Sunday 26 March 2017

Amazon Transportation Services – helping hand or grabbing hand?
Last-mile delivery has been a huge pain point for ecommerce players in India. Since a major chunk of our population (above 60%) still live in the rural areas, not being able to find an efficient and practical solution for the logistical woes restricted ecommerce firms’ growth. Thus entered the many in-house logistic & delivery companies. Flipkart has Ekart. And Amazon India has Amazon Transportation Services (ATS).
Amazon’s logistics arm has over 225 delivery hubs spread across metropolitan cities and tier 2 & 3 cities in India.
ATS serves three purposes:
  1. Assist sellers in order fulfilment/delivery
  2. Enable Amazon to expand serviceable areas
  3. Create an alternate source of revenue
While point 2 and 3 are right on track, the point number 1 has fallen off the track. Vendors inform Indian Online Seller (IOS) that ATS is causing more problems than assisting them in their online business.
Find out why.

Refusing pick-ups

Picking up delivery packages on time is one of the most crucial elements of fulfilling an order. Not delivering orders on time often leads to cancelation, which puts a huge financial burden on sellers. But according to vendors, ATS employees are apathetic towards their plight and refuse to pick-up delivery packages on time.  
Online seller Anubha Saxena, co-founder of The Banyan Tee shares her ordeal with IOS. Right from throwing her return packages in her balcony instead of handing it over to arguing & misbehaving, ATS pick-up boys have done it all.
“We select a time slot every day and we expect the pickup boys to come in that time slot. The pickup boys never come in the allotted time slot and if we ask them to cooperate or come in the correct slot; they give us reasons like they don’t have time, delivery is their main job and not pick up or they simply leave by saying that we should talk to the local coordinator about it as they do not have time for this. We have also tried contacting the local coordinator several times but even they aren’t able to help it,” says Saxena.
She adds,
“Non- cooperation is one thing, but the pickup boys go to an extent to throwing return parcels in our balcony and being argumentative about everything. They even misbehave. They just want to complete the deliveries and rush to their homes.”

  • ATS team bully vendors

A seller (name withheld on request) alleges that the Pune ATS team bully vendors and the online marketplace chose to look the other away.
The seller wrote to IOS,
“Facing a big time issue related to Amazon ATS executives. The Pune ATS team has refused pick-ups and Amazon is playing mute to their threats (Pune ATS is full of goons and criminals).”

  • Fake delivery attempt – not delivering orders

Based on our interaction with several Amazon sellers and customers, it is safe to say that this is the most common and the biggest issue with regards to ATS. This is particularly true for COD orders, as per vendors.
Here’s what happens: Customer receives an update that ‘order is out for delivery’. A couple of hours later customer gets another update that ‘We were unable to deliver the product as customer was unavailable’. The ATS delivery guy lies about attempting delivery and puts the blame on customer’s non-availability. Customer gets angry and cancels the order. Seller loses business and money as he/she is expected to pay the various charges and fees, as per Amazon policy.  
According to the vendors listed below:
Mayank Goyal: ATS guys are not bothered to deliver the products. They just attempt for 1 time and if the buyer or seller is lucky then the product will get delivered; otherwise the product will be returned to the seller. And seller has to bear the charges of courier.
Anubha Saxena: Since a very long time, just 10% of our COD orders have been delivered. They do not try to deliver the product more than once and do not even call the customers about deliveries and simply return the parcels saying that customers do not want the parcels. Prepaid orders get delivered because customers have already given the money and they continuously pursue it. As a seller and as a customer, we have had this experience that the ATS team is not serious about the COD orders. Many of our customers even messaged us that they were not contacted and their packet has been returned saying that they rejected the parcel at the time of delivery and it was done without their consent.
Shakti Gandhi: We have received many complaints from buyer saying ATS didn’t even contact the buyer and simply returned the shipment by giving false reason. Many COD orders they don’t even attempt to deliver. Many times I feel COD orders are fake orders given by Amazon itself to inflate its sales figures. Also they earn on shipping charges. Many times we have come across that ATS delivery guy asks buyer to come 3 to 4 km to take the delivery of product.
IOS has reviewed messages sent by customers to sellers and customers’ posts on Amazon India’s social media handles that substantiate the abovementioned claims.

  • Exorbitant charges

We do believe that premium service comes at a premium price. But sellers say that Amazon’s premium charges for its underwhelming delivery service are not reasonable. On one hand Amazon has increased ATS charges; on the other hand they have reduced payouts to its delivery partners. Add to this mix, the ATS executives’ complete lack of interest in delivering packages. Win-win for Amazon; loss-loss for sellers?
Anubha Saxena shares with IOS,
“ATS has recently increased a lot of their charges. Initially, ATS used to deliver a packet in 3-4 days but not it takes as long as 7-10 days in which customers get annoyed. As far as the charges are concerned, they charge as high as Rs. 90 including the delivery service fee for just a 0.5 kg parcel when they are sending the packages by Surface. Companies like FEDEX just charge Rs. 50 for such parcels by Air. And after paying such high delivery fee, a lot of parcels are undelivered and we bear the losses.”

Quality of Amazon’s transportation and logistics service differs from region to region?

During our research we realized that the quality of ATS might differ from region to region. IOS asked seller Shakti Gandhi if he too was bullied or has ever heard of any other seller being harassed by ATS staff.
Gandhi states,
“I am not aware of any bullying by ATS, never came across it yet. Maybe it is for some region specific. Some of the ATS problems which you have mentioned are not faced by me as maybe we are located in Bangalore. In Bangalore ATS has excellent network for Pickup also for delivery.”
So it won’t be an exaggeration to say that ATS’ performance varies according to the city. In Bangalore (Amazon’s headquarters in India), the service is great. But in regions beyond that, the service is below par. Because even Gandhi admits above that ATS doesn’t even attempt to deliver products (barring Bangalore?).
IOS reached out to Amazon India to get some answers related to ATS, right from the issue faced by sellers in Pune to fake delivery attempts.
Without addressing any of the specific issues listed out by IOS, Amazon India spokesperson says,
“As a customer obsessed company, all our processes are aligned to ensure a quality customer experience. Our delivery associates form a critical component of the delivery experience and are trained to meet this high bar of customer satisfaction. We have stringent processes to ensure timely movement of all customer packages. Our systems are configured to highlight delays and necessary steps are taken at all levels to ensure timely deliveries.”
Classic Amazon reply! IOS would keep trying though. Online Sellers, any word of advice for those in distress because of ATS? Leave your helpful comments below.

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