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Amazonian ants in the mail!
June 24, 2009 5:23 PM   Subscribe

The book I just received from Amazon is covered in ants, which have now infested my mailbox (and my nightmares). What to do, whom to contact?

I ordered a book from Amazon and then went away for a long weekend. When I checked my mailbox this morning, it was full of ants. We live in a woodsy area, and there have been ant infestations in the mailbox before, so I wasn't so surprised, especially with the God's-wrath amounts of rain we've been having in New York. But they were definitely concentrated on the Amazon package, so I figured maybe some kind of food had gotten onto it or something.

I went down to the mailbox this evening with a can of Raid and rubber gloves, sprayed all inside and around the mailbox, pulled out the Amazon package and sprayed it all over, too. I brought the package inside, put it in the kitchen sink, and snipped it open with scissors. Ants POURED out like I hope you can never imagine. I sprayed Raid all over the sink, books, and gloves, closed the kitchen door, and ran upstairs to hide.

WTF?? Has anyone ever heard of anything like this? Whom should I contact at Amazon to complain and possibly ask for another copy of the book, and how do I get in touch with them (I remember hearing that Amazon phone numbers are carefully guarded)? Should I ask for another book or am I being a huge baby? How do I make the book safe after having doused it with poison?
posted by thebazilist to Home & Garden (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Can't help with the ants, but here's some info on how to contact Amazon customer service.
posted by scody at 5:27 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, you've had an ant infestation in this mailbox before but you are assuming the ants originated from a mostly sealed, dry Amazon box?

You may want to rethink your conclusion.
posted by Loto at 5:28 PM on June 24, 2009 [17 favorites]


It is much more likely that the ants were drawn to the tasty, tasty cardboard adhesive (roaches love it too) from nearby. They very likely did not arrive via mail.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:31 PM on June 24, 2009


Clarification: not a box, one of those paper envelopes lined with plastic. The only reason I'm thinking that the ants came from the package and not outside is that there were way, WAY more ants inside the package than there had been inside the mailbox.
posted by thebazilist at 5:37 PM on June 24, 2009


i've seen ants take up residence like that in video game cases. i'd agree that you can't be sure if they came via post or made their home there once the book arrived in your mailbox.
posted by nadawi at 5:38 PM on June 24, 2009


Did the books come from an Amazon distribution center or an Amazon marketplace seller? Many, many people get these confused with one another, and it really is relevant here. I would be surprised if the ants came from the distribution center, but not so much from a seller.

Also stuff can get cross-contaminated in the mail... your package might have been sitting in the mail truck underneath a box with mail-order potted plants packed in it.
posted by crapmatic at 5:40 PM on June 24, 2009


Amazon seems to be known for good customer service, so try contacting them and telling them your story. In my experience, their customer service dept. responds to emails with alacrity.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2009


It's really very unlikely that the package came from an Amazon distribution center - I've seen one and they are remarkably cleaner than you might think!

Not knowing anything about your order, I would assume that you placed an order from an Amazon marketplace seller, considering it was shipped in a envelope - Amazon almost exclusively uses cardboard for most of their shipments.

If your order begins with a 1, then you probably ordered it from Amazon directly. If it begins with a 0, then you probably ordered it from a marketplace seller, which would essentially be like me shipping you a book from my house. It's possible that maybe they had an ant infestation they weren't aware of. Or maybe it happened in the mail. Or maybe it happened in your mailbox. There's not really a good way to determine this (though I fully sympathize with you and would probably have cried if it happened to me)

Regardless, if your order is from a marketplace seller and you call Amazon, they will not be able to help you and will most likely ask you to contact the seller directly to resolve the issue (you can do that in the "your account" screen).

IANAAmazonEmployee, but I used to be.
posted by kerning at 5:49 PM on June 24, 2009


(I should add that, if your item is sold by a marketplace seller, after you contact the seller of the marketplace item and if the seller does not respond to you within three business days, then Amazon customer service can intervene on your behalf and file a claim for a refund. But you still have to contact the original seller)
posted by kerning at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2009


...there have been ant infestations in the mailbox before, so I wasn't so surprised...

Your mailbox has a history of ant infestations and you're assuming the ants came from Amazon.com or one of their sellers? How did you make this leap of (il)logic? This is beyond belief. It's amazing how people will avoid taking responsibility for themselves these daze.

It's likely the ants smelled something inside the package and went inside in droves to see if it was edible.

You may want to consider periodically spreading ant killer around your mailbox.
posted by torquemaniac at 5:50 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I've called Amazon a few times and they have decent customer service. This page, which has since moved to a blog for some reason, provided the phone number and some handy tips for me when I called. Don't be afraid of the funny 1990s look of the original website.
posted by k8lin at 5:51 PM on June 24, 2009


The only reason I'm thinking that the ants came from the package and not outside is that there were way, WAY more ants inside the package than there had been inside the mailbox.

Really?

Let's see:

- Previous ant infestation of mailbox. Check.
- Gone for an extended period with package waiting in mailbox. Check.
- Ants in package. Check.

And so from this you conclude that the ants, somehow unnoticed at the shipping facility, got into the package as someone was sealing it closed, survived the journey to your mailbox (which was, just by coincidence, previously infested with ants) and came pouring out into your nightmares.

Please sir, do respect the borders of credulity.
posted by wfrgms at 5:55 PM on June 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


There were more ants inside because they thought there was somethign good in there and they had plenty of time to get inside.

The post office would not have delivered a box with ants pouring from it.

The handling of an envelope by the USPO at book rate would crush virtually all of the ants before it arrived at your location.

You've wasted your question of the week asking how to make this someone else's problem when you should have asked how to get rid of regular ant infestations in your mailbox.

Don't bug Amazon with this, they are not a pest control service.
posted by Ookseer at 6:48 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Don't bug Amazon with this

haha

I was just going to say, it doesn't hurt to call Amazon, explain the situation, and see what they will do. The worst they can say is "no." I think the ants got in while they were in the box, too, but I still think it's worth a shot to call Amazon.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:54 PM on June 24, 2009


Christ, do all you people own Amazon stock? What's the deal? Telling this person that the ants probably came from outside the package is fine...trying to make them feel like an ass for asking the question is petty and childish.

Look, phone up Amazon and explain the situation politely and honestly. I'd say that there's a good shot that they'll re-send the item and eat the cost. I got a package re-sent once when it got lost in the mail. They're a multi-billion dollar company, and customer service trumps little costs that they have to absorb in situations like this.

Seriously, all of you sure seem to like big corporations more than real people and their problems.
posted by hiteleven at 7:10 PM on June 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Ants can get into pretty much anything; it doesn't matter if the package was sealed. Some kinds of ants will eat through computer wire if they feel like it. If ants are in your mailbox, they are much more likely to enter a package than to not enter it, since there's at least the possibility of food there.

You can bother Amazon if you like, and maybe you'll get something out of it, but I think it would be a bit dishonest of you.
posted by Nattie at 7:30 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're a multi-billion dollar company, and customer service trumps little costs that they have to absorb in situations like this. - hiteleven

Yes, true. But from the details we know, in all likelihood, the issue of the ants is probably not any fault of Amazon, but due to the negligence of the poster.

Asking Amazon to cover the costs of the customer's fault makes them have to shell out money, affecting others, and effectively compels them to raise costs to cover these "losses." Yes, it's one book and that will hardly make a fraction of a dent. But suggesting that the poster do this because Amazon can afford to, and encouraging others to effectively not care about these "little costs," will add up the dents and drives prices up. For something that most likely was the customer's own fault.

On preview - echoing Nattie's mention of the dishonesty in doing this.
posted by raztaj at 7:34 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Asking Amazon to cover the costs of the customer's fault makes them have to shell out money, affecting others, and effectively compels them to raise costs to cover these "losses." Yes, it's one book and that will hardly make a fraction of a dent. But suggesting that the poster do this because Amazon can afford to, and encouraging others to effectively not care about these "little costs," will add up the dents and drives prices up. For something that most likely was the customer's own fault.

On preview - echoing Nattie's mention of the dishonesty in doing this.


a) I'm not saying to be dishonest. I'm saying to explain the situation honestly.

b) If you think Amazon is a 100% efficient company, and that an increase in customer compaints is somehow going to blow away their bottom line, you've cleraly never worked in retail. I can guarantee you that the costs Amazon incurs from non-customer related waste - product that gets lost on its way to its warehouses, product that gets ruined inside the warehouses, etc., would make customer refunds and re-ships look like a drop in the bucket.

I worked in a warehouse for a big box bookstore, and I couldn't tell you the number of incomplete incoming shipments we'd receive. And the funny thing is that the company couldn't have cared less about this...and we're talking hundreds of books per incident, for one little store.

So having said all that, I think that one tiny refund for a book that was destroyed by mother nature won't result in across the board price increases on everything that Amazon sells.
posted by hiteleven at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


To finish my story, it is true that we would report the missing boxes in our paperwork. But this was paperwork that would pile up in our warehouse for weeks, and get shipped once in a blue moon to head office. And then someone at head office would have to go through every invoice sent from every store and somehow total up all the refunds. And this is assuming that someone there was even doing this work instead of just filing everything in a drawer, which is probably what happened. The bottom line is that money bleeds out of every big retail company like this.
posted by hiteleven at 7:50 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if it's an Amazon Marketplace seller? (Which sounds likely due to the packaging) Why should that seller, who is just as much a "real" person as this buyer, have to shell out for the buyer's inattention to her previously-known ant problem?
posted by sageleaf at 7:54 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hiteleven is right. The OP didn't come here to say, "Help me con Amazon into replacing a book with an ant infestation it wasn't responsible for." Among her questions were: "Has anyone ever heard of anything like this?" and "Should I ask for another book?" If you think the answer to the latter ought to be "no," that's one thing. But the OP isn't unreasonable to wonder why the ant situation was so much worse inside the package than out.

While I agree that it's more likely that the ants came from without and somehow got within, especially given the past history of the mailbox, it's not impossible for the reverse to have happened. And that's pretty much what the OP was wondering.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:04 PM on June 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I live in the woods. A few days ago, ants infested my mailbox. I shook them off the mail as I took it out. If I there were a package in there, I would have opened it outside and shaken it, too. Then I got a big leaf and used it to scoop many of the ants out of the mailbox, along with their pile of larvae-like thingies. There were fewer ants the next day, and now they're gone.

I don't think this is something that Amazon should have to pay for.
posted by PatoPata at 8:04 PM on June 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Is the spine of the book glued? The ants may have been attracted to that.

In my vast and incredibly annoying experience with ant infestations (I live in a basement suite, it has three different types of ants), if you have some kind of container and in the container is something the ants want, then in the container is where you will find the ants. Around the container, there will be a few, but in the container many more hundreds than it or your nightmares can seemingly handle. This includes cardboard boxes that were theoretically completely sealed shut, yet managed to be full of icky, skanky ants much larger than any possible hole in the box.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:15 PM on June 24, 2009


I guess I'm still unclear on what, exactly, Amazon ought to do. Unless they in fact have a distribution center full of ants, which I doubt. But even if a private seller sent the item, what is the remedy here?
posted by dhartung at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2009


I think you will probably just have to order another copy of the book. It sounds like this was in no way Amazon's fault. In the future, consider asking a friend or neighbor to pick up your mail for you.
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:18 PM on June 24, 2009


Terro for the ants.

Sorry, your book is a goner. Throw it away.

Call Amazon at 1-866-216-1072 and explain what happened; they'll probably send you another book as a gesture of goodwill. If not, live and learn.

Next time you notice an ant invasion, try not to panic. Don't bring the infestation into your home. Watch them for a while and try to figure out where they're coming from; it'll increase your odds of successfully getting rid of them if you can determine their point of origin.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 8:30 PM on June 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Clarification: not a box, one of those paper envelopes lined with plastic.

Once, living in a Texas apartment with an ant problem that was eventually cleared up using Terro, ants managed to get inside the sealed plastic bag in an unopened box of cereal, within a few days of purchasing said cereal. It was impressive. Disgusting, but impressive.
posted by 6550 at 9:43 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


No reason not to call/email, tell the story Amazon and let them decide.

Look to see if the wood mailbox post is infested. Plant tansy, mint, rosemary and other plants to repel ants. I've had good luck with ground cinnamon discouraging ants.
posted by theora55 at 7:27 AM on June 25, 2009


Ants can be pretty stupid. In a highschool class we were doing a project with that pink insulation styrofoam and when we came into class one day there was a circuit of ants carrying chunks of the foam outside and to their nest, and coming back for more. Im pretty sure the stuff was toxic or least not nutritious, but the ants really wanted it.
posted by Iax at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2009


What I would do if I were you:

1. Buy a new mailbox (seriously, they aren't that expensive). Consider one without a wooden stand, to help avoid future ant infestations. Do not ever leave the new box open. A new mailbox is going to structurally be better able to keep out the ants.

2. If it were me, I'd be frustrated at the damage sustained to the book, but I don't think I'd blame the buyer, so I'd eat the cost.

Out of curiosity, do you want to pop in and tell us what book it was? Maybe someone on Mefi has a used copy, if it's a popular book.
posted by misha at 10:11 AM on June 25, 2009


You don't need to call Amazon -- whenever I have had an issue with a purchase, I have contacted them via the online form available under "Contact Us" and have gotten a response and a satisfactory resolution usually within 24 hours. They will probably replace the book without a hassle.
posted by tastybrains at 10:15 AM on June 25, 2009


GOT IT -- it's very unlikely that ants were transported via mail or that they came from a reportedly-clean Amazon distribution center. Thanks!

I'll probably still contact Amazon (Amazon proper, not a marketplace seller, and yes, I'm sure) -- I'll say what I have to say and they'll say what they have to say. I'm not expecting anything, but at the very least they'll have a little note somewhere that might get read sometime and maybe they'll reconsider using this packing material or their policy of letting packing employees eat on the job, etc.

The last time ants camped out in the mailbox was about eight years ago (during which time mail sat uncollected in the mailbox for much longer than three days), so I was a little surprised that they came inside specifically to swarm into that package, ignoring all the other mail. But everyone's anecdotes about ant behavior were helpful in that regard.

The book is Working Windows (3rd ed) -- need to learn how to make screens to keep other bugs out.
posted by thebazilist at 1:50 PM on June 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Update from the exterminator (who came for the yearly termite check):

The book and remains were (are) still sitting where I left them (thank God for double sinks), and the first thing out of his mouth when he saw the ant-covered book and envelope was "Somebody mailed you some ants, huh?" although he was mostly* joking.

He said they were acrobat ants that probably had been attracted to the rotting wooden mailbox post (30+ years old), but he was also surprised that they had been so interested in the book since he didn't see them concentrating around the spine for the binding, and that there was probably some kind of food in/on the envelope or book. He found eggs between the pages and all inside the envelope, though ( = more nightmares). He'll be putting traps inside the box while I shop for another mailbox.

*The exterminator had in fact heard of ants coming through the mail, although it's probably not what happened in my case.
posted by thebazilist at 1:41 PM on June 26, 2009


My mailbox, on a brand-new cedar post, was just infested by tiny ants. I came home after being away for a few days and they were building a nest in a catalog. weird.
posted by theora55 at 3:26 PM on July 3, 2009


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