Did Amazon bait-and-switch me on this toy car I ordered online?

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By Christopher Elliott

When Robert Preuss tries to buy a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Dune Racer from Amazon, he can’t complete the purchase. Amazon offers to fix the problem but then reneges, leaving him with a $304 bill.

Question

I recently tried to order a Fisher-Price Power Wheels Dune Racer from Amazon. The advertised price was $89. I spent three hours trying to purchase it without success, but I was eventually able to buy the same battery-powered car, also on Amazon, for $393. An Amazon representative told me by phone that the company would honor the original price by refunding the difference. 

Amazon didn’t refund the price because it said it didn’t price match. But this wasn’t a price match — it was a pricing error. I can’t return the car because Amazon says it’s a “hazard.” I even got Fisher-Price to send me a letter stating it is not hazardous and can be returned. Amazon just tells me they can’t accept it. Can you help me? — Robert Preuss, Pefferlaw, Canada

Answer

You should have been able to buy the Fisher-Price Power Wheels Dune Racer from Amazon at the advertised price. It’s not a price error — I see several other Dune Racers on sale at the same price. If anything, $393 was too much.

You made your initial agreement with Amazon in a phone call. If a company ever promises you something again, I would get it in writing. 

After that, you handled this case by the book. You kept everything in writing. That’s an essential part of self-advocacy, and I’m glad you saved everything. Otherwise, it might have been impossible to clear up this misunderstanding. (Related: My steam mop broke! Amazon won’t clean up this mess — and now there’s a restocking fee.)

Amazon has a great reputation for helping customers. When issues do arise, they typically result from customers overlooking certain fine print details or due to communication errors. It has a four out of five in our new customer responsiveness rating (and may be on track to a perfect score). Great service is part of its DNA. I remember when Jeff Bezos would answer customer emails personally. Here are Amazon’s customer service contacts from my consumer advocacy site, Elliott.org.

I don’t understand why Amazon would not accept your return, even after you showed it proof that the merchandise wasn’t hazardous. Amazon’s return policy doesn’t mention anything about potentially dangerous battery-operated toys. I can understand why you might think the online retailer is just inventing reasons to stick you with a $393 purchase. (Related: Is Target’s price-match guarantee an empty promise?)

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I like the way you patiently tried to resolve this problem in writing. You appealed to the customer service managers I list on my consumer advocacy site, but ultimately they wouldn’t help you, either. 

I reached out to Amazon on your behalf. The company apologized and offered you an Amazon gift card for $304, which you accepted.

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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. He is based in São Paulo.

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