Christmas with Amazon and FedEx

Christmas with Amazon and FedEx.
One of the wonders of the web is last-minute Christmas shopping, but
the ability to reel in gifts at the last minute can introduce new
stresses that were unknown by our forebears browsing their Sears catalogs
(actually, that's how I picked out Christmas gifts as a kid). This
year, I found a gift for a friend in a retail store, but since I was
planning to place an order at for some other things anyway,
I decided to bypass the store line and head home to shop in

Amazon has generally been solid for me, but I decided to hedge my bets
by having the gift in question shippped next day via FedEx, which would
put it arriving comfortably in my hands on December 20, already nicely
gift-wrapped by the fine people at Amazon. I figured it would look nice
for just a few more days under the vintage aluminum christmas tree that has been spreading so much joy in my household.

This morning, when I realized that my package had not arrived, I
checked my Amazon account, and it indicated that the package had indeed
shipped out on schedule. I went to the FedEx site to plug in the
tracking number and got this disturbing message:

Package data transmitted to FedEx; package not in FedEx possession

Unable to find any way to talk to an actual person at Amazon, I wound my way through their help system, which merely directed me back to checking the tracking information on my order.

Over a year ago, I wrote about the wonders of e-business
when I refinanced a mortgage online. Since then, I did one more
refinance, but decided to go through a “real” broker after feeling like
just another number at an online mortgage broker, and my “real”
customer service experience far exceeded the online experience. For
whatever reason, I'm enjoying doing business more with “real” people
over online with each passing year. I brew my own beer and there are
plenty of outlets online for purchasing supplies, but I enjoy those
leisurely Saturday afternoon trips to the local homebrew shop so I can
shoot the breeze with the owners and have a taste of whatever they have
on tap in the back corner of the shop.

I'm sure next year I'll
be tempted to do more shopping online, but maybe I should have just
stood in line at the store while I was there. I might have had an
interesting conversation with the checkout clerk about the book I was
buying, or maybe someone in line would have asked me about my purchase,
or I would have noticed a favorite book in the clutches of one of my
fellow shoppers and commented on it. Sure, Amazon does its best to turn
those conversations into algorithms via their recommendation engine,
but I don't think we'll ever replace the value of face-to-face human
interaction — and if we get very close, I think we'll be the lesser
for it. Yes, markets are conversations
but when one end of the conversation offers a verb-less “package not in
FedEx possession,” I guess I'm going to need to head back to the store
to talk to a human being. For the FedEx and Amazon systems, the
difference between December 24th and December 26th is no different than
the time between September 3 and September 5, but I have a feeling the
store clerk will understand my urgency a little better, and I'll enjoy
personally thanking him or her for it.

Update: At 3:24pm PT, the home page reads: Http/1.1 Service Unavailable. Ouch. [Chad Dickerson: CTO Connection]

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