A tale of two preorders

I recently had two preorders with two different online stores go wrong. One a digital game on Xbox, and the other physical media from Amazon. I think there are lessons learned from both of them, if you’re a marketer and/or work on an online ordering system.

This is a game I previously bought when it was a PlayStation exclusive. You play as a cat who wears a digital interface and tries to navigate a futuristic society populated by robots. I’m not a big PlayStation fan, which means I struggle with the controls (X in the wrong place, Square, Circle, Triangle). So I never finished the game (though I did stream some of it on my YouTube channel).

When I learned it was coming to Xbox, I checked their online store every day until it was added for preorder. When it did appear on August 1, I noticed it was on sale for 20% off until its August 10 launch – so I nabbed it for $31.99, down from a list price of $39.99.

The next morning, I received an email from Xbox telling me that the game was in fact on sale for $23.99 (normally $29.99). So clearly someone entered the wrong price into the Xbox store, and then later it was corrected. Ideally, this should have triggered an automatic refund for the difference. I felt cheated for preordering immediately, and concerned that they wouldn’t ever fix it for those early purchasers. If I hadn’t seen that email, I might have remained blissfully unaware that I might have saved nearly $10 on my order if I had waited a day. I started down the path of contacting support but then realized it would be easier to just cancel the order, wait five minutes for the system to reflect that I no longer owned the game, and then buy it again at the lower price.

Overall, I’ve been an Xbox customer for decades (and, cards on the table, I worked for them as a consultant for 10 years – so I have some ideas about how and where these processes break down). The main thing is that marketers don’t tend to think about the early purchasers of games, and often initiate sales too soon after selling a title at full price.

Early purchasers, especially those who pay full price, should feel like they got their money’s worth by biting down early before others join them at a significant discount. There should be no sales within the first month, and if you misprice something and fix it, let them know immediately that they will be taken care of.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Blu-ray

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
I really enjoyed the first two Guardians of the Galaxy movies, but had heard that Vol. 3 was disturbing, too long, and not very satisfying. The day after my birthday in early July, I decided “what the heck” and preordered it. Amazon told me it was due for release-day delivery on August 22.

Smash cut to this week. On Tuesday, August 1, the day it unlocked on Disney+, I saw on my favorite Blu-ray site that it was a featured release title on disc as well. I don’t know whether Amazon screwed up on the date or if Disney moved it up, but when I checked the Amazon store my preorder was still due for delivery on August 22. I tapped through to the purchase page where I saw that I could order it for the same price as my preorder and have it delivered free the next day.

In this case, the scenario played in my favor. Instead of canceling and reordering, I took my time and watched the movie on streaming the next evening. I then decided I no longer wanted to complete my Guardians of the Galaxy disc collection and canceled the preorder.

What should have happened is that when Amazon realized stock was coming in for an August 1 release, they should have moved up any preorders due to ship later in the month before taking new orders for immediate delivery. I did find it offensive that I had gone to the trouble of preordering the title almost a month early and someone who landed on the page on release day would get their order nearly three weeks earlier than me. Though not as offensive as the movie itself proved to be.

Since the movie was awful and I canceled the order, it’s really Amazon and Disney’s loss here. If they had caught the mistake and shipped me the title when they should, I would have kept it. But in other circumstances, with a preorder for something I really wanted, I would have been steamed.

In the past, Amazon has been pretty good about delivering products faster than expected, and they have an entire system set up to notifying you when there’s a new shipment date. Why that didn’t happen here is unclear, but it’s the kind of thing to watch out for.

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