I love you, Amazon! I hate you, Amazon!

By | March 28th, 2016

What’s a consumer advocate to do when readers keep contacting us about a company, but the company doesn’t respond?

As you may have read on this site, we had quite the dilemma in the early part of the year about the handling of a case involving Amazon.com. The case, as we learned along the way, was one where the customer had violated Amazon’s terms and conditions.

Despite Amazon’s outward silence, the company contacted the customer, resolved the matter and refunded money, only to permanently close the customer’s account. The case was hard for some to believe, as Amazon is beloved by the masses and known for its top-notch customer service.

We got into a lot of hot water over that case, with readers launching accusations — not at Amazon — but at us. It hurt to be on that side of the conversation, because we’re well-intentioned. Really well-intentioned.

And once word hit the street that our intervention yielded a refund, more Amazon cases started rolling in.

But we refused to handle these new Amazon cases. How could our advocacy team take reasonable steps to ensure that these consumer cases were legitimate — not fraudulent — and worthy of being one of the chosen few that we advocate? Isn’t Amazon’s only reason to ignore a customer that they’ve broken the rules?

I put the ball in Amazon’s court. I wrote to our company contact, asking Amazon to establish some forum, or provide a point of contact for consumers locked out of their account. I explained, “We will not serve as a clearinghouse for Amazon fraud cases. Yet the problem remains that there are some cases where Amazon has correctly closed the account but perhaps incorrectly kept the customer’s funds.”

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That message went unanswered. But the cases kept coming, until finally, one seemed innocent enough for me to speak up again. It came from Jason Gang, who wrote the following complaint (if you can call it that) about Amazon:

Amazon has become a staple of my life — especially after having two children. I purchase items for personal and business use, as well as for both my parents and my mother-in-law.

In recent months my account had been compromised, leading me to obtain new credit cards and subsequently report several purchases as fraudulent.

I have been attempting to communicate with Amazon for over a month regarding the on and off closure and cancellation of my account for reasons unbeknownst to me, but nobody answered my communication. My wife attempted to open an account to order items for her work, and that was locked as well.

If you can please have someone reach out to me, I would greatly appreciate it. I would hate to search for another vendor or company to which I would switch. Amazon Prime is an unbelievable service and I have recommended it to almost all of my colleagues, family members and friends. Thank you for your time.

This doesn’t sound like someone to whom our doors should be barred. In fact, this is a guy who’s saying, “I want to be your customer. Something went wrong; I don’t know what, but could you let me back in?”

As consumers, what do we do when the companies we want to patronize give us the cold shoulder? Jay Baer, author of the new book “Hug Your Haters,” performed a study on consumer complaints, and reports that a full one-third of them go unanswered.

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Is Amazon so big that it can blissfully ignore these complaints, hiding behind their terms and conditions, and corporate lawyers?

Only time will tell. I wrote to my Amazon contact last night, in one last ditch effort to make an impression on the retail giant. I sent him all the Amazon cases we’ve received this year.

There may be hope yet.


View Results

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  • Joe_D_Messina

    “Amazon Prime is an unbelievable service and I have recommended it to almost all of my colleagues, family members and friends.”

    I buy quite a lot of things on Amazon and virtually always price check against them. And in my experience they’ve always handled customer service very well. However, I have never understood this almost cult-ish behavior you see from some people. This guy has been put through the ringer by them but still can’t bring himself to even really get upset about it. He’s totally out in the cold (as is his wife for her work) but still singing their praises. Maybe that’s why they don’t respond to him because they sense he’ll come crawling back no matter what they do.

  • sirwired

    I don’t have an answer to locked-out accounts, but I CAN say that you should set up two-factor authentication for your Amazon account to keep others out of it. (This means you punch in code from your smartphone, a text, or a phone call to get in.) This doesn’t make it impossible for say, the NSA, to break in, but your average scammer will just move on to the next customer who’s info they’ve stolen.

    Having somebody break into my Amazon account wouldn’t be quite the disaster a break-in at my GMail would be, but it would still be pretty terrible.

    (I enable 2-factor authentication on every service provider it’s possible to do so; i.e. banks, brokers, etc. There’s no downside.)

  • KennyG

    “In recent months my account had been compromised, leading me to obtain new credit cards and subsequently report several purchases as fraudulent.” Is there any more detail available as to this claim by the consumer? How many “instances” of fraudulent Amazon activity has he had? Has he blamed Amazon or threatened any legal or other type of regulatory action? If so that would immediately put a lid on any communication to him from anyone but their legal department and almost certainly mean you as an advocate would get no information. I can only go by my personal experience with Amazon and it has been nothing but positive. My issues have always been dealt with in a professional manner, in some cases Amazon going above and beyond what I would have expected. If in fact his Amazon account [or any other for that matter] has been compromised, one of the other regular posters suggested two-factor identification. I can tell you I had issues in the past [not with Amazon] and turned on 2-factor identification and it is not a 100% foolproof methodology to prevent bad things from happening, but it will, for most people, eliminate this kind of fraud.

  • Mel65

    About a week after making a purchase on Amazon, I began to see odd charges showing up on my CC account. I freaked out and contacted Amazon. They immediately contacted me back and gathered some information, etc… Eventually, we were able to determine (due to several other people locally reporting the same issue) that my card had been “skimmed” at a local business the day after I made my Amazon purchase. So, it wasn’t on Amazon, but they were very professional and sincerely wanted to make sure that the compromise hadn’t occurred on their site.

  • MarkKelling

    Amazon: I don’t love it or hate it. I use it like any other merchant out there.

    They have provided excellent customer service including no questions asked replacement of damaged items every time I needed. I really don’t understand what it is that people are doing to get kicked out. Are they returning that many things?

  • AAGK

    This is a great article. If the cases are pouring in then Amazon clearly has a communication problem. Amazon wanted to become indispensable and has largely succeeded. The company owes more than a vague explanation when it chooses to close an account and needs to become more available and transparent with its customers. Elliott shouldn’t have to Amazon’s work.

  • Rebecca

    I worked in credit card fraud and can give you the other side of this. Sometimes, a company strongly believes a customer is engaging in fraud of some kind, but can’t prove it. Due to federal banking regulations, the company often has to give this customer their money back. But, because they have been scammed, they close the customers account. It is perfectly within their right to do that.

    For example, customer reports several large transactions, say for high demand electronics, as fraud. The company has a good reason to believe the customer is in on it, but can’t quite prove it. So they have to give the customer the money back. But they close the account so it doesn’t happen again. Sometimes, they are able to prove it, but the customer goes out and spends the funds again made available through a provisional credit. So they’re still out the money; it becomes a collection account.

    I’m not saying companies don’t get it wrong. Of course they do. But I can assure you 99% of the time the customer is doing something nefarious. The company is going into radio silence because of they accuse a customer, they can be held liable for that accusation. Right or wrong, that’s how it is.

    Unfortunately, a few people that are truly doing nothing wrong fall through the cracks. That sucks. Just be very very very careful that’s who you’re dealing with before you advocate for anyone.

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