Amazon email

Damn right I’m interested. I’m having the weirdest experience with Amazon. Let me tell you about it.

Two years ago I got interested in buying one or more PA speakers. I’m involved with Cycle Winchester; we campaign to make Winchester better by bike, and, as part of that, we organise mass cycle rides around the city a couple of times a year (but not this year, obviously). We’ve found that having music on the ride really helps build a joyous mood. Fun, but challenging the dominance of motor vehicles on the road.

Never passing up an opportunity to make a project into a technology project, I designed and built some battery-powered amplifiers, packed inside little lunchboxes. I’ll tell you more about those another time!

But speakers are more of a problem. I read a great article (Off-Grid Party Sound Systems) that recommended some Behringer speakers and they seemed ideal. But I didn’t feel like splashing out well over £100 a go for an occasional bit of fun. So we made do with domestic speakers filched from our various home stereo systems, awkwardly wrapped in polythene against the elements (we have terrible luck with the weather on our rides!).

Speaker on bike rack Amplifier

“Maybe one day those PA speakers will be cheaper”, I thought, and added them to a subscription in camelcamelcamel. In case you don’t know, it’s a website that will alert you when your chosen product falls below a certain price. “If they get below £80, I’m interested”.

Two years later, out of the blue I get an email. “The Amazon Price for Behringer EuroLive B212XL 800-Watt 2-Way, Passive PA Speaker has dropped at Amazon and is now £1.35 below your desired price.” “Hmm, interesting”, I think, but it’s still a lot.

Then two days later, “the price has dropped at Amazon and is now £17.70 below your desired price.” Two more days and it’s £21 below. This continues for four weeks, by which time, the price is £41 and I can’t resist any longer. Onto Amazon, nine items available, hit Buy Now, but I get this.

Amazon delivery error

Can’t be delivered to my selected address. Seems odd; we live in a regular urban street, in Southern England, not on a Scottish island or anything (though sometimes that idea appeals). I tried a couple of other addresses of family members, with the same result.

Amazon customer support

It took me a while to find a way to contact Amazon customer support, but eventually I got onto their live chat.

“Hi this is Aditi, how can I help you?”

“I really want to buy this speaker, but your site says you can’t deliver it to me. I wondered if you can tell me why not; maybe I could then find a friend or family member to receive it.”

Aditi retired hurt almost immediately. “I’m going to hand you on to my colleague Dhruv”

“I really want to buy this speaker, but your site says you can’t deliver it to me. I wondered if you can tell me why not; maybe I could then find a friend or family member to receive it.”

Dhruv: “There are many reasons why we may not be able to deliver but I can’t tell you why. Let me delete all of the delivery addresses on your account, then you can add them again and see if the problem magically goes away.”

I accede to this procedure, but to no avail. Dhruv further suggests clearing my cache, to no avail. I volunteer to try a different browser which has never visited this product, to no avail.

Dhruv: “Have you tried getting it delivered to a friend or family member?”

“Yes, I have tried a couple but let me try everyone I can think of”. I try five or six different addresses in various major urban centres, with the same result in every case.

Dhruv: “Why don’t you buy a different speaker?”

This suggestion doesn’t go down well with me for obvious reasons, but - out of curiosity - I try putting into my basket a similar speaker from the same manufacturer: both sold by: Amazon EU S.a.r.L., similar size and weight. “OK, that works no problem, but I don’t want to buy that speaker as it costs four times as much.”

Dhruv: “I understand you might not want to buy this speaker but blah, blah, blah, Amazon policy.”

By this point I’m 90% sure this product is configured incorrectly in the product catalogue, and that it’s not orderable by anyone. “Can you escalate this to someone who could look into the product configuration?”

“Yes, I can transfer you to my supervisor but I must tell you, Amazon policy, blah, blah, blah.”

I wait a while and am connected with Krishna.

“I’m pretty sure this product is configured incorrectly, so that no-one can order it.”

Krishna: “Have you tried delivering to a friend or family member?” “Yes, I have tried almost everyone in my address book.

Krishna: “I suggest you change your address.”

Wondering if he seriously wants me to move house. And if I did, what chance that my new residence happens to be the sole address in the UK where Amazon can deliver this item.

I try a different tack, since Krishna doesn’t seem to have much sympathy with my plight; maybe he will respond better to a suggestion about Amazon’s bottom line. “For Amazon’s sake, you have nine items here, that I’m somewhat certain nobody in the UK can buy. If you ever want to be able to sell this inventory, you might want to take a look at the product configuration to see why it can’t be purchased.”

“Thank you for your feedback, Sir, which I assure you we will take into account. Goodbye.”


Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but the thought of these nine speakers, priced well under half RRP, but trapped in an Amazon warehouse, is driving me a little bit nuts. In desperation I tweet a DM to @behringer. “… I think Amazon will find it really hard to sell the nine items they say are in stock. Maybe you can help???”

I experience a little flicker of excitement as a reply comes back: “Hi Rob, hmm, this seems to be a really tricky problem. I will try to pass this along internally…”

But days pass without further response and my excitement fades.


A curious thing I noticed while the Amazon price was plummeting earlier in September: Ebay prices for the product were also falling at a similar rate, though always roughly £10 more than Amazon. I sensed something slightly fishy, but - with Amazon’s products out of reach, and not wishing to cut off nose to spite face - I reluctantly stumped up the extra £10 to buy a new item from an Ebay seller. “At least that nightmare is over”, I thought, and settled back to await delivery.

Two days later:

“I’m very sorry to tell you this but the item you have purchased has been reported as damaged, so we’ve had to start a process of getting that investigated. Unfortunately, at this time we cannot say how long that might take. We will send you your money back immediately and cancel the order.”

Hmm, the fishy smell just became absolutely acrid. As I might have suspected, this Ebayer appears to be advertising Amazon stock, but with a markup, and they just hit the same problem that I had when they tried to fulfil my order. It’s unorderable. I don’t like being lied to.

Expecting the worst, I moved down the list of Ebay sellers to the second lowest priced and placed another order. This time the response was almost immediate:

“… we are pulling all of our orders for quality checks before shipping to customers. Unfortunately upon this quality check the product has not matched our standards due to some dysfunctions and therefore is not suitable for shipping. The product cannot be swapped as it was the last we had in our stock…”

I’m yelling “mendacity, mendacity, always mendacity”, like Burl Ives in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Based on your recent activity…

This is where we came in. Today Amazon emailed me: “Based on your recent activity, we thought you might be interested in this.”