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April 02, 2008

AMAZON IS PUSHING ITS SPRING FITNESS GEAR SALE, including lots of treadmills and elliptical machines. I don't know that I'd want to buy something like that over the Internet, though. I've bought lots of small stuff, but returning a treadmill if I needed to would be a major pain. Or am I wrong, and is it worth it?

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I bought a Sony 46" LCD from Amazon. They assured me if there was a problem or I didn't like it they'd arrange return shipping with the same trucking company. Didn't need it though, it was a great TV over $1000 less than I would have paid at Best Buy.

Hmm. I don't see that offer on treadmills. Am I missing it? I followed up with him to ask about that and he responded:

My recollection is that there was a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and that I called them to verify because there was an issue of clouding on some of the sets. They said they'd take it back in 30 days for any reason, and pay for return shipping. Some people that had posts on the web site said they had used this and had exchanged or gotten refunds. There were a number of people unhappy with the product, but no one unhappy with Amazon's service, which is why I went ahead and bought it.

(I checked and I don't see the 100% satisfaction in writing on the web site now)

I did have one problem with the delivery, the trucking company only wanted to come during the day, and they couldn't deliver it for a week. When I emailed amazon and complained, Amazon hired a third party to pick up the TV and bring it to me in the evening. Amazon's service was exemplary. I do most of my shopping at amazon now, (I have the amazon prime) and never have had a problem with any return for any reason.

Sounds better than I thought. Anybody else got any experience here?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Pat Ramsey emails:

My wife ordered the Bowflex Series 7 treadmill ( from Amazon a year ago and we had no problems with either Amazon's shipping or the machine itself. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a quality treadmill and I'm like many other readers regarding Amazon. If I need to purchase anything besides grocery items, I take a moment to think about whether or not I can get it from Amazon.

I've always liked 'em, but I've always been a bit afraid of big items. Meanwhile, a reader who would prefer anonymity writes:

I don't really have any experience with Amazon, but as a long time employee of Best Buy, I can confirm that all the horror stories that you hear about our horrible customer service are true. We would have to get much, much better to merely suck. The philosophy of our corporate staff for the last few years has been, "We would rather save a penny than earn a dollar." and it shows.

I believe that James Lileks had a series of posts to this effect. And Douglas von Roeder writes:

I've been buying items from Amazon since 1997 and I highly recommend them.

Last year, I purchased a Panasonic 58" plasma TV. The delivery men helped secure the TV in the stand and then lifted the 100+ lbs. TV into the entertainment center. In addition, they carted away the boxes saving me a lot of time and trouble from having to cut the shipping carton down to size with a box cutter.

I ordered a 50" Panasonic TV last week. The original delivery date was April 8 but an email update indicated that it would be delivered on April 4. Yesterday, I got a phone call from the shipper to set up an appointment for either April 3 or April 4!

A note about pricing - the price on the TV was the best that I could find either locally or on the Internet, including companies that don't have Amazon's 10+ year history. When I placed the order, the price for the TV was $1,508. However, while writing this email, I checked the price again and it's now $1,424. I called Amazon and the CSR told me that they offer price protection for 30 days after placing the order - all you have to do is call them and they will post a credit to your credit card for the difference.

I use Amazon for most of my significant purchases. They have excellent pricing, a wide selection of commodity items, fast order fulfillment, and 2nd day shipping is free for a $75 per year fee. It's as close to "too good to be true" as…a Macintosh.

Well, possibly. Plus, Jeanne Marie Lynch writes:

For Christmas I bought my husband a Sony 40" flat screen. I had already checked out the set's picture at Best Buy and knew I wanted it. But after checking Amazon and seeing that their shipping was free, there was no sales tax and the sales price was $500 less than Best Buy (to whom I would have had to pay sales tax and delivery fee), I ordered it from Amazon.

I also remember going ahead and ordering it, because it would not cost me any money to have it replaced if it was damaged or didn't work. That was my one fear.

The delivery company phoned my home number, cell number and emailed me all within a couple hours in their attempt to set up delivery. They were able to schedule me the very next day. The delivery guy was clean, polite, efficient and knowledgeable.

The set worked. I was a happy camper. So was my husband.

I wouldn't be afraid to order large items from Amazon.

Sounds good.

STILL MORE: Lots of people are emailing here:

I too have had nothing but good experiences from Amazon purchasing large items. I once purchased a large gas grill for my husband's birthday, only to find out
that it had already been purchased by another family member. It was too late to cancel the order, but Amazon told me all I had to do was refuse delivery, and they'd send it back, no charge, and I wouldn't even have to pay restocking or shipping. Problem solved!

After that, when we remodeled our house, I purchased nearly all of my kitchen appliances through them. Their prices were fantastic, and their delivery people were always prompt. No problems with dents, and no problems with anything else.

And reader Aaron Westcott writes:

I purchased a 46' lcd and had to return 2 of them (bad luck). No problems with the return and the service that I got from amazon has only encouraged me, in other words, from amazon.

Bad luck, indeed. But glad to hear it worked. But note, by the way, that purchases from Amazon aren't really "tax free." You're supposed to pay, in most states, a "use tax" on these that is equivalent to your state's sales tax. That's the case in Tennessee, and I have the bill to prove it.

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