Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • Nathan Witt

    Of course you should take his case. One of the (many) valuable bits of information this site has to offer is what to do – and NOT to do – as a customer. Perhaps Mr. Iwuagwu is the victim of a mix-up at Amazon, and he’s been shut out without reason. Perhaps he’s a con artist who’s been stealing from Amazon. Perhaps it’s in between, and he’s done something that the average consumer wouldn’t think illegal or unethical, and it simply runs afoul of one of Amazon’s Terms of Service. Whatever the case, it’ll be helpful to your readers to learn the results of your advocacy efforts.

  • John Baker

    Of course you should attempt to get additional information. It might or might not be manufactured spending or one of the other things that you’ve said you won’t advocate. If the additional information shows that it is, you stop and decline to move forward. If not, you continue.

    As of now, I can’t vote. There just isn’t enough information.

  • jmtabb

    Sure, ask for more information from Mr. Iwuagwu. But insist on full disclosure before you try to take this to Amazon. If you have concerns that this was a manufactured spending case, then ask Mr Iwuagwu to prove that it isn’t before you take this any further.

  • Pat

    Until you receive details on how the balance was accumulated, all correspondance with Amazon, how the account was used, and the lawyer / sue word was never used, use the ten feet pole. As the previous case showed, there was a lot more to the case than first appeared.

  • AAGK

    I agree. It is too early to tell. I would ask, when he says he has $4k “on the account,” what does that mean? Gift cards, store credit? For example, if he purchased a Samsung TV for 4K, returned it for a credit and then the shut down occurred, now we’re talking. On Amazon there is a feature where you can download spreadsheet style your transactions for the past few years. I would ask him to include that list with his paper trail. If any red flag transactions appear, then at least you will be able to explain to the consumer WHY they closed account and work from there.

  • Tanya

    Advocate only if the full paper trail is discovered. I say this, because if fraud was involved, he is not going into this dispute with “clean hands.” I don’t necessarily think that Amazon should just get to go radio silence, but to me, advocating for a consumer who has committed fraud is just as bad as a business not doing what they should. Of course, Amazon is not going to come right out and accuse anyone of fraud, that would put them potentially on the hook for liability. Also, if he has mentioned the word(s) lawyer, law suits, etc., then this is now in legal and of course Amazon has stopped responding. They are waiting to hear from the guys lawyer. Not from an advocate.

  • Ben

    I can definitely put myself in Iwuagwu’s shoes because I also have a large Amazon gift card balance; because I buy a lot of things on Amazon, I take any chance I get to buy their gift cards at a discount. Local grocery store offering gas rebates for purchasing gift cards? I’m there! Credit card bonus offer to a local store that sells Amazon gift cards? I’ll max it out.

    Iwuagwu may be doing something sketchy and Amazon may have a legitimate reason for shutting down his account. Or maybe he is completely legit but a fraud detection algorithm marked him incorrectly. Get to the bottom of it and then we can decide what recourse and compensation would be appropriate!

  • How would you download that if your account has been closed?

  • JenniferFinger

    I voted “yes,” but only to see if you can get information on why Amazon closed his account. If he violated a manufactured spending rule or other TOS, then at that point I’d stop and tell Iwuagwu that since he violated Amazon’s rules, there’s nothing further you can do for him.

  • AAGK

    He can log in still, no? He can also call Amazon and ask they email it to him or the Elliott advocates will on his behalf. Anyone who has a credit or gift card of nearly $5k should have concrete proof of its existence. I assume consumers submit evidence of the credits or purchase price when they request assistance.

  • Rebecca

    Did no one notice this BLARING red flag:

    “…have several items I was unable to return that were defective.”

    How exactly do you manage to purchase “several” defective items within a few weeks of each other? That sounds very suspect. I am assuming when I say weeks, but even if we generously say in the past 60-90 days, that’s very very bizarre to me. How many times have you genuinely returned a defective product? I can only thing of two times I have done that, ever. I’m 34 and once it was a vacuum (which target cheerfully replaced with another vacuum) and the other time a tv antenna (which wasn’t actually defective but missing a piece, again replaced with no problem).

    Basically, who returns several defective items in a short time period? In guessing this happens often and I’m also guessing that’s why Amazon closed his account. As this stretches into criminal behavior, that would explain the no comment. There is no way anyone should advocate without taking a good, hard look at this and making sure there’s nothing nefarious going on. Its possible, but HIGHLY unlikely, that there isn’t.

  • Pat

    I agree with you. This could be a case of a serial returner. I would also bet that they received a letter or email from Amazon indicating their account would be closed if the specific behavior continued. But even if this is not the reason, there had to be some corresondance that would indicate the account was heading towards being closed.

  • I don’t know. Normally, if an account is closed, the log in no longer works. That would, I think, be the purpose of closing the account in the first place. He could call, but good luck with that.

  • Charles Owen

    I would not touch it. If there is a legitimate reason for there being nearly $5000 in the account (gift cards or credits or whatever) they would have said so. After all, having $5000 in the account is quite unusual. It requires an explanation. Who receives gift cards that large? They know that. If a rich uncle sent them $5000 in gift cards they could say so. Maybe they returned an expensive item? The fact that they omitted that explanation tells me everything I need to know. It’s another manufactured spending case. Plain and simple. He’s scamming the system for points or miles, something you clearly don’t like very much in the first place. If it were legitimate a single sentence could explain what happened. Clearly, it is not for that sentence was not forthcoming.

    The manufactured spending people are scam artists. When they say “closed for no reason” or “they didn’t give me notice” or whatever, do you really believe them? If their request for help does not include a reasonable explanation of the glaring outlier in their case, you should recognize what they are.

  • Charles Owen

    It took you just a few sentences to explain a perfectly reasonable reason you have a large gift card balance. If you were asking for help, I’m sure you would have included this small amount of text that makes perfect sense and explains something that otherwise would have been questionable. He didn’t do that. Had there been a legit explanation, I’m sure he would have been forthcoming. He wasn’t. Tells me everything I need to know.

  • Éamon deValera

    I’m a bit perplexed how people have an account in credit at Amazon. Amazon is a store, not a bank. I buy things and pay for them. If I return something- which is very seldom perhaps once every other year- I get a refund to my credit card.

    How can one have $4K in credit that they wouldn’t return?

  • Rebecca

    I’m leaning towards a serial returner. I’m not going to say I’m sure exactly what the scam is, but I’d bet a lot of money that the balance is due to an obscene amount of returns. Maybe he’s “borrowing” them (using and returning), maybe he’s removing valuable parts to sell and then claiming they’re defective. Maybe he’s just nuts and returns everything. Maybe it’s another bizarre scenario. I may be wrong. But I’d make sure that ALL the facts are gathered before this is pursued.

  • sirwired

    I’m of the opinion that’s it’s rather difficult to imagine any sort of normal, legit, customer activity that would result in a nearly $5k credit balance with Amazon. A few hundred bucks, sure, but not thousands.

    I think in cases like this that unless Amazon has evidence of outright fraud (vs. just being a lousy, profit-sucking, customer), they should do what they apparently eventually did for Thripp, and allow no activity in the account other than what is necessary to spend-down the balance, and then banish said customer forevermore.

    For this particular case? If this is another tedious Manufactured Spending case, let the customer fight his own battles. I imagine every Manufactured Spender knows his/her behavior is a game of cat-and-mouse with banks and merchants, and that battles with said banks and merchants should be expected. This is not something a Consumer Advocate should be getting in the middle of. At least not if you want Amazon to return your calls when a normal customer in genuine distress shows up.

  • sirwired
  • Grant Ritchie

    Oh… my… God…
    Ten-foot poles. Too, TOO funny. Thanks! :-)

  • Rebecca

    That’s the best comment I’ve seen in a LONG time.

  • sirwired


    If you haven’t seen it, may I present SirWired’s Greatest Comedy Hit:

    Just search for my name in:

    It’s the second comment I posted in that thread.

  • mdy2k1

    Today, you are a glorious b#stard.

  • Jason Hanna

    Sounds like the scam of ordering an item, taking it apart, and replacing the innards with an older circuit board or something and then returning it as ‘defective’.

    Seen several of these on YouTube where someone orders an iPhone 5, returns it as defective, and the seller gets a box back with an iPhone 4 in it or something.


    Still the best comment ever!

  • Annie M

    Take the case if he provides you with more information. If it is manufactured spending, tell him goodbye. He HAS to know more than he is saying. Don’t you require copies of correspondence between these people that write and the company? If it is manufactured spending, keep away, your help should be provided to consumers who aren’t trying to skirt the rules of the company they are complaining about.

  • Annie M

    There should be correspondence between him and Amazon about the whole debacle. Insist on getting the emails.

  • Bill___A

    Since Amazon likely won’t talk to you about it, I would suggest he just get a lawyer or sue them in small claims court.
    Advocacy requires the cooperation of both sides.

  • Annie M

    You didn’t read the other post from the guy that did manufactured spending and never disclosed it to the advocate. Making the advocate look like she was aiding and abetting the illegal activities. This forum should not be used to help anyone involved in activities that are against a companies policies.

  • sirwired

    Well, Amazon sends you an e-mail every time something happens on your account; unless you are an idiot and hit “Delete” instead of “Archive” for confirmations, you don’t need access to your account to build a paper trail.

  • Yes, but I was specifically asking about the spreadsheet mentioned by AAGK that should be downloaded. I asked how could that be. I wasn’t referring to any other emails/correspondence, etc.

  • Do you actually keep everything amazon sends you? I don’t. Why? Because I can log into my account and get it at any time. So therefore, why would I keep voluminous amounts of email for that purpose?

    So then once the account is unexpectedly closed, access would be cut off. I can imagine more than a few people, if that happened to them, would be out of luck at that point.

    So, calling someone an idiot for deleting something like that… not appropriate.

  • J M

    Tax Refund. It’s 10% on top of the refund. I did it last year since I will spend the money easily; and I can’t seem to get tax-free 10% from the stock market.

  • AAGK

    That’s incorrect. Usually you can still log on, you simply can’t perform the functions, which is the purpose of closing an account in the first place. Calling Amazon is super easy. They pick up practically directly so I’m not sure why that is hard.

  • Koholaz

    Until you have more facts, you will not be able to determine whether or not this is a legitimate case. But to simply make an assumtion is to negate the purpose of advocacy. At least allow some investigation before making a decision.

  • Willliam Smith Jr

    I think you have to take the case to at least get some additional information that will then allow you / team to determine whether you will proceed further or not. This case does seem like the previous one on the surface but more info is needed to make that determination.

  • Peter

    I would like to add my own very recent experience regarding Amazon. My Wife accidentally purchased Amazon Prime with the “one click” button. Five minutes later she chatted with an online rep to cancel it.

    She received an email telling her she now had Amazon Prime. And then 5 minutes later another email cancelling the membership.

    So there was a charge and a reversal. Then the next day there was a new charge in the same amount on my credit card. When I saw this charge, we contacted Amazon. They claimed they couldn’t find any such charge and couldn’t credit us. They then suggested we call Amazon customer service directly.

    At this point I contacted our bank to dispute the charge. The rep there told us that we shouldn’t try to dispute it. Because she said that Amazon fights every dispute. She then set up a three-way call with Amazon, and over an hour and two Amazon reps later, we received approval for a $107 credit (in 3-5 business days).

    So even with proof of their mistake, a bank rep on the phone (thank you Capital One for the great customer service and help), and our clear right to a regund, they made us grind this out over multiple contacts and an hour and a half. All because you accudentally clucked a button once. Just a horrible experience. No more Amazon for us.

  • Mike

    This one stinks more than the last one did.

    Unless his paper trail is airtight, I’d stay far far away from this one. You got burned once, you don’t wanna do it again.

  • DavidYoung2

    We are an Amazon seller, and I can attest to the truth of Iwuagwu’s story. Amazon is amazing with customer service, but NOT with taking care of their sellers. They seem to fail realize that a successful retailer must have good relationships with BOTH sides of the transaction.

    It is true — there is NO POSSIBLE way to contact Amazon seller support by phone. Only chat and email;

    All emails go to India. At least they use their real names, but they lack any understanding of the issues. I’ve personally had to submit many issues multiple times just hoping to get someone who understands the issue. Really, my expectation is that they will screw it up multiple times before somebody with even a basic understanding can help. Example, a competing Amazon seller posted negative reviews on our feedback page. Very simple — seller policy says you may never, ever, under any circumstance, post a review on a competitor. Like, never. The review was from August, 2015 and it finally got resolved (ie, removed) this month. Eight requests for them to follow their own, written policy before it was handled.

    All chat messages go to India, which one representative admitted is horrible because of the time zone difference. They’re tired, exhausted, and the turnover is horrendous, so nobody knows anything.

    Yeah, and we’re no small potatoes. We sell over $50,000 per month on Amazon. And still can’t get any support from the seller side.

  • sirwired

    Firstly, I certainly did not call anybody an idiot; I don’t know where you got that impression.

    I actually do keep every receipt Amazon sends me; if you use GMail (or one of it’s many imitators), you hit “Archive” and you’ll never again see it unless you perform a search for it. (Like “Amazon Confirmation”)

  • Éamon deValera

    You get your tax refund as an amazon credit, with a bonus? That is very interesting and clever on Amazon’s behalf.

    I wonder what a tax refund is myself.

  • GG

    Are we talking about this guy:

    Uzoma Iwuagwu – owner (current) at ZZ Performance? Check the thread below:

    IF it is the same guy, Chris stay away!!!!

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