Guess where I won't be buying Christmas presents

This is a story of woe. Actually, it's a rant. You have been warned.

About three weeks ago, I was trying to buy a birthday present for my nephew, who lives in the States. After comparison shopping, I decided to purchase it from Toys 'R' Us, not least because they use Google Checkout. I was pretty sure they'd accept my credit card.

I place the order, and assume that everything will go smoothly. It turns out, I've been spoiled by Amazon.

A few weeks pass, and it's my brother's (father of the nephew) birthday. I ask if my nephew liked his gift. It hadn't arrived. I dig out the confirmation email, click a link and find out that nothing has happened since they day I placed the order.

I click another link to contact Toys 'R' Us. I immediately receive an email, which I assume is the standard "We have received your request and will be contacting you shortly." After a day goes by and I still don't hear anything, I read it more closely. It turns out, they aren't going to contact me. I have to contact them. I'm glad they have 24/7 telephone support, but if I submit a request by email, I want it answered by email. If I wanted to deal with this over the phone, I would have called.

So, I call the toll-free (but not for me) number. I speak to Ryan. I explain the situation. He's great. In fact, he's superb. He gets my details and tries to find my order. He can't. He apologises, and says he'll pass it on to the tech team to see if the can figure out what happen. He says that I'll be contacted in the next 2-3 days, and somebody will let me know what happened. And then, it all goes wrong again.

Today, I get an email. Standard Google Checkout boilerplate. My order has been canceled, it reads, for the reasons listed below. Those reasons? "The order was canceled"! You read that right. Someone, somewhere had a box they should have filled in to let me know what happened. And they didn't.

This may be a Google Checkout problem, but I don't really think so. At every opportunity, Google Checkout has provided me a way of contacting Toys 'R' Us and Toys 'R' Us a way of communicating with me. Toys 'R' Us has chosen not to take advantage of either. Instead of replying to an email with an explanation, they send an automated email that demands that I call them. I suspect the email wasn't even read. When they are given a box to fill in to inform their (ex-)customer of what went wrong, they choose to offer useless, redundant information. The result is perhaps one of the worst online shopping experiences I've ever had.

So, I've just finished ordering the same toy from Amazon. It's back in stock.

Guess where I'll be ordering most of my Christmas presents for the folks back home. Here's a hint: it doesn't begin with "T".