Amazon gives customer silent treatment after closing his account – and us, too

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By | February 7th, 2016

After months of the silent treatment from Amazon.com, Richard Thripp wrote to us for help. The company permanently closed Thripp’s account in August, without explanation. Despite his repeated attempts to find out why this happened, Thripp remains in the dark.

On top of closing his account, Amazon has kept the gift card balance, totaling $451, that he had on the account. Each time Thripp requested justification for Amazon’s actions, he got nowhere. When he called, he would be placed on hold, and eventually the call would cut off. Frustrated, Thripp ultimately filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Attorney General and the Washington Attorney General.

How could this happen? Amazon is known for its top-notch customer service. When I return a purchase to Amazon, I receive an email within minutes that my refund has been processed, often before the package even gets to the loading dock of my office building.

Amazon makes me want to shop with them. When there’s a package on my front porch, I remember how much I dislike driving to any number of brick and mortar stores, with kids in tow, to track down whatever is in the box.

Many moons ago, Amazon was just a place to buy discounted college textbooks. In the last fifteen years, it has grown into a retail behemoth, and I hate to admit it, but it’s where I buy salon shampoo and Splenda, too. I brag on Dec. 21 that — because I have Amazon Prime — I haven’t even started Christmas shopping.

Is this a problem? You tell me. Let’s take a look to see just who we’re dealing with.

Related story:   Bookstores are dying and it's your fault

When Thripp filed his complaints with the BBB and the Attorneys General, Amazon responded in writing that the closing of the account is “valid and final.” In response to the complaint filed with the Washington Attorney General, the Seattle-based company wrote:

I’m sorry for the trouble Mr. Thripp’s had in accessing his account.

I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp received from our Account Specialist team is correct. As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

Mr. Thripp can review our Conditions of Use.

Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we’re unable to discuss with Mr. Thripp, and the decision to close his account is a final one.

What?

If Amazon closes your account, it is unable to discuss that with you? It can swallow your gift card balance, and its reasons for doing so are proprietary? I’m sorry. I know I’m slow to catch on. But did Amazon just tell the highest authority in its state of incorporation that it is above the law?

Some people think they’re above the law. Some people act like they’re above the law. It takes a special brand of chutzpah to tell the highest legal authority in the state, “We don’t have to tell anyone anything; our website says so.”



  • Alan Gore

    This is the “nobody’s home” problem with online businesses that has been noted here before. Though Amazon makes it easy for an existing customer to rectify problems with an order, if for any reason you lose your account, you lose all contact with the company. This one is a particularly flagrant case.

  • Roger S

    Maybe it was closed due to frequent product returns. I see that discuses on the camera forums often. They can’t keep your money :(

  • Nathan Witt

    Whenever this sort of thing comes up with other retailers, it’s generally either because the customer unknowingly purchased a gift card from a source that traffics in gift cards used to launder money from stolen credit cards, or because the customer themselves did something shady. I’ve never heard, on this site or others, of anyone having their account cancelled by anyone when they weren’t either using gift cards or repeatedly reporting that merchandise had never been delivered. Amazon probably thinks that this customer committed fraud in some way, and they can’t safely accuse the customer of that or report it to Chris’s team or the attorney general without the risk of libel charges, so they just cancel the account and go silent. It’s probable that this customer did nothing wrong, other than buy a gift card from what appeared to be a legitimate source, and I certainly wish Amazon would give him the opportunity to show that he paid for the gift card and work on ways to make the gift cards themselves more secure, but I understand why they act the way they do.

  • Fishplate

    The article indicates that Amazon won’t discuss issues that may be fraudulent or criminal in nature. Nowhere does it indicate what sort of account Mr. Thripp had (Buyer? Seller?) or the nature and origin of Mr. Thripp’s gift card balance.

    I certainly don’t have any idea either, but merely point out that Amazon may have a perfectly legitimate reason for keeping mum regarding the reason for closing his account. I don’t see any reason why they should keep his money without any explanation, though. Perhaps they have a reason that isn’t disclosed to us?

  • Lee

    There is something missing from this story. I just don’t believe the person asking for help explained everything in full. However, whatever the reason for the ban, keeping their gift money was, obviously, outrageous and glad it seems sorted though it should never take this much to get that done.

    I once had a credit card stolen (by a clerk in a shop in Manhattan – it turned out to be quite an organized racket) and I knew exactly where it happened and when and I tried to give (and then get) info to my bank about the details of that theft (as the thieves did use my card in one day to charge over $1700 of clothes), they wouldn’t take the information from me and then told me that they couldn’t inform me of the outcome of their investigation – ever.

    Seems perhaps a business standard of operation re: fraud like this – who knows. Corporations and banks do seem to function many times under a different set of laws than the rest of us peons.

  • Mike

    Fraud detection is always proprietary, however, I believe in this case the customer is entitled to find out why his account was banned, and take steps to secure his financial dealings if somehow the account did get compromised.

    The fact that Amazon was gonna keep his $400+ worth of gift funds is outrageous tho. That’s his money, not theirs.

    Something stinks here, but I can’t put my finger on it.

  • That’s crazy. But it’s the state of customer service today–putting a big distance between a vendor and customers. Very sad.

  • flutiefan

    “I’d like to confirm the information Mr. Thripp received from our Account Specialist team is correct.”
    so he did receive information. he just didn’t like it.

  • Pat

    There is one very important piece of information missing from Mr. Thripp’s information. How did he accumulate the gift card balance? Was it from gift cards purchased from Amazon or was it from gift cards purchased at a discount from some other web site? If it was from another web site and the gift cards were purchased using stolen credit cards I can see justification in Amazon’s response. In their eyes, he could be the criminal, not just an additional victim. If they were purchased directly from Amazon by Mr. Thripp, they owe him an explaination.

  • Carchar

    I guess that Amazon, as well as other corporations that act similarly, have something to hide. Perhaps they are covering up for their own fraudulent dealings and actions.

  • Lifetime Expat

    Unless Amazon had good reason (Fraudulent gift cards, etc.) The attempt to retain his funds was attempted theft, and should be reported as such to the police. If corporations are legally people, why can’t we put a corporation behind bars? I guarantee that if you did this to a business, the police would be called, turnaround seems fair.

  • I found out in the reply from Amazon’s Exec. Cust. Relations team that it was closed due to my Amazon Local Register account under a different email address being closed. The ALR account was closed in May 2015 and they didn’t close my customer account until Aug. 2015. I was using the ALR account to cash out prepaid rebate cards received from mail-in rebates, which were in my name. It is against the ALR terms, but is not illegal, nor a valid pretext to steal a gift card balance. Also, my ALR account was under a different email and was suspended 3 months earlier (with that Amazon account having full access to Amazon’s other services), so that is why I did not think of that being the reason for the banning of both Amazon accounts.

  • Well, I know how a lot of people love to side with the big guy, but you’ve just discounted a whole bunch of cases of mistaken identity or misaffiliation. Ever heard of family members or even people who used public Wi-Fi getting banned from eBay and/or PayPal due to another “shady” customer having used the same IP address, computer, or physical address, and the innocent customers getting caught in the net? It happens quite often.

  • There was no information received. The Account Specialist team never actually contacted me. On 8/25/2015, I was unable to log into my Amazon account due to it saying my username and/or password was incorrect. I called in multiple times to customer service and they said an “Account Specialist” would get back to me by phone or email within 24 hours, which never happened. Only after filing complaints with the BBB and Washington AGO did I receive that response, and it was incorrect since no Account Specialist ever contacted me. Full report here: http://thripp.com/files/amazon/thripp-v-amazon-report-20160123-public.pdf

  • Byron Cooper

    I have been an Amazon customer for years. Their customer service has been superb. My wife has a separate account. Her American Express card got hacked and the card was replaced. While she was waiting for the replacement card an Amazon charge was declined. The Amazon fraud department could not have been more professional. I cannot blame Amazon for not disclosing the details of the OPs issues with Amazon, particularly if there was disparaging information. We don’t know the details of the OPs communications with Amazon. I strongly suspect that they told him why they canceled his account.

  • Mostly, I purchased 100 small gift cards per month in May, June, and July 2015 using my Discover Cashback Checking debit card to receive 20¢ in rewards per transaction with a promotion they were doing. These gift card amounts ranged from 50¢–74¢ and were purchased in my name and applied to my account by me. I also had purchased Amazon gift cards at Kmart and Sears using my BankAmericard Cash Rewards credit card when they had a 10% or 15% cashback offer at these merchants, which I applied to my account. I wrote more info in this blog post: http://thripp.com/2016/01/discover-card-amazon-irony/

  • I didn’t try filing a police report, but I did report it to the Internet Crime Complain Center (recently; no response yet) and filed a small claims suit, which was rejected by them because I sued JEFFREY PRESTON BEZOS, C.E.O. OF AMAZON.COM, INC and they refused to accept the summons at the Legal Department at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, WA, because a paralegal told the King County deputy sheriff that the Legal Department “cannot accept service on behalf of an employee.” The judge in my case granted my request to amend the case against AMAZON.COM, INC. directly, or their registered agent, Corporation Service Company. I am waiting to hear if Amazon’s Executive Customer Relations team will pay my court fees before I proceed with amending my small claims lawsuit.

  • They did not disclose the reason and you can read my entire paper trail up to 1/23/2016 here: http://thripp.com/files/amazon/thripp-v-amazon-report-20160123-public.pdf

    Amazon’s customer service is very good for customers who are not blacklisted. It changes drastically when you are blacklisted. Just because you and your wife have not experienced the bad side of Amazon’s customer service does not mean it does not exist, nor does it discredit me.

  • Nathan Witt

    I’m not discounting those cases at all. I know they happen, and as I said, I wish “the big guy” would give those customers the opportunity to respond and demonstrate their innocence. But I want corporations to take steps to reduce fraud, not only because it isn’t right that thieves get free merchandise, but because it drives up the prices for honest people. I am making assumptions here, and I know that I am, but I base them on similar cases. “Corporations should ignore cases of fraud because innocent people might get caught in the net” is an understandable position, but it has its drawbacks, just like mine. There are no “good” solutions as long as people insist on behaving unethically.

  • KennyG

    It will also change drastically once the threat of legal action takes place. No one but a corporate lawyer [or their outside counsel] should ever communicate with you once you have put forth the “I am suing you, or notifying the Attorney General” threat. Once that takes place, you are in their “no one communicates with this person” zone except for legal.

  • Nathan Witt

    Thanks for the additional details. I see that my comment and response to your comment above were based on bad assumptions, and I apologize. No, you probably shouldn’t do things that are against the terms of service, but even if they choose to stop doing business with you, that doesn’t give them the right to take your money, as long as that money was legally placed in your account (and it sounds as if it was).

  • GEMDlady

    With all due respect, you were using Amazon as a bank. With multiple small gift cards and the application of store bought Amazon cards, it sure looked fishy. Granted, they should have better communicated with you. But it appears you were gaming various systems yourself. Glad you got your credit, but don’t recommend trying that again.

  • MarkKelling

    Doing that caused every possible fraud alert alarm to go off both at Discover and Amazon. I’m surprised your Discover card was not blocked as well. Charging small amounts to see if they will go through is a common practice when a card number is stolen.

    I understand that nothing you did is illegal. (It does seem like a lot of work.) But I would just simply take the money and run since they are offering you that option.

  • Rebecca

    The reason that an online business will absolutely never, ever under ANY circumstances give out the address an item was shipped to is strictly a liability issue. If the fraud victim confronted someone at that address, and any injury resulted, the business is then liable for giving out the information. They WILL release the information to law enforcement, depending on the circumstances. I spoke to many a customer that screamed at me for quite a long time because I wouldn’t give them this information. It doesn’t matter if they tell me they just want to give it to law enforcement, the business is still liable if anything were to happen. I’d give them my phone number and tell them to have law enforcement contact me.

  • AAGK

    Amazon is paying Mr Thripp $450 to go away just to re-ban him again?!!…..Does the author really believe this was a totally arbitrary decision and and consumers everywhere are at risk of Amazon’s whims? Her evidence– that Amazon refused to give her the IP address of her burglar. What was the author going to do with that information? Drive somewhere to confront him and demand he return her computer? Amazon has a mammoth security department that works with law enforcement all the time. The author should have contacted the police with the Amazon breach and let law enforcement take the appropriate steps. Mr. Thripp and the author’s experiences indicate the company is thriving and despite its size, continues to protect accounts, identify threats and maintain human interaction with its customers.

  • Éamon deValera

    If someone steals your money and won’t give it back sue them. It is quite easy in Florida. The BBB is useless and in the pocket of business in my opinion. They are not a consumer advocacy organization.

  • Éamon deValera

    You knowingly violated Amazon’s terms – to which you agreed- and you were at a loss to understand why your account was closed. Simply amazing. You asked people to advocate for you without giving them all of the details. Not very nice.

  • Éamon deValera

    After reading further comments it is good that the ‘victim’ didn’t sue as he has no case and would be out the costs of the prosecution of the lawsuit at the minimum.

  • Éamon deValera

    While this is not legal advice as I’m not licensed in your state: you’ll lose. You violated a contract to which you agreed.

    The coropration’s staff is right, they can’t accept service for a person.

    Why would Amazon pay your court fees. I’m surprised you’re not getting arrested for filing a false police report.

  • The terms violated regarding Amazon Local Register are very generic. Also, I did not learn of the “reason” for the banning until AFTER asking Elliott for help. There are plenty of laws that protect gift card balances that Amazon has violated, such as the 2009 CARD act, Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington, and Florida Statute 501.95; primarily the clauses dealing with expiration of gift card balances.

  • I wouldn’t advocate corporations ignoring cases of suspected fraud. There is a big gulf between Amazon’s behavior and fair and effective fraud prevention.

  • The accounts I had are a buyer account and another buyer account with an Amazon Local Register account. While we can speculate at length to Amazon’s reasons, and also speculate about how the blacklisting is justified, it is not really fair for Amazon to have a monopoly on the information.

  • There are laws protecting you from credit card fraud like that. I know the laws have strengthened recently, so if it was decades ago, they may have been able to get away with that. However, nowadays, if you report a fraudulent charge within 60 days, you should not be liable. Reporting the fraud by mail affords you more protection than reporting it by phone or online, though you should do all 3.

  • Actually, “gaming” the system is irrelevant because it does not change the fact that Amazon is in violation of the federal 2009 CARD act, Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington, and Florida Statute 501.95 by causing a non-promotional gift card balance to become permanently expired.

  • Not true—I didn’t once have a fraud alert from Discover Bank, and I was never contacted about it by Amazon. Also, I will take the money, but they still haven’t gotten back to me on their decision about it, since I asked for court fees in addition, and also that they stop trying to collect on a textbook that I returned (being blacklisted, I was unable to log into my Amazon customer account to print the return shipping label for my rented textbook—Amazon instructed me to mail it and pay the shipping myself, which I did, but they still think I have the textbook, despite that I have delivery confirmation).

  • Lee

    True. I have one bank that took a ridiculous amount of time to resolve what was obviously (to them and me) two fraudulent charges – took over 2 months for them to resolve; Amex and Chase remove the charges immediately no questions asked, actually, same with Bank of America. HSBC? Not so much….

  • Rebecca

    You had to have some idea. We see this a LOT here. Someone’s account is suspended. They claim they have no idea why. Then come to find out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation that the consumer didn’t share from the beginning.

  • Please re-read. I DIDN’T try filing a police report. No police report has been filed. What would most likely happen if I re-filed my amended small claims suit is that Amazon would not show up for the pre-trial conference (I’m in FL — a long way from WA) and I would get a default judgment. Then, I would get a writ of execution and it would probably still be difficult to get Amazon to pay out.

    If I file the amended suit, it’s likely the judge will end up awarding me court fees anyway (though possibly not the summons delivery cost for the previous summons to the CEO). Therefore I am just asking for what I would probably get anyway.

    Naming a small claims suit against the CEO of a company has been effective before—here is an article about a man who sued the CEO of Delta Airlines in 2011 in small claims court, successfully: http://articles.mcall.com/2011-02-05/news/mc-watchdog-suing-in-small-claims-cou20110205_1_small-claims-court-delta-s-ceo-damages

    It is likely that the service would have been valid if the deputy sheriff would have just placed the papers on the legal department’s desk and told the paralegal at the desk “you have been served.” Source: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/serving-a-lawsuit-what-to-do-when-the-defendant-refuses-to-accept-court-papers

    In all of the emails from Amazon except the most recent one, I was told the reason for the banning is:

    As noted in our Conditions of Use, in the section, “Your Account”: “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

    The above is a direct quote from Amazon’s Suresh Potnuru and Mohammad (Mohammad did not supply a last name).

    Of course, there are plenty of laws that protect gift card balances that Amazon has violated, such as the 2009 CARD act, Chapter 19.240 of the Revised Code of Washington, and Florida Statute 501.95. Wielding their Conditions of Use as such is legally untenable.

    You can read my entire paper trail up to 1/23/2016 here: http://thripp.com/files/amazon/thripp-v-amazon-report-20160123-public.pdf

  • Amazon is a different animal and actually goes straight to the “no one communicates with this person” zone IMMEDIATELY. Only AFTER complaints and legal actions are filed do they communicate. If you read my communications log (paper trial), you’ll see that I waited over 3 months to file a small claims suit, and made dozens of contact requests before stepping up my actions: http://thripp.com/files/amazon/thripp-v-amazon-report-20160123-public.pdf

  • This is not relevant to my case. I wasn’t shipping items to other peoples addresses. I wasn’t drop-shipping. I don’t even have a seller account.

  • Grant Ritchie

    What?! That NEVER happens (wink, wink; nudge, nudge). :-)

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Richard,

    Ya know, you don’t HAVE to respond to the comments here. So far, you’re doing a masterful job of conducting this discussion… but don’t let yourself get spun up.

    Your friendly neighborhood moderator,
    Me

  • Of course—there are plenty of reasons I could be banned, but none of them provide legal support to steal a gift card balance, and it’s not fair for me to have to speculate on Amazon’s behalf because they wouldn’t provide an explanation.

    Also, the fact that Gabriele Masili, the Global Director of Digital & Device Customer Service at Amazon.com, Inc., thought my issue was important enough to refer it to the Amazon Executive Customers Relations team, and that they are now offering to refund the gift card balance, is evidence that they were in the wrong.

    We are dealing here with a clear-cut issue. Just imagine if you went into Walmart and they escorted you out of the store and removed your Walmart gift cards from your person because they said they can refuse business to whomever they want? Is it that different just because it’s online and they don’t have to say it to your face?

    Amazon, in their replies to the FL AGO, WA AGO, and BBB, used this condition to justify withholding my gift card balance and banning my account:

    “Amazon reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders in its sole discretion.”

    This is an illegal act.

  • That is excellent you got your money, finally, but it should not have been that difficult with HSBC. The bad part of this is that you are a highly educated consumer. What about all the consumers who don’t know about consumer protection laws and get ripped off because they never petition for redress? I have met people who didn’t ask for their money back due to debit card fraud, and the bank never offered, even though the bank had to issue them a new debit card!

  • Thanks—of course I know that! I always read the comments myself after reading an article like this, so I want readers to see that there is a reasonable response to the dissenting opinions from commentators. I will definitely not continue replying to comments that address repetitive issues, and most of the issues have now been covered.

  • Lee

    Thankfully, they never actually charged me for the fraudulent amounts, just did not clear the two charges off my account for that length of time but what I learned then is how very behind the times in numerous ways HSBC is compared to other banks – not sure why. J

    ust accessing their website to do basic banking is a challenge and calling? Yikes. You need to actually enter a code when you call then go through a few more hoops after that before you get to a human.

    I understand that security is crucial but the irony is that I had used their card one time for a very small amount (in Italy) and it was cloned in Italy and 3 months later used at a business in San Francisco. So, I had used that card one time only in Italy and never again – so with all the security, it happened the first (and last) time out – actually, kind of funny – now, anyway.

    Bummer is they don’t charge foreign transaction fees and I am going again and would love to use it…. Oh well. it is now living in my drawer, quietly and will stay that way.

  • I have sued Amazon in small claims court. I was unsuccessful at having the summons served, since I filed it wrongly. However, the judge was sympathetic at the pre-trial conference and approved my motion to amend the suit.

    Small claims court does not typically award prosecution costs. I actually have a strong case because what has been stolen is a gift card balance. If we were dealing with a rewards balance, promotional gift card, credit card points, or frequent flyer miles, my case would be weak, since those can be seized easily. However, gift cards have many legal protections.

    Amazon’s Conditions of Use enforces binding arbitration, but allows for small claims suits. It would be difficult to pursue a civil lawsuit since I already agreed to binding arbitration by using Amazon’s services, and such clauses have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • I have never banked with HSBC, but I have dealt with a lot of backward banks since I sometimes open accounts when promotional incentives are offered. I would definitely just drop them. You probably have another credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Discover is a good one, but isn’t widely accepted in many foreign countries. But there are others that are Visa cards.

  • I agree! My take on it is that Amazon’s profit margins are razor-thin, and they behave this way to increase their free cash flow. Google AdSense does it too; there are plenty of reports of people getting banned the very month they reach the $100 payout threshold. PayPal does it; their standard practice is to hold your money for 180 days when they ban you, and many bannings appear arbitrary and unfounded. Amazon is more commonly known for holding Marketplace Seller account balances for 90 days, and there was even a class action lawsuit about it in 2013. While these corporations hold your money, they use it to fund their operations, interest-free.

  • Lee

    That is true; my Amex doesn’t charge such fees but I like to have a back up; at least I have debit cards that don’t impose that fee.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Thanks yourself. :-) The only reason I said anything is because when a writer, or the subject of an article, involves him or herself in the comments, it almost always ends in a pissing contest. I’m pleasantly surprised at what I’m seeing here.

  • Éamon deValera

    None of those apply to the violation of the agreements into which you’ve entered. The laws about speeding are very generic but we can’t disregard them. You agreed to the conditions and you violated that agreement. You were given a time out and yet you continued to do what you were doing. Saying that you had no idea why your account was canceled is disingenuous.

    You’ve involved the police, the BBB, filed a lawsuit and involved Chris Elliott. You sir, are a bully. You keep digging up ways to harass Amazon until you get that which you are not due. You’re quite lucky that Amazon refunded your money- frankly I’m sure they did it so you would go away.

    You contemplate amending your lawsuit to name the proper corporate entity and yet you’ve been made whole – even though undeservedly so. What exactly are you going to sue for?

    A legal education is a fine thing, you don’t have one it seems and you’re misinterpreting the statutes you list. Next time you sue someone I suggest you consult a lawyer, or failing that one of the fine books from Nolo Press that provide information to persons regarding self-help.

  • Éamon deValera

    Yes you were banned for violating the term of the agreement into which you entered. You obtained gift cards or gift card credit in a way that violates the agreement. You are not entitled to that credit. That they gave it to you `is a gift.

    I predict that if you continue your lawsuit against them you will regret it greatly. If you push your police case I feel you will regret that as well.

    Your hypothetical is absurd and not at all related. You should quietly spend the money you’ve been give and stop telling everyone how you’ve been wronged.

    You’re exactly right the issue is clear cut. You obtained something of value fraudulently and are now annoyed that it was withheld from you. You like listing laws very much you might wish to go look at the laws about wire fraud, racketeering and scheming to defraud.

    You’re a rapscallion who would benefit from laying low rather than yelling from the mountain top about your purported victimization.

  • Éamon deValera

    No, it is not. If you robbed a bank and bought gift cards with the ill gotten gains they could be voided as well. You did exactly that. What you did was a crime, you seem to fail to grasp that.

  • Byron Cooper

    This sounds like a nightmare, straight out of Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”. While I have not had any problems with Amazon, I have had problems with other publicly traded companies. After going though normal channels, I look at public filings using the SEC website, http://www.sec.gov. From there, you can look up the 10 K and other documents and find the phone number and address of the Executive Office:
    410 Terry Avenue North
    Seattle, Washington 98109-5210
    (206) 266-1000
    Once you call the number ask for the executive office and most big companies have someone to take care of these types of problems before they escalate. I generally state that I am a loyal customer and want to continue doing business with them. I have had great success with this method.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Drifting close to the edge, Eamon. There’s no place for name-calling and insults here. Your comment is deleted. Feel free to appeal my action to Chris at elliottc@gmail.com.

  • Éamon deValera

    Trust me if you file an Amended complaint Amazon will have attorneys show up.

    You did file a police report the ICCC is part of the FBI.

    You’re incorrect about suing corporate officers, that is the whole point of incorporating, to create an entity so that the individuals are not personally responsible for the actions of the corporation.

    Service would not have been valid I can assure you. Saying “You have been served,” is not some magic incantation especially when you haven’t actually served the defendant.

    You’re in way over your head and you should probably just quit while your ahead.

    If you continue your lawsuit I wish I were the attorney representing whomever you amend your complaint to sue. You would rue the day.

  • Grant Ritchie

    More name-calling? Come on, Eamon… you’ve been around here long enough to know that doesn’t fly. Your comment is deleted. That’s strike two. Three strikes, and you’re going to be out. Please don’t let it come to that.

  • Eamon unfortunately is not actually understanding my case correctly; he still doesn’t understand that I have NOT filed a police report, and also seems to misunderstand the issues involving gift cards and believes I obtained gift card by theft, which is false.

  • Éamon deValera

    Yet you condone consumers using Chris Elliott as a cudgel to harass businesses whilst they have several open complaints and lawsuits pending? It seems to me that the sullying of this sites good name would be more important than calling a bully a bully. Strike me if you wish, this is not my site. Chris Elliott’s site has been played for the fool and I’m not afraid to point that out.

  • Ludka v. Memory Magnetics Int’l (2nd Dist. 1972) 25 CA3d 316 is the case that Paul Muschick’s article cited, where a court ruled service was valid even though it was upon a receptionist who threw the papers in the trash.

    According to https://www.ic3.gov/faq/default.aspx the ICCC just refers cases to local law enforcement, who have pursue at their discretion. Filing a complaint with the ICCC is quite different from filing a police report directly with my local police or the police in Seattle, WA.

    I don’t think you have an accurate understanding of the case at all. Why would attorneys show up and defend Amazon in small claims court in Florida for a $500 issue? How would the attorneys get around the fact that I have statements acknowledging the gift card balance on record, and saying it won’t be returned? You do realize this is a small claims suit, not a full-fledged civil suit, correct?

  • I already called 206-266-1000 several times in late August and September 2015. I asked for the Executive Customer Relations department on two separate calls and was transferred to the overseas call center. I was never able to get in touch with the ECR department until now, thanks to Jessica Monsell of Elliott.org’s messages to Amazon employees on LinkedIn. Evidently, the ECR department will not take complaints unless an Amazon employee refers them. How’s that for customer relations?

  • Éamon deValera

    A small claims suit is a civil suit. Every corporation responds to every summons by attorney.

    If you feel you have the legal acumen to proceed by my guest.

  • Grant Ritchie

    OK. Well that was easy. Strike three, and you are out. You’re too valuable a commenter to be permanently blacklisted, but you’re out for today, Eamon. Come on, check yourself before you wreck yourself. See you tomorrow. Better days!

  • You are equating buying multiple small gift cards with legitimately acquired funds using a debit card in my name to bank robbery. You would claim to be a lawyer and descend into libel? I can see why you do not use your real name here.

  • There are literally hundreds of accounts of people filing small claims suits against corporations that result in the corporation not showing up and default judgment being made. It is very expensive to send a lawyer across the country for a small claims suit. Also, many jurisdictions won’t even allow lawyers in small claims court, so corporations would have to send a non-lawyer representative in those jurisdictions.

  • llandyw

    I read through the comments here (up to the point where details were admitted).

    Amazon has a pretty clear TOS when it comes to gift cards. But there’s another issue here. Gift cards, apparently purchased using one Amazon account and redeemed on another. This definitely violates Amazon’s TOS.

    This other issue. When using a credit card to get a cash advance, the APR is usually higher, and is limited to half the credit limit. Using a credit card to purchase gift cards, then turning around and redeeming those cards for cash (or “store” credit) amounts to circumventing the half credit limit and cash advance APR. This would be fraud.

    If, as it appears to be, that Mr. Thripp was doing this, he’s lucky a lawsuit hasn’t been filed against him by the credit card issuer.

  • AAGK

    So the small gift card amounts were to trade them in for cash in a state where that is permitted under $10, which you maximized through the discover 5% cash back category. Why was this a story about mystery and customer service? You aren’t a customer of Amazon, the only thing you bought was a text book you returned. Next week’s story will be the mystery of your Discover account closure and then your bank account closure. You violated the terms of all 3.

  • llandyw

    Another bit of info I just found out.. ALR no longer exists anyway. No new customers after October, and all else was shut down 2/1/2016. Probably too much abuse of the system. Found this out at localregister.amazon

  • The small gift card amounts were purchased by me with a Discover Cashback Checking debit card, not a Discover credit card. It was not to trade them in for cash, and it is not possible to trade Amazon gift cards for cash even in California, due to how they are applied to your account as stored value. Discover Cashback Checking was offering a promotion where account holders would get a 20¢ bonus on every debit card purchase, up to a maximum of 100 transactions per month, during the months of May, June, and July 2015.

    I most certainly am a customer of Amazon and have made other purchases on my account. Also, I have not been a “problem” customer who returns items frequently. However, even violations of Amazon’s Conditions of Use do not legally entitle them to seize a gift card balance from a “problem” customer, except in specific circumstances involving fraud.

    I suppose you would side with Groupon in the amply documented cases where they have punished customers who bought more than 1 of a “limit 1” promotion by not delivering the item, continuing to charge their debit or credit card, and refusing to provide a refund?

  • Barthel

    In some cases, the police do not take appropriate action even when they have the name and address of the culprit. That is why the victim needs this information. When the legal process fails, the victim should be free to take vigilante action if he so chooses.

  • Amazon gift cards can be purchased on one Amazon account and redeemed on another. Once the code is redeemed, they act as stored balance on that account and cannot be transferred to another account. However, prior to being redeemed, Amazon gift cards are transferable. Like most gift cards, they are intended to be given as a “gift” to another person.

    If you read more closely, you’ll see that I purchased gift cards using a Discover Cashback Checking debit card, not a Discover credit card. I know, many people are not aware, but Discover Bank offers checking and savings accounts including debit cards with actual PIN numbers, all on the Discover payment processing network.

    Also, your understanding of cash advances is ludicrous. There is no burden on the card user to ensure that purchases are being encoded “correctly” as cash advances.

    Also, the purchases I made with my BankAmericard were using a credit card, but it is perfectly legitimate to go to Sears, Kmart, or any other store and buy gift cards with credit. These purchases are never coded as cash advances. Using Amex Offers, Citi ThankYou Premier Officers, BankAmeriDeals, or other promotional offers to obtain a statement credit at a retailer by purchasing a gift card is perfectly legal and generally only in violation of vague and legally unenforceable terms with the card issuer involving their rights to terminate accounts for any reason at any time.

  • Barthel

    You need an attitude adjustment.

  • I saw that too. They were trying to compete with PayPal and Square. All such services deal with plenty of fraud and abuse. There are also lucrative cash flow opportunities for the corporation, derived on “float” and by holding balances for 90–180 days, which PayPal, Square, and Amazon are all known for. Amazon probably gave up since it’s a hard market to succeed in.

  • William_Leeper

    Already dealt with today. Thank you for the input. Next time, please simply flag the comment so it can be dealt with appropriately.

    Thanks
    Your friendly moderator.

  • AAGK

    I’m not familiar with the Groupon issue. You have a very detailed understanding of Amazon’s position. I guess I don’t understand where the Amazon silent treatment occurred. I get that you think your violation isn’t fraud, but Amazon can void your balance for any violation of its terms.

  • You can read about the silent treatment in my paper trail, which I also provided to Elliott.org and have made public: http://thripp.com/files/amazon/thripp-v-amazon-report-20160123-public.pdf

    The issue is that Amazon CANNOT legally void a gift card balance for any violation of its terms. In fact, they would probably only have solid legal ground if it was an issue of a stolen credit card, identity theft, internal theft, or a customer-initiated chargeback regarding the gift card balance.

    Gift cards CANNOT be voided easily.

    Reward points, frequent flyer miles, and promotional offers CAN be voided easily. However, gift cards CANNOT be voided easily.

    This is why Amazon’s actions are so egregious. In fact, many of the issues Elliott.org deals with are far less clear-cut than this issue, involving travel issues that are resolved by VOLUNTARY concessions being made by airlines or hotels, rather than concessions that are actually mandated by law, such as refunding (or allowing the use of) a gift card balance.

    Just because Amazon’s gift cards are “applied” to your account does not mean they are any less legally protected than gift cards that are not bound to an account.

    Surprisingly, internal theft has actually been an issue at Amazon. Their fraud prevention processes leave a lot to be desired. Source: http://consumerist.com/2015/03/09/police-former-amazon-employee-siphoned-off-18000-in-gift-card-balances/

  • KennyG

    from your blog “….on 9/01/2015, and was forwarded back to the Retail department. I threatened both with the CFPB”.. seems to me you threatened them pretty early on in your attempts to get answers.

  • Your point is? Complaints to the Attorney General, CFPB, BBB, etc. are not legal actions according to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/legal+action and http://thelawdictionary.org/legal-action/

    Of course, now I have been enlightened that threatening to report a corporation for violating your rights immediately disqualifies you from receiving your property. I will contact Christopher Elliott immediately to have this article removed.

    Amazon, of course, is golden when they lie about an Account Specialist getting back to you, and when they misinform their call center reps to pretend a blacklisted account has an “issue” with your address not matching a credit card, which is clearly a deceptive practice.

  • KennyG

    “Of course, now I have been enlightened that threatening to report a corporation for violating your rights immediately disqualifies you from receiving your property.” I dont think I said anything like this, but in your everyone is out to get me world I guess that was your takeaway. My point is/was, if you come down off your high horse, I have done nothing illegal horse, is that most every business, to protect themselves, will, once they have been threatened with legal action of some kind [and contrary to your statement that threatening to report a corporation to the AG, BBB, CFPB etc, could not lead to some legal action simply because you state it is so] , stop having anyone except their legal people say anything to you. Keep deluding yourself that you can violate a companies terms of service [so long as you dont believe it is illegal], keep saying they have not right to do this or that, and once you grow up, you will find the world is not marching a beat to your drum, rather if you want to get along, you sometimes need to follow other peoples rules even though you may think them to be ridiculous or even anti-consumer. Simply because I pointed this out to you in an earlier response, you take it to mean I believe Amazon is golden. Companies, even golden Amazon, are constantly making mistakes, constantly treating consumers in bad, and even illegal ways. My point to you was rather simple, and you took it to the same kind of place that got you here in the first place. The I did nothing illegal, everyone else is wrong place. Good luck, and try reading what is written [in this case by me] before putting words into someone elses mouth. Grow up.

  • John Baker

    Hmmm… I thought Elliot.org avoided advocating where “travel hacking” or “manufactured spend” was involved.

  • AAGK

    The customer engaged in manufactured spending and Amazon closed his account as it warns it will in its Terms. This is hardly Kafka-esque, as someone in the comments suggested. In fact, it was a likely and easily predictable outcome.

  • AAGK

    Yes! I did as well. Manufactured spending hurts consumers by creating distrust, additional fees, inconvenience, etc.

  • Tricia K

    I’ve only had one bad experience with Amazon when they refused a refund (be careful of some of their third party sellers) because it was a personalized jersey. When I pointed out to them the quality was far inferior or. I basically got a tough crap answer. But I do know the frustration of trying to work out something with a company (in my case Hertz for a minor ding on a rental car in Ireland that was suspiciously just below the limits of my $2500 liability). Eventually I got a no, our charges were reasonable response, but Chris has tried to help me twice since and I think they are sticking to the silent treatment again.

    It does seem very unlike Amazon for the way you were treated. I have learned the hard way not to let anything sit on gift cards from any company for too long. They somehow have the right to start draining fees from those cards simply because you didn’t use it.

  • Tricia K

    I know it isn’t likely pleasant when you have to ban someone for whatever reason, but I appreciate the attempt to keep some of the nastiness out. It just turns off people who are asking for help. While we may have made some stupid mistakes or in my case, tried to save some money and lost that gamble, the whole point of this column/blog/whatever, is to help people who aren’t getting anywhere on their own.

  • whatup12

    How is this a crime? He took advantage of a special–do you feel the same way about David Phillips (ie, the pudding guy?).

  • whatup12

    i know you don’t have a lot of support here, but i see no issue here. you saw a special, you took advantage, and if not explicitly illegal, i just don’t see the problem. but then again, i always ask for extra shampoo at hotels…and TAKE IT WITH ME! :)

  • whatup12

    Wow–not a lot of support here for OP. To me, this guy took advantage of a special and spent a lot of time and effort doing it. And if angry at this guy, are all similarly angry with David Phillips–ie, the pudding master? Or any of the other folks who get credit cards cause they come with 35k bonus miles, etc. Companies have promotions for which they make tremendous amount of money (or they wouldn’t do it) and some small proportion of folks figure out how to take advantage. The company designing the promotion most likely realizes that some small proportion of the population will do this and then works out the potential liability associated with it and still make a decision on whether to go or no go. And if they didn’t realize a priori, then they will have learned for next time. I just don’t see the problem as long as not illegal or directly in contravention of the many rules quoted for these promotions.

  • William_Leeper

    We do our best at keeping things cordial here, but there are times when we do not succeed. Thank you for taking the time to notice.

    ~Your friendly moderator

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Your story about how Amazon suspected fraud but wouldn’t tell you anything about it is remarkably similar to how the IRS handles identity theft cases. I got a letter from them last year saying somebody else had used my Social Security number to file a return. They did supposedly keep the person from getting the refund they were hoping to receive but that is all the info you will get out of them. As long as people are paying taxes, the IRS isn’t terribly concerned with who is doing so or what information they are using. Sounds like Amazon thinks in a similar way.

  • BMG4ME

    At least they don’t expire gift cards, which a lot of companies do (and they used to). I see they relented on the hijacked gift card, which is the right thing to do. I suggest Richard take advantage of their doing this, and we stop attacking him, since he was good enough to tell us why this happened. I also feel kind of relieved that there was a reason, that they didn’t just pick on him randomly. NIce job Jessica and Chris is helping him to get his gift card balance back.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Tricia,
    You’re right… it isn’t pleasant mixing it up with our commenters, but our marching orders from Chris (with which I wholeheartedly agree) are, “No insults; no bullying!” The banned (temporarily) commenter will be welcomed back today, but the lesson has to be made clear. Thanks for understanding.
    Grant :-)

  • Tanya

    I was going to mention this as well. You think Amazon is bad, you haven’t dealt with the IRS…. They are supposed to start offering more information now, but I have yet to see that happen. You can always try a FOIA request. The IRS has to respond to those. :)

  • Grant Ritchie

    Ohhhh yeah… the pudding cup guy. I’d forgotten about him. Great point! Thanks for making it. :-)

  • They don’t expire gift cards because new laws no longer allowed it. That’s why most gift cards don’t expire now. If the laws didn’t change, Amazon would probably have continued having gift cards expire.

    They have actually been giving my the “silent” treatment again, you might say. They haven’t agreed to my request for court fees and for them to recognize the return of my textbook, and that was 5 days ago. I was told more time was needed. My account is temporarily unbanned, but they’ve promised to re-ban it after I spend my gift card balance, or alternately I can request a check, which I did. If I was to shop on Amazon with the gift card balance, I would actually be prohibited from returning any items; even defective or damaged items (Amazon does not allow blacklisted customers to return items).

    As for gift cards, the gift cards from Amazon, eBay/PayPal, Starbucks, and Target are especially risky. With eBay/PayPal, the risk comes when you have partial gift card balances, which are permanently linked to your PayPal account—if they decide for any reason to permanently limit your PayPal account, you can never use the balance again. With Target, the risk is with security of their mobile app. With Starbucks, they will just take all your stored gift card balance if you happen to buy a Starbucks gift card that was acquired with an allegedly stolen credit card, even if it’s from Raise, Cardpool, eBay, etc.

    With Amazon, we see there is a “spillover” effect where you could get banned and have your gift card balance taken, even for activities they don’t like on services unrelated to their retail operations, such as Amazon Local Register. Does the same apply for Amazon Associates, Amazon Marketplace sales, Amazon Web Services, etc.? Surely, many people who are blacklisted can’t complain publicly, because they have done nefarious things such as using a fake identity (because they have already been blacklisted for life before), drop-shipping, etc., and Amazon gets to keep all their gift card balance by a process that stinks like civil asset forfeiture.

  • I wrote a blog post about the commentators here: http://thripp.com/2016/02/amazon-case-update-and-elliott-org-story/

    I really don’t think they are representative of most of the readers. Also, if you’ll notice, many of them were so angry that they didn’t even read my other comments correctly; we still have people who think I filed a police report, who think I was acquiring gift cards illegally, who think I was “fraud[ulently] circumventing” cash advance fees, etc. By these standards (which are factually invalid), all of the members of http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/ deserve to be pilloried.

    The commentators accusing me of fraud make circular arguments, but never consider that I probably wouldn’t be publicizing or drawing attention to my issues if I had committed the fraud that some anonymous Internet commentators would allege.

  • If you’ll notice, Amazon has a lot of programs such as “Amazon Allowance” that encourage people to keep gift card balances on their accounts. Of course, Amazon operates with small profit margins and uses these balances as free cash flow. However, having an Amazon gift card balance can be bad for your financial health—in fact, most people either lose 0% or 100% of their gift card value. I would expect the takeaway to be, “don’t keep a gift card balance on your Amazon account,” but none of the commentators got that, even though the Amazon blacklist is a well-documented issue (anecdotally) that began in 2008 and is evidently still ongoing:

    http://slickdeals.net/f/908910-mass-closing-of-amazon-accounts-by-amazon
    http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/off-topic/857006/

    Of course, the above forum topics have the usual contingent of people speculating on Amazon’s behalf and in Amazon’s defense.

    But for a consumer advocacy site, I am surprised at the vitriol here. I guess it would have been better to not reply to any comments.

  • Google AdSense does this too. At least they don’t ban you from all their services, taking your email and other personal data with them. Amazon apparently banned my Local Register account and then decided 3 months later to ban my customer account as well. If I had a Prime membership, the remaining time would be gone, with no refund. If I had Kindle or other download content, it would be gone, with no refund. If I had an Amazon Seller account, my account balance would be gone, with no replies to inquiries. Luckily I only had the gift card balance, small ALR balance (which has been refunded), and textbook rental.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Richard,
    I’m afraid this post is a step too far. You certainly have a right to blog about your fellow commenters. You don’t, however, have a right to post a link to that blog here. Your comment is deleted. And if I may suggest: Although you have acquitted yourself well, I think it’s time to close this thread and move on. Thank you for your comments.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi all,
    Thank you for your comments, but a bit of snark has begun to drift in to the discussion, so this thread is now closed.