Amazon Prime is an excellent service that I highly recommend to anybody who purchases as much media as I do. For $79 per year, you get unlimited free two day shipping on any item fulfilled by amazon.com. This is pretty awesome, considering that, for new release and library DVDs, amazon.com usually has the lowest price and, for video games, with most purchases, there is a $10 (and sometimes $20) off a future video game purchase incentive which stacks if you buy multiple games. Another incentive for new releases (DVDs and video games) is free release day shipping, which means you get things the day they launch. You can upgrade to overnight shipping for $3.99 per purchase, but most of my purchases come to me within 1 business day, anyway.
All of these incentives come with a caveat: you are at the mercy of shipping providers. I have placed a total of over 60 orders using amazon prime in the last year that I paid for membership, and only twice (for heavy items) were the orders handled by someone other than UPS. You can read about UPS (United Parcel Service) on wikipedia; however, I will tell you some stuff that you will not find there.
Taking advantage of a paid amazon prime membership over the past year has been a constant battle; a battle that I am not willing to lose. Pretty much anything you can think can go wrong with a delivery has gone wrong.
A number of my earlier experiences involved blatant theft of my packages by someone within the UPS system. This occurred with three deliveries that I was expecting, all of which were brand new Xbox360 games (The Beatles: Rock Band, Brutal Legend, and Bioshock 2) on release date. The footprint of the package in these three instances showed an “Out for delivery” tag in my town (Latham, NY) followed by a subsequent “Arrival Scan” in another town, usually Albany, NY. Since no “Delivery” or “Delivery Attempt” was made, any possibility of a third party, such as a neighbor or other resident in my complex, taking the package does not exist.
For the first occurrence, I was unexperienced with the UPS system. The day of scheduled delivery (aka release date for the game), I waited until 7pm, which is the latest you should expect a residential delivery), and called the national center. They were clueless as to what was going on, so they diverted to the local center to call me back. It was 8:15 when they called back, and they said the drivers were unloading the trucks and that it would be at the center to pick up before 9 pm if I wanted to pick it up. I live less than 5 minutes from the facility, so I just drove there and waited for the drivers to unload deliveries. Nothing. No package. I was irate, so I just re-purchased the game at Target. I called amazon who happily gave me a refund. The package was still in UPS limbo, with an arrival scan and no physical sign of it. So I kept calling and bugging UPS. At a point later that week, they stopped answering my calls. I got nowhere.
Even the second time that theft occurred, it was difficult to get anybody in the UPS system to acknowledge any wrongdoing. For this second offense, amazon acted in good faith and reshipped the item at their expense. After the third offense (which amazon also re-fulfilled at their own expense), I finally got to speak with a regional manager who was willing to listen and rectify the situation. I do not know precisely what was going on, but I can say that I have not noticed a theft since February. My speculation is that someone between the truck loader and driver (whether they are the same person, I do not know) was keeping my package on the truck and knew a way to make it physically disappear while remaining within the tracking system. Whether someone got fired, I also do not know. None of this is my business as long as I keep receiving my packages.
Ever since the theft issue, things have gotten even weirder…