TV Shipping in the Valley of the Amazons

Man buys TV from Amazon. UPS keeps dropping it. Perhaps Amazon should use better packing.

Styrofoam peanuts, we’re thinking. They protect and then after you take the TV out, the box becomes a playground.


We hear there’s treasure hidden underneath the alien snow. And in Danilo’s case, shards of HDTV casing.

A note of caution, after the jump…

Danilo writes:

    “Dear Consumerist,

    I must advise your readers against purchasing a television from Amazon. Not that Amazon is a bunch of bad guys — I like them, most of the time –but they’re just not a smart move for purchasing large electronics.

    Fresh from breaking up with my longtime girlfriend, who took the television with her, I decided to indulge in some manly, single dude purchases. Like a high-definition television to go with the Xbox 360 whose procurement would, eventually, be required by my status as a newly-free man.

    Not wanting to blow an entire paycheck on this device, I shopped Amazon for a sensibly-sized but effective CRT HDTV. I found one that suited my needs and ordered it for $399 + $100 shipping.

    The problem, of course, is that UPS will deliver any TV you order from Amazon. This is horrifying enough, giving their fabled abuse of packages. Moreover, UPS will show up whenever they decide to show up, so receiving my television meant getting permission from my boss to work from home for an afternoon.

    Inconvenient, but I bite the bullet and wait around for my television. It comes. I help UPS dude lug it up the stairs to my apartment. As I unpack the television, though, I find that at some point in transit, the television has been dropped. Violently. The plastic casing is shattered along one corner.

    I explain the situation to Amazon. I don’t want to repeat this whole inconvenient day for the replacement television, and after some chatting, the manager I spoke to agreed to refund me $120 and allow me to keep the cosmetically damaged television. The picture looked fine. Why bother sending it back for some plastic?

    After enjoying my television for a few hours, though, the picture began to get fuzzy. What began crisp as a starched shirt ended up as soft and shapeless as dryer lint.

    So I call Amazon and the process repeats, a new television shipped out. Again, an afternoon working (uncomfortably) from home, waiting for the TV to come. UPS dude lugs it up the stairs with me again and is happy enough to take my old TV back with him, since Amazon has helpfully provided a return shipping label at no cost to me.

    That evening, I set about happily preparing my new television. The casing was intact and I was looking forward to sitting down Jack Bauer for some high-stakes adventure.

    Except now, there’s no picture at all. The new TV doesn’t work, except for its little menu system. No picture or sound comes through — not even fuzzy. So I have to send it back to them. Again. Which means bringing an
    enormous box of lead and glass to a UPS store. The box won’t fit in my car and I can’t spend any more afternoons waiting around for UPS dude. I’ll have to get a friend with a truck to help me.

    The shipping mechanisms involved with ordering a TV from Amazon make it really inconvenient to get satisfaction if anything at all goes wrong with your order. Purchasing other stuff from Amazon is usually painless and I’m a happy member of their Prime discount shipping program. But taking a risk with a large, cumbersome object that is not easily shipped just isn’t worth it with Amazon. I guess once I get this piece of junk shipped back off I’ll brave a big-box store and hope for the best. At least they deliver on Saturdays.

    Common sense, maybe, should have told me all this, but I thought you might enjoy this tale of warning.



Edit Your Comment

  1. Danilo says:

    In fact, they don’t use peanuts, but structurally-shaped styrofoam bracing. Each time a TV showed up, that foam bracing was impressively destroyed, falling out in several pieces.

    Also, you’ve confused 24 with CSI in your tags, there.

  2. Treved says:

    While I agree Amazon should take better precautions, this is EXACTLY why I never buy big and/or expensive items online. The hassle to return it is enormous. I’ll still use such sites to give me an idea of what I should and should not be paying, but furniture and large electronics are a VERY risky bet to order online. It’s not an Amazon thing, it’s inherent in the process.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    Thanks for the catch, Danilo, fixed. A testament to how little TV I actually watch.

  4. RTFMPlease says:

    Yes, I hate working from home just to get a damn package. I’m not sure how all workplaces feel about it … but personally I get all my stuff delivered to my work place. If my work ever gives me beef I just say, “Hey would you rather me leave work to pick this up?” That usually shuts them up.

  5. mschlock says:

    Everything that fits in my car I have delivered to work. Everything that doesn’t fit in my car, I look at in person at a local store and make them deliver.

    Though I did, with much trepidation, recently order a metal-and-glass component rack from soon-to-be-defunct Hold Everything, which has closed all its retail locations and is only taking online orders. To their credit, they packaged that fucker right, and I ended up with a much more suitable component rack than anything I saw in the “your choice of fiberboard-n-melamine, or made of actual wood but costs six hundred bucks minimum” entertainment furniture selection at the local stores.

    I shudder to think what the “return” process would have been if one of the shelves had come out broken.

  6. matto says:

    I have a coworker who recently got a 45″ DLP RPTV from Amazon- he had no problems, but chose the “not shitty UPS” shipping option.

  7. RowdyRoddyPiper says:

    I ordered a TV from UPS delivered it, not a problem. Amazon is often times just the payment processor for a third party that’s actually responsible for packing and shipping the TV.

  8. Elvisisdead says:

    Same thing happened when I bought a small safe from Amazon. It arrived so fouled up, I couldn’t even open the door. So, I made UPS come back and get it. Told Amazon that I would dispute the charges, and if they wanted the safe back, that they’d need to send UPS back to get it. They did.

    The odd bit about it was that after I left a review for the item statnig the problem I had and letting people know to buy it locally, my post dissappeared after a few days.

  9. kicka says:

    Amazon’s policy on televisions is actually worse than it seems from these posts. At least it was almost two years ago when I ordered a very large Toshiba set for my mother.
    I chose Amazon because I had ordered products from them for years and never had a single problem. I considered them reputable and customer-friendly. Amazon’s policy stated that there were no returns allowed on TV’s over a certain size. I should have asked questions, but I didn’t. Any reasonable person would understand that means “don’t be fickle – if you order a set that large, there’s no way you’re going to change your mind and be refunded the retail price and freight.” But when an item arrives destroyed, whether this occurred in the manufacturer’s warehouse or in shipping, no consumer expects to be stuck with that.
    Anyway, the TV arrived destroyed, cosmetically and internally (no picture). I notified Amazon and their first response was that they were sorry I was “not happy with the item.” I reiterrated the condition of the item was the issue, and they then informed me it was Toshiba’s responsibility. So I’m on the phone with Toshiba and finally they agree to send an inspector out. The inspector says the TV was crashed into or dropped somewhere along the way and it would cost hundreds just to get the picture working. He also mentions that Toshiba is real bad about reconciling such problems and that I could be waiting a long time. I had already waited more than a week from delivery just to get to this point. Two weeks later, without an answer, we began a barrage of emails to various parties within Amazon, including the CEO.
    I finally received notice from Amazon customer service that I would receive a full refund (more than 900.00) and the damaged TV would be picked up. I was very happy with the outcome, to say the least, but I waited close to a year before ordering an item from them again. It was so hard dealing with them and it took so much time, energy and aggravation just to get them to do what they should have done immediately. My past with them as a customer, and my future purchases meant nothing to them initially. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.