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Buying and Returning Heavy, Expensive Products on Amazon

So a couple weeks ago, I splurged on a Delonghi 10,000 BTU portable air-conditioner unit from Amazon for our upstairs. Right now, we have a window unit, and we wanted something that can be taken out more easily in the winter months and replaced in the summer. It’s unsightly, insanely heavy (even for a stud like me) and loud. So a portable unit fit the bill. Oh, and as a note, it often gets up to 95 degrees or higher upstairs in our bedroom since it’s an old Cape Cod style house with horrible circulation. The central A/C does absolutely nothing for the upstairs.

At the time of ordering (but not at the time of this writing), the A/C unit was shipping straight from Amazon (it’s from a third party right now). A month prior to ordering, I signed up for Amazon Prime, which gets you 2nd day shipping for free and next day shipping for only $3.99. I signed up for a 30-Day Free Trial (it’s $79 per year normally) and I got the A/C unit just a couple days before the trial period expired.

Overall, I paid $483, including the $3.99 shipping. As a note, I highly recommend signing up for Amazon Prime during the trial period if you have anything urgent to purchase or anything with pricey shipping. However, it has to be shipped directly from Amazon, not a third party (unless they have the little “Amazon Prime” icon next to it). If you normally pay more than $80 a year on shipping with Amazon, then it’s worth it to keep the service after the trial period. Second-day shipping is free (normally it’s just the longer super saver shipping) and overnight shipping is only $3.99, regardless of the product’s weight or dimensions! This A/C unit was 84lbs!

Things went downhill

So enough background. I received the package from UPS shortly after getting back from the Pope’s mass in D.C. and quickly unpacked it. Although the product seemed to have shipped new, I immediately noticed the following:

  1. The hard plastic window fitting (it’s still a vented unit) was cracked on the ends. There were shards of broken, pointy plastic everywhere
  2. The side of the unit was dislodged, even though it was screwed in tightly. I would have had to unscrew it to fit it back in but didn’t bother
  3. It was missing a wheel (that’s what makes this 84lb beast “portable” I think)

I started to wonder if I got the returned unit from another customer, but I gave Amazon the benefit of the doubt. So I took the unit upstairs, probably spraining my back again, and plugged it in. It fired up fine and I only ran it for about 20 seconds. I turned it off and let it go for another week until we needed it.

So a week rolls around and it gets 85 degrees upstairs. I decide to set up the window tube venting and power up the air-conditioner. But immediately it started making a horrible loud thumping noise. This would be the compressor turning on I think. It literally sounded like a piledriver inside the house. I shut it off, kicked it around (that’s how I fix things) and tried again.

It started up the second time just fine, so I went downstairs. About 3 minutes later…THWOOOM THWOOOM THWOOOM! Dang, I guess I gotta return it. And that’s why I don’t order heavy, expensive items online.

The Return Process to Amazon

I think two good things I did in this attempt at cooling off were that”

  1. I ordered directly from Amazon, not a third-party
  2. I only paid $3.99 for shipping, thanks to Amazon

I don’t know how much regular shipping would have been, much less overnight shipping, so by using my Amazon Prime discount on overnight shipping, I got the product when I knew I would be home and save at least $20-40 on shipping (or more).

The reason ordering straight from Amazon was important is because it makes returns MUCH simpler. To return this item, I:

  1. Logged into my account
  2. Selected to return an item
  3. Chose the item from recent orders and enter the reason for return (see above)
  4. Selected whether to get a refund or an exchange (I just chose a refund)
  5. Selected the method (UPS dropoff, UPS pickup, other carrier, etc.). I chose the UPS dropoff since I was worried about leaving the very large box on the front porch with the chance of rain or theft. Also, by going with UPS rather than FedEx or USPS, Amazon paid for the return shipping.
  6. Put the unit back in the original box, inserted a packing slip (printed from Amazon’s site), taped it all up and taped on the mailing label
  7. Loaded it up in the truck, drove down to Staples and carried it in there (they offered a dolly when I called, but it was raining and I just wanted to get inside).
  8. Waited for the Staples clerk to scan the box and print my receipt
  9. Went back home

Returning items is my biggest worry because I hate the idea of paying to ship something back when I wouldn’t have to do that at a regular brick-and-mortar store (much less pay for the shipping TO me either). But Amazon made it very easy for such a large, heavy, bulky item. Kudos for Amazon and let’s just hope they don’t try to charge a restocking fee since the dang thing is busted!

Overall, I’m glad I was able to return the item because it was a bit of an impulse purchase. I did some preliminary research and I still think the unit is the best match (when on sale), but then again, we have an existing window A/C unit that, although big, bulky and unsightly, does its job. We now have that $500 earmarked for yet another replacement home item which I’ll write about later.


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  • Sorry to hear about the hassle. The idea of something like your situation was exactly what gave us pause from ordering a large television from Amazon not too long ago. Ultimately, after looking at their return policy carefully we decided to go for it and luckily haven’t had problems yet — but its good to hear that they make it fairly straightforward.

    I imagine this is one of the larger challenges faces in getting people to purchase large, heavy items online.

  • I was actually thinking of buying Delonghi portable A/C so I really apprecited the article. When I buy bulky items, Amazon is my first destination for price check and if the price is competitive, I usually end up buying there. Amazon has one of best customer service and return policies, as you had noted. I had purchased two Delonghi heater from Amazon a couple of years ago and when I got them, they were both banged up from shipping. One was in working condition and the other would not warm up so contacted Amazon customer service to resolve the issue. I was offered replacement for one that did not work, and for the second, option of replacement or half my money back. Since the unit was in working condition, I told them I wanted money back and returned the second, non-working unit at Amazon’s expense. I got the replacement within 3-4 days and fund credited for the unit I decided to keep.

    Another great feature Amazon has is price matching. If you ever buy something from Amazon and if they lower price on that item within time period (I think it is 30 days), they will refund the price difference if you contact them. I purchased gazebo last summer and the following week, they had that exact gazego for their Friday sale at 30% off. Luckily, I noticed it and got Amazon to refund the difference.

  • Has Amazon always paid for return shipping? I could have sworn I had to pay my own shipping the last time I had to return something. Good call on the Amazon Prime.

    I may need to buy a portable A/C unit for the house as well. Are window units more or less efficient than these portable ones?

  • @Jonathan: I used UPS to return the item. If I wanted to ship through another carrier, I would have to pay for the shipping. Amazon let me choose a UPS pickup, UPS dropoff or other carrier.

    As for the efficiency vs window units, I can’t speak on it really. Perhaps since the unit isn’t sitting exposed to the hot sun (in our case), it would cool the air around it more effectively. Also, we wouldn’t have as large of a gap in the window, and we could just take out the window fitting quickly if we wanted. The portability was the main draw for us.

  • I also signed up for amazon prime, next day shipping for $4 is incredible. I ran into a problem when trying to cancel a return.

    There is no way to do this, even on UPS without having a UPS shipping account and I felt so bad for the UPS guy coming to my house 3 times – I was out when he came. You’d think a billion dollar company could add a little “cancel this return” button to the returns section!!!

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