“Some people definitely do use it that way,” says Ryan, an Amazon support representative I spoke to by phone. “It is an apology for a negative experience. It sounds like exactly like you put it: they were just throwing it out there just so you would stop bugging them.”
I knew it! I’ve become sadly familiar with Amazon’s support system for Prime members as I’ve been on the receiving end of far more damaged, late or botched deliveries than I care to think about. The time I’ve spent talking to Amazon support will blow your mind.
Over the last two months I’ve spent more than 312 minutes chatting with Amazon support staffers (that’s over 5 hours). I’ve lost count of the additional time I’ve spent talking to Amazon support on the phone. And on several occasions — 3 by my count — a support session was terminated with the promise of a one month extension of my Amazon Prime membership.
Not a single one of those extensions have materialized and my Prime membership has now expired.
It was these promised Prime membership extensions — dangled like a carrot in front of a mule — that Ryan was referring to when he said, “Some people definitely do use it that way… It sounds like they were just throwing it out there just so you would stop bugging them.” He would know better than I.
Before we get to the 97-minute chat (that will seriously amaze you), how about a bit of background?
Amazon Prime Nickel And Dime
Back in May I placed an order that contained, among other items, some baby food. We were counting on this food to arrive on time as our current supply was nearly gone. Later, when I checked on the shipping status I saw that the package had been delayed: a pain, since I was running short on time.
I initiated a chat session with Amazon support to figure out what happened. I asked the support representative, Geancarlo, what the problem with my shipment was and also asked him to check on my past three orders since they had all been late. The next sentence that popped up in the chat interface, in broken English, was this:
08:49 AM PDT Geancarlo: I was checking the past orders and the carriers hasn’t send us why the orders have been delayed, I do apologize for this inconvenience, to compensate this delay, let me extend your prime membership for one month for free for this
After getting disconnected (whyyyyyy?), I informed Geancarlo, upon his return, that I would now have to go to the store to buy some baby food (defeating the purpose of relying upon Amazon for such important items in the first place). He issued a refund and I went on with my day.
It’s been over a month now and the compensation Geancarlo promised has yet to materialize. And this is just one instance, out of several, where an Amazon employee attempted to satiate me by offering a Prime membership extension (which one Amazon support employee told me they shouldn’t have done in the first place as my account wasn’t even able to accept these extensions due to the account type — more on that later).
As I began to dig into this whole mess, trying to uncover whether or not I was getting scammed by Amazon support (and why), I assumed that I had Amazon Prime because I had been getting free two-day shipping. Well I did… and I didn’t.
Somehow, I actually had AmazonFresh which is very similar to Prime, but has some differences. For one thing the support structure is very different than Amazon Prime’s support structure. AmazonFresh, according to my source, has a small, tight-knit support group that operates out of one building. According to him, they were able to offer better customer support than Amazon Prime’s splintered support division (which resides in Washington, Kentucky and countries abroad).
Ryan, the support rep from AmazonFresh, told me that because his department was so small, his superiors would give him hell if he didn’t follow up with me and get my problem fixed. He never followed up. I’m guessing he never caught hell either.
The 97-Minute Chat
This morning I finally found a resolution after spending 97 minutes chatting with Rachel from Amazon Support. The chat was deeply aggravating, at times hilariously so, and above all an incredible waste of my time. After awhile, it just became a matter of principle and I wanted Amazon to admit their failure:
Amazingly, Rachel would not admit — at first — that Amazon was even to blame for this mess.
This chat actually lasted from 7:36 until 9:13 AM, but I’ll spare you the first hour of the conversation in which Rachel had already proposed a couple of unacceptable solutions and jump to the section where we finally come to a resolution:
08:36 AM PDT Chris: I just want to hear you say it was Amazon’s own fault. Please say that.
08:38 AM PDT Chris: Rachel…? It’s not hard. This is not my fault. Please admit that.
08:40 AM PDT Chris: I can see you starting to type and stopping again.
08:40 AM PDT Rachel: It’s not Amazon’s fault, Chris. It is a shortcoming from our previous agent.
08:41 AM PDT Chris: Who does Geancarlo work for then?
08:41 AM PDT Rachel: I will make sure that the agent will be properly coach.
08:41 AM PDT Chris: Who does Geancarlo work for?
08:42 AM PDT Rachel: He works from Amazon, Chris. And I do apologize for that.
08:43 AM PDT Chris: So if he works for Amazon, then this whole mess IS IN FACT Amazon’s fault, correct? Otherwise you are saying it is my fault. Is that what you are saying?
08:47 AM PDT Rachel: I am not saying that it is not your fault, Chris. It is just that on my opinion it’s not fair to blame Amazon just because of the shortcoming of one of it’s workers. I hope that you don’t misunderstood this Chris. I don’t want you as a valued customer to experience such an inconvenience. Believe me this is not what Amazon wants you to experience. But I really understand your point.
08:47 AM PDT Chris: Hold on…
08:48 AM PDT Chris: You’re not saying it’s NOT my fault? So you’re saying it IS my fault?
And this is not one employee that messed up. I’ve spent over 215 minutes chatting with Amazon support over the last couple of months… 215 minutes! And this chat is just making that number skyrocket.
08:49 AM PDT Chris: Those 215 minutes were not spent talking to one single employee.
08:50 AM PDT Rachel: It’s not what I meant, Chris. It is not your fault. Okay? It is our fault.
08:50 AM PDT Chris: There was Mark Joseph, there was Phillip, there was Adrian, there was Geancarlo, there was Arnold, there was Abigail, there was Reinalyn, there was Daniel, there was Alexa, there was Emili, there was Eunice and now there is Rachel
08:51 AM PDT Chris: Thank you!!!
08:51 AM PDT Rachel: I do apologize for all the inconvenience, Chris. I am just trying to help
08:53 AM PDT Chris: I appreciate that. Thank you. Now lets try to brainstorm some other ways to solve this. What about a gift card for three months? Let’s think outside the box to find the right solution.
It’s just a matter of principle at this point.
08:53 AM PDT Rachel: How about this, Chris.
08:54 AM PDT Chris: Amazon has screwed me too many times to let them get away with yet another unfulfilled promise.
08:55 AM PDT Rachel: I have calculated the Prime membership fee and for 3 months you will have to pay $24.75. How about issuing the same amount as a promotional credit on your account. Will that work? Or let’s make it $30, Chris.
08:56 AM PDT Rachel: Will that be okay for you?
08:57 AM PDT Chris: Yes, that will do. Thank you for finding a better solution.
But I’m going to wait here and refresh my account until I see it come through.
08:58 AM PDT Rachel: It will not show as a credit on your account, Chris. Since, its a promo credit it will automatically apply on your future order and you will see it on your order summary.
08:59 AM PDT Rachel: You can use this on items sold and ship by Amazon.com.
09:00 AM PDT Chris: I have a headache now.
Prime Slime: Unforgivable Hypocrisy
I’ve done a lot of talking about various chat sessions I’ve had with Amazon’s support staff recently, but I’ve also been spending a lot of time on the phone. One call in particular did a very good job of ticking me off.
“At Amazon, we are working to be the most customer-centric company on earth.” That’s from a job listing advertising a position within Amazon’s support infrastructure. Now how does that statement sync up with an Amazon support supervisor hanging up on a customer who mentioned wanting to hold the company accountable? Obviously it doesn’t, but that’s exactly what happened.
After who knows how many minutes I wasted talking with an Amazon support rep about yet another problem they couldn’t help me with, I asked to speak to the person’s supervisor.
When the supervisor came on the line, a Mr. Bauer (Bower?), I informed him that I was a technology writer and intended to record the call. He said something along the lines of needing to hang up in that case. I told him that Amazon records calls and that I was doing the same. He informed me that Amazon did so for quality assurance purposes. I said I was doing exactly the same thing. Before I could even negotiate with him, Bauer terminated the call.
I can’t be sure if this is Amazon’s official policy or whether this was simply a scared employee or jerk who was more concerned with looking out for himself than Amazon’s customers. In any case, this is completely unacceptable. It shows that Amazon is not willing to be transparent; that there are things they would prefer not to deal with or keep hidden.
Why is it okay for Amazon to record customers but not okay for customers to record Amazon? It’s not.
The Real Crime
Amazon is guilty of stealing my time and my happiness. And, until I finally got the aforementioned credit, my money as well.
I used to think of Amazon as amazing. Now, I think it will be amazing if I ever order anything from the service again. For that reason, I’m anxiously awaiting the public launch of Jet, a service that aims to be an Amazon killer (launched by a former Amazon employee).
Hitting Amazon’s “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart” buttons used to be sort of thrilling. More recently, though, hitting those buttons left me with the (correct) feeling that I wasn’t actually done placing orders. That’s because so many of my recent orders have been plagued with problems (so many that I’ve literally lost count).
Amazon has a major malfunction in it’s customer service department which is apparent from the outset of trying to get in touch with the company. Whereas a company like Apple, which is notorious for it’s legions of satisfied “fanboys”, reveals useful support information within one simple click on it’s website, it takes more than ten clicks to find a way to get in touch with Amazon support. Here’s a (tortuous) example:
Help > Need More Help? > Contact US > An Order I Placed > Choose A Different Order > Load More Orders > Load More Orders > Load More Orders > Click On Correct Order > Select An Issue (Problem With My Order) > Select Issue Details > Damaged Item > Email, Phone or Chat
In my opinion, and the opinion of at least one Amazon support representative I spoke with, there are certain Amazon support employees that are deliberately misleading customers with false promises.
Amazon: I suggest ridding your logo — the face of your brand — of the implied smile. You’ve certainly wiped the smile off of my face.
Note: Amazon was asked for comment for this story but maintained radio silence.