Well, it finally happened. I can take some small amount of solace in knowing it’s Amazon’s fault and not mine. But there’s still a giant blue stain on my carpet, and I’m not happy about it.
I’ve wanted to check out Levenger products, but unfortunately, none of my usual, go-to fountain pen retailers carry them. I decided to buy a couple Levenger inks (their bottles are so cool!) and had to decide whether to get them directly from Levenger ($14 per bottle + shipping) or from Amazon ($12 per bottle with free shipping). No brainer, right? (I’m referring to the decision being a no-brainer at this point…I’ll get to the box-packing Amazon employees being no-brainers in a bit.)
I decided on Amazon, and put in my order for a bottle each of Empyrean Blue and True Teal. A couple days later, a small box was sitting on my doorstep, standing up on its side. I brought it in the house, walked into my dining room, and laid the box flat on the table so I could open it. Keep in mind it was standing on its side on the porch, so I had to rotate the box 90 degrees to open it. When I turned it, I heard the contents shift inside, but didn’t think much about it. I cut open the tape on the top of the box…and only then did I notice the giant pool of teal ink spreading over my dining room table and dribbling off the side onto my carpet.
I had the presence of mind to react quickly, dashing into the kitchen and getting the box in the sink, but not before a long trail of drops got poured on the carpet. A couple drops also hit the kitchen linoleum, which I promptly stepped in and tracked all over the place. But that was confined to the kitchen and cleaned up easily, as did the pool of ink on my dining room table.
The carpet, though, is a different story.
Over the next three hours or so, I engaged in a seemingly endless string of tasks to attempt removing the ink (with a tweet to amazon, a call to Amazon, and time for pictures in between):
- Shampooer with hot water and Bissel deep-cleaning carpet shampoo (had to change the water about four times)
- Cat stain spray with Oxy (works wonders on cat barf)
- Shampooer with more hot water & shampoo
- Drove to BigBoxMart and got some Resolve…sprayed that on there
- Threw out a panic message on Google+ asking if other fountain pen users had favorite products for this type of disaster
- On recommendations from my Google+ peeps, drove back to BigBoxMart and got a box of Oxiclean and a bottle of Fabuloso (apple scented, if you care to know)
- Shampooer with hot water and Fabuloso
- Whipped up a container of Oxiclean and dumped it over the stain
- More cat stain spray
- Shampooer with just hot water…to suck up the 73 different chemicals I just poured into my carpet
The stain is quite a bit lighter now, but also quite a bit larger, and it will probably never fully come out. We currently rent and may lose our security deposit when we move out because they’ll have to replace the carpet before renting to the next tenants.
The Problem on the Surface
I looked into the box to see what was going on, and found that the genius who packed my ink just set the two bottles into the box, laid a single sheet of bubble wrap (the kind with the large air pillows) on top of them, and sealed the box. Each bottle comes in a thin cardstock box, but there’s no padding in there at all and the bottles are made of glass.
The bubble wrap consisted of three air pillows, laid on top of the two smaller boxes, which were basically free to slide all over the place inside the larger box. Really, it’s a miracle that the package made it all the way to my house without both bottles getting smashed (mad props to UPS for the great care they took in shipping & delivering it).
“Reacts” is a bit of an overstatement here. While I was scrambling around with the first few cleaning agents, I stopped long enough to tweet some pictures out to Amazon, letting them know I didn’t approve of their lazy packing job. They tweeted back a nice note with a link to “reach out” to them via email or phone. The linked page didn’t include a phone number (surprise!), so I had to search Google for Amazon’s customer service phone number.
The guy I talked to on the phone was pleasant enough, but really couldn’t care less. I explained the issue to Guy Who Doesn’t Care, and he said he’d be happy to send me out a replacement bottle of the True Teal ink “at no additional charge.” He said that like four times: “At no additional charge” like he was doing me a favor. I felt like screaming, “Of course you’ll send it at no additional charge, you’re the ones who didn’t pack it properly!” But I didn’t scream at him…I kept my cool (another miracle).
“Okay, so I’ll send you another bottle…at no additional cost. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“What about my carpet?!”
“Please hold while I find out what I can do.”
(While we’re on hold with Amazon, please enjoy some intermission music!)
Guy Who Doesn’t Care comes back and tells me that he can give me a $10 credit toward some Resolve carpet cleaner. Great! I can get a free bottle of something I already tried that won’t arrive until after the ink stain has dried into the carpet! Brilliant Amazon, brilliant! I did make request that Guy Who Doesn’t Care enter a note into the order for the packer to pack it better this time.
I didn’t bother with the free carpet cleaner (seeing how I just got fully stocked up on a pile of those). And when the replacement bottle of True Teal arrived (at no additional charge), I very gently carried it into the house and set it in the sink BEFORE I opened it. I could hear the contents shifting around in there (gah!), so I suspected another lousy packing job.
I opened it and found that they had increased their packing material from three pillows to five. Of course, they didn’t actually WRAP the ink in the bubblewrap…they just put the five pillows of captured air TO THE SIDE of the bottle. It still had plenty of room for sliding around…yet another miracle that it arrived intact (that good ol’ UPS racked up the bonus points during this whole ordeal).
The Deeper Problem
So I’m pretty astounded by all of this. But then again, I’m not. Amazon runs on razor-thin margins, and they can’t go around replacing carpet (or whatever gets ruined) every time something goes wrong with a package they send out. But at the same time, IT’S LIQUID INK IN GLASS BOTTLES! Why the hell would they not pack that better???
I can’t help but wonder what leads to these things happening.
- Are the people who pack boxes at Amazon really stupid?
- Or do they just not care about their work or what happens to the packages once they leave the building?
- Or is the problem that they are slaves to a one-size-fits-all process that dictates every detail of how they do their jobs and prevents them from thinking for themselves?
- (I guess a fourth option is that they have robots do all the packing and sealing, and they just do what they’re programmed to do)
Amazon sells everything, and they do so for ridiculously low prices. They deal in enormous quantities, and ship hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of packages every day. By necessity, they have to be as lean as possible. They have to automate huge portions of their workflows to keep their costs down so they can be profitable. And their profit margins are pitiful. Yes, I know Amazon turns a profit as a company, but their profits per product are practically nothing…they make money through sheer volume of sales.
Of course, none of this excuses their piss-poor packing. Amazon ought to be ashamed of themselves for sending out packages that contain liquids in glass bottles without adequate packing to protect the products…and the home furnishings of those who order those products.
Somewhere along the way, an idiot at Amazon was involved. Whether it was the person who packed and sealed my box, the person(s) who implemented the process for packing liquids, or the person who programmed the robot. Whichever it is, the final packager either can’t think for himself/herself, or isn’t allowed to. Pretty crappy, either way, and it’s going to affect my shopping habits.
Am I going to stop shopping at Amazon? No, of course not. In some instances, it’s the only place to find things (like those little charcoal filters for my coffee pot that no physical stores carry). But I do know that:
- This is not the first time I’ve experienced bad packing from Amazon. I’ve gotten books and notebooks that were bent/crumpled/damaged in transit (because they were free to flop around the box). I’ve also received kid toys and a webcam with crushed product packaging. It’s become a trend for Amazon to pack boxes like jackasses.
- I will never again order a liquid of any kind from Amazon. They obviously can’t handle it. And the few bucks I would save isn’t worth the potential for something else getting wrecked (not to mention the stress and frustration that go along with it).
- If I care about the condition of an item when it arrives, I’ll purchase it somewhere else.
- Amazon will no longer be among the first places I check when I want to buy something…at least something nice. I will likely exhaust other options first.
I’m pretty unhappy that Amazon’s ineptitude and inability to deviate from a process in order to pack something properly led to my carpet getting stained. I can only hope that this ink is not lightfast and will fade over time. I doubt that’s going to be the case, but I can hope.
I think it’s clear that Amazon just doesn’t take this part of their business seriously. It’s a shame, too, because the ability to buy anything you want at a great price and have it at your door in a couple days is an amazing service.