Still, there's one thing most of us have in common that I don't. It's hard to describe. Generally speaking, it can best be summed up by the words 'shop locally.' That is, many people I know will go out of their way to spend money at a business which, I don't know, feels like spending your money there will not disappear to Bentonville, Arkanasas, or otherwise completely exit your local community. I kinda sorta understand how they feel, but at the same time part of me always balks at subsidizing inefficiency.
Because many of my friends are, as I am, voracious readers, I occasionally listen to a debate that goes something like this: Buying books from Amazon.com is evil because it's always better to buy books from local bookstores, which contribute culturally to our communities. Barring that, at the very least, you should buy from Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, because they're the closest thing to Amazon.com except that they're not corporate.
So, from time to time, I try to shop at Powells.com. After all, if you're spending a lot of money on books, there's a small [very small] chance you may save money there. They're typically more expensive than Amazon.com [or Barnes & Noble, even!], but because they're in Oregon, there's no sales tax. [As a Washington resident, I pay sales taxes on everything from Amazon.com.] If you're spending more than $50, they'll even waive shipping charges [although, unlike Amazon, they ship USPS media mail, which can take a long time - over a week, usually - to get here from Portland, which is really weird because they're practically right next door].
Two weeks ago, I placed an order with Powell's for the new Richard Feynman book, but largely because Dan wanted a copy of Freakonomics. I figured if I bought both, I'd get free shipping. Last night, the guy what wrote Freakonomics was on The Daily Show, which reminded me that I hadn't received my copy in the mail yet, and that I should check my order status online, which I did.
Here's what Powells.com had to say:
Huh. Their online help has this to say: Items which were unavailable are marked as 'Not found.'
Even more interestingly, I see that they've charged me $2.50 to ship the Feynman book - cancelling the other book resulted in the total order being less than $50, therefore I've been charged for shipping.
So, Powell's: bite me. I don't care how un-corporate you are: what I care about is low pricing, fast and free delivery, and above all at least a frickin' E-mail if you're not going to ship me the book I ordered. I mean, come on! It's the #3 best selling book on Amazon.com - it's not like it's obscure or hard to get. And hell, you're asking $21 for it, when Amazon.com is asking $17.13. Remind me again why I should pay you $4 extra for the privilege of your never actually shipping the book, and not even notifying me about your failure to do so?