Here’s a little story about how some online mail-order companies can remain unaccountable to their customers by sitting behind a convenient wall of ambiguously worded text.
In the case of Amazon.co.uk, I happened to be browsing their website towards the end of November 2010 looking to buy a pair of portable USB 3.0 external hard drives. Having decided on a pair of keenly priced Western Digital drives, I popped them into my virtual basket and headed for checkout; but the deal was about to get better to the tune of a £10 gift certificate if I made the purchase with an Amazon credit card which could be applied for online, right now!
After going through the application processes, naturally realising there would be a short delay before receiving approval from the Bank of America (AKA MBNA), I decided to check out how the gift certificate worked. To quote from the Amazon website displaying the ‘rules’ of the game:
“A £10 Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate will instantly be applied to your Amazon.co.uk account upon the approval of your credit card application²”
“2. Once you are approved we will instantly apply a £10 Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificate to your Amazon Account, this Gift Certificate will automatically be applied to your next order and you will see the £10 deducted from the order amount on the order confirmation page.”
So, that reads as; once my card application had been approved and I used the new card to make a purchase on the Amazon website, Amazon would apply the £10 gift certificate to my account “instantly” and I would visually see the £10 deducted from the first order made using my new Amazon credit card. Right?
Once my new card was approved and activated I went back on the site to make my purchase of two Western Digital hard drives at £52.52 each with free P&P, making a grand total of £105.04. Having checked that the new card was being used (they automatically make the new Amazon card your default payment card anyway) I proceeded to the checkout expecting to see the £10.00 deduction…Nothing there to indicate the deduction, still, let’s carry on and see if it appears at the final stage. What? Still no £10.00 deduction? Ok, what if I commit to purchase and check for the credit in the confirmation email? Maybe it’ll be there?
Thirty seconds later a familiar ‘Your Order with Amazon.co.uk’ email appeared in my inbox, hopefully the bearer of good news about my £10.00 gift certificate. No…nothing there, still the same price. So despite what they display on their website, this isn’t how it works.
Feeling ripped off, I cancelled the order (a thankfully painless process) and fired an email to customer services of the “Where’s my £10.00?” variety. The reply was one of those pass-the-buck emails stating that I needed to speak directly to the Bank of America as my enquiry wasn’t about an order (oh really?)
Speaking to the nice American lady from the Bank of America, it was soon clear that neither party were reading from the same rule book and the way it worked was that I would receive a £10.00 credit on my card statement after making my first order with Amazon.
Right…so if I made the order again (having cancelled the first one in all the confusion) would I see the credit back on my statement? Err…no. Unfortunately, as the system had already recorded my first order and I’d cancelled it, it was game over. Fine; over to Amazon to see what they had to say about the matter.
A pleasant Asian chap returned my call and having explained the situation, offered me a number of reasons for not receiving the £10.00 gift certificate:
1.) I hadn’t used the correct card – clearly, I had so not a valid reason.
2.) The gift certificate would be credited to my account after I had made the order, could I make another order? No, I couldn’t make another order as this would be counted as my second and besides, why wasn’t it in my account profile after I’d made my first order if that’s how it’s supposed to work?
3.) I should have had an email from Amazon after my card was approved with a gift certificate code for £10.00. Err…no. Didn’t receive one of those.
Having exhausted the possibilities of where it might have gone wrong, he played his final ‘get out of jail’ card which went along the lines of, Bank of America have the final word on the matter and if they haven’t credited my account with £10.00 there’s nothing Amazon can do.
So there you have it. Neither Amazon nor Bank of America seem to agree on how things run on this promotion, but Amazon are more than happy to publish on their website, a misleading and fictional version of how customers will receive their £10.00 gift certificate – or not, in my case.
After playing email ping-pong, Amazon capitulated and gave me my £10 gift certificate – and so they bloody well should!