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Why Amazon Rules Retail

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on October 25, 2009

My wife’s ThinkPad, which runs Vista Business, would benefit from an upgrade to Windows 7. So over the weekend, I stopped by my local Micro Center to pick up a copy of Win 7 Professional. I had to scrounge around the store even to find a Windows display, but eventually I located a copy in a forlorn corner.

When I took it to the register, the price came up as $299. I told the cashier I wanted the upgrade version, not the full install. She looked at me blankly, then turned to a young man, apparently a supervisor of some sort. He asked me where I had found the package I had, and when I said in the software department, he said I’d have to go back and talk to someone there. If there had been anyone there I would have talked to them in the first place, so I left the software on the checkstand and headed home.

I’ll order a copy from Amazon this week. Somehow, the king of online retail manages to provide better customer service without any customer-facing employees then almost all brick-and-mortar stores. Which explains why Amazon is eating everyone’s lunch.

The other lesson from this little affair is that Microsoft’s Windows 7 marketing is built entirely around selling new PCs, not upgrades. There was no evidence that this Micro Center, a bustling store in suburban Rockville, Md., had received a penny in Microsoft cooperative marketing funds to push Win 7.

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Reader Comments

George A Guajardo

October 25, 2009 11:13 PM

I had a similar experience at my local Office Max. I spoke with two people to locate a specific version of Windows 7 and they looked at me as if I was speaking in tounges.

Fortunately, the people at Best Buy had a lot of answers, so I purchased there.

Dan Gombert

October 25, 2009 11:56 PM

I will second that one and feel the same way. I have been a loyal customer for over 10 years and always get great service


October 26, 2009 02:17 AM

This is how many big companies behave. The Microsoft Office DVD did not have a file necessary to instal the program. I had to download a trial version online, instal, activate and then activate my licence with the product key. No wonder people try to load pirated software.


October 26, 2009 08:39 AM

huh? who would even think in buying windows? i mean, if you are a company, ok, its normal, some still use it and some have to upgrade. but hey, windows xp with its original licence in a vm is more than enough when a windows emulator wont work (and that´s rare)

Rory Marsh - Jamaica

October 26, 2009 09:19 AM

This is very interesting. It reminds me of a conversation I had last night. 3 out of 4 people that attended college said that they feel like they learned more by doing classes online compared to going to an actual class.

Is communicating over the internet becoming more effective than face to face??

Rory Marsh - Jamaica


October 26, 2009 09:47 AM

I totally agree about the Amazon customer service.I regularly shop at Amazon,and had to contact customer service on couple of orders.It was the issue with the product itself ,nothing to do with Amazon.Amazon promptly replaced the product and also gave me some additional discount for the inconvenience.
Other retailers would have just asked me to deal with the manufacturer as it was under manufacturers warranty.
I should also say has been matching amazon customer service lately.


October 26, 2009 10:27 AM

this is seriously weak journalism. this is a rant with an irrelevant references to the wife's computer and a passing reference to amazon. you're obviously pissed that you got bad customer service at microcenter, an experience that we've all had, but you make title sound like the post is about amazon and then you wrap it up with a thought about channel management. you should consider proof reading too.

I Concur

October 26, 2009 12:54 PM

I am an junkie for several reasons: (1) Superior customer service in the absence of a physical person before and after sales, (2) Almost everything can be purchased at the site - don't take my word for it - shop amazon before you buy anything, (3) Pricing below anyone else 95% of the time, (4) Return policy second to none.

mr dave

October 26, 2009 01:59 PM

This is a sad but true story that is repeated all over America and boils down to two things...Managers/companies that don't properly train employees and general lack of common customer service and public empathy. We just accept poor service, rude people and such. Excellence is now the exception not the standard.


October 26, 2009 02:48 PM

I always buy things from Amazon and never had any trouble or issue.Prices are most of time lower then any other retailer.. excellent customer service and very friendly website where you get all information about the product,customer reviews etc. There is definately a reason why Amazon excels !!

Amit Kohli

October 26, 2009 05:13 PM

Concur about Amazon being the go-to retailer. Amazon should consider releasing a toolbar for browsers (if they haven't done so already). They have a wealth of data in customer reviews.

Chris Archer

October 26, 2009 06:53 PM

This kind of shopping experience doesn't surprise me at all! In the current environment, retailers should be much more customer-centric. People are more savvy then ever before, and demand convenience and value-for-money. No doubt this will be the last time you go to that store! I'm from Australia - Amazon isn't that big over here, but Ebay is :)

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