With Amazon becoming an increasingly omnipotent presence in our consumer lives, how can the e-commerce retailer moderate the difference between actual consumer fraud and the rate of legitimate return orders—20 percent of all online purchases during the course of the year, and as high as 30 to 50 percent of all holiday season orders, according to Shopify?
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon may be banning or penalizing customers who return what the retail giant considers "too many orders" over time.
WSJ alleged that Amazon has banned consumers from making purchases on their e-commerce site for practices such as returning too many items. Without warning—and without refunding gift card or credit balances or Prime membership dues. Even though WSJ calculated that affected users had returned only 10 percent or fewer of their total purchases—half the industry standard for online returns. (And The Guardian ran a similarly substantiated story in 2016.)
When reached for comment about what might then qualify a customer as someone who returns orders "too frequently over time," resulting in them getting the red flag and subsequently banned from future purchases, an Amazon spokesperson would only tell AT:
"We want everyone to be able to use Amazon, but there are rare occasions where someone abuses our service over an extended period of time. We never take these decisions lightly, but with over 300 million customers around the world, we take action when appropriate to protect the experience for all our customers. If a customer believes we've made an error, we encourage them to contact us directly so we can review their account and take appropriate action."
The WSJ story this week featured one consumer, Nir Nissim, who said he was banned from using Amazon because of his return activity, but eventually had his account reinstated after several calls to Amazon.
In 2016, The Guardian reported the story of a computer programmer, Greg Nelson, who was a self-described "Amazon addict" and then was kicked off the e-commerce site after returning 37 of the 343 items he purchased over a two-year period—goods Nelson claims were legitimately faulty, damaged, or not as described. Nelson also claims he wasn't allowed to reclaim an unused gift card credit balance, either.
The Guardian story also featured another "power user" customer, Katy Kilmarton, who claims that her Amazon account was shut down after she returned 30 out of 112 items bought, and said she also lost a £170 gift card balance plus the remaining months of her Amazon Prime membership, which cost her £79 per year.
Several Amazon customers have taken to Twitter to share their own stories of being #BannedFromAmazon or having an #AmazonSuspension and are asking for #AmazonClarity around the retail giant's return policy—especially when the efficient, "no questions asked" 30-day return policy is one of their major lures away from traditional brick-and-mortar shopping for many convenience-seeking consumers.