Up the Amazon

Up the Amazon
Up the Amazon

Have you noticed how social media and the UK press love to take a swipe at Amazon whenever they can? Of course, this is just one of the least attractive parts of the human psyche; pure delight in building up and praising a sportsman, singer, film star or company, and then taking considerable pleasure in destroying them. 

Personally, I have few quarrels with Amazon, since as a Brit living in Spain and the Canary Islands, I have benefited greatly from some of their services. As an author, many people buy my books from Amazon and it would be foolish to bite the hand that feeds me.  In my opinion, their Kindle service is second to none, and I doubt I would enjoy life quite so much without it.

I can enjoy newly published books at a fair price whenever I wish without the delays and costs involved in ordering a physical book from the UK. No, I do not crave or wax lyrical over “the smell and feel” of a physical book; just give me my Kindle.

I am also well aware of the supposed poor working conditions in Amazon warehouses, but I suspect that conditions there are little worse than conditions faced by most unskilled workers involved in warehouse activities each day of their working lives. Indeed, I have the benefit of knowing several people who work in an Amazon warehouse who tell me a very different story to that portrayed in the press, TV and social media, so I am prepared to keep an open mind on these issues, whilst also recognising that working conditions in warehouses generally need to be improved.

I have received a few messages recently from expats complaining about some aspects of service received from Amazon in Spain. Readers may or may not know that expats living in Spain and the Canary Islands can use Amazon in a number of countries for their purchases, including Amazon UK, Amazon Germany and, one would think logically, Amazon Spain.

Unlike the operations in the UK and Germany, Amazon Spain appears to be in a state of perpetual confusion and suffering from particularly poor management when it comes to customer service in the Canary Islands, and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, where services and choices offered by companies such as Amazon are of great help.

For myself, living in the Canary Islands, Amazon Spain is often a huge problem. Although I buy into Amazon Prime in Spain, which in theory, means no postage costs for most items, I invariably find that most items that I wish to order cannot be delivered to the Canary Islands anyway and, if they are, they are subject to a ‘handling charge’ from Correos, UPS and others acting for the Aduana (the tax authority). I rarely have any problems with Amazon UK or Amazon Germany.

Of course, it is the tax differentials between Spain and the Canary Islands that are the basis of this problem, but I am a firm believer in ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way’. Some time ago, anything ordered from the Spanish Peninsular would attract IGIC (the equivalent of VAT/IVA in the Canary Islands). Even though this tax is 7 per cent, there would invariably be a ‘service charge’ added by the courier – UPS, DHL or Correos, which would often exceed the value of the goods being delivered. The Canarian Government rightly intervened some time ago and it was then deemed that tax would only apply to items over the value of 150 euros imported into the Canary Islands.

Problem solved? Not a bit of it. Now residents of the islands find that whilst low value items do not attract tax, they still attract a ‘handling charge’ (DUA), which often exceeds the value of the item ordered. Whist this may be worthwhile for higher value items under 150 euros, it still means that residents of the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla are not regarded as part of Spain and discriminated against. I understand that this contravenes various articles agreed by the European Union, so it rightly remains a matter of concern for many islanders.

If you do order from Amazon Spain, and find that the tax or handling charge imposed is unreasonable, my advice is that you simply refuse delivery and ask for it to be returned to the sender and purchase costs refunded. In addition, do send a complaint to Amazon so that they are fully aware of a continuing problem, although I suspect that the usual bland, ‘comment bank’ response will be generated. I now do this as a matter of course.

Indeed, the postman arrived a few minutes ago with a delivery of washing pods, which Amazon Spain keep urging me to try at a very special price. I paid 9,94 euros for these, but the postman has just requested 14,96 euros before he would hand them over. I refused delivery and will now buy locally. I am hoping that, in time, someone at Amazon will finally get the message and begin to treat the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla as intrinsic parts of Spain.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at my websites: http://barriemahoney.com and http://thecanaryislander.com or read my latest book, ‘Living in Spain and the Canary Islands’ (ISBN: 9780995602724). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.

Join me on Facebook: @barrie.mahoney

© Barrie Mahoney