Attention You Have A Bunch Of Pissed Off Customers… And Some Are Blaming Techdirt

from the reading-comprehension-needs-work dept

Two years ago, we had a post entitled Look What The Search Engine Dragged In! which some people liked. It highlighted a few old Techdirt posts from the archives that were given new life, thanks to random search engine queries that drove people to Techdirt — where they were often quite confused and acted accordingly. So, for example, there was a post from 1999 about stolen AOL passwords, which for many years was a top search result for “stealing AOL passwords” leading to hundreds of commenters asking how to get the password for someone else’s AOL account. Then there was the bizarre case where a story from 2000 about a dot com millionaire using his millions to build schools in central America. Somehow, people who had come across hard times started flocking to that post in order to beg for money, even though it’s hard to believe anyone could show up on that page, read the post, and not realize that no one there is giving away money, and even if they were, it was for schools in central America, not individuals relating sob stories.

However, the latest such case is even more bizarre, and it’s beginning to become a nuisance — that I’m hoping might be willing to fix. You see, a couple years ago, 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 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: AMZPrime 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, 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 AMZPrime Club, so that we’re not receiving the brunt of your angry customers. Thanks!

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Comments on “Attention You Have A Bunch Of Pissed Off Customers… And Some Are Blaming Techdirt”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Reading comprehension

I have seen instance after instance of people not reading everything or comprehending what they read. It just happened in the last few days in another instance that I was involved in. If people would just READ things and read it all, much misunderstanding could be avoided.

Yep. If people would just exercise due care and simply have a competent lawyer look things over before making an agreement many misunderstandings could be avoided.

Sanguine Dream says:

And to think...

Some of those angry customers are probably employers/bosses that think its a good idea to search engine the name of a potential employee to find out what they are are really like and then proceed to base their judgement on what they find on the net.

Damn straight I’m scared of the idea of employers using the net to check up on potential employees. If people can’t read the fine print of an online service how do you expect them to take the time to make sure the person they are considering hiring actually mactches the result(s) of a net search?

Rob Hof (user link) says:

same deal at TechBeat

We get the same people, apparently, commenting on a post I did on Amazon Prime awhile ago. At least half of them appear to be asking me, or at least the blog, to cancel their Prime subscriptions. I think this is a bigger problem than reading comprehension. Why on earth would they expect a blog to be able to fix their problems with Amazon? If they can’t even figure out that Tech Beat isn’t Amazon, it’s pretty clear why they couldn’t figure out the terms of the original deal.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: same deal at TechBeat

Don’t hate me, I’m not implying all older folks have tech issues.. just the ones that use Amazon alone when buying on the internet.

I have to say, the older people are the ones that worry me the most. They have no idea how the internet works, they have no idea how to use it, and they have no idea of the risks involved. Back when I did tech support, I would say that 80% of the computers with serious virus problems were from people 50+. These viruses do not just cause them problems, but they serve as hosts for the virus far longer then most other people (since they are far less likely to upgrade systems or learn about them). They are also more likely then most to end up as a zombie machine or to have their information used for ID theft.

Seriously, if you can not figure out who you are buying from online, maybe you shouldn’t be buying anything at all. Call someone who knows what they are doing and ask them to explain it and to do it for you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: same deal at TechBeat

Call someone who knows what they are doing and ask them to explain it and to do it for you.

Exactly. That’s the way the system works. And the people you go to for such advisement are called lawyers. Anyone who enters into an agreement without first consulting an attorney deserves whatever happens to them.

R C says:

Why give out CC# for a free service?

Why do people give out their credit card numbers to receive a free service? That should have been the first warning flag. I guess these are the same kind of people who are taken in by emails saying they won a zillion dollars in a lottery they never entered, and blissfully send a check for a mere $10,000 to clear the paperwork and taxes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Why give out CC# for a free service?

hehe…what were you saying about reading comprehension Mike?

You know the victims (I mean, lucky customers) were most likely making a purchase at at Amazon (probably with a CC) when they were swindled…err, I mean blessed with the opportunity.

I do feel kinda sorry for the net drones that had this happen. One would think a site like Amazon would be trustworthy(ish), that’s just sleazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

People are idiots.

The primary problem is that the majority of people are idiots. Because of this fact, we’ve created a society catering to these people. It starts with teaching to the lowest common denominator in elementary school and it follows through to marketing anything and everything to adults. “See the big shiny red button? Click it, it’ll sign your life away, but we’ll give you THREE dollars!”

Anyway, before I get too off track I just wanted to chime in with a situation we commonly find ourselves in. I work for a financial services education company, we do not actually manage any money, but everyone thinks we do just because we run a website. In fact some people (including *certified* advisers) think that we actually are the money managers. On a regular basis, typically around tax season, we’ll start to receive huge checks made out to us! Each time we have to waste our time by following up with these people and explaining to them that we don’t have anything to do with their investments. The shocking thing is that almost half of these mistakes come from the advisers themselves.

Amethyst (user link) says:

People are both idiots and lazy

People do not read! I’ve been through much internet drama on various message forums simply because people are lazy and refuse to read the entire post. If they have enough time to spend on message forums, they should have enough time to read all the way through someone’s post.

Same thing applies in real life. Read the fine print, or get someone else to do it for you if you’re not willing to, or simply avoid the product/service entirely.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: People are both idiots and lazy

I actually signed up for the free month of Amazon Prime a while back when I ordered a really heavy item and wanted it quick. I figured even if I forgot to cancel it’d still be cheaper than not signing up. About a week before it was going to renew I received an email from Amazon telling me that they were going to bill me if I didn’t cancel. So I canceled. Frankly, you’d really have to be blind to miss the fact that this was an introductory offer. Simply amazing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: People are both idiots and lazy

Read the fine print, or get someone else to do it for you if you’re not willing to, or simply avoid the product/service entirely.

Many people are willing to read the fine print but unless they are themselves trained lawyers they really have no way of knowing all the legal ramifications (which parts are enforceable, which are not, remedies available, etc.). So the lesson is: if you can’t afford the lawyer, you can’t afford the product/service.

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: People are both idiots and lazy

So the lesson is: if you can’t afford the lawyer, you can’t afford the product/service.

I didn’t get a lawyer to read the fine print before playing World of Warcraft… and I dare say I’d point and laugh at any idiot who does. The *real* lesson is: The word “Free” is flypaper for idiots. If you *really* think you’ll get that 80 gig ipod for clicking a button, you’re going to get what’s coming to you, and it’s not a free ipod.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: People are both idiots and lazy

I didn’t get a lawyer to read the fine print before playing World of Warcraft… and I dare say I’d point and laugh at any idiot who does.

Then, unless you’re a lawyer yourself, how do you know all the legal ramifications of what you agreed to? There are also those who would laugh and call you an idiot and some of them have hired lawyers to set traps for you. Then you’ll get what’s coming to you and it won’t be a shiny fun game, for you anyway.

Paul says:

Its not Amazon's fault

I signed up for the free month and I knew full well going in that I had to cancel before the end of the trial. I don’t even remember it being surprising. I order a hell of a lot from Amazon all the time, so it made sense. Amazon isn’t the only ones who do the “Try us for free for one month” but tack on the “we’ll auto-renew you if you don’t say anything.” it seems virtually all trial services do that. people need to be help culpable for their actions. if you agree to a terms of agreement contract, you better not get mad when you find out there’s something in there you don’t like. especially when the thing you don’t like isn’t actually hidden, but even outside the ToA.

Justine says:

Re: And that is why...

I never give my CC# for any “free” trials. Nearly all of them have strings attach and take advantage of the fact that most people will forget about those strings. Why do you think mos of those trials are between 1-3 months? Long enough to forget…

Neither do I. A local computer expert with his own call-in radio show signed up for a free trial of Video Professor after receiving numerous complaints from his listeners. The company stuck it to him just like they did to everyone else, making it nearly impossible to stop the bombardment of charges to his credit card account. He could have stopped it immediately by getting his credit card company involved, but he wanted to see what the average person without tech savvy goes through. And he could not get Video Professor to reverse the fraudulent charges.

Joel Coehoorn says:

My wife is really bad about this kind of thing, especially if asked about it over the phone. She’ll go ahead and sign up wanting to save a couple dollars, knowing about the charge coming next month but intending to cancel ahead of time. Then she forgets about it. I pisses me off sometimes, both her for signing up in the first place and the company running the ‘trial’. But it’s not like we were lied to, so I usually pay the charge, make sure I leave a nasty note in their call center in case they track that kind of thing, and (of course) cancel.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is nothing new. Just about every “30-day free trial” offer ever conceived has a bill tacked onto it after the trial is over. Especially the ones that require you to give your credit card info. Anybody with an ounce of common sense knows what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for such an offer. If they forget about it and let the trial expire so they get billed, that’s their fault, and it’s between them and Amazon.

euclidjr says:

Re: Re:

We have two kinds of moron here – sourced out of the same problem – reading comprehension. First, you have the “I signed up for something that was a free trial for a month and now I’m mad that I forgot to cancel” morons. Second, you have the “The internet is a series of tubes and you are all connected to each other, so I’ll just complain to you” morons.

The first one is pretty surprising considering that these kinds of free trials, “give us your credit card upfront” deals are not new – and they had to give Amazon their CC info and specifically authorize it.

The second one is a growing problem. I’ve seen many blogs and boards like this. Go over to – where people work together to identify spam callers and you have posters, quite irately, demanding they be taken off the call list – as though they are talking to the telemarketing company. They’re either too stupid or too lazy to figure out where their google search landed them – or they just assume that since it is the first result, it must be the right place.

I’ll spot you one of these, but if you are a double-winner, you deserve to have all of your money taken from you until you can no longer afford internet access or a computer.

Immovable Object Guy says:

I like AMZ*Prime

I enrolled in the service the instant I found about it, 2+ years ago, love it, use it regularly, and more than get my money’s worth. But then again, I can read and comprehend stuff – hence my usage of Amazon prime (buying books), and my complete satisfaction with the service (understanding it costs $).

PrimeLover says:

Read. Follow Directions.

I LOVE Amazon Prime. I was just talking to someone about it the other day. I get a free trial offer right around Xmas time. It’s perfect! From the beginning of Dec to the end of Jan, it’s free two day shipping. Of course, I cancel immediately when I’m done with all of my xmas shopping. Even last year though, I forgot to cancel, and they still gave me a refund because I hadn’t used it since the trial period ended.

Jessica says:

I don’t see what the big deal is, that is how companies suck you in, that is how they have been doing it for years. It isn’t like the whole free trial now, pay later is a new thing. I signed up for the amazon prime and I called them to cancel it at the end of three months. How it is amazons fault that people are too dumb to read the fine print.

chris (profile) says:

you jackals charged my credit card!!!!

i sent you an internet yesterday telling you to stop!!

just kidding.

i don’t think that the problem has to do with idiocy as much as it has to do with not understanding the internet and how it works.

a lot of people don’t understand that the world wide web is not a service provided by AOL, or google, or their companys’ IT departments.

this is why phishing is so effective, most people can’t determine the source, or the authenticity, of many emails and websites.

cloksin says:

Another kind of moron

I just read through this article and the posts that follow, and it amazes me how little reading comprehension is actually taking place.
What we have here is many people posting to this article, and not comprehending the basis of the article itself.
This free trial from Amazon appears as a banner on the checkout page. Obviously, if you have made it to the checkout page, then you are trying to buy something. Since websites don’t normally accept cash transactions, that leaves the credit card.
Nobody is giving their credit card info for a free trial, they are giving their credit card info for a purchase of some product that Amazon offers. In doing so they have also agreed to the free trial, wich is just tacked on to their order.
Please, before you post a comment please be sure you understand the article, otherwise, you’re just grouping yourself in with the morons who are writing in for a refund.

Slightly Confused says:

Re: Re: Anonymous Coward

Sorry, but do you have a life?

I don’t mean it in a mean way, it’s just an observation (I kinda get that vibe from your comments) You just seem like one of those guys that spends an inordinate amount of time in front of their computer.

I don’t really have a solution, but maybe getting a girlfriend would help. It would give you a break from your computer (and your hand.)

Peter says:

Anonymous Coward comes out with some prime guff from time to time, but this takes the biscuit:

I have to say, the older people are the ones that worry me the most. They have no idea how the internet works, they have no idea how to use it, and they have no idea of the risks involved. Back when I did tech support, I would say that 80% of the computers with serious virus problems were from people 50+. .

Nice to learn, on his/her reliable research and experience, that there are no morons online under 50. Very reassuring. Quite what that has to do with the thread is a bit of a mystery, but thanks non-the-less.

Then we have this:

This is nothing new. Just about every “30-day free trial” offer ever conceived has a bill tacked onto it after the trial is over. Especially the ones that require you to give your credit card info.

Er….yes … but Amazon didn’t ask for anyone’s credit card info. As has been pointed out, it was an offer to buying customers.


P.S. I came into computing rather late in life at the age of 48 – mind you that was way back in 1978. I suppose there is no hope for me. 🙂

Xenidus says:

Amazon Prime

In defense of Amazon Prime, I’m reading a lot of these posts, and I’m assuming that many of these people haven’t actually signed up for Amazon Prime. I’m a freshman college student, and I signed up for the express shipping amazon prime deal (free trial etc.) I probably got some 60 or 70 dollars worth of free shipping in my first month of school ( I bought a microwave with 2 day express shipping, a water filter, and a whole bunch of other stuff I forgot to get for school) The thing is, I just marked down a week in my phone of reminders about canceling my trial of amazon prime, and walla I got a great deal on free 2 day shipping, and no 80 dollar charge. I think it’s the consumer’s responsibility to be smart, and amazon was VERY clear about the auto enroll credit card charge to me. If you are smart, you can exploit the company, but if you aren’t you get slapped with a 80 dollar punishment for not being able to read. I think it’s pretty fair…

well that’s my two cents on the situation, as someone who actually has first hand experience…

pete (profile) says:

I am begining to wonder how many of TechDirts readers are actually tech savvy? But I suppose that moniker no longer has anything to do with ones ability to read or understand the english language.

On multiple occasions in this article and its post, and I’ll add one here, it has been stated that this was an offer given to people at checkout. For those of you that don’t understand check out, checkout is the point where you have finished your online shopping spree and are preparing to pay for your purchase. The credit card is most likely now sitting in front of the user, ready to be given to the evil giant online retailer.

One way or the other amazon was gettng the card number, either for the purchase or the service.

Warning. Prepare for flaming in the following posts.

Also, I was one of those guys taking calls for Video Professor. Contrary to what janine writes, the charges were not fraudulant. Numerus times in during the sale it is stated that the customer will be charged $79 if they do not return at leas one of the cd’s within 10 days.

The problem here is that the script is and subsequent sale is worded in such a way as to be very confusing to the caller. I don’t think I ever had one caller who was really comfortable with the sale, but only about 1 in five people actually aske questins to clarify the details. Once those simple questions are asked it becomes apparent what will happen and the sale is dead.

This is not an uncommon practice. 99% of the infomercials you see on television come with an offer for something else. This is often hidden in the sale or worded in such a way as to be misleading.

While having above average reading comprehension skills myself (not bragging) I cactch on to these things the first time I read the script.

A word of advice Most infomercial sale tactics are ILLEGAL!! The most common tactic used is called “bait-and-switch”. You are offered one product and sold another for a higher price. Unfortunately companies get by with this because there are relatively small percentages of complaints. If more people would report incidents like this to the bbb we would not be in this situation.

OK. enough of my rant. Any bets on how many people still don’t get the post?

Steve R. (profile) says:

Amazon provides a valuable service, nevertheless I have been dismayed that they are using “sneaky” tactics to extort money from the consumer. Corporate America, unfortunately, has become addicted to marketing. It is no longer simply about selling you a product, but using every sneaky trick to sell (upgrade) you to the next product. As an aside, I totally hate it when a google search comes back with totally ridicules “offers” for non-existent products.

I totally avoid “free” trials, but reading the fine print on how to avoid these come-ons really causes one to have a miserable shopping experience. Theoretically Amazon would want its customers to have a pleasant experience, but I guess there are enough morons out there who fall for these offers thereby making these unethical business practices profitable. Too bad.

opqdan says:

People just put too much faith into what they read online. We’ve all joked that “I read it on the internet, so it must be true”, but that is what many people actually think.

People expect Live/Google/Yahoo/etc to bring up the page that they want as the first result, a musunderstanding of how search engines work. They see that result come up, and immediatly decide that if Google feels that it is the most relevent result, then it must be the originator of the charge.

I would be willing to bet that these are the same people who think Bill Gates will send them $10 if they forward an email to 5 friends.

Gullible people make themselves look like fools in real life too, it’s just faster on the internet.

As for Amazon Prime, I am extremely happy with it. I just ordered a new grill which weighs enough that 2 people have to carry it. Shipping on that item alone would have added up to more than a Prime membership for a year. If you are just ordering books and small items, and taking advantage of super saver shipping, then there is no incentive, but if you are making large purchases, then it pays for itself easily. Back when I had my free trial (they were 4 months at that time), I knew full well that if I didn’t cancel it, I would be charged, and I am pretty sure they even contacted me before the free subscription was up.

Remember, a full 50% of the people in the world have below average intelligence (this isn’t technically true, but whatever).

TheDock22 says:


Has anyone found a telepone number to call

LOL that is one of my favorite posts from the previous topic on Amazon prime shipping. How hard is it to click ‘Help’ on Amazon’s homepage, look to the right of your screen, and see “Talk to Customer Support by Phone”

Someone else mentioned a class action lawsuit against Amazon for fraud. Can we all band together for a class action lawsuit against all those morons who posted to that blog? Maybe we can get their computers permanently taken away…

Greg Andrew says:

Amazon Customer Service Numbers


I have trouble understanding how people cannot understand what a Free Trial is. This is not something new that came along with the Internet; businesses have been using them for decades. Free trails always turn into paid services if you don’t cancel the service during the trial (unless you haven’t given the company in question your credit card number). This is not at all a shady business practice in and of itself. Some companies have free trials and then ignore cancellations – that’s a shady business practice.

James Stevens (profile) says:


Even though Am4z0n customers seem to be a little retarded, it’s still bad business by Amazon. Sure, they just made an assload off of tons of people, but it’ll hurt their business in the long run.

Amazon seems a little technically-challenged. SEO is something every web dev should know… that’s pretty sad that a company Am4z0n’s size can’t complete the basics.

Amazon blows now IMO. See, even people who weren’t charged the $79 now think Amazon sucks just becuz of this issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Regardless...

but it’ll hurt their business in the long run.

How does this hurt Amazon? These morons think Techdirt is responsible. If I worked at Amazon (and had no soul, but maybe the latter goes along with the former), I sure wouldn’t be rushing to make sure these morons knew it was Amazon’s fault.

John (profile) says:

Double sleazy

First, I think the offers of “free, but we’ll automatically renew you and charge your credit card” are sleazy enough to begin with.
If the service was good, people would pay for it, rather than needing to be tricked into a auto-renew situation.

But, companies count on the fact that a large percentage of the customers will forget to cancel. That’s easy money for them! Sure, some customers will want refunds or maybe even file chargebacks, but more money will come in next month from even more customers who forgot to cancel.

Second, I can see how the “AMZ*Prime” charge could confuse people. Why didn’t it say “ Prime” so people would know it came from Is it because the credit card companies only allow so many characters to be printed on the statment, which then forces merchants to use cryptic characters instead of their full real name?

On the other hand, isn’t there any kind of contact information next to the “AZM*Prime” charge- maybe a phone number or address? Why are so many people asking TechDirt for a refund when they could call that number or simply call their bank to track down the charge?

Louise Montgomery says:

AMZ*Prime Club

I just got the bill for a credit card that I NEVER use. It had a $79 charge on it from AMZ*Prime Club. I’d never heard of this and googled, just as you say most people do, as I called the credit card company.

IF I clicked on an ad, it was to kill it(though that often opens these obtrusive ads).

What is most distressing to me is that I NEVER use the credit card to which Amazon billed the charge. I will call Amazon and give them an earful!

I HATE Amazon and will never do business with them (I rarely do anyway).

John Domin says:

AMZ*Prime Club

The way that I read the text it meant that the two-day shipping was for one-time only as a free trial.
If I remember correctly, from my course in contract law at Bernard Baruch College of the City University of New York, that this means that the contract is voidable at my option.
There must be agreement by both parties to the terms of a contract.

wale (user link) says:

I just got hit!!!

I just got hit by their bill and did a search like many others and ended up here. it billed me 41 pounds which i thought was quite a chunk. WWho knows what exchange rate they were using. I indeed forgot all about it.

I don’t like programs that “automatically” enroll you for the full program. To me it’s a dterent anyway. i guess i should have been smarter. Gotta dash and check there are no more pendings to cancel.


NotOver50 says:

not so obvious

I order things from time to time from Amazon, but would never intentionally have signed up for a free trial. True, I do not read every piece of text on each screen I view, because most of it is advertising in which I am not interested. They got my card # because I was ordering something else.

Interestingly, I signed on to my Amazon account after visiting this blog and tried to “manage my prime club account” but I am not enrolled according to them. So why the heck am I being charged $79? This is not directed at Tech Dirt. I am simply sticking up for those of us who are not technologically incompentent, actually can read (degree from a good university in English) and got duped anyway. Amazon is not so innocent as some like to think.

Tom Beck (user link) says:

AMZ prime club

My wife just got zinged by Amazon for their $79 free shipping scam and I stumbled onto this site when I tried to find out what the heck it was. Thanks for the info. We contacted Amazon with our displeasure with their tactic and got a bye on the charge. Vendors do this sort of thing occassionally and one just has to let them know you aren’t taking it. But I was amazed by all the vitriolic BS from the young turks toward people over 50 which we happen to be. We’re too busy dealing with kids and grandkids to become experts on this technology, which while useful, is not our lives. Maybe if one of you has a car breakdown or some other problem not involving a throwaway electronic I or some other dude over 50 will be willing to help. Provided you can zip your lip about how dumb we are. tb

Katie says:

amazon prime

I cannot believe people don’t read and understand who to e-mail with problems of these things.

Furthermore I cannot believe people are not more careful about free trials, I hate to go economics 101 on you (I REALLY HATE it), but one of the first things we learn is that free things don’t exist someone pays for it. Online retailers love this, expecting people to forget and then when you complain, all they have to say is read the terms you clicked and agreed to.

I enrolled in the amazon prime, I needed to get something before I went on vaction in like 3 days, first thing I did, I found out how to cancel and imo amazon makes it easy, you don’t even have to call! Anyway I went to the page, clicked on the box so that prime would not be automatically charged to my credit card, and that was that. It’s 2 months later, I’ve been keeping up with my credit card charges and no charge. It took 5 minutes. Read people!

Pete says:

I'm not stupid I swear

Ok, for all those who make fun of us for not “reading the fine print,” No one reads fine print for something familiar like an Amazon order when they’ve already done it in the past and not had any trouble. When you make a normal order, Amazon automatically enrolls you in their ridiculous unauthorized trial program, and even on the order conf. emails it NEVER tells you of an additional charge, so if you don’t spot it on your CC you’re screwed and they’ve maliciously charged you for a service you NEVER AGREED ON.

Eileen says:

Amazon Prime

Our CC company called us the other day asking if we made a $79. charge. No. We checked it out online to find that it was Amazon. No we didn’t authorize it, didn’t buy anything recently. Called them and told them to take it off the charge. They said they would in 3-4 days. I emailed them and told
them to delete my account and all my personal info, mainly
the CC #’s. No longer going to do business with them.

AmazoningFraud says:

That ain't all...

Just noticed a particularly nasty thing on Amazon. When adding items from a vendor to my shopping cart, despite their shipping rates policy stating a charge of $4.99 per ORDER, they were charging $4.99 per ITEM. It’s small stuff (tubes of teeth whitening stuff, toothpaste, etc), so the $4.99 per ORDER seemed like a reasonable amount since I’m sure they can fit lots of this stuff into a small, light box. But when freight for my three items, total weight of about a pound & fitting into a 6″x6″x6″ box, came to about $15.00, I was quite miffed.
So I found another vendor of the same item. Shipping policy: $4.49 per SHIPMENT. Placing one item into cart: $5.29 !!!

Wonder how many other vendors are perpetrating this kind of fraud on’s site. Wonder how many thousands of dollars a day people get screwed out of (illegally, I might add…). It helped to finally push my trust in Amazon over the edge.

FYI: The first vendor is APlusSmile (they never returned my emails when I pointed out the error), and the second is SmileMedic. Avoid them if you can.

Matt says:

Re: Amazon Prime

Umm Why don’t you just ask Amazon for a refund. You are the one who screwed up in the first place, Amazon makes it incredibly obvious, and I am guessing they did not steal you wallet and get your credit card.

No you should compound your mistake by bringing in a lawyer, which will automatically cost you more than $79.. I doubt someone with your level of comprehension can afford to do this for “the principle”.

A clue to everyone if a free trial asks for a credit number, 99/100 times it automatically becomes a paid service at the end of the trial period. This is not a new phenomenon, it has been the way the world has worked since at least the 1970’s. (10 records for 1 cent ring a bell to anyone)).

People need to grow up and take responsibility for their own stupidity.

Slightly Confused says:

Re: Re: Amazon Prime

Disagree Matt. AMZ Prime trial period was offered to already existing Amazon customers who already had thier credit card details listed. Also, many that were duped by Amazon, were long-standing customers who had always trusted Amazon not to employ shady business practices. It was actually an easy error to make…

Bill Guthrie says:

Amazon Prime

Good news article, and in truth I did find your blog with a Dogpile search which didn’t give me Amazon right away. I don’t have time to read the long string of comments so forgive me if I repeat what someone else has said. I read the first ten and saw most of it was repetition.

Fury is unnecessary: Soon as I found it was Amazon Prime, I went to the website, logged in, found the cancellation button through the Help FAQs, cancelled, had my notice of cancellation in ten minutes, and in another two minutes had a promise that in two days the charge would be deleted from my credit card.
To correct some of the record above: the “application” was just a box-check while ordering, which did not solicit credit card information. If you didn’t read the contract, which I did not, then Amazon Prime took your membership fee from the card used for the purchase.
So now you want to know why I didn’t read the contract? Easy: last year Amazon ran what looked like the same offer, without automatic membership billing. I had used that offer and had shipped one box free without joining.
Amazon runs its business honestly, near as I can tell, and letting me off the credit card hook for pushing two buttons, and even getting a pleasant [automated] note from them, that’s way ahead of the three or four unsolved problems I’ve had with Microsoft in the last ten years.

Art Carnage says:

I also signed up for Amazon Prime. The notice that I would be automatically subscribed was pretty obvious, and something I fully expected, as any rational person who’s not an idiot would. I set a calendar reminder two days before the auto-subscription would kick in. I ordered a good deal of stuff that month, enjoying the quick delivery. And then when the notice popped up, I turned off the Amazon Prime feature. It took maybe a minute. End of story.

As for those who think they got “duped”, they probably deserve to learn a $79 lesson.

Old Person says:

Hold it right there

How many Amazon shills are flooding this blog with replies? Surely the entire world does not contain such a number of angry young know-it-alls who so passionately defend Amazon’s crooked business practices. Really–“idiots” “can’t read” “old ladies”?? So cranky! It sounds like the customer service crew at Amazon venting their anger at their employer by abusing the faceless “lusers.” By the way, if you really, really feel passionate about fools who don’t read Amazon’s fine print, then you need to get out more.

Slightly Confused says:

AMZ Prime Charges

I disagree, with all the hardline stances by those that did in fact read the really, really small print. For those, that did pick up on it, congratulations. For those that didn’t (myself included), would it not have been reasonable for Amazon to send out an e-mail in regards to the charges? (ie. “If you are satisfied with AMZ Prime would like to continue your subscription please click ‘yes’ if not the free trial will be terminated”) instead of using an autoenrol program. I don’t know, but in Australia, we must do things differently.

And secondly, from when I took contract law, I always thought that there must be consent from both parties before a contract is enforced. Negative affirmation (i.e. ‘if you don’t reply, I will consider it a yes and the contract goes ahead’) does not count, which appears to be the equivalent of what Amazon has done.

On a final note though, I do think it is pretty funny that people are e-mailing techdirt demanding a refund. Contact Amazon and they will be more than happy to refund your money provided you have not used AMZ prime services.

Jim says:

AMZ Prime Club

Amazon dinged our credit card $79 when my wife bought a book. I called and they are going to refund the money, but what would have happened if I had not looked at my statement. They said she did not ask for the 30 day trial period, but just went ahead and ordered he service. She had not bought anything since, so they are refunding the $79. I think the Attorney General of Nevada where there charge comes from needs to take a look at what they are doing. It is simple fraud!

Anne Dhu says:

AMZ scam

I’m one of those who “didnt read” or who at least forgot what I had read, and when I got the $79 charge (noticed because my credit card company alerted me), I went to Google and came up with your explanatory site first. THANK YOU! It was good to have it explained.

Next question: is there any way to get out of this $79 charge now that it’s already in place?

Anne Dhu McLucas

Joyce says:

Amazon Prime rip-off

I order lots of books and dvds, so I wanted the promised 2 day delivery service. But, after a few orders, I stopped getting the special treatment. First, FedEx and UPS would come to my door. But, now, DHL is picking up my orders and leaving them with the U.S. Postal Service. I contacted Amazon and they are unconcerned. My next step is the Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General of the state of Texas. Amazon Prime is only prime until you use a few times, then you go to the back of the line as far as delivery after that.

Kulwant Madan says:

AMZ Prime Club

I do not remember ever dealing with Amazon over the past 6 months. And yet, my credit card account has got debited by $79. Normally, any body charging customer’s accounts sends an email confirming the order and the debit. But in this case, nothing has arrived. To me, this all amounts to charging my card account with bad intention. I would like Amazon to refund the money.

Kulwant Madan

Judith A. Lewis says:

AMZ* Prime Club

Yesterday, I looked at my credit card statement and thought my card number had been stolen. So I decided to investigate where this $79 charge came from and found your web site. Thank you for clearing up this matter for me by identifying the company responsible for this charge. If not for your information, I might have had more trouble getting the charge off my card. I am going to e-mail Amazon and tell them to clear my account and I won’t do business with them again. In fact, I haven’t bought anything from Amazon in months. Very underhanded policy by Amazon.


David says:

Amazon and auto enrol tricks

Often web sites like this include a whole lot of text. Most of it useless and boring.

I don’t blame the customers for being misled. These sites are designed to mislead people so it is not surprising they catch a few fish in their nets.

Why do the companies say “Free” when they have no intention of giving something away? I think it is a form of fraud to advertise something for free and then take clicking on the “free button” as implied consent. It’s a ridiculous practice. The only reason people like us are not caught in these scams is because we know that they are scams. Usually we had to learn the hard way too.

Dana says:

$79 free shipping

I just noticed a $79 charge on my bank account. My husband said that he received FREE shipping on a book from It was free for 30 days, until the huge yearly membership hit. He never reads the fine print. I called Amazon and they are refunding the money. Still though, all of it could have been avoided by reading the fine print. Not much is really free in today’s world.

Hugh Wayne Clark says:

pissed off

I think Amazon’s way of promoting Pime is disgusting. They caused me to cancel my debit card, and file a police report
about unauthorized purchases being made on my card. I think
promotion like this could cause them to loose a lot of loyal customers. If I go back to Amazon and still see this promotion there, I will cancel my account with Amazon.

Thanks for lettting me vent my anger.
Yours truly,
Wayne Clark

crystal says:

prime member shipping question?

Ok so i just placed a order and i also agreed to do 30 day trail only because i thought i was gettibg free shipping. Now i think i just got quicker shipper opition not free shipping?Not sure what i got.lso does anyone know if i spend $60 shouldnt i have gotten free shipping?I thought i read if i orderatleast $35 get free shipping? But my cart kept telling me to add more money i went and add more items to the amount my cart would say i needed to get free shipping when i total up to $83 and still didnt show free shipping i removed some items back to $60 then i sign up for prime memebrship and i got a message that shipping would be free after check out so i proceeded to checkout with $28 shipping charges attached .I sent amanzon a email asking about this .I cant pull up invoice or see what was charged when i go to my account then orders i just see previous orders from three months ago .So i guess since.this order hasnt been processed yet i can see the invoice yet? Yea call me one of the dumb ones i read some and google some and still im lost as to if the shipping was charged or not.Im also going into my account settings after my order is invoiced and canceling the prime membership since reading so much bad about this and i really wouod not get any benifit from the program since i dont use amanzon that much .Ebay is much simpler atleast i see what im gonna be charged shipping and all and i dont have to sign in and out my account what seems like ever few minutes .With ebay i can also message sellers to try and get a better deal and some will lower their price if i agree to purchase asap.

maggieg (profile) says:

Amazon giving out credit card information

Buyer beware you say ! well how about this one; I purchased a Kindle HDX back in January, I guess I didn’t pay much attention to all the ads that come with anyhow long story short we started noticing a charge on our credit card for 14.99 for something called Audible. finally my husband remembered (we are seniors) to ask me if I had signed up for something which required a monthly payment, it turns out neither of us did and we had to Google Audible to find out it was something that comes loaded on the Kindle and if you don’t cancel they just start charging you 14.99 per month. I contacted Amazon and found out that although Audible is a subsidiary of amazon it is actually a third party enterprise. I ended up sending Jeff Bezo an email telling him what I thought of his scheme and asking for my money back 14.99 X4 payments . When did it become the consumers responsibility to cancel or monitor services they did not ask for nor have ever used. What Amazon did amounts to fraud which I reminded Mr Bezo of ; anyhow without an apology or any kind of email from Jeff Bezo or the customer service staff or from Audible the money was returned to my credit card. You can contact Jeff Bezo at, although don’t be surprised if he changes his email address.

JodyMac (profile) says:


My daughter had selected to NOT AUTO RENEW. Still it went ahead and did anyway. Because she had no money in her account, it went to the secondary card which was my card. I called Amazon Prime. They said they generated a refund. They did not. I called my bank. They saw no transaction to issue the refund. After four calls to Amazon and three calls to the bank and one trip, I still have not been given a refund.

Amazon reps have lied and said they gave the refund, it was in my bank, that the bank is holding the money and that my bank is lying to me. They said the refund had “Succeeded”, which I guess means it was a successful robbery of my assets. Either way, they were not truthful.

My bank says Amazon has not put through the transaction and that they could not see any pending refund. They issued a credit, but it fell off after they investigated it and found no refund was ever issued by Amazon and the Prime account is now “Closed”.

Long story short, they auto renewed an account with no auto renewal selected, charged an unauthorized card and then lied about the refund.

Isn’t Amazon rich enough without STEALING from it’s customers? The Transaction ID they gave me to give my bank was even erroneous.

These big companies are taking over the world and will destroy honest dealing. I am sick of these problems!

Amazon has since admitted the errors were “GLITCHES” in the “SYSTEM”. But by holding these monies, and collecting interest on the funds for four, five, ten or twelve days to thousands of customers, they could be raking in millions on our hard-earned dollars.

I hope the DOJ or someone in the government steps in and stops this practice. They still have my $103.36 and now I am wondering if I will ever see it. What a scheme they have going on!

What am I going to do? See an attorney at $400.00 an hour to get back $103.36…No! Smart people;those Amazon executives. I believe this will be the new “ENRON”. They can take the bonuses off the sweat of our brows!

I hope to someday get my refund, but in the meantime, I hope somebody in Washington is paying attention or cares.

Larry Eccleston (profile) says:

Amazon Prime

Well I just got hit with my annual fee and see that it has now jumped to $99. That’s up $20 from the original.

My biggest problem though is that there is no warning that it is coming through. I have one debit account that I use for internet transactions and a few local low dollar purchases. The account has no bounce protection so if a charge like Amazon Prime comes in and the well is dry I never know about it. However, if I transfer money into that account to cover an upcoming purchase or an electric bill payment or such and then the Prime charge comes through there is insufficient money left to cover the payment I was intending to make. So far they haven’t turned off the electricity but it could happen.

This time I caught it but when I first saw the Amazon charge I was trying to figure out what I had purchased. I finally noticed the “prime” noted on the charge but I was still confused because it was $99 not the $79 I expected.

Why can’t they give us warning that it is coming out and how much. At the increased fee I may not figure it’s worth it anymore.

Dennis Damennis (user link) says:

amazon,etc etc

i order from amazon frequently,but like most posters here,i avoid free trials ,period!!recent stuff for example, an 80’s DVD(movie) i couldn’t find in the stores,a refurbished PC which works grand,(I checked seller and customer reviews before making decision) and otehr stuff like a nremote control for my 2 year old Sanyo TV (great price).Ialways check the seller reviews ,visit the retailers’ URL and google their reviews as well..One of the major situations i refuse involvement in is anything that reads “FREE TRIAL”.

Retta Richards says:

$99 Amazon Charge

I just got hit with this charge. Although I consider myself quite careful, I was concentrating on my order and just clicked the 2-day free shipping offer. I guess that signed me up without knowing what was coming. I was furious when I saw that charge.
The only way to avoid it . . . after you make your purchase and it’s shipped, delete your credit card. If there’s no open credit card, they have nothing to charge.

Keith Metcalf (profile) says:

Amazon is at it again!

You may see this in the Washington Post, but perhaps they’ll not bite on the news tip.
IE: Amazon is now selectively auto clicking the “Recurring” purchases radio button, while completing a business purchase. This is not an accident, as the Amazon agent I talked with suggestion that this was simply an error, and that this button should not be pre-checked for its business customers.

So then the detail of what’s going. I presume, and I suspect, that at this point because this has happened to me multiple times in the past 12 months, that It’s best customers are being hassled with this “Auto Clicked” recurring purchases on such items that Amazon has predetermend that a customer may need several of these items per month on going from the time that you click the purchase button.

Bottom line: unless the business customer is extremely diligent, when they make a simple purchase that Amazon has allready “signed up the buyers” with an automatic month to month ongoing purchases of an item without being aware that’s what they’ve done. Because Amazon has choosen that for you by simply placing the “dot” in the circle for auto orders in the future.

Therefore: Let it be known (because I’ve already advised them that this tactic is not acceptable by me and my business). Nobody, or business has the legal right to auto purchase for you or your company, without your companies consent.

Now as a buyer on Amazon I must pay close attention to this when we make purchases, in essence the business customer must now be on the lookout for auto checking by Amazon, on the Radio Buttom, Auto Purchase, and I must now uncheck this button, or otherwise monthly purchases will be in in effect from that purchasing event, until the time that call off the dogs at Amazon.

As an example: (Not Sure it will happen to you, because your not me or my account as signed in) Look at a six pack of 123 Energizer batteries, # ASIN B0036QL1JY… that’s Amazons Assigned Number. and for me the Auto purchase button is prechecked for me and my company for future automatic monthly purchases.

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