Attention Amazon.com: You Have A Bunch Of Pissed Off Customers... And Some Are Blaming Techdirt
from the reading-comprehension-needs-work dept
However, the latest such case is even more bizarre, and it's beginning to become a nuisance -- that I'm hoping Amazon.com might be willing to fix. You see, a couple years ago, Amazon.com launched a service called Amazon Prime. If you were willing to pay $79/year, you could get free 2-day shipping. It didn't seem like that great a deal to me, but I know that at least two Techdirt employees are actually happy customers of the service. I did, however, write about the program here on Techdirt -- though, if you'd asked me a week ago, I'm not sure I would have remembered writing that post.
However, a week ago, we started receiving somewhat bizarre angry emails to our feedback form complaining that we had unfairly charged the emailers' credit card for $79 and demanding that we issue an immediate refund. This was definitely odd. While we do accept credit card payments from the customers of our paid services, we certainly haven't been charging individuals' cards. After a few of these emails, we started to get concerned, and had our accounts manager try to contact a few of the irate emailers to make it clear that we had not charged their credit cards at all. Then I started to notice something. The post I did about the Amazon Prime program was getting a bunch of recent comments -- even though it was from over two years ago. Also, a lot of those comments were from people who were very, very pissed off at Amazon for charging them $79 (sound familiar?).
From there, it wasn't too difficult to piece together the rest of the story. Amazon has been aggressively pushing the Amazon Prime program lately with a brightly colored banner at the top of the checkout page and the following text: "You qualify for a FREE trial of Amazon Prime." The free trial lasts a month, but the fine print reads:
By clicking the button below, you are purchasing the item noted above (at its regular price) as well as signing up for a Free one month trial of Amazon Prime. As the trial ends, if you want to join Amazon Prime, do nothing. At that point we will enroll you in an auto-renewing, annual membership and charge a $79 annual fee. If you prefer not to upgrade to full membership, you can easily let us know at any time before your introductory membership ends, by changing your preferences in Your Account.This certainly isn't hidden, but it is the fine print, and people (especially those who might confuse Techdirt with Amazon.com) don't seem to read the fine print. People signed up for the "free" trial, forgot about it (or assumed it simply went away) and then were surprised to find a $79 charge on their credit card statements one to two months later. When they don't even remember the Amazon Prime program (or don't connect the name of the charge to it), the first thing they do is hit their search engine of choice and do a search on the name of the charge: AMZ*Prime club. If you've read this far, you know it's Amazon, but that might not be obvious at first glance. On both Google and Yahoo!, the first results lead to Techdirt. As of this post, on Google, Amazon doesn't show up in the search at all. On Yahoo, it's result #14. The reason we're listed at all is because someone wrote about it in the comments. In fact, the original post got no comments when the story first broke -- but as of this post has nearly 60 comments since last August of people complaining about the charge. Some of the comments include directions on how to get the charge removed, others demand (again) that we remove the charge ourselves (reading comprehension isn't a strong point, apparently).
All in all, it's an interesting look into a few different things. First, the oddities of search engine traffic on archived posts. Second, the reading comprehension skills of some individuals. Third, the fact that there appear to be a fair number of people who are pretty pissed off at Amazon for not being clear enough about how their Amazon Prime "free" trial works. So, in the interest of preventing us from more angry emails, Amazon.com: would you please (a) make the details of the program a lot clearer, or (even better!) not pull that sleazy "auto-enroll" crap that no one likes on your Amazon Prime testers or (b) if you insist on continuing to do so, do a little SEO work to get your own page at the top of a search for AMZ*Prime Club, so that we're not receiving the brunt of your angry customers. Thanks!