Amazon Customer Service is Becoming More Like Comcast

I have been an Amazon customer for I would guess over 15 years.  The last few years I have been a Prime member.  Over that time I have been very pleased with them.  But today I had a pretty bad experience that I thought I would share.  I don’t know if it was just my turn in the barrel, or if their customer service is getting worse.

This past Friday (two days ago) I purchased some accounting software.  Quickbooks runs a little scam where they try to force people to pay an exorbitant amount every year just to keep their payroll option up to date.  Everyone hates them for it, but there are really no alternatives so all of us small business guys pony up the dough.  Just the yearly subscription for the payroll option alone is over $400.  One of the few ways to save money is to buy a brand new copy of the software which includes a year of payroll service.  You can usually get this in the $300 range so $50-$100 of savings is $50-$100 of savings.  Plus a smaller percentage goes to Intuit since you aren’t buying it directly so score one for the rebel alliance.

Recently Amazon had this software on sale for $215.  Great I say!  It is even a Prime item so it will come in two days and be delivered on Sunday no less.  Fantastic!  I loves me some Amazon! Normally I select slow shipment so as to save Amazon money, and sometimes in return they will give me a few digital credits.  You have to love free trade.

So of course I go to the mailbox on Sunday and there is the package just as promised.  The package that is.  Inside it is something entirely different than what I ordered.  It contained a French language version of Microsoft Office.  So I say to myself;  Mon Dieu!  What use is this?  I don’t want to write a surrender letter to anyone.  I already surrendered to Intuit and their extortionate upgrade policy, now the fates are just rubbing it in. Then I bring the software in, and to show I can be a good host to a foreign guest, I put it over by the coffee machine where I think will be most comfortable, and close the door to my office so that it cannot see any wicked commerce being conducted on a holiday weekend.

The next thing I do is go to Amazon and write a review so as to warn others that they may not get what they ordered.  I notice that at least one other person has already done so and had their review published.  I figure I will do the same so everyone knows it wasn’t just a picker having a bad day and there is a systemic problem they might want to avoid until Amazon cleans it all up.  It seems pretty apparent that one of their vendors either had a major malfunction or was running a scam where they try to pocket the difference between the two sets of software.  My money is on the latter since the bar-code label that was hand affixed did not match the software.  It looked very much like someone had a pretty good idea how to game the fulfillment system.

Oddly enough, a few minutes later Amazon sends a message saying they can’t publish the review since it addressed mainly the fulfillment rather than the product, even though they had already published a similar review.  OK, fair enough.  This is exactly the sort of thing I want see in a review before wasting my time ordering a vital product for my business, but I can see Amazon’s point.  I probably should have thought of that beforehand.

So of course next I go to Amazon and try to exchange the product so I can get a correct copy.  Their little automated return process is efficient, but even though at the beginning it seems to allow a return and exchange for the correct item, when I get to the end I find it will only allow a return for refund.

So next I try to contact Amazon customer support, and after Googling the contact page (which of course Amazon makes an effort to hide because God knows that never pisses anyone off and starts things off on the wrong foot)  I find myself online chatting with Ketone (name changed to protect the possibly innocent).

He informs me that even though it is a Prime item I actually bought it from someone else and Amazon only ships it so they cannot offer an exchange.  All of this is fine too.  Mistakes happen.  They never checked the product visually so they are owning up to it to the extent I will get a refund.  Fair enough.  And, as I mentioned, the bar-code which was put on the copy of Microsoft Office was actually for the product I ordered so I could see a lazy, or inattentive picker making that mistake.

Since they can’t offer an exchange, and they have a whole warehouse full of the item I want, I ask if I could at least re-order at the same price.  I am asked when I would re-order, and I say right now (well really 30 minutes ago was what I would have preferred).  So Ketone sends me over to —  somewhere which I guess is on the other side of the world where they dump troublemakers.  Why the hell they have to do that is beyond me.  Ketone was perfectly fine in my book.

So now I am chatting with Pooja, whose name I have not changed because he or she is an asshole. (Hi Pooja!)  I should note that if they had just told me before transferring that they could not honor the price then that would have been fine.  I suspect they got scammed by the seller too. But everyone is acting like they are going to be able to help me so I go and start another 30 minute session on the chat app.

Apparently Pooja knows nothing.  He (I feel better ragging on a guy) reviews the conversation that i had with the other representative and has to ask me for everything from the order number, to the item URL, to what I paid and what the current price is.  Then I have to do the math of telling him the price difference between what is advertised now and what it was two days ago.  It is almost like he doesn’t even have a computer, or he just amuses himself making people run and get stuff which should already be on his screen.  “Thatch, I need you to solve this third order differential equation for me before I can help you.”  So after I give Pooja everything that should have been automatically transferred over (given that I am supposedly dealing with one of the most tech savvy companies on the planet) he ultimately tells me that they cannot give me the same price.  Now had I been told this an hour ago it would not have been such a big deal.  But since so much time has been wasted, and since I just lost a big customer and am trimming expenses, I decide that my Prime membership is a luxury I can part with and ask Pooja to cancel it.

This is when Pooja, who is apparently judged on some metric which would count a membership cancellation against him, decides that he really does have access to my information and tells me that he cannot cancel my membership because my credit card has expired.  Well, I don’t have to tell you that this isn’t the case.  I am sitting there looking at my card expiration date on both the physical card and on Amazon’s own site.  So Pooja (who had no idea who I was, what my issue was, or what I wanted without me telling him up until the precise moment I told him I wanted to cancel my membership) suddenly pretends he knows exactly the status of my credit account with Amazon… only he is wrong.

Me: OK, I would like to cancel my Prime Membership please

After a long pause…

Pooja: I understand Thatch,
However I see that your card is expired.

Allowing that there might be a mix-up I ask him;

Me: Which card you do you have Pooja?
Pooja: The one you’ve signed up for prime membership.

Ah, the temporizing of those who have been caught, and who know they have been caught.
Me: And which would that be Pooja?
Pooja: Visa ****-0000

This number was correct so I know he is looking at the right card. It also makes me think he didn’t need to run me around previously looking things up for him.

Me: My expiration date is 06/19 for that card

And now he knows that I know.
Pooja: Okay. one moment.

Here we have a very long pause as he hopes I get tired and go away. Eventually he comes back and says…

Pooja: I’m so sorry, but we can’t offer any additional insight or action on this matter.
Pooja from has left the conversation.

And he gets the hell out of Dodge, or Mumbai, or wherever the hell he is without allowing any further back and forth.

As a business owner I hate it when my employees do stupid shit like this.  The whole process is frelled.  If you have to disappoint a customer you do it right up front and don’t make him dig to find it out.  And you sure don’t lie to them or make them do math problems for you (I was just kidding about the derivative… but if he had thought of it I wouldn’t have put it past him).  Just apologize, and if you can’t give them what they want to make it up (like the same item at the price you advertised) then give them something else.  Amazon could extend a Prime membership a month or two, or give some digital credits etc…  But instead they reached the point where a loyal customer had time to think about what he was getting for his money.  That is absolutely the last thing you want to have happen when someone is on auto-renewal.  It is a helluva lot easier to keep a customer than to get a new one.

This is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things unless it forms a pattern.  But it was significant enough that I thought it was worth reporting.

Plus, it always feels better to tell on people.

So yeah, Comcast is still the worst company this side of the one that sells parkas in purgatory, but Amazon is no longer on the list of companies I would brag about either.




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