Amazon Cancels My $6,000 Order Because It Doesn’t Know How To Use A Fax Machine

A few weeks back, Consumerist reader K. placed an order on Amazon for $6,000 worth of computer equipment. The online retailer was unable to immediately process her order because it needed additional documentation, which K. faxed over right away… and then re-faxed when Amazon requested a second time… and then eight additional times because Amazon kept asking for it, all before the company cancelled K’s order, claiming she never faxed the documents.

K. had used her debit card to place the order, and she says she’d even called her credit union in advance to make sure there wouldn’t be a problem with the transaction, as she needed to get this equipment in a timely manner.

But the day after placing her order, she received an e-mail from Amazon stating, “We have placed a hold on your Amazon.com account and all pending orders. We took this action because your card issuer has declined our request to verify your address citing legal and privacy reasons.”

So not only was her order on hold, but her entire Amazon account had been put on hold, meaning she could no longer stream video, or access any cloud-stored items like music or Kindle books.

The e-mail said K. needed to fax a copy of her bank statement to Amazon’s secure fax line, which she did, in spite of her reluctance to send a sensitive document to a random office where god knows what could happen to it.

“Because of my concerns, I contacted Amazon customer service to ensure the fax was received and to attempt to expedite the processing of my order,” she tells Consumerist. “The customer service department was unable to access my account because of the hold, but, after keeping me on the line for 32 minutes, assured me that while no one could actually help me or connect me to the department involved because they do not communicate via phone and have no contact numbers, the order should be processed and should arrive on time.”

And yet the next day, K. received a virtually identical e-mail to the one she’d already received, alerting her to the freeze on her account and the need to fax in her bank statement.

“I was becoming increasingly concerned over the delay in processing my order, my continued inability to access any part of my Amazon account, and Amazon’s seeming failure to receive a fax sent to them containing very sensitive personal information,” she writes. “I faxed all of the requested information, again, and hoped for the best.”

Then she received an e-mail the next day saying that $1,300 worth of items on her order had been cancelled, with the only reason given in the e-mail being “Technical Problem.”

“I wanted to cancel the rest of my order, since it seemed I would not receive it in a timely manner and would now need to purchase these items elsewhere,” says K. “I contacted Amazon customer service, intending to cancel my order and close my Amazon account completely. This phone call lasted 40 minutes. The woman I spoke to convinced me that she would do her best to attempt to resolve the situation, and while the department that was responsible for my issue did not have a phone and could not be contacted directly, she would submit a form to ensure my issue was resolved. I again faxed my very sensitive personal information to Amazon and engaged in the vain hope that this issue would be resolved.”

She woke up the next morning and was greeted by a two-for-Tuesday double-shot from Amazon, which had sent her a pair of “can’t process your order, please fax us” e-mails.

“My account was still on hold, my order still sat in limbo,” writes K. “I still did not have my items and at this point held out no hope of receiving them on time. I was going to have to close my bank account and cancel my card because my information had now, several times, been faxed to who-knows-where to be viewed by gnomes and gremlins.”

And so she tried — again — to contact customer service, hoping to cancel her order, close her account and get a refund on her Amazon Prime membership that she’d been locked out of because Amazon doesn’t know how to operate a fax machine.

And once again, the CSR told her that the account couldn’t be accessed because it was on hold, and thus the order couldn’t be cancelled. All she could do was submit another form to this mysterious phone-less department at Amazon. The supervisor K. spoke to told her to give the fax another shot, and so K. faxed over her sensitive documents one more time.

She attempted an Executive E-mail Carpet Bomb, writing — and sending copies of every e-mail and fax cover sheet — to CEO Jeff Bezos at jeff@amazon.com and to the escalated customer response team at ecr@amazon.com, and the next morning she received a call asking her to verify the order, which she did. And then came even more e-mails asking her to fax her info, which she did.

And then, after more than a week of calling, faxing, e-mailing and whatnot, Amazon sent one final e-mail telling her that her order “could not be processed. If you would still like to receive the item(s), we ask that you place a new order. Please accept our sincere apologies for any resulting inconvenience.”

K. provided us with copies of all the correspondence, including all the many, many faxes she sent to Amazon during the course of her ordeal. We took them to a contact at Amazon, and a couple days later, K. gets a semi-automated, robotic apology e-mail from Amazon customer support:

“I understand the impact this had on you and wanted to personally apologize.

Although I’m unable to undo the negative experience, but I can assure you that we’ll make the necessary changes to ensure situations like this are prevented or better handled in the future. As an extended apology and a gesture of goodwill, I’ve applied a $100 credit to your Amazon.com account and I hope you’ll give us another chance.

When you place your next qualifying order, you’ll see the promotional funds listed on the Order Summary page, just before you submit your order…

Your experience here has been highly unusual and isn’t at all typical of what you can expect when shopping with us. You’re a long-time and valued customer of Amazon, and I hope you’ll give us another chance.”

While an apology is all well and good, this doesn’t answer the question of what on Earth happened to all those faxes K. sent?

Our contact at Amazon declined to comment, saying the company could not speak about individual customer’s accounts.

Not knowing where her banking info ended up after all those faxes, K. felt that she had little choice but to close out that old account and debit card so that anyone who stumbles upon the vanished faxes couldn’t rob her blind.

K. says that the $100 credit “is a nice gesture, but what I really need to ever feel comfortable shopping with Amazon again is an assurance that if I place another order with Amazon this will not happen to me again, as I frankly cannot afford another such fiasco.”