In Praise of Amazon.com

I am writing this testimony in praise of Amazon.com. It is unusual – this praise of mine I mean. Amazon.com, the online American bookstore founded by a guy called Bezos and which makes the seemingly pompous claim of wanting to be earth’s biggest human online resource. My recent experience with them (reason for this piece) indicates that they well might become just that. Thank you Amazon! Below is why…

Shopping online from Nigeria is novel. Lack of adequate Internet technology and of electronic payment systems is only half of the reason (or less than half). The major reason is the high level of Internet fraud perpetrated by some Nigerians – few Nigerians but on cyberspace, enough to seem a majority. We have a bad online reputation. Not many companies think the risk worth their while, so do not do business with Nigerians. Paypal does not. Will Amazon ship books to me in Nigeria? Let me try.

I ordered the books using a debit MasterCard issued to me by my Nigerian bank Guarantee Trust Bank Plc (GTB Plc). Amazon accepted by Card entry, allowed me to register, allowed me to enter my Nigerian delivery address, gave me estimated delivery time, allowed me to pay and thanked me for ordering. I choose the cheapest shipping method (ordinary surface mail) but gave my house address as destination. I ordered three books and Amazon informed me that to ensure speedy delivery, they would ship the books as they became available, even if they had to split the shipments. Not to worry, they said, it is they that would pay for the extra expenses of splitting the packages.

Estimated delivery time – 4 weeks.

In two weeks, I received the first package, with one of the three books – delivered straight to my doorstep! Good!

After four weeks, the second package (of two books) was yet to arrive. Since I used a cheap shipping method, online-tracking was not possible, so I had to wait. After a few days, I wrote to Amazon customer service telling them my books were yet to arrive. Now they boast a 12-hour reply time to customers. I did not have to wait 2 hours. In their reply, Amazon told me not to worry. It was their experience that delayed deliveries still arrived, albeit late. They appealed that I be patient, even asking that I add adding another 21 days of wait! Phew! OK. They could send me the replacement immediately they said, but what if the first batch of books arrived, they would then be burdening me with the added cost of sending one batch back to them. They told me that if after the additional 21 days, the books did not arrive, they would (as per their policy) send me another package with the same books, for free, in replacement.

After 21 days, I wrote them again, as it seemed the books were really and truly lost. No problem said Amazon, and guess what folks? I was sent another batch of books – free of charge!

This is cool, right? Yes sure. But consider all the factors. I AM NIGERIAN! OK, while that does not exactly make me a hairy, scary monster and less of a human being, the antecedents of my country-folks make the rest of the world it does.

Now, how was Amazon to tell that I was speaking the truth? Since my package was un-trackable, how was Amazon to tell that I did not receive the books, and knowing their replacement policy, told them it was lost, only so I could get another batch for free? Well, Amazon decided to trust me – for which I am grateful! Amazon did not doubt my story in the least, choosing to give me the benefit of the doubt – thank you! Now I tell you, that made me feel good! Somebody believed me for who I am – respected my individuality and gave credit to my story. Somebody decided not to bundle me into an amorphous mass called “Nigeria”, refused to paste on me a label of fraud usually associated with that name.

I have been doing online business in and from Nigeria and it is often frustrating. As a practice, I have to knock on many online doors, until I find one humane, trusting, daring (foolish?) enough to want to do business with me (a Nigerian), and it is often very gratifying when I find one that does. Immediately, there arises in me a sort of fraternal bond (of appreciation) towards one such.

In writing to tell me that a new set of books was being shipped to me, Amazon told me in more or less the following words. “From our experience, late books still arrive, if they are not lost. Now, if the first batch of books do arrive to you, and considering that you might incur extra cost sending them back to us, please do keep them with our compliments. You might consider making a donation of those books to a nearby local library that may have use of them”. Wow!

I hope you’re drawing your own conclusions? I have drawn mine, and here are some:

– Amazon.com’s attention to customers. Trusting them, showing them they matter, is perhaps the single most important reason why this company may be around and loved for a long time to come.
– Customer service is key. I will try to make this a major part of whatever I offer in any business I do
– Trust people. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Even if they may sometimes take advantage of it, making a fool of you. They will appreciate it of you, and even the tiny minority among them that may be bad, will eventually be won over by your persistent trust. St. Josemaría Escrivá even gave this advice to parents about their children. Trust your children, and let them know you trust them. Even if they take advantage of this trust to make a fool of you, your persevering trust will in time make they feel compelled to reciprocate. They will turn around.

7 thoughts on “In Praise of Amazon.com”

  1. i have being trying to buy 10 books from Amazon.com for the past 1 week but i keep getting the same error for all the books: sorry we cant ship to the destination, bla blah! There is no explanation as to why, i have changed the address severally but it seems they dont ship to the part of Nigeria where i am. I am also not sure my Nigerianness isnt working against me. maybe you were just lucky.

    1. Hi Musty, Unless am mistaken, there is something wrong in the information you have provided. No it has nothing to do with the part of Nigeria you are. Question: Are they all "physical" hard copy books or electronic? Is there any electronic material in the content? Otherwise, they should ship all books to Nigeria. What shipping methods are you using? You might want to send me an email so I can help you figure out what the issue might be. It's ginger AT writingpad DOT org

  2. hi,
    i have experienced the same thing as well. Even while in the UK, I was served with a ticket for beating the light. As i had other tickets for which I had to pay a fine, this time around I was to be in court. Unfortunately or fortunately, my visa runs out a couple of weeks before my court appearance. I went to the court, and told them, asking if I could pay a fine in stead as i would not be in the country as at the court date. the lady was so surprised….she just told me to write my Lagos address and that they would be in touch…that was six years ago…they never did. Also, I had the same experience with amazon and other online booksellers…I got my books delivered to my office, and boy was I surprised. I used my card also from GTB, and they accepted it without question or query or say please call our offices to confirm payment….LOL…it felt like a step int he right direction for this country.

  3. Good experience, but you shouldnt wait for 28 day (4 weeks)to receive a book!If you wait for 28 days to receive a book, how long will you wait to receive 20 books?, 40 weeks?.

    But there is a competing nigerian online bookstore: walahi.com, their prices are cheaper than amazon.com and they deliver faster.Some of their books are shipped within 24 hrs. They accept interswitch ATM Card, VISA Card and local bank deposit in GTB, Zenith and First Bank.walahi.com might in future eat amazon.com market share for books in Nigeria.

    They may not have very large collection of books like in amazon, but am impress with walahi.com services.

    1. Hi Tolu,
      It’s good to see a Nigerian attempt to solve a problem. Don’t be simplistic though. The fact it takes 28 days to receive one book does not translate to a multiple of that to receive 20 books. You simply put them all in one carton 🙂

      That said, you do a good job of advertising your project walahi and I will be looking out for it, and perhaps even promoting it in the future if it measures up. Don’t expect though to “eat” up amazon.com that easily. You need a pretty big mouth for that… and you need resilience.

      Welcome to the online trading zone and good luck brother!

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