Amazon lost return: What happened to my surge protector?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Amazon loses Andrew Bottorff’s return package, he’s stuck with a bill for a surge protector that doesn’t work. How can he get his money back? Here’s the electrifying answer.

Question

I bought an Eaton surge protector on Amazon recently. It was not suitable for my use, so I returned it to Amazon via the Amazon return counter at Whole Foods two days after receiving it.

They scanned my return bar code at the counter. But the return center does not provide printed receipts. An email receipt usually shows shortly after your return, but by the next morning, it had not arrived. So I returned to the counter the next day. The attendant remembered me and said the Amazon system “sometimes shuts down in the middle of the transaction,” and that is what happened to my return. 

The representative wrote an email and gave us a copy, and sent another notification to Amazon with an updated label. 

Amazon refunded my money as a gift card, not to my credit card, as I requested. A few weeks later I got an email telling me Amazon would charge my card if I didn’t send the item back. Then Amazon charged my card. 

Can you help me get my money back? — Andrew Bottorff, Lake Dallas, Texas

Answer

Amazon shouldn’t have charged you for the surge protector again. Instead, it should have worked with you and Whole Foods to figure out how your return got lost.

That said, there are a few things that don’t make sense about your case. Why would Amazon give you a gift card if it didn’t have your return? And why would it then try to charge your card again? (Related: Did Amazon bait-and-switch me on this toy car I ordered online?)

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It looks as if the answer is in a glitch with Amazon’s return system. If you don’t get some kind of return receipt — or some evidence that you gave Amazon your package — that should be a red flag. If an employee tells you the system sometimes shuts down, that’s another red flag. (Related: Amazon sent me the wrong graphics card. How do I get this fixed?)

Maybe you should be returning your products the old-fashioned way: by mailing them back to Amazon. (Related: Amazon return problem: Why am I being charged again for this scuba equipment?)

First things first. You’ll find the names, numbers and emails of Amazon’s customer service executives on my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org. I also have some helpful tips on how to return a product in this free guide.

I reviewed your paper trail and noticed that you hadn’t appealed to one of the higher-ups. You might have tried that before contacting my advocacy team. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

How do you avoid a problem with an Amazon return at Whole Foods?

If you’re going to return an Amazon package through Whole Foods, you can take a few steps to avoid trouble. (Related: Has Amazon lost my return package? And where’s my $756?)

Take pictures of the box

Capture images of the inside of the box, even the associate helping you. All of those things could be important if you lose your return package. (Related: My steam mop broke! Amazon won’t clean up this mess — and now there’s a restocking fee.)

Collect evidence of the return

The Amazon system generates an email the moment the package is in the system. Wait for the email before leaving the store.

If you don’t get an email, say something

As noted, you should get a confirmation within minutes of the package entering the system. If you don’t, try to retrieve the package and contact Amazon immediately. (Related: Amazon didn’t receive my return package. What should I do?)

If your Amazon return package is lost, who is responsible?

Amazon does not cover orders that are damaged or lost in return transit. It instructs businesses who ship their products through Amazon to file a claim with the carrier to recover any loss.

Likewise, Amazon has told many of our readers that they must file a claim with their carrier if the package is lost. (Related: Help! Amazon lost my Pixel phone and now it won’t refund me.)

However, this was a special case. You had dropped off the package at Whole Foods (owned by Amazon), so you gave it to Amazon in person. How Amazon gets the package from the store to the warehouse is irrelevant.

What happened to your package? Let’s unwrap the mystery

As it turns out, the box Amazon received at the warehouse was damaged. It’s possible the surge protector fell out during transit.

If you had a photo of the box with the surge protector inside it, that might have helped Amazon decide this case in your favor. Instead, it assumed that you sent it an empty box and kept the surge protector.

I contacted Amazon on your behalf, and it refunded the charge.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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