Monday, August 22, 2022

Amazon Saga continues...

Last week I posted about the issues I was having with my Amazon account, foolishly thinking they were about to be solved. This post contains a summary of the previous one so you don't need to go back and read that.

In total I have made five separate calls to Customer Support and my account remains on hold. On the first call I reported unauthorized activity on my account. I was told to have my Credit Card Company reverse the charge. 

This was obviously the wrong advice and resulting in four weeks of calls, emails and lack of resolution. As soon as the charge was reversed I received this email—this was a full week after I had reported the unauthorized transaction to Amazon. Clearly their internal communication sucks:

The email continued, essentially holding my account to ransom. Either I paid them $500 or I could do the other thing. At the time I was traveling in Europe and a call to Customer Support was a roaming international call. Not cheap. I was told to follow a link provided in email to complete a form to receive assistance. That link required me to login and as the issue in question is that I am unable to login due to the account being on hold, that didn't work. 

The item in question was a $500 Apple gift card. It was sent to me via email. I didn't want it. I have no use for Apple products, and as far as I am aware, $500 wouldn't buy much from them anyway. I had not activated the card and had no intention of doing so. Why could Amazon just not cancel the card and get the value of it back from Apple, surely between them, these huge, presumably tech savvy companies could establish that the card had not been used?

I responded to the email above explaining that I followed instructions from the Customer Support to reverse the charge. I received this email and thought it had been resolved, after all that is what the email says, right?:

I tried to login to my account and this is all I got:

Another call resulted in me being told to wait for twenty four hours and an account representative would contact me. Two days later I had still heard nothing. I called back and got a representative who was extremely difficult to understand as she had a strong accent and spoke very fast. When I asked her to speak more slowly she hung up on me. I called back and this time the representative sounded like he actually knew what he was talking about. He said he would fill in the form on my behalf and I would hear back in twenty four hours. I was not hopeful but yes, within the twenty four hours I received this:

Bear in mind, this was now four weeks since the charge hit my account and the first time I spoke to Customer Support. I received that email early on Saturday morning. While I was working for Amazon, weekends were still business hours—we worked all hours—but not officially. So I counted off forty-eight business hours. What a surprise! Not a word via email or any other form of communication.

I am a Prime member, an Affiliate member and a Kindle publisher. I have a number of items on Subscribe and Save. I am a PillPack customer. And I have multiple Echo devices, now useless. And a Kindle Fire owner. Not only that, I had already purchased a number of e-books from Amazon and these had been downloaded to my Kindle. When the account was frozen my Kindle was reset. I lost those books. 

Will they continue to sell my books and just keep the income, or do I still get my royalties? Will my prescriptions just cease? Will the Amazon Ads on my blog and website continue to generate traffic and possibly new customers for Amazon? Do I have to return to reading paper books while I workout. I have to admit that a Kindle is so much easier to manage on the treadmill, not to mention while traveling.

The injustice, the long delay and bad customer support experience, not to mention the inconvenience drove me to make the decision to break my Amazon habit once and for all.

I discovered that Barnes & Noble have an alternative ereader and they sell e-books cheaper than Amazon does. Before Amazon I bought all my books from Barnes & Noble and loved browsing through the real live books back then.

I was never very sold on PillPack. Great if you have a number of prescriptions. I have one prescription, just one pill per day. Using PillPack for that is overkill. I won't miss that.

I do not care if I no longer display Amazon ads on my websites. No loss to me and Google is far superior when it comes to that anyway.

Almost all of the retail purchasing I do on Amazon I could do at Walmart, Target or any of the large department stores. All of which have an online presence. Plus I save the cost of Prime which will help offset the many other expenses I have incurred due to this problem. 

Self publishing. KDP doesn't own this market either. Yes they are the biggest name, but I discovered a better option here. At first glance it does appear to be better than Kindle. 

Finally, my subscribe and save items are readily available in the supermarket. The only reason I got these from Amazon was because I could. It was convenient but no more convenient than picking them up when grocery shopping.

What happened to Amazon's Customer Support boast? What happened to their 'superior' security? After all, I do not share my account with anyone else, I regularly change my login credentials so how did an unauthorized charge hit my account? And if it takes over a month, five customer support calls, one of them an international call, and one where their rep hung up on me—then why would I want to continue to use them? Particularly as this issue is still not resolved and I still cannot login to my account.

During the course of this last month I have identified at least six major bugs, many of them in the Kindle technology. Previously I would have reported these. The QA Engineer in me still lives large and seven years of working hard to ensure Amazon presented customers with a first class experience is hard to forget. However, it appears they no longer care about customer experience and I certainly no longer care about Amazon.

To add insult to injury they are still spamming me with Treasure Truck text messages, touting deals that I cannot purchase even if I wanted to.

I am still going to continue to fight because this is just flat wrong.

Friday, August 19, 2022


Recently my husband suggested I try CBD oil. It is legal in Texas as it is almost everywhere else to my knowledge; and is being hyped by our supplemental health care as a magical cure-all, of course it is over the counter so that saves them money. I have very little respect for health care providers, particularly when it comes to the elderly. Anyway, Larry had tried  it and discovered that it really helped the pain in his knees where nothing else had worked, including the hemp based cream I have been using.

I don't know much about Cannabis or its associated extracts but I was tired and didn't feel like arguing my point so I tried it. Apparently the instructions are to place an entire dropper full of the oil  (1 ml) under your tongue and hold it there for one minute. Oh dear lord it tasted vile. I told my husband that it tasted like furniture polish and was disgusting! 

"How do you know what furniture polish tastes like?" he asked me.

That got me thinking. How do I know? The same way I know how many other things, normally not recommended for ingestion, taste. I was a thumb sucker. Not just as a baby, not just as a toddler. My mother used to tell me that I would walk down the aisle with my thumb in my mouth. I didn't, but only because by that time I didn't suck my thumb in public—and my hands were full carrying my bouquet.

I didn't quit sucking it until I was fifty years old. I often wonder, why then? Menopause? or perhaps a considerable amount of dental work I had done that year? Probably the latter. Or maybe, whatever emotional disturbance that had caused me to be so dependent on that comfort, had finally been mitigated? Makes you think, instead of constantly berating a child for the habit, it might be a good idea to consider why the child needs to self comfort and address that.

I wonder how many 'not for human consumption' items I sucked off my thumb in the course of fifty years—obvious not enough to prove fatal. I know that I swallowed a lot of bitter aloes. My grandmother covered my thumbs—I didn't discriminate between left and right and happily sucked either—with this old fashioned remedy. I stayed with her for a period of time in order for her to correct my habit which upset the adults for some reason I couldn't fully understand. I sucked the nasty stuff off my thumbs and then continued; as determined as any addict might be. On another occasion she stitched small, cloth bags to the end of my pajama sleeves. I sucked my thumb through the cloth.

Why is it that adults are so against thumb sucking? OK, I know that it does mean that the perpetrator is constantly ingesting trace elements that may not be very healthy, but lets face it, kids are doing that all the time. I do think that pacifiers are worse and at least thumbs don't cost anything. I was told regularly that my teeth would stick out and I did consider this to be something I would prefer to not happen. However when a 'friend' of the family—a man I disliked intensely—told me that a thumb would grow down the back of my throat I decided that it was all lies and determinedly stuck my thumb back in my mouth. 

Despite sucking my thumb for fifty years, I didn't grow a thumb down the back of my throat, nor did my teeth protrude. I do know what a lot of odd items taste like. Including furniture polish, which I don't recommend.

Back to the CBD oil that started this train of thought. Apart from the awful taste, and despite it, I nodded off in the armchair shortly after taking it. I can't be sure if that was because of the oil or because I was still recovering from jet lag. Probably a bit of both. I slept reasonably well that night and I have to admit my usual aches and pains appeared to be reduced next morning. But...that vile taste of furniture polish was still strong and was accompanied by a stickiness in my mouth, which was almost as unpleasant and we won't even talk about the digestive reaction. 

I think I will stick to Ibuprofen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Another one bites the dust

There I was feeling very self satisfied. I had survived over two years of COVID without even getting a cold. It is dangerous to get complacent. Mind you, I didn't really. I didn't drop my guard. We always wear masks in public, and we are rarely in public.

This month I finally got to visit my family in Ireland for the first time in three years. I masked in the shuttle to the airport, though the driver was not masked and I was the only passenger. I masked in all three airports; Austin, Atlanta and Dublin. You can't get more public than that, and almost no one was masked, including airline staff. I was masked on the two flights; again, almost no one was masked, including cabin crew and the flights were full. Of course, I took my mask off to eat/drink, so that was a risk area. The food was so awful it was a very short space of time maskless, and I understand that planes do have HEPA ventilation. 

I was staying with my sister and we had a large family reunion which was almost entirely outdoors, as Dublin was enjoying unusually good weather. Though yes, there was a lot of hugging, and no, there were no masks. And yes, a lot of young children.

Two days after the family gathering I woke up with a vile sore throat. As mentioned, I was staying with my sister. I messaged her, across the hall and told her to stay away from me and asked her to get me a rapid test kit. She dropped that outside the bedroom door. Sure enough, positive without a doubt. What a huge disappointment, and embarrassment. What if I infected my family? Wait, who did I contact it from? Of course no way of knowing and really, it didn't matter at this point. I was more concerned about who I had infected. My plans to meet up with old friends over the course of the next week were immediately canceled.

All that day and the next, my sister deposited trays of food and drink outside the bedroom door; for good measure I had the bedroom window open all the time and wore an N95 mask when opening the door to pick up the tray. To no avail. on the third day my sister tested positive. At least I was able to join her downstairs but that was small compensation.

Luckily I had nine days before my flight home and with luck would test negative two days before that. I was counting on it because a quick search online revealed that there were almost no alternative flights for the week following my departure date. Also luckily, I had been vaccinated and double boosted so my symptoms were mild and what I experienced was similar to a mild cold. Silver linings to be sure. The best of all was that my sister and I spent an entire week relaxing and catching up. Digging up memories from our childhood and laughing together like the children we still felt we were inside these old bodies.

And at least I had loaded my Kindle with books for the trip. I am never bored when I have my Kindle. Except when Amazon fails miserably to supply decent customer support see this post which describes how my Amazon account was frozen, resulting in my Kindle being deregistered and unusable. My sister purchased me a book that she had read and highly recommended. I can't remember when I read a real, paper book. I am looking forward to this one.

Perhaps I will be cured of my dependency on the Kindle and even Amazon; that would definitely save some money.

It was with considerable apprehension I tested two days before my flight. As expected, and hoped, the test was negative and I was ready to pack my bags and bid farewell to my home country and my sister. 

One final negative test the day of my flight and I was good to go. 

Until the next time. Trip that is! Not COVID! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy. The sore throat and nasal congestion was similar to a head cold, even the slight cough was not worth complaining about. Stomach issues were inconvenient but so too is COVID. It is the head fog that is truly horrible, and you don't realize it is there until it finally lifts and you can think and feel human again. 

When I say I don't wish it on my worst enemy I have to say that anyone stupid enough to not get vaccinated deserves it. That may sound callous but how to we eradicate this awful disease when there are so many people aiding and abetting its tenure?

Saturday, August 13, 2022

I hate inefficiency

I hate inefficiency and I really hate bad customer support.

When I was working for Amazon, and after I retired—right up until this week—I had great admiration for their Customer Support (CS), second only to Zappos. The only issue I had with it was the difficulty in actually finding the link buried on the website. This week that changed. 

A week before I was due to fly to Ireland (from Texas) our credit card (CC) was hit with a $500 charge from Amazon. I had not purchased anything and neither had my husband, in fact neither of us had even been logged into Amazon for a few days. When I checked my account I had a surge of generosity apparently, and sent myself a $500 gift card; I guess I could say I played a bad joke on  myself because it was an Apple gift card. I disklike Apple products. The thing is, I didn't make the purchase, after all who in their right mind would bother to buy themselves a gift card? If I really wanted to buy something from Apple, why not just do that?

Naturally I dug into the bowels of the Amazon website and located the hidden CS link and  eventually spoke with a support person. He questioned me on other possible users of my account: none. He suggested I did it by accident? Not possible and I wasn't logged in at the time. He said he would mark the purchase as invalid—or some such word—but I would have to ask my CC company to reverse the charge. As I had not activated the gift card I found this unusual but agreed to go ahead and do that. I really didn't have much choice as he said that was all he could do for me.

The CC company were also not very efficient. Their CS person told me he was working from home and having internet problems but he would help. Eventually, after he had finally established that he was looking at the wrong customer account and found mine, he suggested the quickest way to deal with this was to report the transaction as fraudulent and they would cancel our cards and issue new cards which they would fast track as I was traveling in a few days. I thought that was the end of it. More fool me.

I packed my bags and flew to Dublin. One week later, I received an email from Amazon informing me that my account was frozen and demanding that I pay the $500 charge which my CC company had reversed. I responded to that email, explaining the steps I had already taken regarding this. I got no response. The biggest inconvenience here was that I rely heavily on my Kindle at all times, but especially when traveling. I love to read and had loaded the device with books for the two weeks. My Kindle had been frozen too naturally, it is directly connected to my Amazon account.

I connected with AmazonHelp on Twitter. They were sympathetic but said they couldn't help me, I understood that, Twitter was not exactly a secure venue for exchanging sensitive account information but I hoped they could get in touch with the right people who could help me. All they did was direct me to a link where I would find a phone number to call. Being in Dublin, that meant an international call on my cell phone. I decided it was worth it and bit the bullet.

As we all know, most of the time on a call to CS anywhere is spent listening to electronic music. This was no different. Eventually I spoke to a human being who said she would send me a link to a form I could fill in to declare unauthorized use of my account. I had told her all the details, including that my account was now frozen. I breathed a sigh of relief, this would soon be solved and I could get on with my visit home. No such luck. The link required that I login to my Amazon account to access the form. Return to GO and do not collect $200.

I contacted AmazonHelp again, on Twitter and told them the problem. They repeated they could not help me. I am wondering why AmazonHelp is on Twitter if they are no help?

I decided there was nothing more I could do from here. My alternative was to go back to paper books for my travel and decide what to do without an Amazon account going forward. Perhaps register my Kindle on my husband's account? Seems like that should just not be necessary.

Next day I finally received a response from the original email thread with the chargeback@Amazon, no apology just stating that they had informed my CC that they had 'ruled in my favor' and reversed the charge. I guess I rattled their cage loudly enough despite being in international waters.

As an ex Quality Assurance Engineer with Amazon, I am disgusted on so many levels at the deterioration in the quality of customer service, the slow reaction to the problem, the lack of an apology and the sheer inefficiency of it.

I restarted my Kindle and still had to reregister it and of course it reset and all the books I had downloaded previously had to be downloaded again. An inconvenience that I consider a bug on the Kindle group's part but at least I had access to my books. 

I truly hate inefficiency! And despite the awful treatment I received from Amazon, forcing my retirement, I was still a fan of the company. Not any more. 

Update: I should have tried logging into my account before posting this. Didn't occur to me once my Kindle was working. When I tried logging in I got a message to watch for more information in email. No email. Again, serious inefficiencies. So very sad.

No next steps supplied and I am going to wait to contact them further until I get back Stateside. I have incurred enough expense over this.