A few weeks ago, I volunteered to participate in a global book swap on Facebook. It was one of those pyramid things, were you sent a book to the person 2 steps ahead of you, and the people 2 steps behind you will send you books. I’ve already received 2 books (one from the UK!), and haven’t yet been able to send the original book I was supposed to send. You see, I am a procrastinator and I have to ship a book to a stranger in Germany.
Part of my procrastination was choosing a book to send. There are no parameters on the choice – just send a book, any book. The implications is a new book or a book recently purchased, but the directions are a bit gray. However, being an over-achiever (yes, over-achievers can be procrastinators, too), I wanted to send an impactful book. My first dilemma: There are a lot of choices in fiction and how do I know the tastes of the person on the other end? To be fair, the first book I received was Who Do You Love by Jennifer Wiener. While not something I would have purchased for myself, I have read other books by Wiener and enjoyed them. I received the book just before my flight to Boston, so put it in my carry on beside the other book I was reading. I’m pretty sure the guy on the plane next to me was uncomfortable with the amount of tears that book generated.
Moving along from that tangent, I decided to send a non-fiction book that was still entertaining to read. I narrowed it down between Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink or Steven Johnson’s Mind Wide Open. The decision may have been influenced by the book I was finishing on the plane (Where Good Ideas Come From, also by Johnson), but I decided to go with Mind Wide Open. It’s the lessor known of the two, and it really made an impact on me while studying marketing during my MBA program. That marketing class was very strongly weighted in consumer psychology, so the neuroscience in Johnson’s book was remarkable. For anyone following along at home, both books are fantastic and compliment each other, so you should read them both.
By now you must be asking where Amazon comes into play? When I returned from Boston, I had the second book in the mail. This one was from the UK, shipped by Amazon and the packing slip revealed that shipping was 3x the cost of the book! I log on to Amazon, place the selected book in the cart, enter the address in Germany and shipping was only half the cost of the book I chose. Being a Prime member, however, I can’t yet stomach the though of paying even that much for shipping, when I normally don’t pay for shipping at all. I figure I will mail myself the book, and pay media rate shipping on a slow boat to Germany. As a Prime Member I was able to receive the book in two days.
Today, I gathered up the packages I needed to mail, including the book. (I also had a care package for my sister and her kids that I have been meaning to send for two months and a couple combat archery blunts to send to a SCAdian doing glue tests in An Tir.) I was a bit taken aback at the shipping cost of the care package, but made a mental note to collect flat rate boxes to keep at home for this type of thing, since it did weight close to 7 pounds. The more shocking cost was the quote for media mail rate to Germany – it was more than 1.5x the cost of the book! This was more than I would have paid to Amazon to ship it to Germany with the cost of the book included – just for USPS shipping. I said no thanks; I’ll figure out what to do with the extra copy of the book.
That’s what I did when I got home, but when I received the confirmation email, I noticed the seller was Amazon Exports. It clicked in my brain that I received a book from Amazon.uk, so what was to say that Amazon in Germany wouldn’t be able to sell me the book and save on both shipping cost and time? I got to the Amazon.de website, which looks exactly like the Amazon US website, so I was able to navigate it despite everything in German. When I verified the book was the English version, I placed it in the cart. Amazon.de asks me to log in and I decide to try my Amazon.com email and password. It works! Additionally, once I’ve clicked into the cart, a pop-up asks me if I’d like to see the website in English. All of my address (including the one in Germany from the order I placed on Amazon.com) and saved payment options are available for me to use. I can opted to have my card charged in dollars instead of Euros and shipping will be 2 days instead of 2-3 weeks. (I checked the exchange rate and the difference was only about 3.5% from today’s rate – the same may card would charge if I payed in Euros.)
The final price I paid at Amazon.de was about the same price I would have paid for the book at Amazon.com plus what I thought I should pay for media mail shipping from USPS. I cancelled the Amazon.com order and all is right in my world. I still have an extra book, but I think I’ll give it to my sister-in-law. She tried to participate in the book swap, but not of her friends wanted in. I don’t know if she sent her book to my friend, but if she did I’ll make sure she gets a book too. If not, I can always return the book to Amazon.
TL;DR: Amazon is an amazingly connected global company and I am even more of a fan girl than I was before.
Edit: When I shared this story with my ultra first adopter colleague, his first suggestion when I said I needed to mail a book to Germany was to purchase it from the Amazon.de website. Apparently, I’m slow on the uptake.
Also, I got an email notification in German (that Google graciously translated for me) informing me that my 30 day trial of Prime was in effect. Props to Amazon for ethics in business, though, since I can cancel it next week and still be good.