Of course for all of us living as expats in Spain, living and shopping locally is important – contributing to the local economy and helping to boost local businesses and jobs.  This is our home, and the health of the local retail sector will always be a vital factor in our lives.

We live in a small town though, and you just can’t get everything you need down at the market/supermarket, or even the shopping mall.  Running a business from home you need all sorts of stuff, and until now we used Amazon a great deal. The MRW van had pretty much worn a groove up the driveway to our house, because whatever we needed, Amazon had it, and provided you spent 25 pounds or more they brought it to you for free.  Very quickly – that van pretty much pulled up outside as soon as you pressed ‘buy now’ (or within a couple of days anyway).  It was easy to filter searches for Amazon’s own or Amazon-fulfilled goods that qualified for the free delivery, and it made expat online shopping very easy and straightforward.

Now though, everything has changed.  Very quietly and discreetly as of a week or so ago, free Supersaver Delivery to Spain – and a number of other countries – has been dropped completely.  Free delivery will be honoured on any orders placed before the 11th June 2013-  but after that, forget it.

All snuck out under the radar, in stark contrast to the big banner ads a few years ago when the service was introduced.  And it’s left a lot of very disappointed customers.  Expats and locals from many nations have been vocal on Amazon UK’s community forums and Facebook page, but the sheer volume of UK expats living in Spain put us in a special class of mass let-down and disappointment.

Lots of friends and relatives in the UK like to buy Amazon gift certificates for our girls, because it saves on problems with posting and gives them the chance to choose – I encouraged people specifically to opt for Amazon because then the girls could spend the full amount on whatever they wanted…

One minute's silence please, for the last free delivery from Amazon UK

One minute’s silence please, for the last free delivery from Amazon UK

Despite the cacophony of protest, Amazon themselves are deafeningly silent in response.  Complaints or questions to customer service receive a boilerplate reply promising to escalate the feedback to their supervisor, and the various threads on social media are completely ignored – despite more recent postings on other matters with replies.  Complete fail on the customer service front. If you set up channels for public communications you can’t simply ignore them!  Some brands make the mistake of deleting negative comments which is a sure-fire way to annoy people trying to make a point, but to simply leave upset and angry comments completely unresponded to is worse still – just says loudly and clearly, ‘we don’t care!’

In the absence of feedback we are forced to guess at their motivations.  Prime suspect is a desire from Amazon for us now to order via Amazon.es rather than co.uk.   It’s the only answer that makes sense of the continued free delivery to Portugal and Gibraltar –probably through Spain, ironically, for the cheapest flights.

But the problem with this is that Amazon.es simply does not have anything remotely like the inventory of its UK sibling.  The range of English language media for a start, but that’s not all.  Julia Theobald in Javea used to order wheat-free food products and ingredients in bulk via Amazon Groceries – “I would buy from Amazon.es but from experience a lot of things actually are from merchants in Germany and the delivery times are horrendous! Plus they don’t sell the food I used to buy in bulk on the Spanish site so they have just lost themselves a big customer in me unless they change back!”

I did often wonder how free delivery on Amazon Groceries made sense – having a fondness for Method cleaning products (that smell of nice things, rather than of cleaning!), and also my carb-free ‘miracle noodles’, I couldn’t imagine how it worked out economically, for Amazon to ship them to me for nothing.  I guess I put it down to the margins they made on their extreme tax “efficiency”…

Some forum rumours put it down to changes in arrangements with the courier firm MRW – which if true is a great shame, as their service has come to be excellent.  Unlike the chaos when they first took the contract, shortly before Christmas 2009 (I think?  Fond memories of being invited to rummage through the back office looking for missing Wii games Santa was waiting for…)

The thing is a global brand like Amazon shouldn’t be allowing their customer service decisions to be the subject of rumour and debate – smaller brands have far lesser client support resources but do a better job of keeping people informed, goodness knows social media makes it easier and cheaper than ever before to set the record straight.  Perhaps the powers that be at Amazon are busy on the phone to HMRC, but their customers and ex customers in Spain and other countries would appreciate the courtesy of a response.

Meantime there’s a fantastic business opportunity open for any of the courier firms regularly making the run from UK to the Costas, to be come the official Amazon drop-off point, I’d have thought? You would be assured of plenty of business if you kept individual costs right down, and have a willing market waiting to be served.

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, June 28th 2013

©Maya Middlemiss,

Casslar Consulting SL

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  • Sue Sharpe

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with what Amazon have done. I used to pay for delivery before they introduced the super-saver deal – and I did take advantage of it too! – but if, once again, it means that if I want something that I cannot source here in Spain I have to pay the delivery costs, so be it.