It was my sister Pat’s birthday last week. I thought it would be nice, as a last-minute present. to get her a gift-certificate from Amazon.co.uk. Very simple: hop on their website, buy a certificate, and they’ll send her an email with the code. What could possibly be more painless?
Well… The long list of things which now fall into that category include items such as “being dragged backwards over shards of broken glass while having your prostate checked by an enthusiastic doctor with extremely fat fingers”. Let’s say, as far as customer service goes, Amazon are not among the finest companies with which I have dealt.
After the jump, you’ll find the whole sorry saga. Go get a cup of coffee. And a sandwich.
Birthday + 3 days. The first inkling I got of any trouble was when my Pat replied to my birthday wishes, saying, “An e mail from Amazon – no sign. I don’t check every day, but there is nothing today or previously.” Oh-oh… So, I tried to log in to my Amazon account and check. However, my password was rejected. No big: I have a few I use, so I requested a password reset link, and reset my password. Still wouldn’t let me in. I tried with another password reset. I’m even getting the message that my account has been updated, but still, nothing. Restarted my browser. Rejected. Tried in Chrome. Uh-uh. Used Chris’s computer. None shall pass. So, I filled in the form on the website, begging for help.
Birthday +4 days. And, whether coincidentally or not, I got this email:
Thank you for your recent order xxx-xxx-xxxx. Your account and order are currently on hold while we verify your order.
We have left a message at the telephone number associated with the card used with further instructions. In order to verify this transaction, please contact us as requested in our telephone message.
Unfortunately, we are unable to proceed with this order until we have received a response to our answer phone message. If we do not receive a response within 3 days your order will be cancelled.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. We look forward to hearing from you shortly.
Ok, fair enough. It was an order placed from America, going to a British address. I can see how that could have raised red flags. I checked my voice-mail, and yes, there was a message. It was barely intelligible, delivered by a heavily-accented South Asian apparently reading from a script scrawled by a doctor on the back of a napkin, but it was there. And it had a telephone number! Surely my sister was now within reach of her present…
Not so fast. The guy gave the number twice, but it wasn’t actually the same number. Heck, it didn’t actually have the same number of numbers. [Yay for minimum-wage outsourcing!] A bigger problem soon surfaced. Both numbers were 0800 toll-free ones – utterly unusable from America. It was 7pm Arizona time, too late to so anything about it that day.
Birthday +5 days. After a good deal of hunting around the Internet, I track down a number for Amazon customer service that can be called internationally. In case anyone else is wanting it, here it is: 0207 084 7911. I call, speak to another person who is apparently closer to the Amazon than the UK, and am promised someone will call me back within 24 hours to verify the order.
Momentarily overcome with madness, I believe this promise. Oh, I can just imagine the call-center staff chuckling after I hung up the phone: “Hahahaha! Chalk up another victory over the British Raj!” Yeah, as somebody who used to be the one making those promises, I should really have known better. You will not be surprised to hear that 24 hours passed, and my telephone was completely untroubled by any contact from Amazon.co.uk.
Birthday +6 days. I adopt a different tack. I try Amazon.com, first attempting their live chat service.
You are now connected to Arun Kumar from Amazon.com.
Me: I’m hoping you can help – the order referenced was placed with Amazon.co.uk, as a birthday present for my sister, but they put it on hold and I have not been able to contact them.
Arun Kumar: Hello, my name is Arun. I’ll be happy to help you.
Arun Kumar: It appears your account and order are on hold at the moment, so I’m unable to view your account. I’ll need to transfer your information to an account specialist, and they’ll get back to you within 24 hours.
Arun Kumar: Could you provide me with the following information, so I can make sure that it is passed onto the Account Specialists.
Arun Kumar: 1. Order # (If applicable):
Arun Kumar: 2. Billing address the bank has on file:
Arun Kumar: 3. Phone number the bank has on file:
Arun Kumar: 4. Contact phone number for your bank (found on your statement, or the back of your card):
Arun Kumar: 5. Any other comments or concerns you’d like me to forward:
Me: I have already done this, and was told someone would be calling me within 24 hours. That has not happened.
Me: This was supposed to be a birthday present, but it has now been five days.
Arun Kumar: I’m sorry you’ve not received a contact from us. I’ll make a note on your account for this.9:27:19 AM
Arun Kumar: So that they will contact you sooner.
Me: I am happy to call them, but need a number I can actually call from the US.
Me: What is the number for that department?
Arun Kumar: Unfortunately, they do not have a phone number to contact. Possibly they will contact you sooner.
Arun Kumar: Thank you for visiting Amazon.com.
Arun Kumar: We hope to see you again soon!
Arun Kumar from Amazon.com has left the conversation.
Yep: I got hung-up on by a live chat customer support agent, before I could even point out that I know they do have a phone number to contact (albeit a useless one for me), because they left it for me in a voice-mail. I then call Amazon’s number, only to be told by the girl – who sounded like she was on her first day on the job – that they couldn’t help with Amazon.co.uk orders and I’d have to contact them directly. Clearly, information of which Amazon chat had not been made aware. She provided exactly the same number I had already found. Since she was clearly a n00b, I restrained myself.
But, hey, what the heck. Called Amazon.co.uk support, asked to speak to a supervisor. Got through to one, explained the problem… And the call was disconnected. Whether deliberately or by happy accident from her point of view, I don’t know. Convenient, though. I called back, now royally pissed, and asked for another supervisor. Got the “I’ll put a note on your account” argument. BANG – you’ve already done that, mate. Got the “They don’t have a direct number” argument. BANG – so what is this on my voice-mail, Scotch mist? I unloaded on the man, slating Amazon’s incompetence, shoddy business practices, poor customer support, disdain for their client base and direct responsibility for global warming.
Did I get anywhere? Of course not: just more assurances someone will call me back within 24 hours. But I certainly felt a lot better for it. It’s very cleansing to yell at someone, even if they are only tangentially responsible for the actual problem. While waiting for the promised call, I thought I had perhaps found a work-around. Buy a card from Amazon.com, and she can use it at Amazon.co.uk! Or not. “Amazon gift cards can only be used at the issuing website.” [Shakes fist in air] Curse you, Amazon! That’s nailed that one down. Think I might as well give up and send my sister a set of towels.
Birthday +7 days. Another email received overnight, exactly the same as the one on Order +3. No voice mail or additional information. In fact, no indication Amazon actually tried this time: my phone showed no missed calls.
I realize that what I have gone through corresponds nicely to the Five Stages of Grief:
1) Denial – “Must be something wrong with my computer…”
2) Anger – “F*** Amazon!”
3) Bargaining – “I am happy to call them, but need a number I can actually call from the US.”
4) Depression – “I think I might as well give up.”
5) Acceptance – I guess this is where I now sit, and am strangely comfortable with this. It has certainly been a learning experience – specifically, I learned not to buy anything from Amazon ever again.
Much though I’d like to reveal a happy ending, with an apology from Amazon for their dreadful service, there is none. However, a degree of closure was obtained, since I phoned them up this morning and cancelled the order. Well, I think I did. I got exactly the same BS that the “information will be passed on to the account specialist”, i.e. exactly the same as I’ve been told in all my previous conversations, without any positive results. Needless to say, I strongly suspect the order will not be canceled, and I’ll need to file a chargeback with my credit-card company. Trust me, I will…
I’m really sorry it didn’t work out, Pat. But, hopefully. you will at least appreciate, that this was the most troublesome, problematic non-gift you didn’t receive this birthday.