Sat ploughing my way through HMRC’s online self-assessment form (31 January deadline everyone), thoughts naturally turn to the subject of tax. However much I try to lard my expenses, or burnish my charitable donations, I’m still forking out a considerable percentage of my income to George and Dave.
That’s why I always grind a tooth whenever I buy something from Amazon; if I’m handing over a large wedge of my hard-earned, I begrudge their ‘tax mitigation‘ activities that allow them to sell billions of pounds-worth of product in this country and (perfectly legally, of course) avoid paying what a reasonable person might think of as a reasonable amount of corporation tax.
But I buy a lot of books and I’m a cheapskate, so up until now I’ve put up with the teeth-grinding in order to save a few quid.
Up until now. I’ve just discovered the Waterstone’s ‘reserve and collect‘ service which combines my need for cheapness with my love of efficiently implemented delivery and customer service.
You browse online, click the ‘reserve and collect’ option and enter your postcode. This shows you the nearest branches of Waterstone’s and their stock level of the book. You click on the branch that is most convenient and reserve your book and, usually the same day, you get an email back saying it’s ready for collection. You pay in the shop when you collect it, but are charged the online rate rather than the store price.
The half a dozen times I’ve used this it has worked brilliantly. There’s a Waterstone’s on my way home from work, so in some cases I’ve ordered in the morning and collected in the evening – same day service. Even “next day” is better than Amazon’s ‘supersaver’ delivery and, unlike that, there’s no minimum order value on the reserve and collect.
Like John Lewis’s click and collect that allows you to pick up online purchases from a convenient Waitrose, the Waterstone’s system is an intelligent use of a retail network that gives customers control over the time and place of collection. It’s an area in which pureplay online retailers need to compete if they’re going to maintain sales growth.