As I enter my fourth month of retirement bliss, I realize I have grown accustomed to the joys of simply cruising through life with my blinker on. I avoid stress and strife at all costs and detest anyone who attempts to curse me with such. With that being said, last week was one of intense stress. I am still struggling to move past this extremely damaging event and in fact, I am considering professional counseling. The cause of this interruption in my otherwise near perfect life? I was banished from Amazon!
Unceremoniously banned, I was and without even proper notification. Being retired and a man of leisure, I have fallen into a morning ritual that fits my comfort zone. With morning coffee in hand, I turn on the CBS Morning News and sit down to my laptop, casually browsing through Facebook and Twitter, moving on to my email, and finally getting down to what's important...updating the Rusty Goat website with the stories of the day. Having that out of the way, I then move on to the financial side of my day. I check in with Google to see if I made any pocket change the previous day. If I'm lucky, someone clicked an ad or two on one of my websites, sometimes I make enough to buy a cup of coffee, no not at Starbucks. I am rarely that fortunate. And last but not least, I check my Amazon account to see if by some slim chance someone purchased one of my books. And that's when I discovered one Friday morning that I no longer had an Amazon account.
'There is no account associated with this email address.' I pursed my lips as I read the warning message that flashed across the screen. I tried signing on to my Amazon Associates account... the same message. I scratched my head as my brow wrinkled in sudden worry. Okay, on to my personal account and no...I no longer existed within the Amazon database. I felt panic sweep through my body. No Amazon! What would I do? I relied on Amazon to deliver my off-brand Rogaine every month, and my Tumeric pills! All of my books resided on the Amazon website and I couldn't get to them! Did I lose my books? My Amazon Associates account...frozen! Some days I make enough money from Amazon to buy a donut with my cup of coffee. And it was gone...gone!
I tried to calm my nerves. Surely it was a temporary glitch. They'd have it back up and running in a few hours, I told myself. I decided to move on with my day and put it out of my mind. But throughout the day, it consumed my every thought. What if someone had hacked my Amazon account? What if they had stolen my books? What if someone had stolen my financial information! I frantically checked my bank account...no, my five dollars was still there.
After fending off a nervous breakdown, I finally shot off an email to Amazon customer support that afternoon. I waited patiently for a response. But by bedtime that night, I'd not received a reply. The following morning I called the Amazon customer hotline. A man with a foreign accent answered. I couldn't understand him but frantically explained my situation. Apparently, he couldn't understand me either and transferred me back to someone in the United States. A polite young man listened sympathetically and upon checking what information he had available, finally informed me that my account had been suspended for violation of Amazon's terms of service. I protested loudly that I'd done nothing to violate their terms of service, whatever they were. Well no, I haven't actually read them. Have you? Anyway, he assured me that he would send my inquiry on to whoever was in charge of banning folks from their website and with a little luck I might hear something from them in seven days or so. And that was that.
Now, I'm a pretty good guy in the grand scheme of things. I go to church almost every Sunday, say my prayers every night, and about the shadiest thing I've done lately is put my trash in someone else's dumpster. I'm still guilt-tripping over that. For the next seven days, I searched my little brain for anything I may have done to piss Amazon off. I drew a blank time after time. Finally, as promised, I received an email on the seventh day.
Hello from Amazon.
Thank you for contacting Amazon Customer Service. We have reviewed your account and confirmed it was deactivated for violations of our Community Guidelines and Conditions of Use.
Your account has been deactivated for the following reason:
-- Your reviews were posted in exchange for compensation, such as gift cards to purchase the product, product refunds, review swaps, or free or discounted products;
We have submitted your account for re-consideration and will advise in the next 7 business days if your account is eligible for reactivation.
Ah ha! Have you ever received one of those emails? I had indeed received an email from some company just days before asking me for a favorable review of their product. In return, as a show of their appreciation, they would send me a free pencil or something of the sort. I had deleted the email and forgotten about it. And here I now sat...banned. from Amazon. I stewed and fumed over the unfairness of my banishment. By gosh, I should call Jeff Bezos himself and give him a piece of my mind! How dare they ban me from Amazon! I was an innocent man! Knowing myself like I do, I resolved to sleep on it before doing anything too rash. Being banned from Amazon was not worth doing hard time in some federal penitentiary. It turned out to be a wise move. The following morning, as I sipped my cup of coffee, I opened another email from Amazon customer service:
We appreciate you being an Amazon customer and thank you for your patience.
We detected unusual activity associated with items previously purchased on your account. As a result, we had deactivated your account while we conducted a deeper investigation.
Based on that investigation, we have restored access to your account.
I fully understand how important ratings and reviews are to those who sell on Amazon. I sell books there, and a positive review can bump my books way up in the search results. But from the perspective of a buyer, I see the entire system is completely flawed. Amazon is quick to overreact, as I learned from this painful experience. They take it so far to the extreme that if my second cousin's wife's sister's boyfriend reviews one of my books...and they manage to connect the dots, they remove the review...and likely make a little tally mark on a yellow legal pad. They are that anal about reviews.
So, I have vowed to never, never, ever rate or review another product I purchase on Amazon.com. I just can't risk being banned again...and I look forward to my donut money every month!
See more about Amazon's sudden infatuation of closing customers' accounts here.