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Kindle Fire outside the USA: fun while it lasts

Sunday, March 4, 2012 | 1 comment

Last year, a day before Christmas, a Kindle Fire arrived at our house; a Christmas present sent to us by a customer of mine. Esme paid the custom duties and IVA (value added taxes), about 50 USD in total, and soon we had opened the box and were admiring the brand new Kindle Fire.

Originally we had been considering to buy an Apple iPad 2 as a present to ourselves. But since in the beginning of Christmas my bank card got stolen and criminals managed to buy, amongst other things, two 64 GB iPads with wi-fi at "Sam's club" in the short time it took Esme to discover the theft and report it, we couldn't afford one. Actually, at the time of writing, the bank that issued the card, Banamex, has still not figured out if their insurance covers this, or not, despite us taking 6 hours of our time in attempts to report this via their phone "service". But that's a story that deserves its own blog post; for now avoid Banamex, or Banana-mex as I like to call them, like the plague.

So we were extremely happy with this Christmas present. Were. Not "were" because it's still not possible to install even free apps on it without an USA credit card. I still don't consider that much of a problem. We can watch YouTube videos on it, photos, and play web based games on it without any problems. No "were" because less than a month after we got this little tablet in our possession a part of the display suddenly became brighter than the rest, like an external light source hitting that part of the display. It's most obvious with a bright background, but also on a dark background it's clearly visible.

So in January I contacted Amazon by email. On one hand I didn't expect much from it. On the other hand I was hopeful; for the past years I have been helping people with small Perl programming tasks in exchange for books. Books they order via my wish list on Amazon. And on the rare occasions a book arrived damaged, Amazon didn't even hesitate to send me a new copy. Moreover, I was never asked to return the damaged copy at all; Amazon understood that that sending a book back to the USA is prohibitive expensive, especially with pocket books.

In the reply email by Amazon I was told to handle it via their support chat. Well into 20 minutes chatting with an Amazon representative the chat window reported that the connection was gone.... So I tried the email route again, and got back the same answer: try the chat. By then I decided to let it rest for a while; it all had become quite stressful to me, and I was more or less convinced that it was going nowhere anyway and the solution would become that I had to return the device to Amazon via someone in the USA, making it prohibitive expensive, even without the risk of having to pay again import duties and value added tax.

So, today I tried again to chat with Amazon. But since they don't sell the Kindle Fire in Mexico, there is no way for them to provide a solution other than sending a replacement Fire to someone in the USA who forwards it to me. I emailed the chat transcript to Amazon, but again, there's little they can (or want) to do. In their defense, Amazon offered to refund the shipping cost of the Kindle Fire to the USA. But that still leaves me with at least 90 USD and worst case 140 USD to pay. It's just not worth it. So, my next tablet is most likely going to be an iPad 3.

I do understand Amazon's position; they don't sell the Kindle Fire in Mexico. But like I wrote in their chat: the difference between a good company and a great company is how they handle things like this without thinking twice.

Anyway, be aware that if you decide to import a Kindle Fire yourself that you basically have a device without warranty, since returning it for repairs might cost a lot. And if you want to give the Kindle Fire as a gift to someone outside of the USA be aware that the receiver might end up with a gift that's too expensive to have replaced.

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