Christmas Shopping -- 12/23/00

I like on-line shopping.

I am a big fan of My wife and my daughter like amazon as well. Of course it can get a bit confusing with more than one person ordering from the same computer. Amazon, as with most other on-line retailers, uses cookies to hold information. Thus, Amazon is able to greet customers with a personalized greeting: Hello, Jim Lawrence. Check out the new recommendations area. (If you're not Jim Lawrence, click here.) My wife uses my account, but Jennifer has her own account. So one day recently I went to Amazon and failed to notice a different first name in the greeting. It was only after I'd filled my shopping cart with several items and went to check out that I discovered the problem. When I told Amazon that I was Jim and not Jennifer, Amazon made the change, but now I had an empty shopping cart. It had taken me a while to gather all of these items and I did not want to have to navigate around so I switched back to being Jennifer and the items were back in the cart. So I asked her to submit the order for me.

That was not any real problem. I've placed many orders with Amazon since they've been in business and I've always received quick service, never had a single problem. I've ordered books and CDs and videos and games from them.

I've also ordered from other companies -- technical books and such from and consumer electronics from and have had good results. I've bought clothing from and interesting stuff from and I've bought software and concert tickets and reserved hotel rooms, etc., all on-line.

So I wanted to get a Plextor CD-burner for this computer (as a Christmas present for Sean) and had been planning on driving up to Warwick (an area of Rhode Island filled with shopping malls and big box retail stores) figuring I'd stop at CompUSA (and I hate CompUSA) or some equivalent... and then I decided to check online and discovered that CompUSA doesn't carry Plextor (at least they don't list that brand on their website)... but then I thought I'd see if I could buy it online. (Okay, so I switched from "on-line" to "online" -- so sue me!) I first went to but they didn't carry CD-burners so I went to the manufacturer's website. Plextor listed several online resellers on their webpge, I clicked a few links, found out that was out of stock, some others were also out of stock, but has it in stock ("24 to 48 hour" availability) and at a really good price... so I order one along with a ten pack of blank CDs with jewel cases and request 2nd day air delivery, figuring that gives me a reasonable chance of getting it before Christmas. (Order placed on Tuesday.)

I like being able to track the progress of a shipment online. My order went to "processing" status -- and then the pack of CDs changed to "sent to warehouse" -- and then to "shipped" and I could track its progress to Philadelphia airport and then to Connecticut and then to Providence and it was delivered on Thursday. Meanwhile the Plextor drive itself remained in "processing" -- until finally on Friday I sent them an email asking what's up with that? And they replied "The item #10229213 has been cancelled due to it is not in stock."

Okay, so they cancelled it... this can't be like the Playstation 2 shortage, can it? I found other sites that listed it as out-of-stock and then I found it listed at NEXC Direct for a higher price than, but they claimed to have it in stock. Okay, place an order -- it obviously won't come in time for Christmas but it will be here Christmas week -- and they have a good price on a ten pack of blanks so I add that in too. Order accepted. A few hours later the status is "SHIPPED" so I have no problems.

Oops, this morning I get an email from -- they've managed to get a Plextor drive and they are shipping it to me. Hey, wait, stop, you guys said "cancelled" so I went elsewhere... I send them a couple of frantic emails saying that... got replies back that they're sorry, they couldn't catch it in time and it is on its way here, but that all I have to do is refuse to accept delivery and it will be returned to them... and if nobody is home when it arrives, all I need to do is send it back to them.

Well, despite this, I remain a fan of online shopping. In fact, I'll be happy to do business with again. They have great prices and the problem was caused by an excess of helpfulness on their part. They actually respond to email messages. They seem to be a good company to me and I'll be likely to turn to them the next time I'm looking for equipment. (I still am thinking about setting up a LAN to connect all the computers in our house with each other and with the Internet... I just don't know when I will find time to do that, certainly not until after the basement "fitness center" becomes a reality.) Besides, compare that with shopping in bricks and mortar stores. You have to put up with traffic snarls, especially this time of year. When one source is out-of-stock online a few more clicks will bring me to another retailer. In physical shopping it's back onto the highway to drive through traffic to another store. It is difficult to find what you want... wrong size, wrong color, out-of-stock, etc. Clerks who don't have a clue. Clerks who are rude. Clerks who are jerks. Long lines to ask a question, even longer lines to checkout. (And then there are places like CompUSA that delight in insulting customers by insisting on checking purchases at the exit.) Oh, sure, I've found a few online retailers with poorly implemented sites, but I just skip them and go elsewhere.

Oh, and that order I placed in Jennifer's name. It arrived yesterday. Today another box came from them. They had split the order, shipping part of it so it arrived on Friday and upgraded the delayed part of the order to Saturday delivery at no extra charge so that it would arrive before Christmas. Now that's what I call outstanding customer service and it's one of the reasons I place so many orders with them.

Happy Holidays!

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