kottke.org posts about firstworldproblems

An update regarding Harry Potter and theJul 24 2007

An update regarding Harry Potter and the Phantom Delivery: Amazon issued me a refund for the book. I'm close to the end of the book...I hope it ends as well.

Harry Potter and the Phantom DeliveryJul 23 2007

Back in April, I pre-ordered Harry Potter 7 from Amazon. They guaranteed delivery on its release date, Saturday July 21 before 7pm or they would refund the cost of the book...the details of that offer are here. All day Saturday until shortly after 7pm, the UPS tracking information indicated that the package containing my copy of the book was "IN TRANSIT TO FINAL DESTINATION", which is UPS-speak for "the UPS guy/gal who will deliver your book does not yet have it in his/her possession"...the magic phrase for that action is "OUT FOR DELIVERY".

At some point after 7pm, the UPS status page updated to say that a notice was left at 3:36 pm, implying that a delivery attempt was made and no one was home to receive it. (Amazon's tracking page says that UPS told them "Delivery attempted - recipient not home".) No such notice was left. My door buzzer did not ring at 3:36 pm (I was home all day on Saturday) and the doorman of the building next door who takes the deliveries for our building when people aren't home reported no notice or delivery attempt. Here's the complete tracking info from UPS:

Location // Date // Local Time // Description
NEW YORK, NY, US // 07/21/2007 // 3:36 P.M. // NOTICE LEFT
NEW YORK, NY, US // 07/20/2007 // 12:00 P.M. // IN TRANSIT TO FINAL DESTINATION
NEW YORK, NY, US // 07/19/2007 // 4:51 P.M. // DESTINATION SCAN
NEW YORK, NY, US // 07/19/2007 // 4:50 P.M. // ORIGIN SCAN
US // 07/19/2007 // 1:34 P.M. // BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED

Maybe I'm lying about being home or maybe the person trying to deliver the package made an honest mistake, but it's curious that a delivery attempt could have been made when the package was not even "OUT FOR DELIVERY". Here's what I think happened. I think UPS's network was overwhelmed by Amazon's Potter-volume in some parts of the country and they had no way to deliver all those packages. (The forums for the book at Amazon and Google Blog Search are full of similar complaints from others...warning, spoilers! UPS even offloaded some of the volume to the USPS for "last-mile" delivery.) So, UPS just marked all of those packages they had no intention of delivering as "oops, we missed you, you must have been out".

Let's go back to Amazon's guarantee, which states that the refund "does not apply if delivery is attempted, but no one is available to accept the package". Amazon would be pretty angry with UPS if they cost them a bunch of money due to refunds and, more importantly, the loss of a bunch of customer goodwill...maybe Amazon would switch a larger portion of their formidable package output to another carrier, for instance. So UPS intentionally misclassifying those deliveries covers their ass with Amazon and covers Amazon's ass with regard to the refund.

My copy of the book from Amazon will be here sometime today (UPS doesn't deliver on Sunday), by which time I'll already have mostly finished the copy I bought at Barnes & Noble about 7:30 pm Saturday evening. The extra $20 isn't a big deal to me and neither is having to wait all day to start in on the book. But this book was a *huge* deal for Amazon (2+ million pre-orders out of a first printing of 12 million) and for their customers who desired their instant Potter gratification. Amazon should be hopping mad at UPS over this; UPS shifted the blame from themselves to Amazon's customers...who are in turn going to blame Amazon, doubly so because Amazon probably won't might not issue refunds for those "missed" deliveries because they don't need to. A customer service-oriented company like Amazon shouldn't take this kind of crap from their shipping vendor...incidents like these will erode customer goodwill and eventually their customer base, the retention of which is one of Amazon's stated primary goals.

Update: I've asked Amazon for a refund and am waiting on their reply. From the emails I've gotten from readers so far, it sounds like Amazon is being liberal in the refund policy, as one would expect.

Update: No word from Amazon yet, but the USPS (not UPS) delivered my book Monday morning. It had a UPS sticker on it with instructions to the Post Office to deliver it to me. No update on the UPS tracking page that its been delivered. I'm tempted to leave it unopened in its custom Amazon box as a collector's item. Maybe I can get JK Rowling and Jeff Bezos to sign it.

Update: Amazon issued me a refund for the book.

Cupertino, we have a problemJun 30 2007

My iPhone bubble abruptly popped this evening when I tried my Shure E3c earphones (the best pair of earphones I've ever owned and far superior to the Apple earbuds) with the iPhone and they didn't work. The ones that came with the iPhone work fine. On their site, Apple says:

iPhone has a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack, so it is compatible with most portable stereo headphones. Some stereo headphones may require an adapter (sold separately) to ensure proper fit.

The earbuds from a v3 iPod didn't work either. The E3c plug is 3.5 mm and the earphones are about 2 years old. Is anyone else having problems with their earphones? I don't understand why this is even an issue. Very irritating.

Update: Others are having similar problems with headphones not fitting. Looks like it's the plastic sheath around the plug that's the problem. (thx, sean)

Update: I cut away a bit of the E3c's sheath with my trusty Exacto knife and it now fits in the jack. I'd love to know the reason for recessing that plug so much...besides pure aethetics of course; it just seems like too much of a trade-off.

When you're out and about in theMay 22 2007

When you're out and about in the city during the day, who are all these other people who seemingly have nothing to do all day but putter about town? "Many people I encountered reported variations on the 'in-between jobs' line, and it's not just a euphemism. Among the employed are those who will soon be without work, thanks to frictional unemployment, the inevitable periods of joblessness structured into even perfect economies."

Update: An episode of This American Life from 2000 tackled the same subject, with a focus on Manhattan. "All those people you see in the middle of the workday, in coffee shops and bookstores? Who are they? Why aren't they at work? Reporter George Gurley tackled these tough questions. On four separate days, he interviewed these loafers in New York." (thx, michael)

Tags related to firstworldproblems:
business Amazon books Harry Potter

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