When Amazon fails, it does so big time

by admin on May 2, 2009

in General

Forget all that stuff about Amazon having some sort of glitch that prevented gay romantic novels from appearing on its site. Think good old fashioned customer service.

Last weekend I placed an order with Amazon. It’s the first time I’d done so in a while and all went smoothly. Later in the day I decided to add to the order – substantially. The usual email confirmations came through and I promptly forgot about it. The following morning I awake to an email that said:

Your Amazon account including order (#XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX) has been placed on hold as we require further verification to allow us to process your order in a timely and secure manner.

For us to process and complete your order you will need to fax us the information below relating to the card used to place this order, as we are unable to verify your address as your card issuer has declined our request citing legal and privacy reasons.

To ensure your fax is handled in a timely manner, please send the following information:
•       A copy of your bank or card statement for the card used, including billing address
•       The last 4 digits of the payment card
•       Your name, e-mail address, phone number and order number (#XXX-XXXXXXX-XXXXXXX).

Please note that this information must be sent via fax as we are unable to accept attachments via email. For ease of processing, please write your order number and e-mail address clearly at the top of the fax.

Any password information is not required.

Please do not place a new order as this may result in additional delays and you may not receive further notification. Be advised your order will be on hold for a maximum of 4 days after which time it will be cancelled.

Thank you for your patience with our security measures.

So let me get this straight. There’s been some sort of security issue. Check. They want confirmation of my address. Check. When I’ve used the same credit card for the order placed a few hours previously and for delivery to the same address? Hmmm. I call them up. There then ensued a circular discussion about why there is no way I am going to fax anyone the details they requested. Why, if my bank has a security issue would I entrust these details to someone I don’t know? But it gets worse.

It seems once your Amazon account hits this particular wall, NO-ONE except the ‘account specialist’ team can gain access to it. Including the call centre operators and I. Effectively we’re all locked out.

I asked for a return call. “We’ll get back to you in the next 24-48 hours.” Nothing happened. I called again yesterday, (we’re now in the 6th day), ran through the whole thing again and yes, they did have a note of the phone numbers through which to reach me. “We’ll get back to you today.” Nothing happened. I get another email asking for the same information, despite the fact this order should by now be canceled. My account is still in lock out mode.

As one of my colleagues correctly pointed out, there’s a lot of fraud on the internet and Amazon are trying to protect both our interests. I understand that. But when the actions they take are draconian, one sided and with no apparent means of alternative solution then you have to wonder. Especially as I had requested a call because the call centre can’t do a thing except repeat the script in front of them.

Over the years Amazon has built up a great brand and provides great service – most of the time. As I write this, the goods I originally ordered arrived in timely fashion and in perfect condition. But we’re now a week on and I am far from being a happy bunny.

Technology does a lot of things well but when the underlying processes are not thought through or are incomplete then someone suffers. Usually the consumer. At a time of economic recession, everyone has to be at the top of their game or we simply click away. In this case, the process failure ripples right across the value chain in that:

  • There is clearly no way to cross validate between orders that contain the exact same bank/credit card and delivery address details
  • Locking the customer out is partially understandable but locking out the call centre?
  • Why the insistence on fax? And failing fax, snail mail with information that is sensitive to the individual?
  • Why could they not return calls?
  • Why has the order NOT been canceled but instead seems to be stuck in a loop, despite what they say about cancellation?

As far as I am concerned, this is a colossal fail. Weekend rant over.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Tom Morris May 2, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Fax? Seriously? Are Amazon stuck in the 1980s? Didn’t they cart all the fax machines off to the technology carehome in the mid-90s? I can honestly say I haven’t seen a fax machine any time in the last decade. I mean, it’s not like there aren’t more reliable and convient methods for transmitting documents.

I did bookmark a few web/e-mail to fax services here – http://delicious.com/tommorris/fax – a few of them just charge a few cents per page, which seems a reasonable solution.

Dennis Howlett May 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm

@tom: I don't have an objection to fax per se but I do have an objection to sending facsimile documents to un-named individuals. That and the fact I live in the internet cloud, have done for 3+ years and don't possess a printer/fax/scanner.

Sameer Patel May 3, 2009 at 3:10 am

I've lost faith in the "we'll call you back" promise from large well reputed vendors. Whilst my issue was much less serious, I've had the same issue with Dell. Brilliant tech support, follow up calls to ensure things are still working and all that. Perfect, in my view. But when it involves escalation or passing it on laterally, it almost always falls off a cliff. The call never comes.

OT – re: "I live in the internet cloud, have done for 3+ years and don’t possess a printer/fax/scanner."
No printer? Seriously Dennis? I'm envious.

Alizar July 22, 2009 at 2:40 am

Yeah, I got same problem too, I placed order using gift card, but amazon hold the order and lock my acount. They insist my card and my billing statement bla bla bla… to fax to them. But they give me wrong fax number, I'm not in UK so I had to use international fax number, but it failed.
Can anyone give me advise?

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NinA March 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm

hi, i am joining your club, 10 months later still the same story. I live outside usa, placed an order, gave them my credit card nuber and next day my account doesnt exist. I got paniced that someon phised me, so i sent them email whats going on. All i know, that i will never order from amazon.com anymore!! Such a huge company and no customer live support, i dont even know what will i get, whats going on with the payment , nothing. Besides in times of phising i find it absurd that they demand giving them credit card by fax, hello!!sorry, still upset:)
had to write down the comment.

NinA March 9, 2010 at 8:09 pm

hi, i am joining your club, 10 months later still the same story. I live outside usa, placed an order, gave them my credit card nuber and next day my account doesnt exist. I got paniced that someon phised me, so i sent them email whats going on. All i know, that i will never order from amazon.com anymore!! Such a huge company and no customer live support, i dont even know what will i get, whats going on with the payment , nothing. Besides in times of phising i find it absurd that they demand giving them credit card by fax, hello!!sorry, still upset:)had to write down the comment.

NinA March 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm

hi, i am joining your club, 10 months later still the same story. I live outside usa, placed an order, gave them my credit card nuber and next day my account doesnt exist. I got paniced that someon phised me, so i sent them email whats going on. All i know, that i will never order from amazon.com anymore!! Such a huge company and no customer live support, i dont even know what will i get, whats going on with the payment , nothing. Besides in times of phising i find it absurd that they demand giving them credit card by fax, hello!!sorry, still upset:)
had to write down the comment.

Ehrlichmann March 20, 2010 at 12:57 am

Same story here.

ordered a laptop from them, sent them the fax with the info they requested, and BOOM!, locked out of my account, and no response from them… i dont know if i'll get the goods or not, i dont know if they already charged my CC, i'm basically in the dark.

i understand why they do that, but when that happens, they should do a close follow up of the emails we send them, so we can rest asured that everything is ok after we've followed their instructions.

im gonna give them a couple more days, and if nothing happens, i'm gonna lock the CC and ask for a charge back if needed.

Realnyjuggalo23 February 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

how long did they take to reinstate your account

NinA February 10, 2011 at 7:08 am

after six months i got this message: Amazon.com performs routine reviews of customer accounts. After further consideration of your past account activity, the hold
has been removed and you should now be able to access your account.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.

Realnyjuggalo23 February 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm

how long did they take to reinstate your account

NinA February 10, 2011 at 7:08 am

after six months i got this message: Amazon.com performs routine reviews of customer accounts. After further consideration of your past account activity, the hold
has been removed and you should now be able to access your account.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.

Kat December 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I am now in this same club after 13 days, locked out and waiting on the mysterious account specialist.  It’s so disheartening to hear I may have to wait months or even up to a YEAR. That’s ridiculous, especially considering I have Kindle books and other cloud items stuck in there that I’ve purchased and which legally belong to me.  They have not even asked me to fax anything, I’ve just heard nothing, and the customer service people cannot help.  They say they have no contact info for the Account Specialists, nor do they even know where they are located.  Absolutely ridiculous for such a global corporate giant.  You’d expect they’d have a better-oiled machine.

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