Don’t Buy from Amazon Unless You Enjoy being Anally Raped

Customer service at Amazon

Amazon customer service

This is just a friendly consumer warning. You might want to shop anywhere else but Amazon. Their customer service is poor, and they do not stand behind their promises.

I ordered volumes 1 & 2 of a DVD series. They were being offered at the pre-release price of $24 each. Right next to the price was the guarantee that if the price dropped before the release date, they would charge me the lower price.

Finally the release date arrived, and they shipped the DVDs. Then I got an email. It said that Volume 2 had dropped in price:

You saved $4.00 with Amazon.com’s Pre-order Price Guarantee! The price of the item(s) decreased after you ordered them, and we gave you the lowest price.

$4.00 is your total savings under our Pre-order Price Guarantee.

Because we reduced the price of your pre-release title between shipment (when we charged you) and the release date, you will automatically receive a refund for $4.00.

I thought it was odd that only Volume 2 had a price change. I checked their site and saw that Volume 1 had also dropped in price, by $5! Not only did they not give me the promised price guarantee, but they cheated me out of the better of the two.

OK, I thought. It’s just a computer glitch. Something didn’t get processed right. I’ll email customer service, and they’ll fix it, right? Wrong. Here’s what they wrote back:

I have reviewed our previous correspondence with you, and I offer my sincere apologies for any misunderstanding regarding the Post-Order Price Guarantee policy.

I’ve confirmed that we now offer a greater discount than at the time you placed your order.

However please understand that as of September 01, 2008 we are no longer offering discounts if prices change on our website after you make a purchase.

Hence as you have placed this order after on September 14, 2008, we will not be able to apply this Post-Order Price Guarantee for this order.

It’s really funny that a bookstore would hire illiterates. I said nothing about a post-order price guarantee. I merely wanted the pre-order price guarantee that they promised.

I wrote back and explained the situation. Here’s the email I received this morning:

Thanks for writing to us about the recent price change on the item you purchased recently. I recognize you have a choice of retailers and appreciate that you prefer to order from us.

Oh great. Now they’re copying the airlines. That’s who you want to look to for a model of great customer service! One of the most reviled industries in terms of customer satisfaction!

Unfortunately, we do not have a post-order price guarantee.

Translation: “Unfortunately, we do not hire intelligent, literate, or competent people in customer service.”

I’ve reviewed your order and see that the price change was significant and you just received this item from us. Under the circumstances, I’ll make a one-time exception for you and issue a refund for the price difference in the amount of $5.00.

Please understand that I’m issuing this refund because of the exceptional circumstances, and I’m doing this for you against our standard policy.

What “exceptional circumstances”? That I caught them lying?

So even though I finally did get the price they promised me, it is clear that they don’t stand behind their promises or know a whit about customer service.

Over the years, I have spent literally thousands of dollars at Amazon. It looks like they don’t want that kind of business in the future. I’m posting this merely as a warning. I don’t care whether you shop there or not. I’m not trying to run them out of business. I just want you to know what kind of business they are and what you can expect.

They're talking about me!

(BTW, I occasionally mention books or DVDs on this site. In the past, I have provided links to buy the item at Amazon. Not that it does any good. None of you cheap bastards has ever bought anything! Anyway, about six months ago, I switched to Powell’s. You may have noticed that in the links. The only reason I did it was the Amazon links are very hard to create if you don’t want to have gobs of Javascript and live links to Amazon and nefarious tracking cookies on the site. I don’t like that stuff, because it dramatically reduces page-loading speeds. I also don’t like the privacy issue of those cookies, which they place on your computer whether you follow the link or not. That’s why I always rolled my own Amazon links, but they took a long time to create and test. Since I never made any money off of the links, I dumped them. Powell’s links are very easy to create, they have no Javascript, and they don’t plant a cookie unless you actually click on them. That’s the main reason I switched. In light of what has just happened, I’m glad I converted. Powell’s and other retailers will be getting my business from now on.)

16 Responses to “Don’t Buy from Amazon Unless You Enjoy being Anally Raped”

  1. Sue Blue Says:

    That picture is absolutely fabulous, although the first thought I had when I saw it was that it was a perfect representation of what Dumbya and his whiny wealthy cronies want to do to us taxpayers to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.

  2. Sarah Says:

    Where the hell do you get these pictures, Ron?

  3. Ron Britton Says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t remember. If I find a picture only at one source, I try to credit where I found it. Sometimes I find pictures via Google image search, but when I click on the link for the page it comes from, the page has been removed. That must have been the case here. It has been sitting on my hard drive for quite a while, waiting for the right opportunity.

  4. Murray Says:

    I think you’re overreacting a tiny bit. You do need to take into account that Amazon does hundreds of transactions a day and while that makes it no more acceptable, it is understandable. Furthermore, it wasn’t like they raised the price, the price lowered and they didn’t take it into account and ripped you off for the total amount of five dollars- which they ended up repaying anyway. So while the customer service did suck, I think you coud hardly compare it to anal rape.

  5. Ron Britton Says:

    But then I couldn’t use that picture!

    I let slide the fact that they didn’t automatically adjust the price. I figured that was a computer error. Here are my objections:
    a. They should have adjusted the price when I first brought it up.
    b. instead, I had to write to them a second time.
    c. They act like they’re doing me a huge favor.
    d. They didn’t even understand that I was talking about the pre-order price guarantee. They repeatedly referred to the post-order price guarantee, even after I corrected them.

    I’m using this as a warning for what to expect in the future. If I ever have another problem with them, I can expect nothing but bad service, poor communication, incompetent service reps, and a high likelihood that they won’t fix the problem. I’d rather shop some place that understands that customer service is important.

  6. WCG Says:

    Is this a surprise? Whenever I have a complaint – with ANY company – my first few emails apparently don’t even get read. It takes about three times, while I’m angrily insisting that they actually READ my message, before someone finally replies to what I actually said. It’s frustrating, but it certainly doesn’t surprise me anymore. And I must say that I’ve never had a problem with Amazon.com (but then again, I never buy anything before it’s been released and the price is firm).

  7. Parrotlover77 Says:

    I have never had such a bad problem with Amazon, but I agree with Ron. I’m not sure I would boycott a company forever, but they certainly wouldn’t get repeat business for a few months to a year.

    The problem is the email support (and most call support) centers do NOT read emails complete and ARE employed by those who do not read/write English clearly. That’s because you are corresponding with a sweatshop worker in some poor country, who is getting paid 65 cents per day to support his wife, five kids, parents, grandparents, and in-laws. Viva Capitalism! Although since we, the American people, now own Fannie, Freddie, and AIG, I guess we’re socialists now… or something. Your Republican deregulation at work!

  8. Ron Britton Says:

    WCG:

    I never buy anything before it’s been released and the price is firm

    If nothing else, that is the lesson here. I foolishly believed that they would actually do what they said.

    It appears that prices are likely to change with prerelease products, presumably as the publisher reconsiders marketing plans and such. Since that seems to happen more than I realized, waiting for release is the wisest course of action.

  9. Troy Says:

    That doesn’t seem that grievous to me. I’ve always liked how they sell used items from various sellers and the shipping is required to be reasonable.

  10. Ron Britton Says:

    It’s not super grievous. My grievance is that it shows their incompetence and cluelessness about the importance of customer service. I managed to get satisfaction this time, but they act like it took them a Herculean effort to do so. The next time there is a problem with an order, I’m likely to be screwed. I’m just saying that it’s wiser to take this as a warning and avoid future grief. There are a lot of other places out there that will be happy for the business and understand what customer service is supposed to be.

    BTW, all of the used booksellers that Amazon carries (plus many more) are also available at AbeBooks. The prices are often a tiny bit better at Abe, because the commission is lower. If I want used, I always check Abe first.

  11. Parrotlover77 Says:

    It’s the principal of the matter! I agree with Ron. I always make a big stink when I get crappy customer service. Call me a crazy liberal, but I think customer service should not be operated overseas by somebody who barely speaks the native language of the purchaser. I know — it’s crazy talk.

  12. Chas, PE SE Says:

    I bought one item from Amazon. When they insisted I start an “account”, and then saved my credit card number after I asked several times to have my “account” closed, I never ordeded from them again!
    Joke’s on them. A few years later, that card was lost, and we got new numbers!

  13. ericsan Says:

    What happened is that your problem coincided with their quiet removal of the 30 day price protection guarantee. Prior to September, if Amazon reduced the price on any item you had bought within the past 30 days, all you had to do was email them to get them to refund you the difference.

    Since you were writing about a price adjustment, your request got inserted into a deluge of complaints from customers who wanted a post-purchase price adjustment and were being sent the form letter by the first-level CSR monkeys.

    I love Amazon, and I think their customer support is just about the best out there, but once in a while you run into a problem. I had the best luck with phone support; if you go to the help page you can get someone to call you back right away.

  14. Ron Britton Says:

    Years ago, I had a problem with a refund. It wasn’t as much as it was supposed to be. I called them (back in those days, they had an 800 number you could call). The person I talked to couldn’t explain the difference, so he just gave me the full refund amount. That’s good customer service. It’s what I am used to. They can’t even live up to their own standards anymore.

    You’re probably right about my email getting lumped with the others about the post-price guarantee. The first-level CSR monkeys have to be more competent than that, though. As consumers, we shouldn’t accept that as normal.

    I'm on the wrong planet!

  15. Parrotlover77 Says:

    Most of us don’t accept it as normal (or, more accurately, what should be normal), but the anger usually doesn’t result in enough financial harm to the seller to make a difference.

    On the subject of out-sourced tech support (a very closely related topic), I like what Dell has done. You can get free tech support from India as part of the basic package with a computer purchase, or you can opt-in for an American call center for like $50 or something. (I forgot the price as it’s been a little while since my last consumer workstation purchase (as an aside, their enterprise tech support is top-notch).)

    Okay, you are probably saying, but why should I have to pay for what should be standard? Well, on the surface, I agree with that sentiment. But I also realize there’s a competitive market reality they have to deal with. They are competing with many other companies that do not offer that option and there’s no way for them to be profitable on the item if they offered an American call center for free compared to the competition’s dirt cheap sweatshop center. (In the USA, we can’t hire somebody for $5/day to answer phones.)

    What I like is that I’m given a choice to choose better customer service. If enough people opt-in, the price should go down and may, someday, become standard again as other companies have to move call centers back to the USA to compete.

    It’s not an ideal situation, but at least you have a choice!

  16. Chuck Says:

    Yeah…Powell’s is much better anyway. It’s even more awesome if you can go there in person, but it’s a couple thousand miles away at the moment. *tear*

    However, I would like to point out (although I’m not sure if it’s been pointed out already) that they’re probably not using native English speakers for customer service – their electronic customer service was probably outsourced to India just like a lot of telephone customer service has been. If that’s the case, the distinction between pre- and post- may not be clear to the customer service representatives, as there are a few languages which don’t make a triple distinction between past, present, and future – some only have past and non-past (or future and non-future). Sadly, I’m ignorant of where Hindi and other (non-Indo-European) Indian languages fall :(