I’m a little late in posting this article today because my back is killing me, my wallet is weeping, and I hurt my leg yesterday trying self-deliver a 187-pound Stott Pilates Reformer I purchased from Amazon.com.  If wishes were made my way, I’d never have the made purchase and I’ll tell you why.  First, look at my Amazon.com invoice below.  I’m posting it here to verify I bought the godforsakenthing and to show the ZERO charge for shipping.  That’s important to remember for later.


Okay, so spending $2,600.00USD on a Stott Pilates Reformer might seem insane in these hard economic times — but Janna and I were tired of doing or Pilates work on a mat.  After six years of study, we decided to Go Big and buy a reformer for our home. 

The Stott Pilates Reformer is the best you can buy — the problem is actually getting the 187-pound delivery inside your home for un-boxing and setup.

When we decided to buy our Reformer from Amazon — mainly because we like giving them our money and getting stuff delivered from them is easy-peasy and cheap — especially if you are part of their Amazon Prime gang, as we are, where you get a per-item flat-fee overnight delivery.

When our Stott Pilates Reformer arrived at ABF — the trucking company — last Friday, I called to have the 187-pound monstrosity delivered on Monday.  Don, the Big Boss, set me up for delivery between 10am-3pm.

Monday came and went and no Stott Pilates Reformer.  I called ABF and talked to Dispatcher Chris — who told me that eight union guys didn’t show up for work and that he’d have to reschedule delivery.  When I asked Chris why nobody called to tell me there would be no delivery, he didn’t have an answer.  When I asked which day I could get for re-delivery, Chris warned me away from a Monday or a Friday because the union guys didn’t like working those days. 

I was seeing the eye doctor the next day, so I set up re-delivery for Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, Al — an ABF union trucker — called my cellphone and told me he’d be there with my delivery at 2pm.  I didn’t get that message until 4pm because I was standing in line at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store disconnecting my old iPhone and re-connecting my new iPhone 3G.

After 4pm on Tuesday, I called ABF and talked to Dispatcher Mike — who repudiated everything Chris had told me about the union guys and delivery scheduling — and he apologized for Chris messing up the re-delivery date and that he’d have the shipment to me by noon on Wednesday.

Sure enough, on Wednesday morning, Danny — another ABF union driver — called to make sure I was home to accept delivery.  I was.  Ten minutes later he rang my bell and told me to “come out into the street.”  Huh?

Out in the street, Danny told me he was going to “drop” the 187-pound box in the street and that I was to take care of it from there.  I laughed.  He told me he was serious.

I asked Danny how I was supposed to drag a giant, 187-pound wood-crated-cardboard box from the street up a curb and over the sidewalk and up the stairs and into my apartment alone.

Danny told me it would be an extra $100.00USD for a “two-man-delivery” and that they’d have to come back the next day with another guy if I didn’t accept the dropped-in-the-street delivery.

I got on the phone and called ABF and spoke to Dispatcher Mike again — who confirmed everything Danny told me — and Mike blamed Amazon for not making it clear what “curbside delivery” means and I told Mike that Amazon never told me anything!

I went back to Danny in the street and he was hot and tired — but he took pity on me and helped deliver the box into my first floor apartment by standing the 187-pound monolith on its end and “walking” it up the curb and up the steps.  Together, we dragged it inside — straining my back and puncturing my leg — and pushed it in the front door. Danny told me if I lived on a higher floor he would not have helped me. 

I thanked Danny for his grace and kindness as he disappeared back into his ABF truck.

I returned inside to call Dispatcher Mike at ABF to tell him Danny helped me out — but Big Boss Don answered the phone instead and I told him the sorry story.  Don checked his computer and told me it was Amazon’s fault for not clearly explaining that curbside delivery “does not mean we actually bring it over the curb.  Over the curb is ‘sidewalk delivery’ and we definitely don’t do that unless you pay us.”

Here’s the official Amazon delivery information.  I love the “external factors” delay — that’s when I was standing in line for my 3G iPhone — and I think the final delivery status should say “dragged from the gutter by Danny and David” instead of just “Delivered.”

I called Amazon to tell them about this delivery mess — and that I never would’ve ordered the Stott Pilates Reformer if I understood the crummy delivery terms that included me dragging a $2,600.00USD reformer from the street into my home.

Amazon charges $100.00USD more than other shops for the same reformer — that’s obviously the delivery charge — in order to give “free” shipping to Amazon Prime customers.

The Amazon person I spoke to was friendly and kind a suggested I would get a bit of a refund for my aching.  He told me he’d move this up to “Hardlines” at Amazon — whatever that means — and I’d hear from them within a day or two.

That was yesterday.

This morning, I heard from Adele at Amazon Hardlines, and I learned through her response that “Hardlines” must mean “blame the customer” because that’s precisely what she did.  She told me it was my fault for not understanding the delivery terms or what “curbside” delivery really means:

In researching your order for the Stott Pilates At Home SPX Reformer, I found it was shipped by ABF and was to be delivered by curbside.

Please note, our oversized tools are delivered by a specialty shipper, and these shipments are subject to certain restrictions.  The shipper will bring the package to your address, and take it off the truck, but it will be your responsibility to bring the item inside.  It is also your responsibility to unpack the item, completing any necessary assembly.

Here is my response to Adele:

Thank you for the refund — but I feel you’re missing the larger point:

1.  Nobody told us a 187-pound box and crate would be “dropped” in the street upon delivery.  That goes against your PRIME shipping mandate and the “dropped” status was not made clear upon purchasing or setting the delivery date with the shipping company.

2.  To try to charge a customer an extra $100 to bring the crate into the home is ridiculous and you need to make that Shipper shakedown clear in your online purchasing guide.  Put it in BIG RED LETTERS so we can make sure we never actually buy the thing and get burned in the end.

3.  I am disappointed in your reply, because “curbside service” is a misnomer used by hotels and car services to define their excellence.  In the delivery-by-truck world it obviously means something entirely different and trying split that difference and shade that truth is disingenuous in the extreme and cruel in the intent.

4.  This drama is all shaping up to be an excellent blog article on the misnomer of “Customer Service” in a dying economy.

Now you know why my back aches and why my wallet is weeping. 

When you make an expensive purchase in economic hard times — especially something massively large and 187-pounds that cannot be manhandled by one person — the base assumption is it will be delivered unto you as every other delivery you have had:  A knock on the door and a smile in the proof-of-delivery signing and the handing over of the merchandise.

When there is a twist in that schema — like Amazon selling the Stott Pilates Reformer — the seller must make it clear BEFORE THE PURCHASE that delivery of the product is an exception and that it will likely break your back and clear out your wallet.

The Stott Pilates Reformer — now un-crated and de-boxed and weighing in at a lithe 100-pounds — is beautiful and hardy and I hope to write a full review of it sometime in the future. 

Until then, I’m licking my wounds and thanking the energy of the world for people like Danny who will go beyond the ordinary and do the right thing in the right time to help someone else — even if ends up breaking your back and putting you behind schedule.

UPDATE:

I decided to take some images — using my new and beloved iPhone 3G camera — of the 87-pound Stott Pilates Reformer box-and-wooden-crate I put in the back of the building yesterday.  Wrangling that mass of stinky wood and cardboard down a narrow hallway and two flights of stairs by myself was tough. 

The building Super must have tipped the monstrosity on its end.  I thought it was safer to leave it flat.  In this “on end” stance, you can see that’s how Danny “walked” the box off the street and up the curb and across the sidewalk as the whole mess teetered above him.

Here’s a better shot of the stanky wood-that-loves-to-splinter-your-fingers that made the box sturdy:

Another good chit for Danny was his insistence that we not remove the
wood frame from the box as I suggested in the street to save us 87-pounds and to make
the whole thing slimmer and easier to slide into the apartment.

Danny said it was likely the wood was “part of the box” and that stuff
was tied to it inside the box. 

We did it Danny’s way, and I’m so glad
we did because he was right. 

All the stuff in the Stott Pilates Reformer box was re-tethered
to the wood frame for security and safety.

30 Comments

  1. I’m glad it worked out and we have the Reformer. I never would’ve thought it would have been dropped in the street, either. Sure is a big box.

  2. I don’t know it if was the wood itself of if the wood absorbed some urine or something somewhere along the way to us. I didn’t want to unbox everything yesterday with my bad back and injured leg — but the stanky crate left me no choice.

  3. Here is a much better response from Joe at Amazon Hardlines after I sent them the reply in my article and the URL to this article:
    “First, allow me to apologize that you found the delivery of your order and the fashion in which it was done so disappointing. We appreciate the time you’ve taken to share your feedback with us. It’s always important for us to hear how customers feel about all aspects of using Amazon.com. Strong customer feedback like yours helps us continue to improve our store and the service we provide.
    I hope that you give us another chance to serve you better in the future. Thanks for shopping with Amazon.com.”
    Canned or not, genuine or not — that’s a much friendlier and kinder response and I appreciate it a lot.

  4. FYI:
    The response I really wanted from Amazon was just something like: “We’ll clarify delivery of the Stott Pilates Reformer in the future.”
    Or… even better… “We’ll clarify delivery of the Stott Pilates Reformer in the future to make sure every buyer knows their $2,600.00USD purchase will be left in the gutter.”
    We thank you.

  5. Sorry to hear about your back David, even more sorry for the lousy delivery system – what a trouble!
    I am glad that I haven’t ever ordered anything online which is that huge – I would probably end up in the hospital trying to drag it home!

  6. Yes, that’s it, Katha! If you don’t deal with trucking deliveries every day, you have no idea that your purchase will be delivered only to the street. It would never occur to you that buying a $2,600 machine would be less safe than buying a $26 book. In fact, you’d think greater care would be taken with the more expensive purchase on the seller’s end — but that is not Amazon’s policy when it comes to the Stott Pilates Reformer.
    I’m sure there’s a certain “rogue purposefulness” in that no one in the chain — Amazon or ABF wanted to bring up the point of the difference in delivery — because, I’m sure, most buyers are not able to handle a 187-pound delivery to the street only.
    I certainly would not have made the purchase in the first place if that delivery fact had been revealed to me before clicking the buy button.

  7. When I ordered an HP Laser Printer a few years ago, I had no idea that I happened to have ordered a really older model that was about twenty inches by twenty inches and that weighed over a hundred pounds! There would have been no way I would have gotten it up the three floors of the apartment where I lived at the time. Fortunately, one of the body builders at the gym a block away was kindly enough to give a hand and took most of the weight. I hope your workout program is re-energized with your new equipment. 🙂

  8. These delivery schemes are pretty wild, Gordon! I’m glad you had someone willing to help you.
    During the day our street is pretty quiet — I love that — so if I had to do the deed myself, I probably would’ve had to drag it from the street and over the curb to the front of the building where I would’ve then been forced to open the box on the sidewalk and carry each piece in the building. That’s the only way to do that deed alone, and I’d have to hope no one lifted anything while I was racing back and forth unpacking.

  9. Hi David,
    Yes, I bought most of my staff online – starting from grocery and all, but never bought anything so giagantic – somehow that saved my back.
    And now as you are saying it – I recollect, my roommate once bought something which was equally huge and he asked for my help to get it inside!
    It was a rectangualr box and tremendously heavy and even being a 6 ft. 200 pounds he couldn’t manage it on his own because of its awkward size -though it surprised me, but I never bothered to ask why on earth this thing was delivered on the street in the first place – Now I know! What a chaos!

  10. Chaos is right, Katha! The problem is… it never occurs to us non-truckers and non-shippers that something would ever just be dropped in the street and be considered “delivered.” There must be an extra effort to educate the buyer — even if it means future lost sales.

  11. I am a Truck driver and have delivered inside ,sidewalk and curbside for the past 20 years. As most customers learn the hard way, the least expensive shipping { free } is curbside. at that price there is almost no profit for the company .we will not put your product together or haul away the crate. If you check with Fed x. UPS, YRC,ABF or any other freight company, they all charge about the same for inside two man delivery and haul away trash. I have delt with a lot of angry customers over the years who did not understand what curbside was. Its like getting free parking and expecting valet service.

    1. Hi Jeff —

      I appreciate your experience. You’re right that a better job needs to be done at the time of sale to precisely explain the delivery options. It doesn’t occur to most people that a truck delivery would be any different than the USPS or FedEx or UPS or the local furniture delivery service.

      1. When you say USPS ,UPS, you are talking about small package delivery. I am talking about large freight deliveries they have completely different shipping requirements. see what it would cost to ship a 187lb crate through the post office or the parcel division of UPS. Also the local furniture store would not be in business very long if they did not add a little extra on to the price to cover delivery and set up.Think about it , wages for two men for two hours, A large delivery truck, diesel fuel $4.25 a gallon insurance on the vehicle , insurance and bonding on the two men.Free delivery is a good selling point, but is it really free?

  12. I chanced upon your webpage because I had a fairly similar experience with Amazon (Marketplace). I bought a 200-lb sofa with a $152 shipping fee. Unlike you though, I do know what curbside delivery means which was why I carefully read the vendor’s shipping policies and product page. Nowhere in those pages did the vendor mention that delivery will be limited to outside the house only which was why I was so surprised (and annoyed) when FedEx Freight called to schedule a delivery and told me that they will not bring the sofa out of their trailer (yes, this is even worse than curbside delivery). FedEx said that delivery from the trailer to inside the house will be an additional $186 to be paid by the buyer. I said, heck no. That was not in my agreement with the vendor and no way am I paying $186 for an error/omission made by the vendor. The vendor also did not mention that FedEx Freight will be doing the delivery.

    I say that this was entirely the vendor’s fault. I’ve made furniture purchases before and the furniture stores I’ve bought from before mentioned what their delivery included – curbside, white glove. On second thought, maybe I’m at fault too for assuming that the “absence of any mention of curbside or left-outside-the-house delivery” automatically meant that shipping is into-the-house.

    Well, I’ve passed on the problem to my credit card provider who has since refunded me the entire amount I paid although they said they are still investigating the matter. Meanwhile, FedEx Freight keeps calling many many times each day (six times yesterday) to say that they are going to bill me for storage fees if the sofa is not delivered. And that’s even after I’ve written a formal complaint to FedEx Freight telling them that my business was with the Amazon vendor, not with FedEx Freight.

  13. I found this page from a Google search because I didn’t know what “curbside delivery” was so I was looking it up. I’m considering buying a rather expensive ergonomic office chair that includes “curbside delivery.” While it’s not as heavy as your pilates device, it still sounds like something I don’t want to mess with.

    Thanks for the post. Hope you got a decent refund from Amazon and I agree that Amazon should have spelled out “hey, we are dropping this off in the street.”

  14. I am so glad that I found your comments on Google when I was trying to understand what “curbside delivery” means. Now I have just decided to cancel an order for a four door refrigerator. I don’t have to go through the hassle of “curbside” free delivery. Thanks for the post and share your experience.

  15. Now I am worried as I am having a hutch shipped curbside to my parents house who are in their 70’s. 8 am telling them to just leave it in the street if they have to

  16. Glad I found this. I ordered a 300 lb desk from Amazon.com and the seller’s shipping method is curbside only, okay, now I’m scared. I’m a girl that weighs about 120lbs . All the other web sites that I shopped for this desk on, offered threshold service, in your garage or covered porch free. Amazon does not offer anywhere I can see shipping options like inside, white glove etc. I guess I need to hire a moving company to be here when the desk is delivered. I’ll be cancelling my Amazon account after this, when you spend 3000.00 on home office furniture, you expect some courtesy, not this kind of “gotcha” mentality.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Donna. You might be able to contact the shipping company Amazon is using and “upgrade your service” to threshold for an additional fee. They’ll have to hire another guy or two for your delivery, but at least you would be streamlining the process without having to go out and hire a separate moving company or extra set of reliable hands yourself.

      Let us know how it works out!

      1. Thanks for the hint, after reading your blog, I did email the seller, but have not had a response yet, hopefully I can find out who is the actual shipper and make a request for upgraded service. I’ve learned my lesson, any future large item purchases will be made through Wayfair who bends over backwards with delivery service, also free.

        1. The shipper will contact you — actually you’ll be instructed to contact the shipper — so they can set up a delivery time when you’ll be home. They won’t just dump it in the street without your signed “okay!” SMILE! Most shippers know people have no idea what curbside delivery means and they will usually offer to bring it all the way inside for you… for an additional fee that doesn’t go through Amazon.