special someone - only to have it stolen in the post by someone from the Royal Mail. You'd expect Special Delivery to have some meaning to it, but seems the only meaning is that it gets stolen before 9am the next day.

I've had endless problems with courier companies not able to deliver the goods, so to speak. And today I'm waiting for an order that I placed in plenty of time and kicking myself for being a cheapskate and opting for free delivery.

Last year I managed to buy just about everything online, and I had no problems whatsoever. This year I've been far less ambitious and everything's been screwed up. I think the difference this year is that everyone else is trying to do the same.

The thing is, if a shop is too busy you leave and go to a different one. But online retailers have no such problem - from their point of view. If Amazon's website is getting too busy just ramp up the bandwidth or stick in some more servers. What's often forgotten is that behind that web front there are actual people picking up and sorting actual boxes of actual stuff, and we're relying on crap couriers to take this stuff to our doors. They can only go so fast but there is no way of telling from the website how busy they are. Apparently I'm not the only one to notice this degradation in service.

This is what I'm angry about. It could have been so good - no more being ripped off because your local music shop is HMV, no more paying John Lewis prices for electronics, no more being hassled to take out insurance by Dixons. But instead consumers are getting burnt by online shopping and will be more reluctant to try again. I know this is just the Christmas rush but would you be willing to take the same risk for a birthday present? I know I won't.

1 comment:

Nick said...

I think that is a wider problem with the infrastructure than internet shopping itself. Though I agree that it is much easier for the companies to over load themselves.

I currently am still very happy with internet shopping. For me the thing that makes it is price comparison websites, especially thouse that include voucher codes. With a bit of searching you can save hundreds up pounds. And there always seems to be some small random site that undercuts the big sites which every uses.