Amazon.com - Access Denied?
The media has done innumerable stories on how e-commerce has finally taken off and Indian shopping portals are raking in profits. True, a combination of factors like convenience, hassle-free and flexible payment options, and wide access does make it a completely innovative experience.
But Amazon.com, the online shopping Mecca which started it all and was one of the first websites to cash in on the game does things differently. For starters, it begins by not shipping to India! We could be high up on a lot of statistical charts but we don’t figure on the list of countries they do business with.
I was looking for a book for a while now - ‘Profiles in Courage’ by John F. Kennedy. I hadn’t been able to find it in the major bookstores, which is why I decided to go online. Only one bookstore’s online webstore had it in stock in Mumbai. But it was priced at Rs 1,300 or $27. So, I took my search to Amazon.com, where there are copies for the book in “new”, “used” “old condition” starting from $0.25 and topping at $15.40. Most looked like good deals to me even with taking into account shipping costs.
I narrowed my search down to a specific vendor and proceeded to the check out counter. The site asked for my address. I didn’t get an item number which confirms your order because Amazon.com does not ship to some countries where it can not ensure guarantee, warranty, security etc. It was only a book, albeit written by a President but one would think I had ordered weapons of mass destruction online!
I emailed my vendor, who has been polite service personified and he checked up for me. He did say that Amazon.com may restrict sales to countries where currency or postal services may be a problem. He couldn’t elaborate because he has never dealt with an Indian customer before. But he did say the US postal service would ship the book to me at $5.95. (Amazon’s original shipping rates had been $10). Overall, I was getting a nice discount. It was his way of smoothening the struggle it has been to buy this book. But to pay him, he suggested I use paypal - an e-payment gateway maintained by e-bay, Amazon’s ‘e-rival’, and that’s where the non-existent item number was needed. So, I couldn’t pay for it via paypal.
When contacted, Amazon.com’s customer service representative Mohit Sharma said, “Using an address in India is perfectly acceptable for most retail purchases made from Amazon.com. However, the Amazon Payments system, which Amazon Marketplace employs to initiate payments, has a more limited scope.”
He added:“Payments currently supports shipping addresses from the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States (please note that this includes US protectorates such as Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa etc.)” “We are unable to extend the Payments Service to your country at this time. However, we’re constantly seeking new ways to serve our customers and we hope to be able to expand our service area for Payments in the future.”
I had to rely on our good old banking system and the demand draft. And yes, the book did finally make a safe journey over to Indian shores, escorted by the US Postal Service.