Dear Amazon, You Can Have My Kindle Fire Back

Don’t get me wrong.  After a very rocky start, I came to love the device. It was my first gadget, and it took some getting used to, but I did enjoy it. I loved snuggling under the covers with Squish and watching an episode of Sesame Street, and hiding in the dark reading a good book. When I discovered that all seven seasons of Malcolm in the Middle were available free using Amazon Prime, I was hooked. But I’m letting it go.

My husband bought me the reader for my birthday, and I wanted to send it back within 12 hours. The device would not let me complete the steps to register it, and it was unable to connect to the internet. The Fire does not come with any instructions besides a simple illustration showing how to turn it on. The entire owner’s manual is contained on the Kindle itself, but sadly, I couldn’t access it without being able to register the device in the first place. I spent a Saturday on chat with customer service and discovered something totally fun. The software was obsolete right out of the box. And despite its $200 price tag, it does not come with a USB cable, so  couldn’t just upgrade to the new software. They had to ship me a new unit. And I had to front the money for shipping, though it was later refunded.

But when I finally got it working, it was great. For Christmas, my sweet bought me a cover and some accessories, but the big item was an Amazon gift card so that I could purchase a year of Amazon Prime and have access to my favorite old TV shows.

Today, I sat down and entered the card number into my account and tried to purchase Prime. Turns out, I can’t. I spent much time with customer service to discover that the only payment type they accept is a credit card. We follow the financial teachings of Dave Ramsey and cut up our credit cards years ago. We have no interest in going into debt. Pre-paid cards have fees of up to 18% attached. Besides, the money we would have used is tied up in a gift card that they say can’t refund.

Legally, Amazon is probably covered. Even though their gift-card page does NOT list Amazon Prime under “limitations,” and even though it took even the customer service rep about 5 minutes to find it, there’s a clause buried on the Prime page requiring a credit card. They have me. And my money.

Without Prime, there’s no reason to have the Fire. I’m not a gamer, so the apps are not my thing. We don’t have cable. We wanted to stream shows. If I can’t do that, I don’t need the extra features of the Fire. I can get a different reader for less. So the Fire is going back. I spent my afternoon on e-chat with customer service reps and got everything I need. I’m heading off to print the shipping labels in just a few minutes.

Here’s the kicker. I don’t get a refund. They credit to my account. Apparently, I missed my window to send the device back for an actual refund. So I can’t vote down a crummy policy with my dollars and go elsewhere. This time. Once I’ve used all my credit, I’m finished with Amazon.

Amazon, if you are listening, here are my biggest complaints.

A customer should be able to purchase a product if they have actual money. And if we cannot purchase what we would like with the money we give you, we should be able to get it back to spend elsewhere.

When your customers show great patience with a poor product, treat them better. I put up with a lot over the first several days of owning this stupid device. I spent hours of my time working with customer service, had to make a trip to find a UPS store to ship it back, wondered if I had made a mistake in getting it to begin with. And now you won’t let me use the money I have spent.

There is no way to get in touch with a person with any authority.  Customer service is limited to a person in a cubicle. Those people have been fabulous and so kind, please don’t get me wrong. But their hands are tied. The only thing they can offer is empathy and a promise to “forward on the feedback.” Not good enough for me.

I am reduced to one tiny voice in the great clamor. And it’s unfortunate. My dollars won’t make a bit of difference to Amazon.

But my kids see. They see that being debt-free is way more important to us than a stupid electronic device that will be out-of-date before Squish is old enough to start school. They will see that when a business treats them like they are nothing, there are plenty of other companies to do business with.

.

.

UPDATE: I have heard from  many people who have shared that they paid for Amazon Prime with their debit card. And I think that is how it should be.  I don’t know if this means that the policy is different from actual practice, or if it is a new policy. Interestingly, as I look for it this morning to take a screen shot, I cannot find it. Is it because they have now removed that clause? Is it because I have looked on the wrong page? No way of knowing.

I just wanted my readers to know that I didn’t jump to conclusions before I published this post. I spent an hour or more with customer service on this very issue, and they insisted that the only way to pay is with an actual credit card, not a debit. They were finally able to chase down a link where the information was posted. I now wish I had taken a screen shot of that one.

In the end, it’s too frustrating. If I have a question about policy and can’t find it on the website and their customer service reps can’t tell me, I really need to take my business elsewhere. I can’t always wonder if there is some clause buried somewhere on their site that is designed to stick it to the consumer. It’s not worth it. I don’t need stuff that much.

To those who have taken the time to read all of this, I say thanks. It’s a lot of information.

It’s Sunday, and I am now closing this post for comments, as I’d like to encourage visitors to read the update. If you’d like to comment and have read the update, the place to leave a comment is here.

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76 thoughts on “Dear Amazon, You Can Have My Kindle Fire Back

  1. I’ve had similar experiences with them. Their customer service reps are quite nice, but nothing really gets resolved, so I’m always left disappointed.

  2. That sucks. I’m sorry to hear, I’ve got friends that work for Amazon, so it’s frustrating that there’s a disconnect there.
    My daughter has the Fire and we’ve had no issues with it (knock on wood). She streams, sends emails, plays games, takes it to school for reading, plays music. But I did see a lot of customer feed back that there was plenty of issues.
    I did register her gift card but I guess I don’t have Prime so I didn’t realize that the two can’t be combined. Serious fail on their part.

  3. Howdy,

    I tried putting this damn comment under your ABOUT page but you have gazillion comments there so I thought you’d pay more attention to my posting here.

    I’ve enjoyed your musings and I’m sure we can all relate to becoming our mothers (although I hope I dress better when I’m her age). That’s why I’m giving you the Versatile Blogger Award.

    http://lostnchina.wordpress.com/2012/01/13/hyperactive

    Thanks for your blog.

    Susan

  4. Well, this was posted just in time! I don’t use credit cards either, only cash cards that are directly linked to the bank. I am this old and NOT in any debt at all. Very few people can say that and I have had a fantastic life without having to go into to debt to do it. As to the Fire. Word was out that this one was pushed out before it was trialed properly to hit the xmas market. The next one will be bigger and better.. ah well.. not for me i am afraid. just my computer and ancient phone for me! the rest is on paper.. c

  5. Im so sorry! I love my Kindle – although it’s the older one. Whenever we’ve had issues with companies, we tweet about it, and hashtag them – 3 times out of 3, we’ve been contacted by the company and they bent over backwards to make us smile – try it. :) You might be able to sell your gift card, and maybe even your credit… Good luck. :/

    • We had the same experience with Amazon. I have a first generation Kindle and the rep didn’t know how to help me with a problem so he dialed around until he found someone who did.

    • Just an FYI, my checking account was hacked about 6 months ago and we narrowed it down to 2 possible places. The gas station or Amazon.com. I’m not a fan of credit cards and in fact, don’t use them EVER but I’ve switch my Amazon default card from my bank card to a credit card.

  6. I’ve grown increasingly frustrated that so many companies are unable to take payment with anything other than a credit card. We have one credit card for emergencies but we try never to use it.

  7. Wow, I’m shocked. I use Amazon a lot and have had really good experiences with their customer service. I exchanged something once, and the sent the new thing right away (without waiting for me to ship the old thing) and had a bunch of options for the return, including printing out pre-paid labels and having UPS pick it up at my house. But I guess their Kindle policies are different (or maybe it’s that I had a credit card on file, so they could charge me if I didn’t ship the thing back), and I probably conform more to their expected behavior patterns.

    BTW, one thing I like about my classic Kindle is that the charger consists of a USB cable that plugs into an adapter that plugs into the wall, so if you have your charger with you, you also have a USB cable. Also, it worked right out of the box.

    Requiring a credit card for Prime membership is crazy. You should think about sending this to Consumerist.

    • I did most of my holiday shopping on Amazon. It was great. Until suddenly it wasn’t anymore. Their customer service reps are so very nice, but they don’t have much authority. I had a debit card on file until today. I pulled it after spending my evening on chat with a customer service rep trying to get a billing question answered. She never did actually understand my question, and I’m not sure how to get in contact with someone who does.

      I’ve not heard of Consumerist, but I will definitely look them up. I don’t think anyone should have to have a credit card to do anything.

    • I sent them a link, myself. I want them to see it. I always believe a company should get the opportunity to make it right. It’s not like I’m asking for free stuff. I just want to be able to spend the money I’ve already given them on the product I want.

    • Love my Nook and I had a first generation Kindle so I’ve experienced both. You do own the books you buy and you can lend them to friends as well.

  8. I can relate to that feeling of walking away indignantly from a company’s product or service and at the same time feeling like it meaningless – a million people are there to take my place. I always thought if I had money I would start a business that actually took customer service seriously – I don’t know what I would sell, but I think hassle weary customer would flock :-)

    Way to not drink the kool-aid :-)

  9. I’m so sorry, this sucks. I would take your credit and the plain old regular Kindle reader. I had the first generation one and now have the Nook. They don’t do anything but provide books. I think tablets are best done by people who really understand that media (like iPad eventhough I’m not an Apple person). I really enjoy my eReader and I think you would too if it was just a reader.

  10. Pingback: Don’t Bother Getting A Kindle Fire Unless You Have A Credit Card | Financial Feeder

  11. Nice gadget. Too bad I can’t use it because they refuse to accept real money. I don’t have credit card. I will not have a credit card. However, I do have plenty of real money. Maybe there is a correlation there?

  12. Meh – the problem with getting linked to Consumerist is you will face the wrath of non-asskissers. Perhaps if you could control your spending like most people this wouldn’t be an issue. What are you — seven years old? Maybe Amazon should allow you to send in cash and coins. Get a life and quit whining.

    • Thanks for your comment. I know that not everyone understands our choice to skip credit cards and use debit cards and cash. It’s okay. The point I want to make here is that folks who opt out of credit cards might do better to choose a different device. There’s no point in paying for features that you can’t use. Go for something less expensive.

      • My amazon Prime membership is paid with a debit card. It’s the only thing I use with my account. And I just signed up for Amazon Prime maybe two months ago. I find it hard to believe they have since changed their policy. They may say credit cards only, but my debit works just fine.

      • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I don’t know if it’s a new policy, or if it’s an old one that they don’t bother to enforce. That’s part of the problem. Even their customer service reps were insistent that it was credit card or nothing.

    • What’s the point in being nasty to the author? There are number of reasons not to have credit cards and it’s a personal choice. The author wrote a very informative article about her issues with the device – a parent might want to know that you have to attached a credit card to pay for a specific feature before handing the device over to their 13 year old, who I suspect wouldn’t be as “thirfty” with a credit card as I’m sure you are….

    • This reply directed to “Citizen”, who said “Meh – the problem with getting linked to Consumerist is you will face the wrath of non-asskissers. Perhaps if you could control your spending like most people this wouldn’t be an issue. What are you — seven years old? Maybe Amazon should allow you to send in cash and coins. Get a life and quit whining.”

      My reply to “Citizen”: People like you fill me with disgust worse than finding that someone left a stinking turd in the middle of my living room. What speaks far louder than your needless insults here, is that you hide and leave no way for us to contact you directly, you cowardly troll! The lady IS controlling her spending by refusing to be a pawn to be used by that den of scam artists and thieves known as the credit card industry, and millions of others wouldn’t be burdened by the crippling weight of credit card debt, if they would follow her lead and refuse to use credit cards. I applaud her for not using credit cards! As for you, you are nothing but a lowly and cowardly troll, and one of the things that I love about WordPress is that there are so very few of your type here on WP.

  13. Sounds like a pack of angry old women in here. Is this your fist tablet PC, they all work the same way (I can’t speak to the credit/debit card thing), You’ll need to give the thing more than 12 days, otherwise return it, there’s loads of tablets on the market in the same price range. I can’t stand any of them give me a laptop.

  14. This, of course, is the downside of online shopping, right? We have the 1st Gen Nook and the Nook Color and love them both. The best part is that any issues can be handled in a Barnes & Noble store and dealt with that day. No week-long hassles. Now, I am biased (my wife works for B&N and I did too several years ago), but the reports coming out of Amazon in the news over the last 6 months have been how Amazon is turning cutthroat and really trying to challenge Apple. I can’t imagine that will lead to better customer service.

    I love the stand you are taking, but I don’t think it is enough to say that you just want a working product for the money you’ve spent. You want a working product for the money you spent for the reasonable interaction of an online purchase. All of the extra crap you’ve had to go through is inexcusable and shouldn’t be swept away by a simple refund or replacement. All of the other people that are harassed the same way need you!

    • Thanks for your words of encouragement. I won’t be buying a Kindle as a replacement, but I am looking into a Nook. I like the idea of being able to purchase books from multiple venues.

  15. Sorry to hear about your troubles, but there is a reason why Amazon Prime doesn’t take debit cards. It is because it is a subscription service which will automatically renew when the term ends. In a year’s time, if Amazon tries to take the money from the debit card and there’s no money there, there will be an overdraft. Amazon has historically had to eat those charges for the customer. I guess they have gotten tired of dealing with people who don’t have money in their checking accounts.

      • It’s not a theory. It’s a very common practice in many businesses that don’t accept debit cards. In your example, Paypal would be on the hook. Incidently, Paypal can be tied to a bank account or a credit card. If your Paypal was linked to a bank account that had no money in it, that would be Paypal’s problem, not Amazon. Paypal would still have to pay Amazon. It would be up to Paypal to collect the money from you.

  16. Pingback: I’m a Barnes & Noble Man | Drew Downs

  17. I’m interested in how you order off Amazon and such without a credit card. We don’t do consumer debt anymore either but I use a cc to order stuff and pay it off immediately with my credit union bill payment service. I’d love to dump it though so am intrigued…

    • They take debit cards. But not for Prime. You can also purchase paper certificates that certain schools use for fund-raisers. Again, not for Prime. And Prime was a big selling point for us.

  18. Oh, and you ROCK woman. Love it “But my kids see. They see that being debt-free is way more important to us than a stupid electronic device that will be out-of-date before Squish is old enough to start school. They will see that when a business treats them like they are nothing, there are plenty of other companies to do business with.”

  19. Where you trying to use a debit card with a Mastercard or Visa logo or where you trying to use the Amazon Gift card? The debit card Mastercard or Visa logo should work. I am not defening Amazon. The problem could be your banks. Some banks block transaction the have autopay flag set to on.

    From my understanding of Visa & MasterCard rules this restriction is not allowed. If you take debit card for any purchase, you must take it for all. Same applies to the credit card. Car Rentals, & Hotels get around that rule by allowing you to pay you bill in full when you leave. Here are the choices for merchants
    Take Credit Cards Only (Secure, rewards, etc)
    Take Debit Cards Only (gift, prepaid, etc)
    Pin based debit card, some can be used for online bill pay. This is always an option
    Cash
    Money order
    Checks

    The honor all U.S. card rule was changed not eliminated.
    You take Visa or Mastercard credit card for any purchase/service you must take all forms.
    You take Visa or Mastercard debit card for any purchase/service you must take all forms.

    If you do restrict it. You must have proper signage & your merchant terminal must be set up that way.

  20. I have Amazon Prime, with a debit card, so I know it is possible.

    A friend has a Fire, with no Prime, and only a debit card for their Amazon account. They can buy and read books, buy/download/run apps, with zero limitations. Not sure how much TV they watch (on a 7″ screen, not much) but the Fire is a perfectly fine device for most uses.

  21. I love my Nook! ;) You can use your debit card AND it comes with a USB cable. Plus, any time I have trouble (which has turned out to always be user error. Ooops.) the booksellers in the store help me. You should go into your local B&N and try it out. Great blog! Informative and kind.

  22. becomingcliche
    What was the message when you tried to use the debit card? You can also call you bank & ask them why the transaction was denied-might be a fee for this? Sometimes they can tell you and sometimes they cant. Some banks have low daily authorization limits-check with your bank to see what it is-might be a fee for this. I am a consumer. I have done extensive research on debit cards online. Assuming you are from the U.S. there are several verification factors when using a debit card. The debit card must have be a U.S. issued MasterCard or Visa debit card. It must be able to take autopay. It must support address verification. I read the consumerist comments on this-A lot say they are able to use their debit cards with a Mastercard & Visa for Amazon prime. They also have some not so nice comments there. I think the Amazon rep could be getting confused with other countries debit card that usually don’t have a MasterCard or Visa logo. Myself, I would email and ask why some people can use their U.S. debit card with a MasterCard or Visa logo for Amazon prime?

    • It’s actually a policy posted on their website. It took the rep several minutes to find it, and I can’t remember which page because it’s hidden in there. But they say that debit cards will not work.

      I have had some other issues, and I need to contact them again. I will ask them about it. That’s part of the problem – finding someone there who actually is familiar with policies.

      I am sure the comments haven’t been nice. I’m okay with that. I wanted to let people know about the policy, in case it impacted their decision on which device to purchase. But I am not surprised that it has turned into more. The comments are usually the most entertaining part of an article!

      • If your bank allows you to make signed transactions with your card (as in you sign rather than entering a pin) you can use the card without a problem. There are a very limited number of cards that only allow debit transactions and most of them are the refillable debit cards that some public assistance programs provide.

        There is an easy way to test if your card will work as a credit transaction. Go to a gas station and run the card as credit rather than debit. If it goes through, you’re all set.

        It’s unfortunate that you’re having problems, but it seems that this is the result of bad customer service, not any actual limitation of the device.

      • I think you’re right. It’s a customer service/big business issue. Which is why I am no longer interested in the device. I use a debit card, and it can run as credit. But according to the website and their customer service reps (two of them) they don’t actually take debit for Prime. Sadly, I can no longer locate that link on the website.

  23. I’m confused about why Prime was so important with regards to the Fire. I have a Fire and I don’t have Prime, and as far as I can tell, all I’m missing out on is the ability to stream some older movies and TV shows for free from Amazon. But I have Netflix, and I loaded the Netflix app on my Fire, so everything that I would get with Prime Streaming I get anyway, through Netflix. Is there a feature I am missing?

  24. Pingback: Don’t Bother Getting A Kindle Fire Unless You Have A Credit Card | Cheap Fires

  25. If you want TV….forget a tablet anything. Go with ROKU!!! We’ve used one since June. Pay a mere $13 a month ($7.99 for Netflix and $4.99 for a service called PlayOn). We love it! And we’ll never go back to regular television. We are Dave Ramsey folk too. He’s okay with Debit Cards, which you can use as credit cards (he recommends this because a regular debit doesn’t have the protection, but you can use the debit AS credit and it just comes out of your checking. If you don’t use it you won’t be charged.)

    Hope this helps. I’ve been wondering if I want to get a Kindle Fire. I love to read and have a Kindle Keyboard. I think I will just invest in a better Android phone which will do the Netflix and Kindle App if I want it. I don’t need a 7inch screen. I am happy with smaller. Thanks for the review!

    • We use debit cards, too. They are handy little things.

      Amazon’s site and customer service indicate that they do not accept debit cards for this service. I asked two of them. So frustrating.

  26. The fine print may say that you have to use a credit card to purchase Prime, but practically this is not true. I know because I have a Prime account and I use my debit card to pay for it, I also do not use credit cards and would be frustrated if this was me (I sent my Fire back for other reasons.) Anyway, I just thought I’d drop that little bit of knowledge, debit cards can be used to pay for Prime.

  27. The lucky part about the Kindle is that it’s an Android-powered device. There are numerous tutorials online that teach you how to “root” your device and take it out of the hands of Amazon and into your own. It doesn’t require credit cards at all, is legal, and honestly makes the Fire much more useful. Honestly, you don’t even need to root it to get more out of it, and you certainly don’t need Amazon Prime. I’m not even sure what that is….as it wasn’t part of setting up my wife’s Kindle.

    As for streaming shows, you can root the device and get Android Market apps for anything you need, like Netflix, OR install the Dolphin HD browser for Android devices in about 10 minutes without rooting, which allows you to stream any show you can find online; Hulu, Siderrel, etc. My wife and I watch Top Chef streaming all the time on her Kindle, and we’ve never paid for any apps or add-ons. We haven’t had cable since 2007 either, and I’m 100% with you on that!

    All previous Kindles have relied heavily on Amazon mediating practically every aspect of the experience, and the Kindle Fire isn’t that different. The functionality you want is there, and the tools to get that functionality are available online, for free. It just requires some work is all. Considering that you can put in a couple hours’ work and get all of his for free, I’d say it’s a reasonable trade-off for he device, regardless of what you want it to do.

    I’d say move forward with life, cut Amazon out of the equation, and take control of your situation in the same way you did when you chose to sop using credit cards (which is awesome, btw!). Well, assuming you end up getting one again….

    • Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I’m moving them out of my life. Netflix is something we haven’t gotten because they’re another big business who lost sight of their consumers this summer. I’m thinking about a Nook, or even putting by a little extra and getting a new laptop.

      • Just fyi, even with a nook if you want to “borrow” a book from a friend (which is FREE), you need to have a “credit” card on file with them. It may be that you can use a credit-branded debit card, but you may still need a card for some stuff…

  28. Maybe they can take debit cards that are tied to a credit card company (such as a Visa debit card from a Chase bank that will w/d funds) but not take a non-credit-branded atm-style debit card?

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