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.

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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.