Amazon Cancels My MP3 Download Order, Giving Me Free Music

Brent says an Amazon billing snafu gave him two free MP3s then sent him an email saying the transaction was canceled. By the time Amazon had shut down the order Brent had already downloaded his songs. He has a theory as to why the muck-up occurred:

This morning I downloaded two $0.99 mp3s from Amazon. No problem. Several hours later, however, I received the following email from Amazon stating that my order was being canceled because the method of payment wasn’t valid.

Hmm. I already have the product, so of course they can’t really cancel it.

The problem stems from me having two debit cards listed on my Amazon account: My recently canceled debit card, and my new active card. For some reason Amazon processed the digital download using my old card, but never used the second card as a backup method of payment the way Paypal would.

Anyhow, I’m wondering how vulnerable Amazon would be to large-scale digital theft. What if I’d downloaded hundreds of digital albums instead of two mp3s?

My bank account wasn’t charged, btw. And, yes, I’m updating my primary payment method now in case Amazon still wants their $1.98.

Has anything like this ever happened to you? What do you think Brent is on the moral hook to do to make sure Amazon gets its money?


Edit Your Comment

  1. SwoonOMatic says:

    Don’t worry, they’ll just take a book off of someones Kindle to make up for it.

  2. ubermex says:

    I would still email them. In my experience, amazon will tell you not to worry about it and thanks for letting them know, etc etc.

  3. caradrake says:

    A similar thing happened to me with a Kindle version of a book. I purchased the book paying most of it on a gift card and then the remainder to a debit card. But my bank had closed my debit card on accident, and then issued me a new card number. So the debit portion got denied after the book had been transferred to Kindle. I updated my account with the new card, but the remainder (around $1) was never processed.

    Sent them an email from their website about it, but never got a response.

  4. Michaela says:

    This happened to me with apple once, but it was $30 worth of music and a visa gift card (damn things). I don’t know how I got the music, but I ended up changing the card on my account, so I guess they got their money?

  5. Michael Belisle says:

    This is a side-effect of one-click: delivery is taken before the payment is processed. It’s done that way so that you can buy lots of stuff with one click, then have it all be charged in one transaction.

    I’d imagine that if it was a big enough amount, they’d make you pay instead of canceling the order.

  6. TheoSqua says:

    This exact same thing happened to me last week. I bought the new Arcade Fire album on my Android phone, downloaded the tracks, then got an e-mail stating the order was cancelled because I forgot to update my credit card with the new expiration date.

    I called Amazon customer support and asked them if I should re-purchase the tracks, or if they could run my updated billing information. The Lady on the phone told me that I could keep the tracks free of charge as a courtesy from Amazon.

  7. pax says:

    It has happened to me. I also contacted Amazon to let them know, updated my payment information, and said they could re-bill me. They thanked me for updating my payment info and declined to re-bill, saying I could have the mp3s as a courtesy.

  8. coren says:

    Always contact Amazon about this – technically you do owe them the money, but they virtually never actually charge when you bring it to their attention

  9. Destron says:

    Had something similar happen to me with EA games about 8 years ago, I bought a game from their catalog but I did it over the phone giving them my CC info. The game arrived, and was followed 2 days later by a letter stating my game would not be shipped because my card could not be charged. This was around the time they had just started verifying cards against the billing address, I had recently moved and had not updated my bank with my new address, so when they finally ran the payment they used the shipping address as my billing address and the card was denied.

    I called them and and told them the situation and they told me the game never shipped so it was OK, I tried explaining I had the game IN MY HAND and they told me that was not possible because it did not ship. So whatever, they never charged me for that game, and refused to believe I had it.

  10. Dhornet7 says:

    The same thing happened to me. I bought an album, hadn’t updated my card, and got it for free. haven’t checked to see if they charged me when i updated my card.

    • greggen says:

      Did not check to see if you were charged?!?! Do you not realize that this makes it your fault? There are consumerists who check their statements every 3 seconds who will rip you to shreds if you are to be too foolish not to be so responsible. Dont go crying to them when you get dont charged for something you ordered!

  11. opticnrv says:

    Yup…happened to me as well…same scenario…except it was a full album.

  12. foofie says:

    Same thing happened to me with a Kindle book. I got the book, but the charge was cancelled. Amazon said not to worry.

  13. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    In response to everyone saying to send an email… Amazon clearly knows about this and can find out how many people are affected with a database query. If they are 99.9% likely to say keep the music, don’t make them eat the support costs too!

    In any other situation, certainly make the effort to contact the merchant. And if you ever feel slighted by Amazon in the $2 range, just call it even.

  14. dp05 says:

    This exact situation happened to me once before, just under a year ago (8/11/09 to be exact, found the old email from contacting customer service). Here was the reply I received then:

    “I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you regarding the payment for the MP3 album you recently purchased from our Amazon Music store.

    I have researched your account details and found that we were unable to charge your credit card for the order #(order number).

    Unfortunately, at this time, we are unable to retry your credit card. Therefore, in order to complete this purchase we suggest that you place a new order for the same MP3 album with a valid credit card so that we can charge your credit card. I am sorry for any inconvenience this situation may cause to you.”

    They then provided me with instructions on how to update my 1-click purchase information.

    So basically, it looks like they haven’t fixed this issue and its been around for at least a year. The only way to rectify the situation from a moral standpoint, making sure they get the money is your moral standpoint, is to purchase them again, this time making sure your billing information is correct.

  15. The Seeker says:

    What I find interesting is that the OP is using a debit card to perform online purchases. Debit cards do not have the same safety as real credit cards even if the debit card has a credit card logo on them.
    “Fake Credit Cards” is what Clark Howard calls them, I think.

    One entry mistake and that $0.99 purchase becomes a DEBIT of $99.00 or $990.00, etc from your checking/savings account. Real MONEY, not a charge, that is gone until everything gets straightened out, leaving you overdrawn with all other payments causing more overdraft fees of $25, $35 or whatever is being charged, per overdraw.

    DO NOT use debit cards for online transactions.

  16. jmurphy42 says:

    You’d better get on the phone with Amazon and straighten it out ASAP, because the same thing happened to me once, and without contacting me they turned my $3.97 order over to Telecheck collections who tried to charge me $203.97. It took over a year to straighten out (and I’m still not 100% positive it’s done), they froze my ability to write checks, and screwed up my credit rating. Even Amazon executive customer service was pretty much unable to help, though they acknowledged their fault.