Thanks Amazon for Linking Me Up With Old Friends … um … I Think …

Before I start this story, here is a Public Service Announcement – if you use Amazon.com’s Wish List feature, be aware that unless you explicitly link each list to an address, it will direct shipments to whatever your default address was … WHEN THE LIST WAS CREATED! Please do yourself a favor and make sure your list isn’t sending stuff to that place you lived in 2002 when you created your first list for fun. OK, now back to our story …

When I jumped at the possibility at writing for Gear Diary last year, one reason was that I already knew this was a great crew of people – I’d read Judie’s stuff at The Gadgeteer and had also kept up as she created this site, and was constantly visiting the site for something informative or insightful. After joining the site, not only were my thoughts confirmed, they were greatly exceeded – this is a wonderful group of people, led by Judie who is truly a wonderful human being and very caring about everyone who writes for her.

So a few months ago I get a message from Judie, and frankly it was a bit tersely worded saying “I hate to be crass, but did you ever get the stuff I sent you for your birthday?” And I simultaneously thought, “She sent me a birthday gift? How freakin’ cool is THAT?” and “Oh crap, no I haven’t … better find out what happened!”

Judie checked her info and saw that the package was sent to Massachusetts, which is where I’ve lived my whole life … until 2008! I jumped to Amazon.com and checked my account, and found that my default and alternate shipping addresses were all set properly to New York, so I was confused about how stuff was sent to the old address.

So I did two things: contacted some folks at my old work (the few still there … the place has had at least a dozen layoffs in the last few years) and searched the support section at Amazon. What did I find out? Well, first off I discovered that when I created my Wish List on Amazon it automatically attached itself to my default address. No worries there, that is sort of what you’d expect and want. The problem – when you change your address or add addresses, it doesn’t keep up with your settings: it hangs steadfastly to your address from when you created the list.

For most people this might not be an issue – but for me it was: I had *never* had anyone buy me something from my wish list. Never. I’d really used it to store stuff we were thinking of buying the kids. And a few things of general interest to me that I wasn’t ready to buy at the moment. So as a result, in spite of getting dozens of deliveries from Amazon over the course of a couple of years here in NY, the incredibly thoughtful gifts from Judie went to Massachusetts.

When I contacted folks at my former employer, I started with only two: a good friend and the HR manager. My email to the HR manager bounced because he’d also been laid off, so I decided to send messages to a wider audience. There were just under a dozen people I knew who were still there (which, after 15 years working there in a relatively tight-knit facility of ~750 people is pretty sad), and I asked them all to help out if they could.

The response was really great – I got either an email or call from every single person on the list! A couple had been laid off, but others saw them on the list and forwarded to their personal email and I got called by one and emailed by the other. I got emails from Japan, California, and Arizona as well as the facility in Massachusetts.

But the best part was having a few lengthy chats with one of my best friends from my years there, someone I had really pushed to showcase her work rather than just continuing to plug away and let others take credit. She was managing the whole wafer fabrication operations group, and had several other of my old friends working for her. It was great catching up and comparing notes, as our contact had only been sparse and infrequent emails for the last few years.

She had checked around after getting my initial email and found my package buried on a shelf with other unclaimed and random stuff in the mailroom. She brought it to her office (it was a Friday), and called me. By the time all this was done it was after 5PM so the package would have to wait – but she was flying on business on Monday and would have to make sure she got my address details and likely hand off the shipping to someone else.

Monday was Patriot’s Day, which is a state holiday in Massachusetts, meaning that while most companies operated, no state offices did – so there were no shipments done. The package was brought to the shipping area with paperwork, but since nothing was going out it was put on a shelf with other stuff to be shipped. I got an email on the 20th noting that she had to hand-off the package before she left but it had been forwarded and should have gone out by UPS on the 20th.

Fast forward to April 30th … and still no package. So I check back in and get another nice chat with my friend, but found out that the folks from shipping say that it wasn’t taken by UPS on the 20th but that they left it on the bench and then it was gone … and the impression from my friend was there was something just not right, as he was claiming that perhaps a 5S (quality clean-up initiative) effort had moved/removed the package.

My friend checked with the person in charge of the 5S program (another person I knew and worked with quite a bit) who said “no, we didn’t do the area that day … and I would recognize the name and not dump the box if I found it.” So they escalated the issue internally … which as of mid-May hadn’t gotten them anywhere. The assumption we were all making at this point was that someone in the shipping group was having a nice time playing with the stuff Judie had meant to go to me!

When I returned from vacation a week or so ago, I had a very nice email and voice mail from my friend. She wanted to check in once again as her daughter had graduated college, and she sent some pictures and knew of stuff my kids had going on and also wanted pictures! She also was hoping that somehow the package had found its way to me, and that she still checked and asked around in hopes that it magically reappeared at he facility. Sadly neither of us has seen it.

Overall this was a pretty crappy experience:
a. Judie tried to do something really nice, and was forced to check in with me and potentially think I was ungrateful for her wonderful thoughtfulness!
b. Amazon.com’s Wish List system defaults to an old address in spite of my main address changing. That seems silly to me, but I’m sure there is some reason somewhere.
c. Everything seemed great, as the package was found, ready to be resent, and I had reconnected with some great folks from my past.
d. Yet once again it wasn’t to be – through apparent greed and theft, the gift that was once assumed lost was again lost – this time for good.

I’ve always been a “it’s the thought that counts” person, so just the knowledge that someone thought enough to send a birthday gift makes me highly appreciative. But I feel bad for Judie – she tried to be generous, but had to follow-up herself, and in the end her gift was never delivered. Yet at the same time I was able to catch back up with an old friend, which was great since our contact had faded to occasional emails. And I’ve reforged contacts with a bunch of other people from my past and had some nice exchanges.

Which brings me to the question: What sorts of interesting shipping nightmare experiences have you had? Do tell!


About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!