I like Amazon a lot, even though it is not perfect.* Most of the time, my orders go through with no problem. It's when there is one that there are things you need to fix. Here's an example.
On the 13th November, I bought an Android tablet from a Marketplace seller and waited eagerly for it. And waited. And waited. Every time the post arrived, I ran to the door like a puppy, in case they were about to ring the doorbell to hand me the package containing it.
On the 22nd, I sent the seller an email:
Hi – just checking: has this been sent? I haven't had a dispatch notification email from Amazon. Thanks, Ian
I got a reply, although not the one I was hoping for, the same day:
hello, it was not been sent because i already sold it. This is the first time i sell on amazon and im not understanding how does it works. Did you pay for tablet?
Refraining from using the word 'muppet', I responded later that evening:
Hi, Yes, I have paid for it. You need to log into your seller account and issue a refund. I do understand about selling something elsewhere, but when it's sold, it would be a good idea to let Amazon know (via 'manage inventory' in your seller account) that you do not have it any more. Ian
So, a seller who says that they haven't sent the item and will never send it because they've somehow sold it to someone else. What could stop me getting a prompt refund?
The seller for one:
This amazon website is very confusing i dont even know where i can find my items for sell.
So on the 23rd November I emailed them instructions on how to refund an order:
Hi, 1. Go to 'Hello (name) – Your Account' on the top right of Amazon (for me, it's just under the 'Black Friday Deals Week' ad.
2. On the right hand side of the screen will either be somewhere to sign in or 'You are signed in as:'. Underneath that is 'Your Other Accounts', including 'Your Seller Account'. Click that. It will take you to sellercentral.amazon.co.uk
3. Sign in.
4. Left hand column: 'Your Orders' – click on 'View Your Orders'.
5. The order should be visible – if it's not, change how far back to look.
6. Click 'Refund order' for it and follow the process there. Thanks…
So because you have to wait three working days for people to answer email, the next week, I rang Customer Services. They tell me that Amazon policies mean that, despite having an unambiguous acknowledgement from the seller that the item has not and will not be sent, I can't claim for it yet – but they will email them. Which they do:
Hello, We've been contacted by one of our mutual customers regarding an order placed with you. Below is the information provided by the customer: Order number: 202-0789003-xxxxxxx Item: 'xxxx' Reason for contact: Where's My Stuff? Details: Customer haven't received the item yet he's been charged for it, customer wants a refund please contact the customer if necessarry [e-mail address removed] To respond to this customer, please reply to this e-mail or visit your seller account at the following link: sellercentral.amazon.co.uk/gp/communication-manager/inbox.html We hope you're able to work this out with this customer. Sincerely, Customer Service Department Amazon.co.uk
.. and tell me to wait another three working days before bothering them again.
Nothing further happens – except possibly Amazon putting most of my money into the seller's bank account, because now it is definitely past the time that happens – so today I ring Amazon again…
.. and am told that I cannot claim a refund for the item that everyone knows has not and will not be sent until three days after the delivery window expires. That's the 10th December, four weeks after Amazon had over a hundred pounds of my money, and about two weeks after the seller had it, despite.. well, you know by now.**
This policy is a licence for fraud. Open a seller account, list some expensive high demand items on the Marketplace at a significantly lower price than anyone else and watch the orders flood in. You don't send them, because you don't have them. In about two weeks, Amazon will put the money into the bank account you have specified, minus their commission. (If you've been smart enough to sign up as a business seller, that won't be much.) Remove the money as soon as it arrives and laugh all the way to another bank. It will be another two weeks before the scammed customers will be able to make A-z claims, but a) it's likely that some never will, b) they've lost the use of that money for at least a month, and c) by the time Amazon come to get it back from the seller's account, it will have long gone. Everyone except the scammer loses.
I think I am dealing with someone who is ignorant rather than criminal this time, but oh look, I was caught by a scammer five years ago. At the time, Wii Fit boards were in very high demand, including from me. I noticed that someone was selling an "unwanted" one on Amazon at about £20 less than retail (nearly all other sellers were selling significantly above retail – as I say, it was in very high demand), and ordered it. As is my practice, I then looked at the listing again. Hang on, they're still listed as selling them. A few trial 'add to basket's later, and it was clear that they were claiming to have over a dozen "unwanted" Wii Fits. That simply was not credible, and within an hour of my order, I had emailed Amazon Customer Services, alerting them to the scam.
The reply I got back said, in effect, 'Thanks for the email, come back to us when the delivery window expires', i.e. in a month's time. The seller's Amazon store is, of course, long gone but from the feedback left, it was clear that there were hundreds of victims who had 'bought' a variety of items. The losses to Amazon must have run into tens of thousands of pounds – did Amazon ever get the money back from the scammer?
Despite alerting them to the scam early on, in time to save Amazon and many other people a pile of money, this apparently counts as my second A-z claim.***
Amazon do not make a big fuss about this, but every Amazon customer has a lifetime limit of just five claims. I understand about the need to protect Amazon and sellers against people who make fraudulent claims that items haven't arrived, but demonstrably none of mine are about that. The message is that once you've been scammed / mislead / unlucky five times over your lifetime, Amazon don't want you.
I'd love a tablet before Christmas. At the moment, there are not one, not two, but three 'just launched' sellers offering notably cheap Nexus 7 ones.**** I'd like one***** but a) you have my money for at least another week and b) I am not taking the chance that this will be my fourth A-z claim. When it gets to five, I'm stopping using Amazon – the risks will be too high.
* It'd be good if they paid UK taxes on UK profits, for example.
** The only reason allowed for claiming before then is 'Order contained incorrect /defective /damaged items'. If I claim for the wrong reason, my entire claim may be disallowed. You'd be stupid to risk it.
*** The first was for a DVD where the page on amazon.co.uk said it was a 'region two PAL format' disc, but the page on amazon.com for exactly the same item number said that it was 'region one NTSC format'. As the seller was based in the US, they sent the latter even though I'd ordered the former. It wasn't their fault Amazon's UK listing was wrong and it certainly wasn't my fault for buying from a seller with a lot of excellent feedback.
**** Since starting to write this paragraph, one of them has been sold – I hope for the buyer's sake that they are lucky.
***** Sorry, but allow the Google Play store on the Kindle Fire HD and I'll consider paying for one.