Life Without Amazon: The "Dizzying And Disorienting" Experience Of Being Banned By Bezos

At least as far as its investors are concerned, Amazon can do no wrong. However, some customers who've been banned from shopping on Amazon's website, sometimes for seemingly arbitrary reasons, are starting to speak out, demanding more details about why they were suddenly cut off from a service that had become increasingly intertwined with their daily life, according to an expose published Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.

In a report that we imagine will only strengthen President Trump's zeal to push back against the company's growing influence, users shared similar stories about being cut off from the company's service, sometimes losing access to hundreds of dollars in company credit.


Others accused Amazon of clearly ignoring the stated reasons for their returns (for example, one user said they requested reimbursement for a product that was ordered but never shipped).

Nir Nissim, a 20-year-old Israeli, said he received an email in March notifying him that Amazon had closed his account, purportedly for violating the company's user agreement. "You cannot open a new account or use another account to place orders on our site,” Amazon wrote, according to an email he supplied to WSJ.

Nissim was furious because he said he had a $450 gift card balance with Amazon at the time he was banned. After calling customer service every day for two weeks, and even going so far as to email CEO Jeff Bezos, he said his account was finally reinstated.

The 20-year-old, who works at an ice cream shop in Israel, said he had a $450 gift card balance that he could no longer use. “I contacted them almost every day for a week or two,” he said.

Eventually a customer service agent told him that his account had been closed due to his return activity. Mr. Nissim said he has returned just one item this year—a computer drive—and four items last year. He sent more messages to protest the ban, including one to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. An Amazon employee—responding on behalf of Mr. Bezos—notified him he was reinstated.

"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," an Amazon spokesman said. "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."

Amazon declined to disclose how many customers it has banned, but did tell WSJ that customers should contact customer service if they believe they've been banned by mistake.

Others said they spend thousands of dollars a year on Amazon - only to be banned for making a few returns of negligible value.

Shira Golan, 23, said she spends thousands of dollars a year on Amazon, buying everything from clothes and shoes to groceries and toiletries. She said she has asked for refunds in the past on clothing and shoe orders, some of which she says were damaged or the wrong items. "I didn’t think it was so significant especially considering how much I buy," she said.

Earlier this month her account was shut down without explanation, she said. The actuary, who lives in New York City, said she called and emailed the company to learn a reason for the closure. On May 10, she received a response saying she was terminated permanently because she “reported an unusual number of problems” with her orders. "I didn’t get any warning," she said. "If I knew this would happen, I wouldn’t buy clothes and shoes on Amazon."

Of course, at a time when retailers profits are being squeezed by the competition from Amazon, more retailers are investing money in preventing return abuse by identifying high risk customers.  For example, Best Buy and JC Penney have hired a third-party firm called Retail Equation to develop a "risk score" that formula that can be used to rate customers on the risk that they'll abuse the return system.

According to Amazon managers interviewed by WSJ, the company bans people for initiating too many refunds, sending back the wrong item or other violations like accepting compensation for a review. In short - users tend to get banned when they "create headaches for Amazon," as Chris McCabe, a former policy enforcement investigator at Amazon and now a consultant at EcommerceChris LLC. Marking an uncommon reason for a return could also result in a ban. For example, if a customer says the item didn't match the description when everybody else who returned the item said they simply didn't want it.

Another banned user described the process of being banned from Amazon - which includes losing access to its video and music streaming services, as well as other perks of Prime - as "dizzying and disorienting."

"You don't realize how intertwined a company is with your daily routine until it's shut off," he said.

"Most people think Amazon is extraordinarily generous, but that's until you realize you have crossed the line."


Linus2011 Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:01 Permalink

another joo bitching. yeah amazon - that's raciss. just as bad as the germans. i get it. is your new kickstarter campaign generating any easy funds?

Son of Loki ???ö? Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:15 Permalink

Some people buy stuff, wear it once or twice, then return.

My guess is the ones banned may be some of the ones who abuse shopping on Amazon by returning multiple times. Personally, I returned one thing once in my lifetime on Amazon. I read the descriptions carefully and try to buy the correct thing because it's a pain in the butt also for me to return. Has to be a nightmare when men return a shirt saying ..."it's too large or small" when the sizes are standard sizes like 16 1/2" neck, 34/35" sleeves, for example. It means the buyer screwed up because he was lazy; should have measured his size before ordering.

Most items are listed pretty accurately on The River, as opposed to The Bay where i read 80% of the items are mis-described; of course, they usually describe the item on The bay as excellent when they are worn or dirty in my experience.

In reply to by ???ö?

Keyser Consuelo Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:42 Permalink

Life without Amazon is "dizzying and disorienting"? Oh the horror... Bunch of fucking snowflakes that have grown up with the world at their fingertips... How about NO cell phones, NO ATMS, NO Internet, NO SJW's... We don't have to go that far back to realize that we don't NEED these things, they are conveniences... I'm not sure which will destroy America first, technology or the entitled feelings of snowflakes... 

In reply to by Consuelo

RedBaron616 Keyser Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:58 Permalink

I have never bought anything on Amazon and never will. Back when Amazon just sold books, Bezos carried books advocating adult-child (pedophile) sex. Instead of it being an accident, they went to the mat screaming 1st Amendment rights. Bezos also owned the Washington Post. He sucks up every tax dollar he can find. He will never get my business.

In reply to by Keyser

evoila Son of Loki Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:21 Permalink

I ordered a suitcase once; I got a used Tumi instead of a new one. Some jackass had returned his old worn POS suitcase, and it was just accepted and resold to me.  There are a lot of people who take advantage by just calling and saying something is broken when it isn't because they know a lot of retailers would rather tell them to keep it than pay for the shipping back.

In reply to by Son of Loki

CheapBastard Skateboarder Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:43 Permalink

I hate getting mugged in the mall (for my sneakers), shot in the parking lot, or car-jacked by thugs ... and feel strange being the only non-hispanic, non-black, non-Paki, heterosexual white male in the mall ... so I usually look for what I want online. Amazon is good for me.

The only drawback i found are scam sellers out of China that give you a fake tracking number and never ship the item. I found Amazon is very slow to deal with those foreign scammers.

Now I only buy from sellers who have alot of feedback and been there for a few years and ship from somewhere in the United States.

In reply to by Skateboarder

Amaroosta Son of Loki Tue, 05/22/2018 - 19:37 Permalink

I hate to defend Amazon (as a corporation) but... to return 43/550 items (almost 8%) is crazy to me. Over the years I've purchased hundreds of products (avg > 150 a year, looking at it right now). I have needed to return/refund less than 10 items in the 11 years I've had an account. I can almost recall them individually. Not the same experience via eBay (etc) where I've been SOL receiving bricked cell phones etc or stuff damage during shipping and UPS telling me to pound sand. Same for brick and mortar, big box retailers. Shit on Bezos all you want (deservedly so) but Amazon (as a service) has a solid return policy and these cases sound dubious.

In reply to by Son of Loki

Skateboarder Amaroosta Tue, 05/22/2018 - 20:08 Permalink

This is America. If something comes to you broken during shipment, they better give you a brand new one or give your money back (if also their policy).

I've only returned three things to Amazon over the last 20 years, a mailbox of the wrong size that I purchased, an instant camera that took pictures too dark in any setting, and now a ping pong table that showed up with cracks in it.

They better give me my ping pong table money back and pick that broken shit up.

In reply to by Amaroosta

Pernicious Gol… Captain Nemo d… Tue, 05/22/2018 - 20:57 Permalink

A few years ago the WSJ had an article about online returns. They interviewed a woman who said, for each clothing item she wanted, she ordered every color and pattern in her size, plus the sizes one up and down. She tried them on and sometimes kept one item. She said more than half the time she returned everything.

I was astounded when I found out a woman I was dating would buy five or six dresses, take them home, look at them a few days, decide she didn't want any of them, and return them. I mentioned that was a huge amount of time out of her life. She replied she enjoyed shopping very much, and didn't see it as time wasted.

In reply to by Captain Nemo d…

Captain Nemo d… Pernicious Gol… Tue, 05/22/2018 - 21:19 Permalink

Usually it is too much of a bother to even return a wrong item so better to only buy online what you are sure about. I would think shops should take customers' return policies into account while pricing, like companies do for expected charge-backs. The worrying part is  who has worn the clothes you buy from store before you. Maybe tailors are not a bad idea ...


In reply to by Pernicious Gol…

snblitz Pernicious Gol… Wed, 05/23/2018 - 02:35 Permalink

Around Christmas many companies extend their money back guarantee (MBG) period including amazon.

This results in people buying up lots of "inventory" during the Christmas sales and then reselling the items on flea bay in the new year when prices are back to normal.

When the deadline gets near for the extended MBG period the items are returned to Amazon. 

I have seen lines of people at Sears with carts full of stuff returning  on the last day before the end of the extended MBG.


In reply to by Pernicious Gol…

OverTheHedge Captain Nemo d… Tue, 05/22/2018 - 23:23 Permalink

Now that China is the manufacturing workshop of the world, I get to wear clothes sized for Chinese people, who appear to be tiny, tiny little dwarves.

I accept that I am quite tall, but why does that mean I need a 5X Large super-fat-boy fit, just to find something long enough? I had a hoodie that was only tripple or quadruple X large, and if I put the hood on, my belly button was exposed. An interesting look, I will admit, but not quite what I was looking for. And shoe sizes!!!? Shoes from where? US, Europe,UK, all have different standards and systems, and China ignores all of them.

Don't buy Chinese crap would be a plan, except you don't know where most things come from ( assembled in Germany is not the same as manufactured in Germany).

I leave all shopping to my better half, which is why we are stress free, but bankrupt. 

In reply to by Captain Nemo d…

TheEndIsNear Son of Loki Tue, 05/22/2018 - 22:06 Permalink

Likewise. I rarely ever return anything unless it's somewhat expensive and doesn't work. On one occasion I received an entirely different item than what I ordered. I had ordered something small like a USB stick or whatever, and they sent me what appeared to be some sort of wall mounted industrial heater worth probably $200 or more. I contacted them and offered to return it if they would send me a pre-paid UPS sticker. Amazon told me to keep the item and that they would send the correct item free of charge, which they did. It was kind of weird because the incorrect item they sent me was obviously worth much more than the UPS shipping charge.

In reply to by Son of Loki