CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Christmas Gift Guide
Culture

Amazon's difficult week delivering the goods

First the company sends $5,000 worth of returns to an unsuspecting customer. Then it sends another customer a conveyor-belt roller as a gift.

roller.jpg
The roller that Amazon delivered to Lisa Seger. You can't even curl your hair with it. Blue Heron Farm/Twitter screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I've always found Amazon to be a disturbingly, monstrously, gloriously efficient company.

Two incidents this week, however, have made me wonder whether the company's robots have been at the seasonal tincture.

In the first, 22-year-old Brit Robert Quinn kept receiving parcels from Amazon, ones he was sure he hadn't ordered. There was a Samsung 55-inch 3-D Series 6 TV. A Galaxy Tab Pro turned up too. And lo, the leaf blower he'd always not wanted.

The parcels kept on coming, so much so that he received around 3,600 British pounds' ($5,600) worth of surprises. As the Daily Mail reports, Quinn said he believes that all these goodies were meant for a returns depot, but a benignly tipsy computer had addressed them all to him.

Quinn says he called Amazon. Twice. He told the Daily Mail: "I was worried that people were losing out on their stuff so I phone Amazon again and said I'm happy to accept these gifts if they are footing the cost, but I'm not happy if these people are going to lose out. But Amazon said 'it's on us.'" An Amazon spokesman confirmed to the Mail that this was true.

What joyous Christmas spirit on the part of the company. Lisa Seger, however, isn't quite sure the same spirit reigned down upon her. She is the co-owner of Blue Heron Farm in Field Store, Texas.

Just as with Quinn, she received an unexpected box. Instead of an electronic gadget, though, her surprise was a green conveyor-belt roller. Now who would need one of those? Someone whose conveyor belt was a roller short, surely. This was not the case with Seger.

Boing Boing describes how she realized that the conveyor-belt roller should have been a book about chickens that was sent by a friend. Still, Seger decided to enjoy her gift by rolling onto her Twitter feed and posting such joys as: "Hey, now - If @amazon sends us just eight more conveyor belt rollers, we can bodge together a fine menorah."

Indeed, her whole Twitter feed is a quite gleeful series of tweets that chronicle Amazon claiming its rollers are orange, not green. There's also the involvement of UPS. Who could not resist a snort at this tweet from Seger: "The UPS truck has been up and down the street twice. I'm not saying Jeff Bezos is stalking us, but I am also not not saying it."

I fear that if Jeff Bezos was really stalking you, Lisa, he wouldn't stop until you paid him for the privilege.

It seems that Amazon's legendarily efficient and customer-centric service has responded positively in both cases. Moreover, Seger says that, thanks to Twitter, she is now getting two chicken books, one signed by the author.

All the same, I contacted Amazon to ask whether there were any similarities, snafu-speaking, between these two incidents. I also asked whether the company's vaunted robots had made haunted miscalculations in either instance. I will update, should Amazon deliver a response.

Such incidents are clearly rare -- which is what makes them entertaining.

Who cannot giggle at Seger's tweeted excitement after continuing to use the Web for shopping: "Doing a little internet shopping today. I ordered eyeglasses. I wonder what I will get."