My Amazon Prime Nightmare

Sometimes, you just need to take a stand against bad customer service. I know Sketchy Details is a media criticism site and Amazon Prime is a media provider, but this story needs to be heard.

This is the story of how, in less than a day, Amazon proved they have absolutely no control over their customer support when it comes to Amazon Prime.

Last night, I signed up for Amazon Prime. I used the one month trial last summer so I could get free shipping on huge rolls of trim, velcro, and fabric for costuming a production of The Music Man. I grew to like their streaming media service. They had a lot of free content I was interested in and the default quality was higher than Netflix. When I finally got paid a few days ago for theater work, I knew I wanted to sign up for Amazon Prime again.

I took the plunge last night and instantly had an error message. Technically, it wasn’t an error message. It was a processing message that said to contact customer support if it didn’t go away in a few minutes; it didn’t. In fact, it was still coming up this morning.

I sent customer service an e-mail explaining that I received the not-error message and wanted to know what the next step was.

A few minutes later, I received an e-mail saying my request to cancel Amazon Prime had been approved. I requested no such thing.

I went to write customer service again and got an e-mail that I was being charged for Amazon Prime on the credit card connected to my PayPal account.

That’s the record scratch moment, people. I put in a new credit card last night to cover the cost of Amazon Prime for the year. Technically, it was a gift card from my bank for a cancelled vacation that acts as a credit card. I had no issue in the past using it for Amazon purchases, so I figured I’d use it for this subscription.

Instead of using the payment method I selected, Amazon randomly chose a different card connected to my PayPal account and ran the charges through. If you don’t use PayPal at all, you don’t know that PayPal funds go through instantly but can take up to a week to process on a purchase or a return. I’m now down $79+taxes for up to a week because Amazon decided they knew better than I did when processing a cancellation and repurchase I never asked for.

I e-mailed customer service and got a reply a few hours later. It was a long, rambling e-mail about how PayPal isn’t a payment option on Amazon and how my [PayPal Credit Card Brand], not my PayPal account was charged. They obviously didn’t read my e-mail at all. I specified they charged my PayPal Credit Card, and they replied that they didn’t charge my PayPal, they charged my [PayPal Credit Card Brand] (ie: Discover, Diner’s Club, etc.).

Then they activated the membership again, charging me a second time for Amazon Prime on the same incorrect credit card.

That’s the moment I lost faith in Amazon’s customer service. They are clearly trained to scan for keywords and spit out company-approved text regardless of the actual context. It took another five e-mails to connect with someone who understood that the company had been screwing up for 18 hours. There was no apology, no blanket rehearsed remorse for their mistakes. I received an e-mail saying I was receiving a refund.

A few minutes later, it got worse. I received an e-mail that blamed me for their mistakes. If only I didn’t have that credit card on file for very specific purchases, they wouldn’t have been able to charge it. Since the other card was new, they didn’t know if I actually wanted to use it on Amazon when I clicked to save the payment method. So, you see, their processing error followed by their refusal for hours to read my e-mails was my fault.

All I wanted to do was stream some new Doctor Who and get free upgraded shipping on Blu-Rays. Now, I’ll stick with Hulu, Netflix, and Best Buy for my media needs. They’ve never randomly selected my payment option and froze my funds for a week through their refusal to read an e-mail. They have friendly customer service representatives and websites with layouts that make it easy to get help.

The free two-day shipping and online media streaming may seem tempting, but think twice before trusting Amazon Prime to actually follow through with the payment option you choose. It’s apparently company policy to pick a card out of a hat and screw with the customers.

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