The Elusive Obscurities

On July 11th I pre-ordered Stephin Merritt’s Obscurities release through amazon.co.uk. I’m eager to get my hands on it, and figure pre-ordering is the best way to get it as early as possible. I also decided to order Destroyer‘s  excellent Kaputt album, taking advantage of the combined shipping and still staying below Norway’s infamous 200 NOK customs limit. The items were estimated to dispatch August 30th, so I figured I’d get them late August, early September.

Curiously, on August 23rd I get an e-mail telling me the Destroyer album has shipped, and soon thereafter I receive it in the mail. Then I get an e-mail from Amazon on August 31st, saying the following:

We regret to inform you that your order will take longer to fulfill than originally estimated. Our supplier has notified us that there is a delay obtaining stock for the following items you ordered on July 11 2011.

Stephin Merritt “Obscurities”
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0057OOPM8

We are awaiting a revised estimate from our supplier, and will email you as soon as we receive this information.

That’s a tad annoying. But these things happen. But when I look at Amazon’s websites, I see that the album is no longer available for ordering, but that there’s another version of the album that is. This version appears identical to the other, except the label is Domino Records rather than Merge, and the release date is September 5th rather than August 23rd. So I’m fairly certain this is the official European release of the exact same album, as albums will sometimes have different labels and distributors depending on region. (And no, this version wasn’t available to order when I pre-ordered on July 11th.) So I’m guessing that due to rights issues Amazon won’t actually be getting the Merge release of the album at all, which I pre-ordered, but only the Domino Records release.

I don’t really care which label release I get, as they appear to be identical. So I decide to write Amazon customer service. I ask when I can expect to get the album, and I also suggest that the version I ordered could be switched with the Domino Records version, which they have in stock. I get an e-mail in response, telling me the following:

Please note that whilst we aim to display the most accurate product availability possible, occasionally products can go out of stock or become out of print/discontinued.

When you place an order with us for a product we do not have in stock (such as products where the availability on our product detail page states that it is “Unknown”), we endeavour to source that product for you from our suppliers. We’ll notify you via e-mail as soon as we have enough information to provide you with an estimated delivery date. However, in some cases it is not possible to obtain the product as the product is no longer available for purchase. We’ll notify you via e-mail if we are unable to obtain the product.

Please accept my apologies for this situation.

Utterly unhelpful. Doesn’t seem like she (the response is credited to a female name) even read the actual message. When you write their customer service a message you have to choose what the topic of your inquiry is, and I chose “where’s my stuff”. Seems like she just glanced at the category and sent a standard copy-n-paste response rather than bothering to read through it, and in effect not answering my second question of whether a switch would be possible.

Of course, I could just cancel my order for the Merge version and order the Domino Records one. But that would mean losing money on the combined shipping deal, as the Destroyer album had already shipped. It would only be 2 GBP extra tops, but still. Money is money, and I don’t like parting with it unnecessarily.

So a couple of days ago I figured I’d try buying it at an actual record store instead. Platekompaniet, the leading Norwegian record store chain, was offering it through their website for 100 NOK, which didn’t seem like a bad price. Would be a bit more than I would have paid through Amazon, but I could live with paying 20-30 NOK extra for immediate satisfaction. Plus, I was getting tired of waiting for and trying to deal with Amazon.

So when I visited Oslo last week, I figured I’d drop by one of their stores and buy a copy. I ended up going into three different Platekompaniet stores, and none of them had the album. Which I thought odd, since it was a new release by a popular indie artist, and any self-respecting record store should have a few copies of those. The day after I find myself in Sandvika and figure I’ll ask at the Platekompaniet there too – and they actually have a copy! But, it’s priced at a whooping 170 NOK, and marked as a special import. I see it’s the Merge version, which probably explains it.

And that’s pretty much where I am today. My order with Amazon is still open, and I haven’t heard anything more about when I can expect my copy. Buying music sure is tiring.

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