If you’re going to be goofing off on the Internet anyway, you might as well make some money at it, right? That’s how so many of us find ourselves doing tiny tasks using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in the wee hours of the morning. Reader Alex recently started using it, too. He’s built up a nice balance, which he would like to withdraw using his Amazon payments account. Only he can’t, because that account is a joint one with his ex-wife. Who he never added to his payments account, but might have had a wedding registry with long ago. Now Amazon has locked him out of his payments account entirely, and he can’t fix the situation. Hey, $75 is $75.
I recently started using Amazon Mechanical Turk to earn a little extra money. You do these micro-tasks, like tagging photos, surveys, and giving opinions on products. In order to use Amazon MTurk, you have to have an Amazon Payments account; it’s how they send your money to you, via your bank account.
When I first looked at the account, I noticed that my ex-wife’s name was on it, in addition to mine. I figured this was because years and years before, when we got married, we’d had a wedding registry on Amazon, and her name was on it. Probably just some old data that had somehow migrated over to Amazon Payments. No big whoop. I went into the account settings, thinking it would be a simple case of taking her name off the account. Nope! No such option. Okay, so I then send a polite message to Amazon customer service, explaining the situation, and requesting that her name be removed.
The reply I received was…baffling. They said that because the account had been originally registered under both our names (it wasn’t, I’d had my Amazon account for years before I met my wife), they a) could not change the name, and actually, b) prohibit the joint ownership of accounts and requested that I withdraw the remaining balance on my account after which the account will be permanently suspended, and bonus: I would have to open up a new account, using a different email address.
Some fun facts: when you work on Amazon MTurk tasks, if you do it well (I do), you build up a good reputation, and an approval ratio, and you qualify for better and better jobs because of those factors. Add to that, if I was going to get a new account, why would I need to use a new email address?
I went around and around with them, via both email and telephone. Finally I spoke with a guy named [J]. on May 3rd, and he seemed to get it, that my ex had nothing to do with the account, that I had been jerked around, et cetera. He said he was going to elevate my issue to an account specialist. I thanked him, and breathed a sigh of relief.
Fast forward to a week later. I’d heard nothing from Amazon, good, bad, indifferent. I was finishing up a task (a rather involved one, worth a pretty good amount of money), and I got the completion code to put into the Amazon MTurk page. I put the code into the form, and clicked submit…and got this message:
Your Amazon Payments account has been suspended
You will not be able to use Amazon Mechanical Turk until your Amazon Payments account is in good standing. Please contact customer service.
Aw, hell. It was 2am my time (I’m in Chicago), so there was nothing to be done about it until morning. I sent a new message to customer service, just concerning the account being suspended, not even mentioning my previous issue, because I felt like based on my prior interactions, it would only confuse the issue.
I received a message back a few minutes ago, repeating the same story as before, they prohibit joint ownership of accounts, and that I should withdraw the remaining balance on your account after which the account will be permanently suspended. That last suggestion made me laugh, as due to the account being suspended, I couldn’t withdraw any money even if I were so inclined. Add to that, I have 45 tasks still pending and unpaid, for which I estimate I am owed upwards of $15; I have around $75 in my account now. This is just depressing; I’ve heard of PayPal being this awful, but not Amazon.
So, I’ll try to talk to the same guy I spoke with before, who at least seemed to understand the facts of the case. If that doesn’t help, I have no idea what I’m going to do. I’m open to advice. Thanks for reading.
Other than counseling patience, we also suggest dropping an e-mail to ECR@amazon.com, their executive customer service line. Include a link to this post, perhaps.