Having a baby in 2018, as my wife and I just did, means becoming an Amazon household. We’re not proud of this. We know that Amazon treats its workers terribly. We know that the company has extorted billions of taxpayer dollars out of our home city of New York in exchange for turning our neighbours into terribly treated employees. But babies need a lot of stuff, and they need it quickly. Diapers on demand are a very tempting prospect.
So we bought our diapers on Amazon. And then they didn’t come when Amazon said they would come.
One of the foundations of Amazon’s brand is its guaranteed two-day delivery, “free” to Prime subscribers. The company has taught America to rely on this instant gratification. Sometimes this reliance seems soft, or self-indulgent, like when we get mad that a pair of Bluetooth earbuds took three whole days to arrive. You can go an extra day without earbuds. A newborn cannot, generally, go an extra day without diapers.
We asked our friends where they get diapers. “Amazon,” they said. Great. On Day 3, customer service couldn’t even keep its story straight on when our diapers would arrive, or whether they’d even shipped. Of course, this wasn’t a real emergency. We live three blocks from a Walgreens—also a bad company! — so I popped over, bought a pack, problem solved. I’m lucky. But it finally made me realise that two-day shipping is a sham.
It’s a sham because overworked employees and delivery contractors like UPS can’t possibly fulfil all the orders on time. Rather than lose their most powerful client, they lie about whether packages got delivered.
But it’s also a sham because Prime no longer means two-day delivery. As Fast Company describes, Prime delivery times are often listed as three or even five days. The site offers no easy way to filter for two-day Prime shipping. (You can filter by free Prime shipping, but that includes items that take longer to ship. You can filter by two-day shipping, but that includes third-party items with an extra shipping charge.) And because Amazon lets third-party sellers clutter up results pages, you need to comb through results.
You could try an online competitor, but you won’t do much better. Wal-Mart’s Jet.com lets you filter for two-day delivery, but as of December 20, “two-day delivery” already meant December 26. And that’s if the item didn’t get held up further.
None of this is the worst ordeal in the world! It’s just very different than the rapid, no-hassle experience Amazon promised. It’s the promise that helped Amazon muscle out bookstores, threaten Wal-Mart, fleece cities, avoid taxes, bully suppliers, and make its owner the richest man alive. We let Amazon suck the world dry because in return, we could get anything delivered, for free, in a couple of days.
And now that’s gone too. Amazon pulled the old predatory pricing trick on us, got us hooked on an unsustainable shipping speed, then eased up on the delivery once it had pushed its competitors to the margins. So it’s time to suck it up and buy something from a real store—before they buy that too.