Is sitting on your orders if you select free delivery?
March 13, 2008 2:52 AM   Subscribe

Have you noticed are sitting on orders? And delivery service is much worse than it used to be a few years ago?

Usually I select free delivery at but this has lead to them apparently sitting on orders. The products are in stock but nothing happens after I've placed the order for 2-4 days. Meanwhile the predicted delivery date is something ridiculous, like two weeks from the current date.

Once upon a time the free delivery option was a kind of "take your chances" option -- sometimes the orders arrived soon, sometimes later, but always the order was processed for dispatch almost immediately.

So I select the expensive 1st class delivery option, but this just seems to lead to the order being locked for a day or so, so I can't cancel or amend. The order is flagged as "dispatching soon".

It feels like Amazon are deliberately introducing delays, to force users to pay extra for the top delivery option. What are your experiences?
posted by humblepigeon to Shopping (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Quite the converse, as it happens. I almost never buy hardbacks but two books came out recently I just had to buy (one) (the other). I selected free delivery and both were delivered in 3 days. I do however live in London so YMMV.
posted by dmt at 3:15 AM on March 13, 2008

Nope, no change in the delivery of my orders.
posted by fire&wings at 3:26 AM on March 13, 2008

I've had a couple of orders tied up for months since about September. Before, if the order was going to be delayed because of one item, it seems to me that it'd be split into multiple deliveries quite promptly. I'm not sure if this is the case anymore, though my experiences are very admittedly anecdotal!
posted by lumiere at 3:39 AM on March 13, 2008


I've ordered finance books pretty regularly off that site and noticed (maybe June 2006 or so) that deliveries were getting pushed back or otherwise delayed. As I needed some of those books for the University classes I teach I would only order from Amazon if they were in stock and sold / shipped by Amazon, not an affiliate. Sorta frustrating.

Mrs Mutant & I married in September and put our Wedding Gift Register up on;

Some of the stuff folks purchased for us weeks before our wedding didn't arrive until the end of October. As we live in Whitechapel, London (aka The Ghetto) there isn't an acceptable explanation, especially so as I'm only dealing with Amazon here.

I'm not sure if these delays are intentional or not on Amazons part, but they have had the knock on effect that I'm acquiring any finance book I need in a timely manner from the University bookstore.
posted by Mutant at 3:49 AM on March 13, 2008

Last autumn the carrier for some deliveries to my London address changed from Parcelforce to some other godforsaken courier based out near White City. I'm not sure if it's coincidence, but I have also since noticed increasing delays for supersaver multiple item orders. As lumiere describes, orders used to be split up quite regularly and promptly, even if you didn't pay for it, and that isn't happening now.
posted by roofus at 3:59 AM on March 13, 2008

This might be a bit off topic, but for me's free shipping, as well as .com's (when I lived in the states), does take a good while, I suspect for monetary purposes. For me, switching to was faster and in most cases cheaper. They have free shipping no matter what the order cost, and it's usually faster than amazon. I don't mean to advertise, and you can flag this as noise or derail if it's inappropriate. Best of luck with your book purchasing needs!
posted by farishta at 4:02 AM on March 13, 2008

No big changes when I ordered some stash a couple of days ago. Still going to take the 5 working days to deliver my goods. I guess you might have got unlucky with something, why don't you try emailing them?
posted by dragontail at 4:23 AM on March 13, 2008

On a few occasions last year I had orders annoyingly stuck at 'dispatching soon' for 3 or 4 days. Most of the orders affected were international (to Sweden) and therefore didn't qualify for free delivery. My recentest orders have all been despatched quickly, so this isn't a consistent problem, but my overall perception is that their fulfillment has been worse over the last year or so than it ever was before.
posted by misteraitch at 4:27 AM on March 13, 2008

Definite deterioration in delivery times on the free delivery option. Not that they are missing their target now - I was just used to them routinely exceeding it in the past, and they don't do so any more.
posted by genesta at 4:55 AM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: No big changes when I ordered some stash a couple of days ago. Still going to take the 5 working days to deliver my goods. I guess you might have got unlucky with something, why don't you try emailing them?

This has been happening for quite a while now on all my orders. Remember that it's not about delivery times. It's about sitting on orders -- purposefully delaying orders to force customers to pay for delivery. Once dispatched they reach within one or two days.

At one time the supersaver option basically meant "not guaranteed any time soon", although in my experience the packages almost always arrived within a few days. That's what changed, and it seems, it's a deliberate change.

Maybe it's time to go to a bricks and mortar shop? At least then you can see when an item is in stock... And paying for delivery easily wipes out any savings you make there.
posted by humblepigeon at 5:04 AM on March 13, 2008

I've noticed my American Amazon shipments are delayed, backordered, etc. where they never were before.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:04 AM on March 13, 2008

FWIW, I'm noticing the same exact thing with; simple orders, with everything in stock, take 4 or 5 days just to get on the road, and then another 6-10 for delivery.

At one time the supersaver option basically meant "not guaranteed any time soon", although in my experience the packages almost always arrived within a few days. That's what changed, and it seems, it's a deliberate change.

posted by inigo2 at 6:18 AM on March 13, 2008

American Amazon user here, and I noticed the same thing years ago. I don't know how exactly the differences break down between Amazon in the US and Amazon UK, but I can say that since I bit the bullet and got Amazon Prime, I rarely have problems. So my guess is that they either want to back their customers into a corner and force them to pay for shipping (which, for me, is worth it -- but I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon), or they just consider their free shipping customers to be second class (which kinda amounts to the same thing).
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:05 AM on March 13, 2008 for me. I haven't noticed a huge difference; they have, however, always been very forthright about the fact that Super Saver Shipping adds 3-4 days to the proceedings. And it's never taken more than four days for them to send out something that was marked In Stock, so I figure "fair enough."

I figure that free shipping puts you on the bottom of the priority stack, so unless you luck into a particularly slow couple of days in the Amazon shipping department, you can count on that 3-4 day delay.
posted by Shepherd at 7:50 AM on March 13, 2008

Yes, I completely agree. I am in the US and have noticed that whenever I get the free shipping , it takes well over a week to get my order. Also, the USPS site is never updated with accurate info on the status of your order. It constantly says Electronic Shipping Onfo Received.
Pretty crappy.
posted by nineRED at 8:32 AM on March 13, 2008

Response by poster: Anyway, the way I understand it, the free shipping option is a way for Amazon to regulate their shipping process when they get overloaded. Those who pay for shipping get their orders prioritized, and us free shipping bums are at the end of the line.

Ah, that makes sense. So it might be that Amazon is a victim of its own success?

The problem is that this makes Amazon a lot less attractive to a shopper like me. I don't like companies that do things one way one week, and then a different way the next week, and then weasel out of it by pointing to small print.

I went to Amazon because I knew they'll have a good discounted price, plus free shipping, and that the product would reach me in a reasonable time. As mentioned, paying for shipping to get the product in a reasonable time wipes out any kind of savings.
posted by humblepigeon at 8:34 AM on March 13, 2008

Mr 26.2 orders DVDs from and they do sit on some orders for a very long while. We've always blamed it on the fact that they are shipping internationally.
posted by 26.2 at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2008

I've had a few delays from Amazon in the past year coming from the States up to Canada, although I never used to order from them and thus have no comparison.

I do want to point out that your question is going to give you a very skewed result: the wording makes it such that more people who have indeed had bad service will read and thus comment; you're going to get confirmation bias by asking 'Have you noticed that..'; and people generally tend towards a belief that things were better in the past, something similar to the Rosy Retrospection bias.

Not that you can't get good anecdotal evidence here, but I would take it with large grains of salt unless you can find some numbers.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:52 AM on March 13, 2008

It tends to be pot luck where I am... sometimes they come via parcel force (which are very prompt and is pretty good service), some via whatever delivery company seems to be available (this is has led to some very shonky service, with undelivered parcels and other pains)

Unless it's substantially cheaper I tend to go to Play now, who just post things one at a time via the ordinary post.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:25 AM on March 13, 2008

I don't like companies that do things one way one week, and then a different way the next week, and then weasel out of it by pointing to small print.

I don't think they've changed they way they prioritize the shipments, nor do I think there is some big conspiracy to force you to pay for shipping. It just wasn't an issue for you until more orders were coming in with paid postage and took priority over your SuperSaver order.

Admittedly, this post is just conjecture. They may actually be trying to squeeze you for more money via shipping charges.
posted by owtytrof at 9:52 AM on March 13, 2008

Yes, they definitely sit on "free delivery" orders for a few days, and I don't think it used to be this long.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:42 PM on March 13, 2008

One anecdotal-but-directly-comparative report: my two friends and I (who all live in NYC) all ordered the same adapter on the same night from amazon. They both went with the default (whatever option is one step up from free shipping, on the list of options) and I ordered free shipping. I got mine six business days later than the day they both got theirs.

(But as usual, mine at least arrived earlier than its predicted arrival date -- they always seem to estimate longer delivery time than it actually is.)
posted by sparrows at 1:15 AM on March 15, 2008

As I understand it, at least in the UK (and when they were using Royal Mail, rather than HDNL or whoever else), it was directly correlating to customer prioritization at the warehouse. Their marvellous, incredibly clever ecommerce platform looks at the number of orders which might have a higher priority than yours (same day, next day, first class, prime, etc) and schedules your 'collection' ticket (ie: when the order gets sent to the warehouse employee to pickup from the vast array of shelves) for a certain window. After which, I guess its basic courier timings.

As I recall, Amazon (UK) only has two or three warehouses, so there's probably a degree of 'route' scheduling involved too, in much the same way couriers schedule your deliver for 3PM because its a good place on the route between customer A at 2 and customer C at 4.

So to answer the question: yes, they're very much sitting on your order, but [presumably] not directly to force you into upgrading to get the thing sooner (after all, if you were concerned about getting it sooner, you'd have paid anyway), but rather to ensure the general flow of parcels, and satisfaction of as many customers as possible, is maintained.

(bonus: here's an example of a warehouse's shipping pallets.)
posted by Smoosh Faced Lion at 8:41 AM on March 15, 2008

« Older Database application freelancer seeking...   |   How do I promote my computer game? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.