December 23rd, 2007 | 3 MIN READ

Putting Customer Telephone Numbers to Good Use

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

TelephoneThis year I did almost all my Christmas shopping online. I say almost because there was one item that I intended to purchase online was unable to - a gift for my brother. First I purchased it along with two other items for myself from so I could qualify for Super Saver Shipping. What I failed to notice was that one of the items for me was out of stock. When you choose Super Saver Shipping you must group your items into one order. There was no notice on the checkout page that one item was not in stock so I checked out and was so thrilled I had found the perfect book for my brother, some goodies for me and well before December 24th to boot.

About a week later (December 15) I was checking my credit card balance online and noticed the Amazon transaction was missing. I went into my account at Amazon and there it was, the shipment had not gone out because it's waiting for that one item to become available. Had I not checked my credit card balance I would have had no clue about this as I had no notification from Amazon via email. Even if I had, I don't shop using my work email so my free Yahoo account gets checked intermittently.

So, I canceled the entire order and headed over to Chapters/ and found the book for my brother - in stock (I triple checked this time!), free shipping GUARANTEED delivery by December 24th! I purchased the book for my brother and a book for me and breathed a sigh of relief. It was a Christmas miracle!

Or not. My book arrived Thursday the 20th - all alone. I checked my Indigo account and guess what -- my brother's book was actually NOT in stock, though the website said it was. So I went and checked my personal email account and Indigo had emailed me, but I had not checked it yet. Thankfully the item is available at my local Indigo here in Vancouver, but 34% more than on the web.

Not noticing the book was not in stock at Amazon? My fault - unless you consider Amazon could have made it blatantly obvious it was out of stock instead of "Availability - usually ships within x weeks" in regular type on the product page. Or better yet, flagged the stock-out before I had the option of choosing Super Saver Shipping. Not emailing me about it - Amazon's hickup.

Incorrect inventory issue issue - Indigo's fault. Not checking email - my fault, I put too much faith into the integrity of the retailer's inventory. Lesson learned.

However, my question to both booksellers is - what do you have my telephone number for? Especially for the Christmas season when timely delivery is more important than cheaper product or free shipping? Email is not a bulletproof form of customer service communication. Why else would you need my telephone number except in the case that something is wrong with the order?

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