Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A letter from a soon-to-be EX-Amazon customer

I am extremely irked at the moment, so please bare with my little tirade here.

I have been a loyal customer of Amazon for many years now.  Not only do I have a Kindle, which I adore, but I am also an Amazon Prime member.  I purchase e-books every day, have written 287 reviews, and, as of a few minutes ago, my reviewer ranking is 7,794 (which, according to Amazon customer service, is actually a big deal).  I send people to Amazon from my blogs, stand up for them when others are complaining about how horrible a company they are (especially when it comes to customer service), and have personally sold over 100 Kindles to people I know (16 just last month).

But now even I am livid.

A few months ago, they removed ALL of my reviews from their website, with no warning and no reason, and it wasn't until THREE authors told me that my review of their book(s) were missing, that I even found out about the whole situation (I mean, who goes and looks at their own profiles, right?).  I immediately contacted customer service - and dealt with a rude one on chat who was no help, then a rude one on the phone who was also no help - and, after speaking to three supervisors, I finally went to their Facebook page to complain about the issue.  The next day (within 24 hours), all of my reviews were back and I had received an email not only apologizing, but letting me know that they would be investigating the situation because they had no idea why it had happened in the first place.

Then, three weeks ago I was informed by an author that my review of his book had disappeared.  All I could think was, "Again?!?!"  I immediately went to my profile, but my review of his book was still showing.  I let him know that maybe it was a glitch and asked him to keep me updated.  A week later he told me that it had not come back yet - and this time it was not on my profile either.  I contacted customer support (chat), only to be blown off by the agent that was supposed to be helping me (he copied and pasted the review rules and what you have to do in order to leave a review in the first place on Amazon, i.e. have purchased at least one book).  His supervisor was no help either.

Instead of wasting my time on hold, I decided to go straight to Facebook.  Within two days, I had received an email from the department over reviews (who only "discusses" things via email - and "discusses" is in quotations because there is actually no discussion, they just inform you of the way it is and move on with their lives, leaving you stunned) that I had broken a rule and that it would not be re-posted, plus that I would not be able to get any more information on the situation again because the matter is closed. o_O

I went straight back to Facebook to try again.  Within an hour and a half, I had another email in my inbox, this one saying the same exact thing.

THE PROBLEM?  I did NOT break any of their rules.  I did not get paid for my review (I never would because I think that is a deplorable act), I did not receive a gift card to purchase the book (which is a no-no, by the way, so authors, remember that when you are sending your book to someone to read for a review), and I did not get a refund on the purchase.  In fact, I received the book from a third-party (a website set up to pass on books that need reviews to readers who are willing to do them) and hadn't actually spoken to the author until AFTER I had written my review.

This time, I not only went back to Facebook, I also went and called the phone number.  On the phone, I met a wonderful guy (Mark E) who was very helpful.  He is a customer service supervisor (and I was transferred to him without being angry and asking for one, which is the first time in a LONG time this has happened with Amazon because usually I'm saying "I want to speak to your supervisor" with anger in my voice).  He may not be over the department that could help me, but he was willing to do what he could to get the situation rectified.  

Today I received an email from him, with his apologies, saying that, because I had won a few gift cards in giveaways, the review department feels this will look bad to other reviewers (which is odd because the only one who knows about any of my gift cards is myself and whoever sends them to me).  If you read between the lines there, doesn't it still seem like they are telling me that I have broken a rule?  A rule I have not broken.  A rule that if I see someone break, I will do everything I can to get them black-balled because it is completely unethical (and yes you CAN be unethical in the blog community).  

What else am I supposed to do?  

I did have the option to reply to this email - Amazon lets you choose whether your issue was taken care of - and he also gave me a link that I could go and leave a message through, I assume for the review department.  I informed Amazon that it was not taken care of and why (I did say that Mark E was very helpful and that it had nothing to do with him, but this review department that 1. refuses to listen 2. makes decisions without actually talking to the person that they are affecting 3. are hard-headed).  I also clicked the link and left the same message there.  Considering the last time I left a message on Facebook no one replied, I wonder if I should go back there.  I DID contact the website I received this book from (Story Cartel) to let them know what's going on and ask them if they could assist me in my problems.

Seems like a lot of work for one review, doesn't it?  Well, it may be more.  See, in one of the letters, they used the plural of review, and since they don't tell you when or what they are removing, I have no idea, to be honest with you.

For those of you who are not familiar with Story Cartel, it is a great website if you love to read - but be careful, it is very addicting.  There are lots of genres to choose from and YOU get to pick and choose what you would like to read - without any pressure from the author or a third-party.  Now, if you post your reviews in a certain timeframe, and come back to sign up for their giveaway, there is the potential of winning a physical copy of the book, a $10 gift card ... and sometimes a Kindle.  This is NOT payment for my review.  This is a giveaway.  AND I know TONS of bloggers - and readers, and reviewers - that not only use this website, but enjoy it as much as I do.

I am at the point where I am ready to do what so many others have done - take my reviews off of Amazon, take the links to their products off my blogs, take my business elsewhere.  Yes, I do have a Kindle, but I have enough books to last me a lifetime - or two - and I can always go to B&N or Smashwords to purchase e-books, then, if they are not in .mobi format, convert them with Calibre.

I have OFFICIALLY had enough.


Francine Messin said...

I hear you Meghan. It is totally out of order.
I have had offer of vouchers to buy books to review. I have never accepted them because I prefer to buy my own books, even those requested for review, as I feel free to write what I want. I never knew we should not accept gift vouchers, so I am glad I never did.
The problem, I find AZ so convenient, especially with Prime.
I hope they apologise to you.

Meghan H said...

Thank you, Francine, for reading my tirade. I hope they apologize as well, but what I would like more is them to stop causing problems for myself and other reviewers who have done nothing wrong, who only want to share their honest opinions on books they have read.

I don't mind receiving a free book, though I was wary about it at first. As long as the author knows that I will be giving my honest opinion and not coddling them, then we're all good. I am lucky that I usually pick up a book that I enjoy, but there have been some that have been just poorly written, which is sad because their story has such potential.

I agree - it is very convenient. I really like using Amazon, but this nonsense is really getting to be ridiculous - and their customer service has just really been lacking lately. When I finally do speak to someone who is willing to help and is actually NICE (like Mark E), I just wish I can hug them because dealing with Amazon has been so aggravating lately.

I will keep you updated. :)

Dorothy Thompson said...

Wow. That is such bullcrap. Makes you not even want to get online.

Meghan H said...

Exactly!! Every time I think about it, I just get really irritated. My fingers are crossed, though, that someone with a brain decides to deal with my issue.

Andrew Leon said...

Well... I think I don't have an opinion on it. No, wait, I do. Removing your reviews will not hurt Amazon at all. They don't care. It will only hurt the authors for whom you have reviewed books.
That's not my vested interest talking. I mean, it is, but it's the truth even if you hadn't reviewed any of my stuff.

Meghan H said...

Why? Why does it hurt them if I remove my reviews from Amazon? Amazon isn't the only place you can buy books - or even e-books - from. I've already had several people tell me that they don't even read the Amazon reviews any more because you can't trust them, just like you can't trust them on Goodreads.

Why should I continue giving business to and bringing business to a company that very obviously does not care about the customers they have AND the authors that sell t heir books there?

Andrew Leon said...

It hurts authors who use KDP Select and have their books available only through Amazon. And it may be that some people don't look at the reviews but, according to pretty much all the data out there, -most- people look at the reviews. When you only have three or four, the loss of one review is a big deal.

I'm not trying to sway your opinion. Not exactly. But it might be a good idea to look at exactly whom you would be affecting. It's not Amazon. Choosing to no longer buy from Amazon affects them, but pulling the reviews you posted on items you already purchased only hurts the authors.

taniekitty said...

It sucks that you're having such a hard time with them. I hoped that they would have fixed everything after the removed reviews issue, but I guess not. It sounds like they need to train their customer service people better. I often wonder if customer service people are rude on purpose so that people will just give up. I could be wrong. *shrug*

I don't see how they can even count a giveaway as payment for your reviews. I definitely don't.

Meghan H said...

I agree with your thought, Tanya. It works with so many that they don't know what to deal with someone like me. I'm very nice about it, but I worked in customer service for a long time and I don't accept that kind of behavior.