Reading Comprehension: A Terrible Thing To Waste
from the venting dept
In 2007, some people who somehow signed up for the program without meaning to, started Google searching the program -- and commenting on that post, often complaining that they were signed up against their will. In April of 2007, one person noted that the charge on his credit card was denoted as being for AMZ*Prime Club. Within days, if you did a search on that phrase, we were the top result. At first, our comments started to fill up with angry messages from people who claim they never agreed to sign up for the program. Then... people started emailing and calling us demanding a refund. For a while it was a deluge of calls and emails, leading me to write a post warning Amazon that it was clear to us that many, many people were confused by the way they explained the Amazon Prime offering. That was because Amazon offered people a "free month" trial of Amazon Prime, after which they would be automatically charged the $79. Many people apparently signed up for the free month, and failed to read the details.
This continued for many months, and we ended up writing a second open letter to Amazon, pointing out that whether they knew it or not, an awful lot of people were confused and all of them seemed to be blaming us for the confusion. It was becoming quite a nuisance dealing with the various calls and emails. Some people in our comments noted Amazon was quite straightforward in how they described the details of the program, and we were wrong to tell them that it was too confusing. That may be so, but I can assure you that there are an awful lot of people who still don't understand the details of the program.
It has continued to this very day -- though we tend to only get two to three emails and calls per week nowadays, as opposed to the multiple complaints per day. To be honest, we've taken to ignoring most of the calls and emails, because it's just not worth responding. There was one very confused older woman who called a bunch of times, and we just had to help her because she sounded so distressed, but for the most part, we let them go. Until... this week.
I'm not sure why, but I was glancing at the customer service email account the other night when one such email came in. It read:
Subject: refund my $79.-- immediately [CustomerService]I was going to just ignore it, but since the woman seemed to realize that the problem was with Amazon, and it only took a second, I figured I'd email her back a quick note:
------ Comments ------
I ordered some things from Amazon (for the last time, believe me) before Christmas. When I went on line tonight to check my bank balance I discovered that $79.00 had been deducted from my checking account withut my permission or prior warning. This is certainly not the way to get and keep customers. I want the money credited back to my account immediately, please. I do not remember anywhere on your website where it asked if I was willing to participate in this program. If there had been, I would have said NO!
I will be expecting an e-mail from you tomorrow. My cell phone is broken and I am waiting for a new one to be shipped to me which should take about a week. I certainly do not hope that I have to speak with you about this again.
Perhaps you should try contacting Amazon instead of us?Simple, to the point... I thought I was being helpful. The woman clearly saw the email, because she replied immediately to me... but it was a blank email, other than her signature being appended above my response to her. I thought it was odd, but let it go, figuring it was an accidental reply (or maybe she even meant to say thanks for sending her in the right direction). The next morning, we received another feedback form message from the same woman:
Subject: need money put back into my checking account [CustomerService]Now, at this point, it's obvious the woman is lying. She had emailed us the night before about it, recognizing that it was a charge from Amazon and not Techdirt. This was confusing, but maybe (maybe?!) she was just confused. So, I tried to be helpful:
------ Comments ------
This morning as I was checking my bank, I realized that your organization had debited $79.00 from my checking account for something called : "tech dirt". This simply looks like current events. I am not interested in it and need to have the $79.00 redeposited into my husband's and my checking account immediately before we become overdrawn. I can be reached at my e-mail today - my cell phone broke and I am waiting for a new one to be shipped to me.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
I am afraid you are confused. We do not charge people anything. We do not even have a merchant account with which to charge you. From your *other* email last night, it seems clear that it is Amazon.com that charged you for their Amazon Prime service, which costs $79. Please contact Amazon to have them take care of it:Ok. I figured we were all done with things. But... a day and a half goes by and suddenly:
Subject: $79.00 refund [CustomerService]Hmm. Ok. Perhaps my emails to her went into her spam filter...? Even though she had actually replied (blankly) to that first one? I gave it one more shot:
------ Comments ------
I truly do not remember authorizing you to take $79.00 from my checking account using my bank card. I simply would not have approved of that high a debit. While I am sure your web-site is a good one, it's a site in which I have no interest.
Because of that I am asking for a refund of the $79.00 as soon as possible. Unfortunately, my cell phone broke the other day and it will still be a few days until my new one gets here. The only way you can communicate with me is through e-mail: [email address deleted]
Hi [name deleted],Five minutes later, she replies:
This is your third email to us. We have replied to each of the first two -- including the original one where you properly noticed that it was Amazon that had charged you -- not us, so I am somewhat confused as to why you are now saying we charged you. We are a publication that merely wrote about Amazon's program. We do not even have the ability to charge credit cards.
Your problem is with Amazon.com and you should probably contact them.
How the hell do I contact Amazon - it seems to me that you and Amazon are probably working in collusion to fleece people.And... with that I give up. Apparently, it wouldn't matter how clearly Amazon explains their program. There are still some people who will not be able to figure it out.