After all these years of living abroad, needless to say, the world had changed. Well, it had changed ‘back home’, anyway. The thought of repatriating was a bit scary – but exciting too. Just think of all the new things we’d be able to do! Watch British telly as soon as it was broadcast. Jump on local transport and go to a pub, a restaurant, a community event, any kind of entertainment on our doorstep. We’d be able to visit supermarkets which actually sold our kind of food (mmm, smoked haddock). Buy books online without having to wait weeks for delivery (yeah, I know about Kindle, but sometimes you want the print version).
Oh, being back in Blighty could be Utopia, despite the overwhelmingly scary cost of living, the endless political battles, the alleged social problems (why some people wanted to leave in the first place), the shortage of affordable housing, the crime rate, the decline of the National Health Service… But, having been put into the situation of swimming against the tide of so many people leaving, and going in the opposite direction, it seemed best to be positive about the idea that Britain really is best for some things. Repatriation. Aah.
One positive aspect of the move back, which I was particularly excited about, was the idea of clicking a few buttons online and waiting a day or so for my desired goods to magically appear on the doorstep. But, as with most things, reality is often very different from how we might hope or imagine things would work. Here’s the good, the bad, and the seriously ugly.
The supermarkets usually provide a very good service where you can order online and they deliver to your chosen address. We have a weekly order with Sainsbury’s for our usual household purchases and heavy items such as beer. (We like to select our own fresh food so we don’t buy that online.) There have been a couple of very minor issues related to bizarre substitutions (what they send in place of an item you ordered if they don’t have it in stock), but nothing worth complaining about, especially as you can simply decline to accept these.
Week in, week out, the Sainsbury’s delivery arrives promptly within our chosen hourly slot (with very rare exceptions), via their courteous and helpful staff. Top marks!
Additionally, there are some courier companies around who do a super job. One of our particular favourites is Interlink Express. They email you ahead of time so you know to within 60 minutes when you can expect the delivery. Then they also tell you your number on their list of deliveries and you can track the guy’s progress via an online street map as he scoots along his route towards you. This is so nicely done that we’ve been ready at the door just as the delivery guy is opening the garden gate. Hats off to them!
Hmm, nothing much really. It seems that online delivery people are either very, very good or they’re horrid. That said, there’s the type who keep you on standby all day, waiting and wondering when they might arrive. But at least these ones usually give you a reasonable time (like up to ten seconds or even more) to stop whatever you’re doing and get to the door.
I award the prize for the worst possible online delivery service to Amazon Logistics. I don’t believe they could be worse if they tried. And it’s hard to believe they could be so bad without trying to be. They’re mind-bogglingly bad.
Here’s the story. When we returned to the UK, one of the first things I did was to sign up to Amazon Prime. An annual subscription of £79 gets you lots of benefits – free instant video, and free UK delivery on thousands of products, among other things. This sounded wonderful, so there was no holding me back in my eagerness to subscribe. And much of it is good. The instant videos are a good resource to have, and we’ve probably had our money’s worth on these alone.
But Amazon’s delivery is woefully bad. Hair-tearingly bad. It’s almost reduced me to tears of frustration at times. Far from giving you any time of delivery, they simply give you a day. This is bad enough for those who work from home, because you can’t concentrate on doing anything while you stay alert waiting and listening for them to arrive. It’s probably worse for those who take a day off work to receive the delivery.
They usually send an email at about 7am to tell you that your package is out for delivery. This means that you’re now on alert for it to arrive. Thus you can spend up to 12 hours in a state of limbo, afraid to use the lavatory, get your hands wet to do routine kitchen chores, concentrate on doing anything, or do anything much of what’s involved in a normal daily routine. The only way to ensure that the delivery goes to plan would be to sit on your doorstep from as soon as your package has reached the ‘out for delivery’ stage.
This in itself is frustrating enough. But it’s not the main problem.
The main problem is that even Usain Bolt wouldn’t be able to answer the door on time when they do arrive. What the cartoon above doesn’t portray is that as soon as the Amazon Logistics guy rings the bell, he then sprints away, jumps into the getaway van, and they’re off! Unless you can move fast enough to get from anywhere in your house to the door in zero time, then you will be too slow to ever catch them on your doorstep. Even if you’re not on the toilet when they arrive, you can forget the idea of ever seeing one of these guys.
So much for the convenience of using Amazon and getting free delivery. I rarely bother now. I still use Amazon as a search engine to find what I’m looking for, read their user-generated reviews, and then I shop around. Sometimes it’s worth paying a little bit more to receive your goods via an efficient and pleasant delivery service. In any case, it’s not always more expensive, especially if you’re buying items over a certain price, where you’ll often get free delivery anyway.
Amazon Logistics have managed to turn what could and should be a pleasant experience into something truly stressful. What a pity.
The cartoon used to illustrate this article is the copyright property of Rich Skipworth and is used with his kind permission.
Visit www.richskipworth.co.uk for more cartoon fun! Rich also sells various products, including personalised job mugs. Dave and I had a couple made for ourselves and we were very impressed by the excellent quality. Highly recommended!
Kay has been an expat for 25 years. She set up the British Expat website more than 15 years ago, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)