Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Amazon's video-game trade-in program: a good first impression

If you haven't tried Amazon's new video-game trade-in program, here's some insight from one transaction -- mine.

First, some caveats. Trading in a video-game ultimately involves some fairly complicated decision-making about where and how you're originally purchasing games (new or used, for instance, is just one aspect that affects the final value of everything you do). Moreover, you've got choices besides Amazon, but they vary greatly in terms of the amount of effort they require (such as becoming an online seller yourself or taking games to a brick-and-mortar store that buys used games).

Over time, I'll examine a few of the more complex wrinkles. But I started out with a simple goal: I happily accepted Amazon's advertised offer of a $19.50 gift-card deposit in my account in exchange for sending in my copy of "Resistance 2,'' a PlayStation 3 shooter that I found monumentally disappointing (and that I bought new from Amazon for $60 in October). What I wanted after that was convenience.

Mostly, I got it. As part of the transaction arranged online, Amazon e-mailed me a prepaid mailing label that was a snap to print out and put on the envelope I used for easily dropping the game in a mailbox. I hoped the process -- and the availability of my $19.50 credit -- would be lickety-split. But that was unrealistic, I think, especially given that the trade-in games actually are purchased by third-party merchants.

A week after mailing the game, my account was showing it as not yet received. That was misleadingly worrisome, suggesting to me that perhaps something had gone wrong in the mails. An e-mail inquiry I sent to Amazon was partially helpful (informing me that the merchant involved categorized the transaction as "pending"). When I told Amazon -- which solicits feedback on its responses to e-mails -- that I wasn't completely satisfied with the explanation, I got another reply that represents one of the better demonstrations of customer service I've been graced with in a looooong time. The information itself remained a little confusing, focusing on time lines for my "return" and "refund" (as opposed to a "trade-in"), but it was clear that the item involved was "Resistance 2" and -- this was the clincher for me -- the tone was exceptionally reassuring. To quote the Amazon representative:

"I will personally follow-up your return and the refund status to ensure this issue is taken care of, so that you do not have to contact us again for your refund on this order.

"Rest assured that this matter will be resolved to your satisfaction. Your patience and understanding are greatly appreciated in this regard."

The upshot: I got e-mail notification today (the two-week mark since mailing) of the transaction being completed and the deposit of the gift-card amount in my account. Overall, the convenience of the whole process rates pretty high with me, and Amazon's solicitousness is even more impressive.


  1. So that is two weeks plus what ever shipping time turn around you would have to wait for what you then buy with that credit.

    That seems a bit long for a very "wham-bam" oriented market. Little Timmy will want to take his "Unicorn II: Rage of the Rainbow Horn" game into (insert your local game shop here) and get his credit and buy a new game right then and there, not wait 2-3 weeks.

  2. That's what I'm looking for more feedback on (and thanks for this). As I read your reaction, the first thing in my mind is: What kind of reception and service will be typical at the brick-and-mortar locations? I've never been very impressed with that niche of clerk.